Do you remember your biology lessons back in school? Did you and your class at any time go outside to collect plants and flowers to dry and study? Most kids didn’t take this project too seriously. Of course, I did. And I still like to collect leaves and flowers. I often press them between the pages of the dictionary or in my flower press. Sometimes I display them in a frame.
It’s an old-fashioned hobby, associated by some with old ladies making greeting cards. But it’s also an ancient and serious practice. For centuries, amateur botanists and scientists have collected plants and dried them to preserve them.
An herbarium is a collection of dried and pressed plants, often mounted on a sheet of paper. The specimens may be whole plants or plant parts. Plants should be good representatives of the species. They should also contain all the essential features necessary for identification: leaves, stems, flowers and seeds. The specimens are labelled with all relevant information. Information includes the plant’s common and Latin name, the date and location of collection and the name of the collector.
Pressing plants between sheets of paper and drying them is simple and low-tech. I like the fact that the specimens are still collected and prepared in about the same way as they were hundreds of years ago. Modern techniques are being used, though. Millions of herbarium sheets in collections are being digitised. This way, researchers all over the world can study them online.
I’m not a botanist and I don’t have any intention of starting a scientific collection. For me, drying flowers is a way to preserve their beauty. They remind me of special moments and special places. I still have some roses from my wedding bouquet. I also like to dry flowers from my garden. Wouldn’t it be nice to put them in a notebook and include the date and location to create a garden journal?
A few weeks ago I came across a lovely book, the Pocket Herbarium, made by Saskia de Valk and Maartje van den Noort, two creative ladies.
Maartje is actually featured in Emily Quinton’s Maker Spaces book. Inside this book, there are drawings, pictures, quotes, and poems. It also has plenty of space to fill with dried leaves or flowers or write your own thoughts. According to the makers, you should always bring the Pocket Herbarium with you when you are taking a stroll through the park or going for a walk in the woods. You can save your finds by putting them between the pages of the book. I think it’s better to dry them first.
Of course, never pick flowers that are protected or endangered. Only collect where plants are available in abundance, leave enough flowers for others to enjoy!
The book is only available in Dutch. I’m sorry for my non-Dutch readers, but you can, of course, use any notebook to start your own herbarium.
During my research for this blog post, I discovered that the American poet Emily Dickinson, who loved nature and was an avid gardener, made an herbarium when she was 14 years old!
It was quite a popular hobby during the Victorian age to collect specimens of wildflowers and press them to form a herbaria collection. Emily Dickinson gathered, dried and pressed over 400 specimens into a leather-bound album. She arranged her specimens artistically, labelling them with their Latin name. The herbarium has been digitized, each page of the album is reproduced in full color at full size and doesn’t it look wonderful? You have to follow the link to see it, because all images are copyrighted.
Because she lived in the Victorian age, Emily Dickinson also knew the language of flowers. I wrote a blog post about it a few weeks ago. Often she used flowers to speak for her. Dickinson lived a reclusive life but send many letters to her friends. She frequently included dried flowers. She would also send friends and neighbors fragrant bouquets from her garden with poems tucked into them. Apparently, they liked the posy more than the poetry.
I want to end this blog post with a poem by Emily Dickinson. I love poetry though I don’t often read it. A lot of people think poetry is difficult to understand. But this poem really captures the feeling of summer. The weather has been beautiful these last days, and when I come downstairs in the morning and open the door to the garden, it feels like this:
A sepal, petal, and a thorn
Upon a common summer’s morn,
A flash of dew, a bee or two,
A caper in the trees, —
And I’m a rose!
6 thoughts on “How to Herbarium: The beauty of pressed flowers”
Rozen zo mooi zo teer, ze bloeien zo uitbundig nu, vergeet niet ze te fotograferen, dan kan je er nog heel lang van genieten.
De rozen doen het inderdaad heel goed dit jaar. Hier in de buurt bloeien ze prachtig. Blijkbaar houden rozen wel van droog weer. Ik zal mijn best doen met de foto’s!
Aaah zo leuk, ik zag het Pocket Herbarium laatst ook. Het lijkt mij zo’n leuk boekje (maar ik kan er nooit zo goed tegen om dingen in een boekje te schrijven en te plakken, dat vind ik zonde of zo 😛 ).
Ik droog ook altijd bloemetjes, ik doe er van alles mee!
Daar heb ik ook wel een beetje last van, dus of ik er echt in ga plakken weet ik nog niet 😉
Wat doe je dan wel met je gedroogde bloemetjes?
The Pocket Herbarium looks like a wonderful book. It sounds like you are really enjoying this hobby. We had a bit of fun around here a few months ago when I pulled a book off the bookshelf that no one had looked at in years and I found many autumn leaves from a walk my husband and I took with our (then) 3 year old son. What a flood of memories!
The poem you quoted by Emily Dickinson is one I had not read before, so that is a new little treasure for me. My favorite Emily Dickinson poem is Hope Is The Thing With Wings.
Are you a poetry lover June? Emily Dickinson wrote so many beautiful poems, often with wildflowers or other flowers as their subject. I would like to read more but I would also love to learn more about her garden.
What a lovely find, those leaves!