A herbarium is a collection of preserved plant and herb specimens. These specimens are typically used for scientific study, but for the everyday collectors, a herbarium can just be a unique decoration in your house. I'll be honest, when researching, I initially thought a herbarium was like a terrarium but with herbs instead of usual plants like cacti. *cue laughter* Turns out it's a collection of herbs in frames. So if you were like me and you thought this article was an online terrarium workshop, it's time to learn something new! Life is all about surprises and spontaneity, isn't it?
A simple herbarium
To produce a comprehensive physical collection, there are a few facets that require your attention when creating your own herbarium. If you wish to create a simple one that requires minimal effort, it is a much simpler process but if you want to create a more sophisticated and professional looking herbarium, you may need to purchase a few items. Let us start with the simple one first; this is a great activity to do with your kids or nature-loving friends because it'll get you out of the house and into the sun where you will get that much needed vitamin D.
What you will need:
- A binder
- Heavy/thick paper like cardstock
- Your selected plants, flowers and herbs
- Thick heavy books or a flower press
- Plastic page protectors
- Clear scotchtape
- Colour pencils and markers
- A field guide for identifying plants (optional)
Many of these items can be found at your local book or stationery store and they are inexpensive so this fun little project definitely won't burn a hole in your pocket.
- Grab your kids or friends and suit up in khakis and tank tops. Do not forget your suncreen, hats and sunglasses.
- Venture out into the woods, nature reserves or even your backyard and you the pair of scissors to cut and gather the plants and flowers you would like to add to your collection. However, do make sure it is alright for you to take these plants from your local nature spots.
- Note down the location you found each specimen and if you can already identify them, do note down their names so you can research more once you reach home and write it on your final herbarium sheet.
- Once you have all the plants you would like in your herbarium, clean any dirt and bugs off the plant.
- Place the plants in the centre of an opened book - the plant should be spread out so you can see the whole thing, then close the book and place more books on top for added weight.
- Leave the plants to dry for 7-14 days.
- Once dried, tape each specimen to one sheet of paper and place them into the plastic covers. Decorate each sheet with the information of each specimen eg. scientific name, native location, color, smell, etc.
- Compile all sheets into your binder and enjoy!
Not too hard, right? This is no doubt a fun and productive way to spend the weekend with your loved ones. Collecting is a good hobby to foster amongst children because studies have shown that it improves both creativity and pattern recognition in children. Seeing as collecting requires organisational skills, the hobby also allows them to improve their aptitude for recognizing everyday characteristics and being able to identify breaks in a pattern.
A bigger and more comprehensive herbarium
Now, if you would like to make a bigger herbarium, your mounting process will differ slightly from the previous set of instructions. It will also cost slightly more to put together but it will come out looking like something from a museum. The only thing that changes would be the mounting process. Instead of putting your sheets into a plastic protector, purchase a plastic screen to paste on top of your sheet, and then frame it in a glass frame instead of a binder. Your frames will go nicely as a decoration over your bed or dining room. Nothing like a little splash of green hues to brighten up your day. Not to mention it is great for that mid-work eye break. As you add more to your collection and you find yourself without any more space, they make great gifts as well. Nothing shows love quite like a handmade gift!
For the adventurous craftsmen out there, you can make your very own flower press as well. Pressed flowers can be used in other crafts projects too; like jewelry and decor.
What you will need:
- 2 pieces of wood of equal size
- 4 bolts
- 4 washers
- 4 wing nuts
- Cardboard (or thin wood)
- Watercolor paper (or white paper)
- Stack the wood on top of each other and drill holes in all four corners, through both pieces of wood. (Note: make sure the drill bit is of the same size as your bolts)
- Cut your cardboard/wood slightly smaller than your 2 wooden boards and subsequently cut off each corner so that it will fit inside the bolts.
- Insert your bolts through both wooden boards so it looks like a sandwich.
- To use, place your flowers on pieces of cardboard and in between both wooden boards. Press down on the top board and leave the flowers or plants to dry.
You could even decorate your flower press while waiting for the flowers to dry. A word of caution, make sure you leave the flowers to dry for the aforementioned period of time before opening the press to peek! The flowers might rip or crumble if they are not completely dried.
So there you have it, the tips and how-to to make your very own herbarium. It isn't exactly the easiest art project but it isn't the hardest either. If you have a great appreciation for plants and you would like it to manifest into something most tangible for decorative purposes, then this is the project for you.
We at Nilufer would love to see some of your creations! Do tag us on instagram of the pictures of your herbariums! Enjoy crafting!