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Pressing Botanical Specimens

Articles: Pressing Botanical Specimens

The practice of horticulture is often described as a combination of art and science. And the practice of pressing botanical specimens demonstrates this nicely, I think. Every plant species has its own essence, so to speak, and capturing that unique morphological integrity can be very satisfying. To do this, carefully select plants to illustrate as many characteristics as possible; for example, the fine roots of a bunchgrass or the rather stout culms of sedge add a lot to a composition. If possible, it’s nice to collect an extra flower or two to press separately, especially if stems or other plant parts are large and will dry more slowly than the flower.

Dried specimen of Fraxinus latifolia, Oregon ash, with mature and immature leaves, twigs, and fruit, a winged samara. Photo: Denise Kelly

When creating a composition, I lay the plant out on 11- by 15-inch heavy weight Strathmore watercolor paper, in a way that, to me, presents a classical representation of the species. Coaxing a leaf or twig just so can be done with forceps, pins, or painter’s tape: I tend to use anything at hand. Securing the piece in pla...

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