By the time Emily Dickinson was 14, she had complied a collection of over 400 pressed flowers and leaves. In 1845, she wrote to a friend, ‘Have you made an herbarium yet? I hope you will if you have not, it would be such a treasure to you…’.

An herbarium is a garden journal for recording and preserving what you’ve grown or admired: leaves, flowers, seed heads. It is a place to document the plants along a favorite walk or special spot, or simply the assortment found in your yard.

There are times, even in these weighted days, where a wink of color on the ground offers a short, sweet moment of wonder. From a carpet of plants in the woods to a dandelion popping out of a crack in the pavement, these are opportunities of amazement, tiny gifts from the natural world.

To preserve flowers and leaves, place them between the pages of an old book until dry, (approximately 2-3 weeks) being careful to not overlap plant material. Move to a fresh, new section of papers in the book every 3-5 days. For larger specimens, create a flower press using two pieces wood, cardboard, and paper (instructions follow).

While the plant material is curing, prepare your herbarium: find a large notebook or journal - preferably with blank pages. Document any plant info pertinent to you, including where and when it was harvested, how it was preserved, where it grows, etc. Allow some extra pages between entries for adding more specimens of the plant as it progresses through the growing season.

Once plant material has fully dried, use linen/cotton tape, conservation glue, or hand-stitching to affix specimens to the sheets of your herbarium. Save extras or larger examples for creating artwork, cards, or stationery.

●Harvest plant specimens on dry day, after the morning dew has evaporated.
●Preserve only healthy leaves and flowers, free from blemishes. Use a soft paintbrush to gently remove pollen.
●Arrange dried leaves and flowers alphabetically, stylistically, or spatially in your herbarium.
●To make a flower press, cut 2 pieces of wood to approximately 10” x 12” and drill a hole in each corner for some long bolts to go through. Mark one as top and one as bottom; this will ensure bolt holes always line up when assembling.
●Cut a bunch of cardboard pieces to the same size, and either poke holes through the corners as well, or simply trim them off.
●Place bottom piece of wood onto work surface, followed by a piece of cardboard. Then add 5 - 10 sheets of paper. (Paper can be dried and reused.)
●Carefully arrange specimens, leaving about an inch between plant material.
●Neatly add more layers of paper and a piece of cardboard, keeping placement of corner holes aligned. Then, add another 5 - 10 sheets of paper, along with the next set of plants. Add paper, cardboard, and continue layering.
●Once finished, carefully place wood top on the pile, lining up bolt holes. Insert bolts into corners.
●Add wingnuts and tighten; slowly working your way around instead of tightening a single corner at once. Use caution not to move press or layers.
●Once corners are tightened, place in a dark, dry, well-ventilated spot for 3-5 days.
●Carefully open press and replace papers and cardboard, rearranging in the same pattern. Dry papers and cardboard for later use.
●Repeat until dry, approximately 2-3 weeks.
●Store your herbarium and saved plant material out of sunlight in a dry spot.