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Originally published in Seasonal Guide, September 27, 2012
Putting garden bounty to artistic use

An alternative to autumn flower bouquets

An alternative to autumn flower bouquets is pressed flowers—a creative way to make greeting cards or art work for your walls.

Photo by Caroline Spear Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Caroline Spear

There’s always garden cleanup in the fall, but there should also be time for fun. These crafting projects using garden produce and nature’s bounty are easy enough to be done with the kids and will yield gifts for the holidays.

Pressed flowers

There is still a variety of bloom in the garden and along the roadsides that will yield pressed flowers with which to make greeting cards or artwork to hang on the wall.

Tools needed: clean white paper, newspaper, a flower press if you have one or several heavy books or bricks if you don’t.

It’s worth trying to press any flower; some will be more successful than others. Those with thick centers will require more time to dry. Try flowers such as pansies or Johnny jump-ups, daisies, goldenrod, and attractive green leaves or those turning color. Colors may change as the items dry; it’s hard to predict.

For holiday greeting cards, Queen Anne’s lace (snowflakes) and ferns (Christmas trees or a forest scene) are great. Gather them well after the morning dew has dried, about midday, since the extra moisture in the early morning will cause them to mold.

Lay the blooms or leaves on a sheet of white paper, making sure they don’t touch each other. Lay another sheet of paper over them. Next, fold a sheet of newspaper to the same size as the white paper and place on top. You should have at least four layers of newspaper between each white paper “sandwich” of bloom to absorb moisture. Repeat until you’ve laid out all your blossoms.

Put this stack in a press and tighten it down, or place it under several heavy books or a pile of bricks. Leave it in a dry place for at least a week. After that time, check to see if your blossoms are dry; if they still seem damp, let them stand for another week.

When you’re ready to make cards, fold a colorful sheet of paper to the size you want, place the blossoms on it in a way you like, then use a toothpick to dab white glue here and there to adhere the blossoms. You don’t need to completely coat them with glue.

Mushroom spore prints

Mushroom spore prints can be incredibly beautiful as cards or artwork. The spores are too small to be seen with the naked eye, but when the mushroom is placed on a sheet of paper, it releases its spores and their beauty is revealed.

Tools needed: light-colored paper, spray fixative from the craft store.

Mushrooms spring up in the woods and lawns after a good rain. Since many are poisonous, wear gloves when handling them and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.

Try to collect mushrooms that are intact as their spore prints will be more complete. Carefully remove the stems and place the mushroom with the gill side down on your selected papers. Space them out or nestle them close together (different sizes work well here). Let them sit in an out-of-the-way place for a day or two. Check occasionally to see how the spores are releasing.

Remove and discard the mushrooms once the spores are released. Using spray fixative, coat the paper lightly to adhere the spores. They will simply brush off if not fixed. Allow the fixative to dry, then frame or make cards as you desire.