Did you know there is a whole chapter on Botanical Arts in the National Garden Clubs Handbook for Flower Shows? The chapter is a treasure of ideas of ways to enjoy plants outside of the garden beyond simple cuttings and floral designs.
The National Garden Club Vision of Beauty Calendar has many botanical art examples, including garden landscapes, bonded designs such as plaques and collages, hanging designs such as wreaths, jewelry made of plant material, and hats and dresses. Members can submit images for inclusion in the calendar.
Artistic crafts includes objects with a use which could be just for decoration, but can also be packages, jewelry, things to wear like hats or dresses or shoes, cards, candles, decorated trees, and the list goes on for items the flower show schedule could include. Fresh plant material, dried plant material, pressed flowers and leaves can be used, as well as flowers preserved in a more whole form such as by using desiccant or glycerin.
Artistic Craft: Judy S made these corn husk dolls, decorating them with pressed flowers
Artistic Craft: tree featuring decorations by Judy Smade of apricot seeds, dried flower, painted seed pods, pine cones, and painted leaves
Artistic Craft gourd vase Judy S did that was awarded a blue ribbon at a Texas State Convention
An artistic craft such as a napkin ring could be included as part of a show in a design section of table settings and add a layer of sophistication to the design for both the viewer and the designer.
Pressed plant material can also be used for artistic crafts and for bonded design types which include collage and plaque. Flower presses can be made with inexpensive materials, including just putting flowers between the pages of a phone book and putting a heavy book on top of it. There are plans for easy to make and inexpensive flower presses on the internet. Seeing how flowers you pressed a week or more ago turn out is a big part of the fun. A bright red flower may turn into a sophisticated looking wine color, like the oxblood lily did in my flower press my father made for me from wood, inexpensive parts from a hardware store, cardboard and paper to absorb moisture (thanks Dad! and thanks Mom! for talking him into making it and for contributing examples for Botanical Art for this blog). Orange and yellow cosmos flowers hold their color especially well when pressed. Experimentation and quantity are encouraged with pressing flowers. Some of the flowers will end up getting pressed in odd shapes or just not turn a good color for what you want to do or get damaged when you make your craft, so try a variety of flowers, press more than you think you will need and include different types of leaves to give you more options. Having a design or two in mind can help you decide what colors you want to collect and how much. Once pressed, their natural form can be used or they can be cut if needed to meet your artistic vision. Making a note of what plant you are pressing on the paper the flowers are pressed between is recommended because sometimes flowers are not as recognizable when pressed, especially if they change color during the process. Collecting when plant material is at its best and dry is recommended, such as late morning when dew is dry and flowers have not faded yet. Collecting for pressing is another way to enjoy the garden and get up close and really look at what you are growing. Protecting your pressed flower art from air exposure will slow down flowers from fading, usually to browns.
Photography is also included in Botanical Arts, and needs to be judged a little differently than most sections in flower show. Details can be found in the Handbook for Flower Shows.
Many of the guidelines and qualities assessed during judging are the same as those for horticulture or design entries. Using design principals will help you with your final product. The scientific name of the plants are used as part of the entry. No artificial plants are allowed. Plants used should be in good condition and typically damaged plant parts are removed before use in a botanical art piece. With the exception of a category called Exploration-Freedom of Style, treatment such as paint or dyeing is not allowed for fresh plant material, but is for dried material.
Botanical arts are yet another way for us to appreciate plants and nature.