October 3, 2014

By Amy Dixon
JOURNAL COLUMNIST

Gardening on Paper

Herbariums are a different approach to putting gardens on paper. A herbarium can be defined as a collection of dried plant specimens, usually mounted and systematically arranged for reference. In the simplest of terms, it is a visual collection of pressed plants.

I’m sure many people remember doing this in a high school science class. I can remember flattening leaves between pages of heavy encyclopedias, displaying them in photo notebooks, noting genus and species. Back then, it was homework. But it can also prove to be a timeless hobby.

Trena McNabb is a local artist and member of the North Carolina Native Plant Society. She has created an amazing herbarium of the plants located on her property in Bethania. Her process is simple, yet stunning. She takes clippings of her plants, presses them, mounts them and stores them in laminated sheets in ringed binders.

Her organization method is simple. Shade plants. Sun plants. Grasses. Pest plants. Anything that sprouts on her property is archived within these notebooks, creating a visual herbarium for her to access at her leisure and share with visitors to her gardens.

“My progression of pressing plants started when I was a little girl,” McNabb said. “My mother and I got into it. I can remember we crawled out into a lake to collect a water lily. And she got into it as much as I did.”

As an artist, McNabb keeps visual references for everything she can think of that might possibly be captured in her paintings. Files of carefully organized newspaper and magazine clippings take up a corner of her studio. Whether she wants to paint a cricket or a bluebird, she can go to her files and find a photo.

“I really started getting into pressing plants so I could have them as a visual reference for my paintings.”

When McNabb first started drying and pressing plants, she used wax paper and laminating sheets as a way of permanently mounting her specimens. Both of these methods proved effective. But now she mainly uses multi-purpose spray glue to adhere plants to a heavy stock scrapbook paper. Displayed behind transparent vinyl sheets, her plants seem to hold as much character on paper as they do in her garden.

Flipping through the pages of her shade-loving flowers, McNabb traces her fingers down the pressed stem of a trillium.
“You know they’re still plants. They’re still flowers. But they become something different on paper, something wonderful.”


Amy Dixon on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/WSJAmyDixon.

Published: October 3, 2014
Reprinted from the Winston-Salem Journal
© Piedmont Publishing Co. Inc.

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