Gardens Illustrated
Advent calendar: how to make your own

How to make a floral Advent calendar

Gardens Illustrated has joined together with The Herbarium Project to show you how to make an Advent calendar for Christmas. Words Matthew Biggs and photography Andrew Montgomery

Sonya Patel Ellis, founder of The Herbarium Project, has come up with an easy-to-make, Christmas herbarium project – a flower-inspired Advent calendar that gradually reveals a seasonal message, plus is the perfect introduction to the art of flower pressing.


"To make your own Advent calendar, you need at least 24 contrasting shapes, silhouettes, colours and textures, with some spares. Perfect specimens of winter’s signature plants – holly, ivy, rose hips, seedheads and berries – highlight the season’s glory,” explains Sonya. “The best time to pick plants or flowers is when they have dried, mid-afternoon on a sunny winter’s day or, alternatively, pick a bunch of flowers and bring them inside to dry in a clean, warm place.”

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How to make an Advent calendar

Plants and flowers you could use for your advent calendar

Press your chosen advent calendar flowers

  • Cut your chosen specimens to lengths of around 8cm so that each one will fit on a luggage label.
  • Then carefully clean with a small brush or fine tweezers to remove debris, such as insects or pollen, and spread out on a drying sheet or piece of white blotting paper. It’s best to take your cue from nature, and allow each one to fall naturally into place, simply intervening to spread out petals or show the best side of a leaf.
  • Cover with a second drying sheet and press in a hobby press, or between the pages of a heavy, hardback book. This should take between ten to 17 days, although for best results you should allow three weeks.
Pressing flowers for your advent calendar
  • Once all your specimens are dry, mount the best ones on to luggage labels (numbered one to 24) with gummed linen tape.
A picture of a dry flower being used for the advent calendar
  • Shuffle the labels so they are in a random order and then add your Christmas Advent calendar message – such as ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’ – to the back of the labels using Lexicon cards.
Cards for the advent calendar
  • Attach the labels, so they spell out your message, on to evenly spaced nails on a wooden backing board, then turn each flower side up, so that as you turn a tag each day in Advent your message is gradually revealed. Far more personal than any shop-bought Advent calendar, and a lovely seasonal reminder of the beauty of nature.
A close up of the floral advent calendar

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The finished floral advent calendar

For more gift ideas and inspiration, head to our Christmas hub


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