A photo of floral advent calendar

How to make a floral Advent calendar

Gardens Illustrated has joined together with The Herbarium Project to show you how to make your own floral 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.

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“To prepare your own herbarium 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.”

Leather swing

How to create your own floral Advent calendar

A photo of plants and 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.

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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

Shuffle the labels so they are in a random order and then add your Christmas message – such as ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’ – to the back of the labels using Lexicon cards.

Cards

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 version, and a lovely seasonal reminder of the beauty of nature.

A close up of the floral advent calendar
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Visit theherbariumproject.com for news of forthcoming exhibitions, books, workshops, events, and to purchase limited-edition artworks and books.

'We wish you a Merry Christmas' floral advent calendar

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