Preserving a Garden on Paper


LONDON — Gardens and greenery have long been part of the English literary canon, like the poet William Blake’s “green and pleasant land” and Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet tracing her love for Mr. Darcy to “first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley.”

Now you can be part of the English garden tradition by helping someone save memories of their own garden in the form of a botanical artwork by Amanda Ross, who “grew up in nature,” spending much of her childhood exploring Prince Edward Island in Canada. “I’d go for a walk in the forest and come out holding half of it,” she said recently from her studio in southeast London.

Ms. Ross uses pressed flowers, grasses and other plants — along with a combination of hand printing and digital technology — to create personalized “Garden Legacy” prints. She introduced the line only recently, but said she has been working with the process for more than 20 years.

Her bespoke range has six options, starting with a 12-inch by 16-inch print using five pressed plants supplied by the client that are rendered in greenish sepia tones (140 pounds, or $190). The largest is a 20-inch by 40-inch full-color artwork of about 40 plants from a single garden (£4,000).

To help someone select the plants, Ms. Ross sends a gift box that includes tips on choosing suitable specimens; instructions on how to preserve or “press” the chosen stems, leaves and blooms; and a ream of blotting paper to soak up any moisture from them.

“The more common plants include maple leaves and ginkgo, which always print beautifully,” she said. “Really fleshy plants like a succulent won’t work.”

Once the cuttings are preserved and sent back to Ms. Ross, it takes six weeks to three months for her to complete the picture, she said. But the timing also depends on the recipient’s choices: “One client is doing her garden throughout the year,” said Ms. Ross, who has a master’s degree in textiles from Central Saint Martins. “So plants per month that come up in her garden.”

Using ink and a heat press (“basically a giant iron,” she said) set to 200 degrees Celsius (nearly 400 degrees Fahrenheit), she transfers an impression of the dried plants onto synthetic fabric, capturing the details of their profiles and stem structures. The results are then digitized and organized into a final layout on archival paper.

“This involves technology and a lot of patience,” she said.

Finally, she writes the name of each plant, as supplied by the customer, across the bottom of the print and adds her signature. If the destination is within Britain, the print is shipped in an ash frame, stained or unstained; if international, it is sent unframed. (Shipping and any import duties are extra.)

Her ideal customer, Ms. Ross said, would be anyone who wants to “capture the plants that made the memories.”

“Some people want to do their wedding bouquets,” she said. “A lady with a magnolia tree had moved it three times and couldn’t move it again, so this way she could take it with her. If you’re downsizing, you can’t take your garden with you, but you can take a snippet of it with you this way.”

Ms. Ross said gardening was “what saved a lot of people’s sanity” during pandemic lockdowns, but she admitted she lacked a green thumb.

“I would love to be a gardener,” she said, “but in a small flat in London, all I have are window boxes and they are not a great success. I regard my pictures as my gardening — I don’t have to weed or water those.”