ake leaves directly from a tree – they preserve better than leaves taken from the ground.
Place them in a plastic bag between two damp paper towels so that they don’t dry out
before you get them home. There are several ways to preserve deciduous leaves, and each
method has advantages and disadvantages.
One of the simplest is to dry them in the middle of a thick, folded newspaper or inside a
big telephone book, making sure the leaves don’t touch each other. Set about 15 pounds
on top (heavy books work well) to keep them flat as they dry. Move the leaves to a fresh newspaper each day, and again cover with weight; after three days, a five-pound load is sufficient.
Depending on the moisture and thickness of the leaves, they should dry in about a week. This
method preserves most of the color of an autumn leaf, but I find that it also causes them to
become brittle over time.
Sandwiching a leaf between sheets of clear contact paper preserves its true color,
creates an attractive ornament when hung in a bright window, and lasts for years, but you
lose the tactile aspect and the finer details of the leaf, such as its tiny hairs. Wipe off any
dew or moisture and place the leaf front-side down on the sticky side of a piece of contact
paper. Gently press on every part of the leaf’s surface to remove any air bubbles. Cover
with the second sheet and press again.
Immersing a fresh leaf in a glycerin solution makes it soft and supple and easy to examine
with a lens. Unfortunately, the original color darkens a bit. A glycerin solution can be made
by mixing one part glycerin (available at pharmacies) with two parts water. Leaves must
remain submerged for three or four days, with large or thick leaves taking a little longer.
After removing them, blot the excess solution from the leaves and set them aside to dry
over the next few days.
My preferred method of showcasing leaves is to press and dry them, then paint a decoupage
mixture on each side. The solution dries clear, preserving the color, but it does make the leaf
shiny and less supple. Decoupage is available in craft stores, but I make my own by mixing
three parts white school glue with one part water. Generously paint one side
and lay the leaf coated side up on wax paper. The next day, coat the other side,
laying it on a fresh piece of wax paper. On the third day, I hang the leaf by
its stem to allow it to fully air-dry. The excess decoupage can be snipped
away with scissors.
If you want to mount leaves, be sure to include two specimens so both the front
and back can be shown. If the leaf is large – a compound ash leaf, for example –
bend the stem in the middle and fold it up next to the leaflets.
Twigs and Buds
or me, this is a winter activity. I study many buds before
selecting a twig to take. Specifically, I look for a good
representation of terminal and lateral buds, evidence of
bud scales, leaf scars, and any special markings such as
lenticels. At home, I cut off and save the bottom inch so the
pith can be examined with a lens.
In spring, I return to photograph the swollen buds, and do so
again just as the buds open. I take a final round of photographs
as the nascent leaves unfurl.
I make a display card with the pith piece (the bottom inch
of the twig that I had cut off earlier) taped to it and a sketch
of the pith shape. To display the twig upright as part of your
display, tie it onto a poster with a string that reaches around
the twig, through holes to the back, where it is tied.