Laurey W. Glenn

This design trend has deep roots.

Ever heard of an herbarium? Even if you’re not familiar with the word, you’ve likely seen one framed and hanging on a wall as an understated-yet-eye-catching design element. It’s not a brand-new trend, though. The herbarium tradition is actually hundreds of years old.

Herbaria (from the Latin “herba,” meaning grass or herb) are botanical collections of pressed, dried, preserved, and mounted plant specimens. They have roots in the early days of botanical research and reference, when they were used in academia. According to Brown University and The Herbarium Handbook (1999), “Originally, the word herbarium referred to books about medicinal plants, but around 1700, the French botanist Joseph Pitton de Tournefort used the word to describe a collection of dried plants. [Swedish botanist Carl] Linnaeus continued this usage, and it came to supersede earlier terms such as hortus siccus (literally ‘dry garden’).”

While these “dry gardens” first took the form of plant-filled volumes used for scientific research, lately they have emerged from the books and have found their way into interior design schemes across the South. According to Pinterest, searches for the term “herbarium” have risen 345 percent since last year. Why? We're chalking it up to timelessness, plus a wider desire to incorporate the natural world in home interiors. Herbaria are also easy to procure. As a DIY, they're endlessly customizable. A quick online browse shows that the most popular way to add herbaria as a design element is by framing a medley of dried plants (or prints of dried plants) and hanging them together in a gallery wall arrangement.

Laurey W. Glenn

Also, while framing and hanging herbaria as art has recently grown in popularity, we can’t say we’re surprised. It’s a design we’ve loved for a while. We jumped on board this trend in 2016 when several examples of herbarium-inspired art filled the Southern Living Idea House located in Mt Laurel, Alabama.

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Needless to say, we’re already looking for ways to incorporate herbaria in our designs this year. Using an herbarium as art is visually interesting and brings with it echoes of history in the tradition of botanical studies. You can buy herbarium-inspired prints to add this element to your home, or you can make your own herbarium with pressed flowers, herbs, fronds, and leaves. All you need to do is press the plants, allow them ample time to dry, and arrange them in a glass frame to create your own eye-catching botanical designs.