Bonnie Holland was a gardener long before she became an artist. And even though she has gained international attention for the botanical artwork she creates, she’s quick to tell you that the credit doesn’t belong to her.”I don’t do anything,” she said modestly as she arranges a future masterpiece in her workshop. “I only preserve what God has created.”But it’s that preservation that provides memories of natural botanical beauty for generations to come. Her lifelong love of flowers and their beauty gave birth to the idea of Nature’s Notables.”Most people think of a pressed flower as something brown and dead looking that’s lost its color,” Ms. Holland said. “But when done correctly, you can preserve the color and texture of the leaves, transforming it into a lasting memory.”When Ms. Holland began pressing flowers, it was to preserve the beauty she saw blooming all around her. As a master gardener, most of her creations use flowers grown right on her farm which is a 1910 plantation home and garden she restored in rural Pike County. However, the bulk of her business is preserving flowers from special occasions.”People want to have a tangible memory from a special occasion,” Ms. Holland said. “Preserving flowers from weddings and funerals are very popular, and in the past few months, I’ve shipped several pieces overseas. Most of those were framed wedding invitations that included flowers from the couple’s ceremony. I’ve gotten thank you letters from brides I’ve never met telling me that the pressed flowers were their most treasured gift.”Ms. Holland said her talents are divinely inspired, adding that she has spent her life studying plants and nature. When a disease stemming from a childhood bout with polio forced her to reduce her physical labor in her gardens, she said she could barely face the idea of not working with her flowers. But in 1993, she said the Lord sent her the notion of pressing flowers and creating pieces of art with the dried blooms. Prior to then, the only pressed flowers she’d seen were those tucked inside the family Bible.”I bought my first flower press at a local discount store and developed my technique over the next four years, mostly through trial and error,” she said, adding that she read all she could find about the art, but nothing told her everything she wanted to know. At first, she made note cards decorated with the pressed flowers. Close friends who encouraged her to expand her work quickly gobbled those up, and by Christmas that first year, she had filled more than 700 orders.The idea of preserving special-occasion flowers came following the death of Ms. Holland’s mother-in-law. “I picked up two or three flowers after the funeral and created a piece in her memory for my husband,” she said. “I actually was afraid that some people might think it was morbid, but a friend of mine saw that work and encouraged me to continue. He said people want to preserve memories and emotions.”Ms. Holland said for flowers to be successfully pressed, they must not be damp when they are picked. Moisture can create spots or mildew on the drying petals, she said. The flowers should be pressed immediately, and pansies, hydrangea and maypop flowers are ideal.Ms. Holland said commercial presses are fine for preserving flowers, but added that you can make your own by cutting two pieces of plywood to a desired size. The pieces are held together with wing nuts, flat washers and long screws. The flowers are then sandwiched between (6-8) layers of cardboard that have been cut to match the wood. The screws and wing nuts hold the flowers in place where they remain for about six weeks.Between each layer, Ms. Holland places a piece of watercolor paper or construction paper. To block air, she suggests placing flowers of the same thickness together on a page, making sure they don’t touch.Larger flowers such as roses are dismantled before drying. Once they are dried, she reassembles them on paper.Each note card she creates identifies the flower and is signed by Ms. Holland. Each framed work is signed, has a registered number and is sealed with a dust cover to preserve the flowers.Ms. Holland even has developed her own adhesive that was adapted from a commercial glue. Before being glued, the flowers are placed in their unique design and the adhesive is lightly applied with a small brush or toothpick.Although she’s been pressing flowers and creating botanical art for nearly eight years now, it wasn’t until about a year ago that she was able to dedicate most of her time to her craft. In the future, she wants to expand the market for her pressed flower creations through her website www.naturesnotables.com. She’s also started a book that will reveal her secrets on botanical art. Mrs. Holland said she doesn’t advertise her craft, but that’s probably because she doesn’t have to. She’s been featured in state and national publications and has been a guest artist at several art shows and galleries. She also conducts workshops and speaks to garden clubs when time permits.”Flowers have always been an obsession with me, and I really have been blessed in so many ways,” Ms. Holland said. “When I thought I would never work in the garden again, the Lord provided me another way to appreciate nature and it’s wonder.”EDITOR’S NOTE: Contact Natures Notables at 1-866-566-5700.
Heavenly Bouquets – Pike County Artist Says She’s Simply Preserving God’s Creations