Here’s a creative project that takes recycling to a whole new level. Following these simple directions, you can make your own plantable paper embedded with seeds, bits of plants, and delicious herbal scents. Make seed paper into greeting cards for your loved ones, and after they’ve read your sentiments, they can plant the whole card in a garden or flowerbed.
When you choose your favorite herbal scents and seeds for these organic, earth-friendly plantable seed cards, consider The Language of Flowers to convey your message.
While it’s possible to make seed paper you can plant entirely from raw, fibrous plant material, the chemicals and time required to break down the material adequately requires significantly more effort than the method suggested here. For details on creating paper from whole plants, check out a good papermaking book, such as Papermaking with Garden Plants & Common Weeds by Helen Hiebert or Making Your Own Paper by Marianne Saddington.
To begin the process of making botanical cards, assemble the materials listed below, which you may already have in your kitchen or garden.
• 12-by-9-inch piece of screen
• 4 wood stretcher bars (12-inch), plus 4 more stretcher bars (9-inch)
• 3 or 4 sheets of paper (or scraps) of tissue, craft, construction, or typing paper
• Coloring agent, optional
• 1 small handful dried flowers or herbs, chopped
• Plastic bucket or container large enough to hold about 3 cups pulp
• 1 teaspoon seeds
• Whole or pressed leaves and flowers, optional
• Old bath towel or other absorbent material
• 2 pieces felt (large enough to cover the cutout in your mold)
• Rolling pin
You can create your own wood frames nailed or glued into two rectangles, but you’ll find it much easier (and not too expensive at an arts and crafts store) to purchase wood stretcher bars, which easily fit together without any other tools or materials required. (We bought four 12-inch stretcher bars and four 9-inch bars and then assembled them into two rectangular frames.)
Secure the screen to one side of one of the frames with nails or staples so the center is completely covered and the screen is taut. Set aside the second frame (without a screen).
Prepare the paper. Collect various scraps of paper — including tissue, craft, construction, or typing paper — and tear or cut it all into about 1-inch pieces (the thinner the paper, the larger the pieces can be).
Soak the paper overnight in a bowl of water (about 2 cups water to 1 cup paper scraps).
It’s better not to use magazine or newsprint pages for your homemade cards. While it’s possible to remove much of the ink from these pages, the acid that may remain will cause your newly made paper to deteriorate more quickly, so it doesn’t make for long-lasting paper. In addition, avoid using scented facial or bathroom tissue — the perfume will inhibit your own scent creations.
Make the pulp. Add the wet paper and water to the blender and blend (or “liquefy” if your blender has that option) until the paper is notably pulpy, with no chunks of whole paper. Add more water if the mixture is not smooth and thin, or if the blender is slowing down.
For colored paper, add powdered paint, food coloring, a colorful powdered spice, such as turmeric (although this will affect the scent of your paper, so be cautious), or water from boiled plant fibers, such as onionskins, beets, or tea. Add a little at first and blend the color into the pulp to see how the color takes.
Add chopped dried or fresh herbs to your mixture for color, variety, and texture. Use as little or as much as you desire. Blend them into the pulp as thoroughly as you like.
Pour the pulp into a plastic container and stir in your seeds, whole leaves, and flowers. If you’re working with pressed leaves or flowers, wait until after you’ve poured pulp into the mold to add them so they can retain their complete form and shape.
Lay an old bath towel or other absorbent material on your work surface. Set the first frame (with the screen) squarely on top of the towel, screen side up. Place the second frame directly on top of it.
Pour the pulp into the frame. Smooth the pulp around with the back of a spoon until it reaches the edges. Remove the top frame and set it aside.
Place a piece of felt on top of the pulp and gently roll with a rolling pin to flatten. Soak up any excess moisture with a sponge.
To put obvious pressed flowers or leaves on the front of the card, remove the felt and arrange the flowers and leaves gently on top of the wet, rolled pulp. Replace the felt and roll the rolling pin over it again, pressing lightly.
Ever so carefully remove the felt, checking to make sure none of the pulp comes up with it. Soak up as much of the water as you can with a sponge. If the surface of the pulp is no longer smooth, replace the felt and roll again.
Remove the felt and set aside the frame with the paper on top until it’s dry. Depending on the paper thickness and the amount of water you sopped up with the sponge, it could take between a couple of hours and a day to dry.
Once the paper is dry, turn it out onto a flat surface by flipping the frame. Loosen any sections caught on the screen with a knife, or dab a damp sponge on the back side of the screen to moisten stuck sections until they come loose.
With a knife, guided by a ruler, gently score the center of the paper where you want it to fold, covering both sides. You may leave the rough edges or trim them straight.
Write your message on a piece of notepaper cut to size, and insert it into your card, rather than writing directly on the rough-textured handmade paper.
To secure the note to the botanical card, poke two holes from the inside, along the fold of the card and paper, and thread a piece of raffia or ribbon through them. Tie the ends in a bow or knot.
Include instructions with your seeded card that tell your friends to place the card (without the note and raffia or ribbon) in the garden in a sunny spot. They can also tear it up and scatter it throughout a garden bed.
In a few days, the seeds you included will sprout — and allow your gift to keep on giving.
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