Botanical illustrations, once only found in natural history books and on the walls of plant collectors, are enjoying a renaissance. We take a look at what they are, where to find them and how to use them in your home.
What are botanical illustrations?
Botanical illustrations depict plant species, including colour, shape of leaves and flowers. They’re usually watercolour or pen and ink drawings, and show the plant in exact detail.
Although modern artists still create botanical illustrations, nothing beats vintage and original examples for sheer eye appeal. When plants were the major form of medicine available, keeping a record that would translate across different languages and regions was vital.
The earliest surviving examples of botanical illustrations is the Juliana Anicia Codex (ca. 512 A.D.), now in Vienna. It’s the oldest and most valuable work in the history of botany and pharmacology, and was a vital way of recognising plants for medicinal purposes.
Gradually, binomial nomenclature (names composed of two parts, identifying the genus and species) began to be used for plants and was formalised by Swedish natural scientist Carl Linnaeus in the mid eighteenth century.
To some extent, this removed the need for detailed illustrations as there was now a uniform point of reference for botanists.
At the same time, though, advances in the printing processes coupled with a rise in interest of amateur gardeners and natural historians created a market for illustrations for books and magazines.
Where to find botanical illustrations
You can buy original 18th century prints, normally originally taken from books, for around £35 to £100 from auction houses or antique shops.
These are beautifully, on thick, textured paper. The only thing we’d recommend doing with these is having them carefully framed and hanging them on the wall!
Online auction sites are a treasure trove of modern reproductions of antique prints which cost only a few pounds. These are ideal for projects – for example, make a decoupage waste paper bin, notice board or plant pot covered in vintage plant illustrations.
How to use botanical illustrations in your home
As it’s so detailed, using a lot of botanical illustration in one place can look fussy.
Try teaming the perfect print with plain walls or use flowered fabric to make a pop of colour in a neutral room.
Here are a few of our favourite botanical home picks:
Botanical garden cushion, The French Bedroom Company
Bring a sunny Sussex garden into your home with this floral design from an original artwork hand painted by Stil Haven Design Studio in Sussex.
Printed in the UK , the design depicts an array of beautifully painted garden flowers, with bright colours for a fresh feel.
Complete with duck-feather-filled cushion pad, it costs £49 from The French Bedroom Company.
Highland juniper pattern tea towel, Juniper and Jane
This pretty tea towel, featuring a modern design, was inspired by the Cairngorm Mountains where juniper trees are in abundance.
£12.50, available from Juniper and Jane a small family run business based in the Scottish Highlands.
Set of six botanical orchid prints in mirrored frames, The Farthing
This set of six antique style, mirrored frames comes with six different replaceable botanical orchid prints, and is perfect for a hallway or conservatory.
It’s a limited edition and made only in small numbers, each frame measures 14″ x 17″ and holds a print size of 11″ x 14″. £325 for the set from The Farthing.
By Sara Walkerby