Field Work

"It makes me feel part of nature, connected, in a flowing kind of way - to be Botanising and collecting.”

 
 
 Tannin water dam on the Buttongrass plain at Lune River, Far South Tasmania. My home for 20 years and also home to an immense variety of plants for study and collection.

Tannin water dam on the Buttongrass plain at Lune River, Far South Tasmania. My home for 20 years and also home to an immense variety of plants for study and collection.

Collecting in the Field

The timeless quality of mind that envelopes me when plant collecting and hunting for specific species, is a very alluring space.

What we call Button Grass is a mosaic of diverse plant types. Button Grass landscapes accommodate water. The peaty soil is saturated over winter and drains to become hot and dry in summer. The plants are curious and varied - robust and exquisitely fragile.

 
 Students helping to press botanical specimens collected at the Tarkine Bio-Blitz 2015.  www.bobbrown.org.au

Students helping to press botanical specimens collected at the Tarkine Bio-Blitz 2015. www.bobbrown.org.au

Pressing

Depending on the size of the plant, I have several plant presses to use. A small field press of my Father's, heavy studio presses, 100 yr old trouser presses and years worth of old Guardian newspapers! Many a good story to distract me : ) I use cardboard to divide layers of plants in the press to allow more even pressing and better air flow.

Often I need 3 or 4 hands, as I am pressing for optimal display not later dissection. How to hold down those fragile petals whilst arranging the other flower parts as I lower the paper and card down and hold it in place? 

When the French naturalist Labillardiere and gardener Felix laHaye visited Recherche Bay Tasmania in 1792, they carried 400 reams of paper for plant collecting. That is a precious resource and hard to manage keeping a collection dry aboard ship! These earliest collections of flora, fauna and descriptions of indigenous cultural practice among the Lyloquonny peoples of the area - now form an important reference field of 'first contact' nature and culture in Tasmania. It is only 8 km away from this 'Type' locality that I have been collecting over the years, at Lune River.

 
 Deborah selecting pressed plant specimens for final displayed arrangements.

Deborah selecting pressed plant specimens for final displayed arrangements.

Arranging for Display

This is the point where I can never have enough layout space in my studio. Many tables and ironing boards are set up to cope with all the folders of pressed plant material, laid out so I can select the best specimens for my needs. Using stamp tweezers I select specimens and arrange them onto an acid-free mount board that fits the float glass box frame and mount that I have already constructed. 

Lots of holding of breath, no sneezing, as the arrangement coalesces into the final design, and with a tiny amount of glue, I fix it into place.