Originally used to identify plant species in Victorian times, today botanical prints make an eye-catching display. Our guide looks at the history of botanical prints, how to display in your home and the best places to buy
What is the history of botanical prints in Britain?
As well as being beautifully detailed works of art, botanical prints were used in the Victorian times as detailed records of individual plant species. Photography was not invented until the 1830s, so the only way to satisfy the growing interest in botany and horticulture was to draw it.
Botanical print of an onion (Getty)
At the time, botanical drawing was seen as a natural science. The intricate images are now preserved in collections held at Kew Gardens, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and RHS Lindley Library.
How to decorate with botanical prints
Create a grouped collection in a gallery wall
Group a collection of botanical prints to create a feature wall in a living room or bedroom. Take the time to measure the wall and mark where each print must be hung for the final grouping to look symmetrical and level. For a more contemporary look, use a mix of differently sized pictures and frames.
Create a gallery wall for a dramatic effect (Getty)
Consider colour and balance
Think about the colour and balance when mixing prints with patterned wallpapers and fabrics. Contrast the intricate detail of the prints with bold, abstract patterns. For a contemporary feel, go for fresh ground colours.
Get creative and experiment
Have fun with scale and have a detail from a botanical print blown up to create a large, almost abstract canvas to use as the focal point of a room.
Experiment with different styles of picture frames to create either a contemporary or traditional feel, depending on the look you want to achieve. Use pared-back mounts in colours that contrast with the prints for a more modern aesthetic.
Where to buy botanical prints
You can also find them at many an antiques fair and, when paired with a decorative frame and a gentle colour scheme, they create a standout summer display.
Here are some other places you can buy botanical prints
Ben Pentreath, 17 Rugby Street, Bloomsbury, London, WC1N 3QT. 020 7430 2526
Christopher Hall Antiques, Stand 77-78, Alfies Antique Market, 13-25 Church Street, London. NW8 8DT. 07831 765600
Crispian Riley-Smith Fine Arts will be exhibiting at LAPADA Art & Antiques Fair, Berkeley Square, London from 22nd to 27th September. 01729 830734
Etalage, 07775 834396
King & McGaw, 01273 511942
Sarah Colegrave Fine Art will be exhibiting at Olympia International Art & Antiques Fair, Hammersmith Road, London from 18th to 28th June. 020 7602 1959
Marianne North Gallery/The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 3AB. 020 8332 3622
RHS Lindley Library London, 80 Vincent Square, London, SW1P 2PE. 020 7821 3050
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 20A Inverleith Row, Edinburgh, EH3 5LR. 0131 552 7171
Books & websites
The Golden Age of Botanical Art by Martyn Rix (Andre Deutsch, 2012)
The Golden Age of Flowers: Botanical Illustration in the Age of Discovery 1600-1800 by Celia Fisher (British Library Publishing Division, 2011)
Handbook of Plant Forms for Botanical Artists by Margaret Stevens and Ernest E Clark (Batsford, 2013)
The Society of Botanical Artists