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With Love From Japan: DIY Frozen Herbariums

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With Love From Japan: DIY Frozen Herbariums

December 6, 2022

Described by the Oxford Dictionary as a receptacle for keeping dried plants, a herbarium that is frozen is surely the best kind. Benefitting from refracted light, as well as the addition of fresh berries and pressed fronds, these pieces of arrested nature come from the imagination of Sayuki Ueno of Ueno Farm, in Japan’s northernmost island Hokkaido. Whether they are arranged in a simple or complicated way, they are part of an attitude to ice which is refreshingly cheerful—and which is taken to the next level at Hokkaido’s snow and ice festivals in the depths of winter. The message is clear: “Enjoy the winter.”

Photography by Sayuki Ueno.

Above: A fantasy of fern and dried hydrangea.

The requirements are simple: a tupperware dish or baking mold, boiled water and freezing temperatures—preferably below 14ºF. Frozen herbaria (also known as botanical ice lanterns, when they are displayed with candles behind them) are a way of celebrating a period of time that is as fleeting as summer.

Above: Frozen artworks become bird feeders with the aid of donut molds and twine. Shown here: rosehips, favored by hiyodori birds, native to Japan. “Every time the ice melts, animals come to eat.”
Above: As the ice melts in sunshine, their contents become available for birds to eat. They can be made fresh every morning.
Above: Whether donut-shaped or herbarium-shaped, any kind of botanical design is enchanting. Mrs Ueno uses leaves and seed heads that are pressed and dried in autumn; holes are added to the circles and rectangles with a wood drill.
Above: Cornus twigs and sprigs of conifer are shown with dried hydrangea, teasel and panicum grass, as well as asparagus berries.
Above: Fresh as a daisy and ready to be frozen. Boiled water is better at keeping its clarity, although rapidly dropping temperatures can cause some cloudiness. A partly-open lid can slow things down; a home freezer is an alternative to outdoor freezing.
Above: “The combinations are endless. I want to expand the way to enjoy plants in the snow country,” says Mrs Ueno.
Above: Asparagus. “The only way to enjoy winter is to keep your favorite plants in your heart.”

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