Spring has definitely sprung here in London. The bare streets are now lined with billowing cherry blossom trees, daffodils are springing up in every park corner and the first of London’s magnificent magnolias are starting to open up. I particularly love this change in season, it feels like the city is awakening after a long sleep, along with most of its residents! Everyone suddenly has a smile on their face and a spring in their step.
The parks and woodlands are a treat to explore at this time of year, signs of new life are everywhere but dig a little deeper and you’ll also find some beautiful reminders of seasons past, winter’s casualties or as we call them leaf skeletons.
These fragile decayed leaves can often be found in shady damp areas where sunlight has not completely dried out the leaf. They also need to lie undisturbed over the winter period in order that the skeleton remains intact after the decaying process. We’ve found the best places are dark wooded areas or under bushes (especially holly). Dead hydrangea blossoms also produce some lovely skeletons.
The uses for these delicate treasures are endless, we save them up and use them as gift wrapping decorations but they also make the sweetest bookmarks. You could even hang them from a branch, stick them onto greetings cards or simply frame them as an artwork.
Here’s what you’ll need to create our leaf skeleton gift tags and bookmarks:
It’s a good idea to press your leaf skeletons in a heavy book for a few days before you begin, this makes the leaves easier to paint. Lay the leaves flat onto some scrap paper and gently paint the surface, try not to apply too much pressure as the skeleton is especially fragile when wet. We’ve found that kids poster paints work well and give a more natural chalky finish whereas acrylic paints give a bolder, shinier appearance, both are effective.
Once you have painted both sides carefully peel back the leaf skeleton from the paper and leave to dry. You may find tweezers helpful for this. It is important that you do not allow the leaf to dry onto the paper as once it’s stuck down it is impossible to remove the leaf in one piece.
As the leaf dries you may find that it begins to curl up again, if you are planning to use them as gift wrapping decorations you can just keep them stored between the pages of a book until you are ready to use. At this point you can either stick them straight onto a gift tag or tie them around your gift using some natural twine.
To make bookmarks simply stick the skeletons onto a large gift tag and replace the string with a colourful piece of ribbon. So simple but so effective.
We love scouring our woods and parks for these fallen treasures but if rummaging around amongst dead leaves isn’t your cup of tea then you can actually create your own leaf skeletons at home. Simply boil fresh leaves in a pot for 30 minutes with water and bio washing detergent. Remove from the pot, lay flat on a paper towel and gently scrub away the leaf pulp using an old toothbrush. Rinse with cold water, air dry and then press between the pages of a heavy book for a few days.
We’ve never actually tried this method as we have an abundance of leaf skeletons in our local area but I’d love to hear if anyone has given this a go.
Happy leaf hunting!