Very impressive carving Neil.
I’ve done a few plates with lettering plus free-form designs similar to your foliage. On the ones where I used an oil finish (similar effect as lacquer) the lettering looked fine but the free-form lines didn’t have enough contrast unless there was a strong side light. I got better results with a light gel stain called New Pine (made by General Finishes), followed by a few coats of General Finishes Arm-R-Seal. I don’t like dark stains, so this worked for me.
I hope you post a photo of your carving after you put on a finish.