“I do feel strongly,” the superbly named Constance Spry once wrote, “that flowers should be a means of self-expression for everyone.” A florist, social reformer and best-selling author, Mrs Spry (1886-1960) took the cut-flower traditions of the upper classes and turned them on their head, effectively democratising the art of homemaking. She taught many Brits how to beautify their homes by making the most of such humble materials as vegetable leaves, twigs and weeds, and encouraged them to use a motley assortment of containers, including broken bird cages, tureen lids and gravy boats.
Having read a particularly romantic account of Constance Spry’s life and achievements in a spring issue of Vogue, I found myself inspired by her creative example. So I skipped off to a flower-arranging course held at the sunny, secret haven that is King Henry’s Walk Garden in Islington.
The raw materials on offer were rather more conservative than Constance might wish for – Tesco cheapie bunches, plastic pots and gardening ‘oasis’ (the green crunchy stuff that soaks up water) – but I held true to her inventive spirit by grabbing a few leaves and squirly twigs from the garden.
This is the wisdom I learned from my flowery foray:
- Less is more – too many colours, textures etc makes for an untidy mess
- Go green. If you don’t want to spend a small fortune on expensive flowers, remember that you can get lots of lovely colour and texture from foliage instead
- Balance the arrangement by adding a bit of symmetry – put large leaves on either side and create a diagonal ‘fan’ of one type of flower running through the middle
- Fill out the base of your arrangement, which might otherwise be a bit sad and sparse
- Poke the flowers and leaves into the oasis with conviction, because if it gets too holey, the stems won’t stay put
- Check your arrangement from all angles