Whilst researching the history of Vintage Bouquets I have fallen in love with ferns. When I started investigating Edwardian bouquets I thought that Asparagus fern was the only fern the Edwardians used. However I have been amazed at the number of varieties of fern I have found in vintage photos and now know that Asparagus fern comes in many forms.
Guide to Ferns
Crown of dark green, feathery foliage on a straight slender stem; 40cm to 1m long. Delicate filler foliage.
Long bushy, upright bright emerald green stems covered with tiny soft branches. Used to give line and height in deigns.
Trailing, elegant main stems with clusters of narrow, emerald green, needle-like `leaves’. A useful trailing foliage in shower bouquets and as a feathery filler.
1937 Bridesmaid bouquet with Asparagus densiflorus `Sprengeri’
1914 Bridal Bouquet with Asparagus densiflorus `Sprengeri’ and Asparagus setaceus
A climbing plant with twisting, wiry stems that can grow up to 3m long. Short branches of small, glossy, ovate shaped green leaves 1 to 7 cm long. It is traditionally used in garlands and swags. It is an excellent foliage for garlands as it is very flexible. Looks great in cascade designs and large bridal shower bouquets.
DUNDEE EVENING TELEGRAPH – TUESDAY 04 JUNE 1912
1922 Bridesmaid Bouquet with Asparagus asparagoides
Edwardian Wedding with Asparagus asparagoides foliage
A woody evergreen shrub with a soft fluffy appearance. This is deceptive as the stems are covered in sharp spines. The tufty needle-like leaflets are emerald green in colour. Excellent filler foliage for large arrangements. It can also be cut into small pieces for smaller table posies and wired work.
Slender, erect, woody stem with a terminal `umbrella’ of shiny, dark green, fan-like fronds. Useful for form and texture. Here it has been used to make a neat collar on a modern, hand-tied bouquet.
What an amazing variety of ferns! Asparagus setaceus has got a reputation for being old fashioned. I expect this was because it was rather overused in the past and in the 1970s was used ubiquitously in buttonholes with a carnation. However my research has shown me what an amazing variety of shapes and textures you can find amongst the fern family. I actually really like Asparagus setaceus. I think it is light and dainty and is useful to create length and texture. You do have to be aware of the thorns.
My Christmas wreath used Asparagus setaceus sprayed gold this year. I don’t normally like flowers and foliage `mucked about’ with as nature is beautiful enough. However I adored this dainty golden fern. I would love to create a trailing, shower bouquet with this golden foliage and antique pink roses.
Back in the Summer I had the amazing time at a three day residential course with the very talented Sabine Darrell Flower School. Working in a team we created some amazing modern designs using ferns. I loved the fern filled green table runner we created. Katie Spicer of The Floral Alchemist provided us with a beautiful set of photos at the end of our stay.
I also chose to use ferns as foliage in a couple of bouquets I made during my time with Sabine. If you compare these bouquets with my 1970s and Edwardian inspired bouquets I think you will agree how versatile the humble fern can be. Really pleased that I could use my own Aspargus densiflorus `Myersii’ which is flourishing in a pot in our greenhouse. It really does look like it’s common name of `foxtail’. However the Asparagus setaceus is not looking so happy as it has gone quite yellow. I really do better with garden plants where I can shove them in the soil and let them fend for themselves. I do also have a few garden ferns which would look nice in floral design, but may be not the tree fern!
If you have any examples of ferns used to great effect in floral design I’d love to showcase them in another Blog post so do get in touch.