A couple of years ago I set myself the challenge of taking a photo of a floral arrangement I had made each month using my garden flowers. I’ve missed the challenge so I’m going to challenge myself to make a `Posy a month’ again.
Last time I used snowdrops for my January Posy. However this year there aren’t enough in bloom to sacrifice cutting for a posy. I’ve opted for primulas and violas. I had a lovely time in Country Market Antiques and Collectables at Chilton Garden Centre last week. I was able to source vintage scent bottles and buy some plants for the garden at the same time. It’s my challenge so my rules are that I can buy new garden plants to use just as long as they end up planted in the garden after I’ve made my Posy!
It’s always pot luck what you find at vintage stalls. I was delighted with the two scent bottles I found together with a pretty ladies handbag mirror. The pink bottle was a bit of a challenge for flowers as it has such a small opening. However I think the few select pink primroses look very pretty with the addition of dainty maidenhair fern. I chose the Adiantum spp. fern as it is a well known vintage house plant and was often used in bouquets in the Edwardian Era. It also brings out the green at the centre of the primula.
illustration by Ippy Patterson
DUNDEE EVENING TELEGRAPH – TUESDAY 04 JUNE 1912
Primula, primrose or polyanthus?
The botanical name primula covers many different species including auriculas, primroses and polyanthus. Primroses are derived from the native common yellow primrose (Primula vulgaris) and have lots of flowers on individual stems growing from the centre of the plant. Polyanthus (meaning ‘many flowers’) have a thick stalk with a bunch of flowers on it. My January Posy therefore includes flowers which can be called either primroses or primula but not polyanthus.
My other find was a crystal scent bottle. I was quite pleased with this as the opening was a bit larger for flowers.
I do like dainty violas in a pot outside the front door. They really are pretty, frilly and feminine flowers. For some reason I don’t like a pansy! Pansies seem to me to be the bigger, brasher elder brothers of the viola. I came to appreciate the markings and intricate details of violas when I painted this detailed watercolour using one of Anna Mason’s watercolours with wow tutorials. If you fancy having a go at painting flowers in watercolour I highly recommend Anna’s course.
Having finished the tutorial I went on to paint my own garden Viola purple picotee.
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.
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
Asparagus asparagoides Common Names: smilax, bridal creeper, bridal veil creeper.
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
Asparagus umbellatus Common Names: ming fern, zigzag fern
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.
Sticherus flabellatus Common Name: umbrella fern.
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.
Rumohra adiantiformis Common names: leather leaf, leather fern
Triangular, lacy, shiny, dark green, leathery fronds with scalloped leaflets on both sides of main stem. I have used it here to back a traditional carnation buttonhole.
Adiantum Common Name: Maidenhair fern.
Distinguished by billowy fronds of delicate, green leaves shaped like miniature fans on thin black, hairlike stalks that connect to smooth, black main stalks.
WESTERN TIMES – FRIDAY 21 JUNE 1912
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.
I have spent a wonderful couple of days making wreaths and table centres for Christmas gifts. I had saved poppy, allium and honesty seed heads from the garden and knew they would be useful. I got myself rather messy with gold paint spraying the seedheads but I loved the effect.
I love this Urn and felt free to go wild! I had been out foraging for ivy and berries and chose a green candle which picked up on the colour of the variegated ivy. I also used some teasel seedheads which I had saved.
The traditional mossed wreath I made on a workshop with Fabulous Flowers now has pride of place on our garden gate. I was asked to make a Christmas wreath for a friend to place on their Granny’s grave. I decided that I would make an oasis based wreath as it was likely to last longer in that setting. I love my allium seedhead which I used to form a focal point on the wreath instead of a bow.
I got rather carried away with table decorations. The plan had been to make a couple for specific Christmas presents. However I made five different ones as I was enjoying creating different designs. I may have decided not to pursue floristry as a career, however it still gives me so much joy just to have time to play with flowers. I am hoping the recipients will appreciate the time and care involved.
Whilst I was feeling Christmassy I took a few pics of the decorations on our tree.
I have no photographs of my great grandma’s wedding or bridal bouquet. However I thought it would be interesting to research what flowers were available when Ethel Spice married in 1913 and then make my own version based on my research.
I have looked at original newspaper reports of Edwardian weddings and looked at wedding photographs from the Era.
Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald – Saturday 01 June 1912
Dundee Evening Telegraph – Tuesday 04 June 1912
Cheltenham Looker-On – Saturday 07 June 1913
1902 Wedding of Austin Coom and Rosina Nelson
Edwardian Bridal Bouquets
The Edwardian Era brought about a complete change of bouquet style from the neat Victorian Posy. In the above 1902 wedding the bouquets are still fairly round and neat in shape. Flowers with long stems and trailing plants became available at the flower market and the Edwardian Shower Bouquet became popular. This was characterized by long showers or trails of fern. The shape was large and loose.The shower bouquet was made on a moss ball. Sphagnum moss was made into a ball about the size of a golf ball and into this was poked a long hairpin-like wire. Every flower or piece of foliage was then mounted onto a suitable wire and the wires were then made into a handle. Late Edwardian bouquets were enormous. They were at least 40 cm in diameter at the top with three or more trails of asparagus plumosus reaching almost to the ankles. Hanging amongst the trails would often be roses or carnations. Stephanotis and lily of the valley were also sometimes interwoven. The trails were bound together with binding wire. Some florists used green silk-covered wire. Gutta tape wasn’t used in Edwardian times.
The other style of bouquet which was popular was a tapering, long arm sheaf. These were usually made with longiflorum lilies (otherwise known as bridal or trumpet) or with arum lilies. Often the stems were bound with ribbon, although they were sometimes left unbound. This was the precursor of the stylised arum lily sheaf popular in the 1920s. Miss Mason is noted to have a sheaf of lilies and pale pink carnations in 1913.
Edwardian Bridal Flowers
The most popular bridal flowers were roses and Malmaison carnations. Ivory or white flowers were still a favourite for the bride’s bouquet. Bouquets often contained one or two varieties of flowers, but you didn’t tend to have mixed flower bouquets. A wide variety of flowers were available, but fashion dictated that flowers should be of the same kind. It was considered vulgar to mix flowers. Only with the publication of Constance Spry’s first book, Flower Decoration, in 1934 did the idea of `mixed’ flowers become acceptable. Flowers arranged in the house were largely single varieties. Gertrude Jekyll felt two flower arrangements could be tolerated but only by those with a keen and well trained color eye. In the History of Flower Arranging by Julia Berrall she says `Flower arranging suffered from over-simplification. One dozen carnations and some asparagus fern, placed in a tall cut-glass vase, sum up the state which flower arrangements had reached.’
From my research I was amazed at the number of references to named varieties of garden roses. When I got married I was advised that `garden roses shouldn’t be used in a bridal bouquet as they are not bred for the cut flower trade.’ I thought this was such a shame. Roses grown for bridal bouquets are now often bred on a large scale to maximise stem length and longevity, but they often lack the beautiful fragrance of garden blooms. David Austin is one rose breeder who is working hard to reverse this trend. It is difficult to breed flowers for both scent and lasting power. The oils that provide the scent have the effect of breaking down the flower more quickly than in roses without scent. David Austin English Cut Roses have the beauty of an English garden rose although they are produced under glass. When I got married I would have liked to have chosen roses for my bouquet which I could then grow in my garden as a beautiful memory. Apart from commercially grown David Austin roses there are a new wave of British Flower growers who grow flowers to be used in floral design work. I wish I’d known about them when I was getting married.
Dorothy Perkins Roses (Wichurana)
The Dorothy Perkins rose was the very first rose to be named after a person. Jackson and Perkins was a company formed by Charles Perkins (1840 – 1924) and his father-in-law, Albert Jackson (1807 – 1895) in the USA. Charles Perkins had a Grand-daughter named Dorothy. Miller who worked for Jackson and Perkins developed this clear pink rambling rose in 1902 which was named after her.
The Dorothy Perkins rose went on to win first prize at the Royal National Rose Society in 1908. She was bred from the Wichurana roses which are very vigorous ramblers. Peter Beales still sells Dorothy Perkins with her colourful cascades of clear pink flowers.
Catherine Mermet Roses
The Catherine Mermet rose was introduced in 1869 by Guillot. This is a pretty double tea shaped rose, light pink colour and is very fragrant. Catherine Mermet was grown as a greenhouse variety, but can now be kept as a garden rose. A white rose was developed from Catherine Mermet called `the Bride’.
The Nephetos rose was often called the wedding rose. She has creamy buds opening up to blowsy white flowers and a delicate tea scent. This highly scented old climber was very popular in Edwardian wedding bouquets and was introduced as a French tea rose in 1889 by Keynes Williams & Co. Nephetos roses need cosseting in colder areas and are better placed in a warm position or under glass.
`The Rose, it’s history and how to cultivate it’ – J. Johnstone 1897
Edwardian bridal roses tended to be white or pale pink. However I have found a few references to crimson roses. This article shows that this was a new idea as generally speaking white flowers were favoured as they symbolised purity and innocence. Interesting that coloured flowers are beginning to come in.
Yorkshire Evening Post – Thursday 01 May 1913
Carnations have gone out of favour largely due to the wide availability in supermarkets at competitive prices. However they were viewed completely differently in the Edwardian Era. Malmaison Carnations date back to the 1850s. They were originally bred in France in 1857, and because of their quartered flowers looking similar to the bourbon rose, Souvenir de la Malmaison, they were named Malmaison Carnations.
Malmaison Carnations (Dianthus) were richly clove scented and were prized for cutting. There were 40 cultivars in the carnation’s heyday and sadly now only five remain. I found these on the Allwoods Nursery Website.
Duchess Of Westminster Pre 1902
Old Blush Pre 1857
Princess of Wales 1876
Marmion Pre 1912
The Edwardian Era takes it’s name from Edward VII. His wife Queen Alexandra made the Malmaison carnation fashionable.
Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette – Wednesday 12 June 1912
They were, and still are, a real challenge to grow. They are prone to viruses, red spider mite in summer and damping off in winter. Malmaison carnations were cherished Edwardian flowers, grown for their strong scent in walled garden greenhouses. They were used as cut flowers for country houses until the Second World War. In my Great Grandmas time a vase of Malmaisons would demonstrate the owner’s social and economic position in life unlike today when they tend to be viewed as cheap `garage flowers`. Looking at newspaper articles I have found that carnations were often used in bridesmaids’ shower bouquets or carried by the mother of the bride. I must admit I have become quite fond of them. They do smell amazing and they can last for several weeks in the vase.
Edwardian Bridal Bouquet Foliage
Shower Bouquets of the Edwardian Era were large and trailing. They often had yard long trailing greenery of fern. Whilst researching this Era I have been amazed at the number of varieties of fern which were used. I have found at least 5 varieties of asparagus fern!
Dundee Evening Telegraph – Tuesday 04 June 1912
Asparagus asparagoides. Common names bridal creeper, smilax, bridal veil
Asparagus setaceus. Common names asparagus fern, plumosa fern, asparagus plumosa
Asparagus densiflorus Common names foxtail fern, plume asparagus
The Edwardians loved bouquets with trailing ribbons. Ribbons streamed out of the bouquet featuring knots along their length which were known as `Lovers knots’ or Bridal Laces. They were meant to represent promises from the Groom. Interestingly I thought the ribbons would have always been white in colour. However my research has found pink ribbon trails and even electric blue! How very daring!
Western Times – Wednesday 10 June 1914
Western Times – Friday 21 June 1912
Having researched the period I was in two minds about what kind of bouquet my Great Grandma Ethel Spice would have had in 1913. Ethel’s father George Spice was a market gardener and worked for Greenwood’s florists in Clapton. The first florists were market gardeners and nurserymen and the Edwardian Era saw the rise of the market garden.
Part of me feels that Ethel would have had a bouquet provided by her dad with flowers he grew himself. Whilst Malmaison carnations, roses and lilies were the most popular and stylish flowers for wealthy households, many Edwardians had a love for modest cottage garden flowers. There was a developing trend for flowers to be used in a style more sympathetic to the plant’s growing characteristics. The neat Victorian concentric bands were no longer in fashion and the rise of the Arts and Crafts Movement favoured a more naturalistic style. For fun I made a `Market Garden Bouquet’ for Ethel. I included lots of trailing ribbons and used dahlias grown on a Cutting Plot. I also used myrtle which is often used in bridal bouquets as it symbolises `Endless Love’.
However much as this bouquet was enormous fun to make I really don’t think it would be Ethel’s cup of tea. Photos show her to be a typical demure Edwardian lady. I know Ethel loved roses as I have a picture of her in later life standing by her roses, looking very proud of her efforts.
I decided to make a more typical Edwardian bouquet with pink roses, lots of trailing fern and streaming ribbons. Although this type of bouquet would have been made with a moss ball I was after the look and not an exact replica. Having gathered together my materials I wired all the roses first. I used modern pink roses, but chose ones which I felt would look authentic in photos. If you would like to see how to wire a rose do check out my Blog Post on making a traditional wired rose buttonhole.
I then wired my chosen foliage. I’d opted for Asparagus setaceus, ivy and Asparagus densiflorus. Each frond or leaf was individually mount wired and then made into long branching units. I made sure I had plenty of variety of length.
I then started to construct the bouquet. In the same manner as I had made my 1970s wired posy I made a handle by binding the stems together with silver reel wire. I set the overall shape of the bouquet with long stems for the trail and stems either side to set the width. Shorter stems were attached at the top and slightly bent back to form a return. I then infilled with the flowers trying to create the shape I had seen in photographs. The wires were made into a ribbon handle and I included lots of ribbon streamers with lovers knots. I loved the finished bouquet, although Mr Smiles felt it was a bit messy and preferred the neat 1970s posy!
The construction took several hours to wire all the components for the design. However I must say it was surprisingly light for such a big bouquet.
Having photographed my design I then wanted to make a watercolour to add to my art work of vintage bouquets. I was rather overwhelmed with inspiration and source material for my painting!
Surrounded by the bouquet and numerous photographs I decided to use pen and wash rather than go for a neat accurate replica. I felt that I already had a decent photograph so wanted to produce my own artistic interpretation of this Edwardian design. The bouquet has quite a formal construction, but gives the impression of something loose and unstructured. I tried to convey this looseness in my finished work. I hope you like it!
A traditional buttonhole consisted of a single flower and a boutonniere was made up of a number of stems of small headed flowers such as a spray rose, heather or stephanotis. The Victorians and Edwardians loved a buttonhole as a fashion accessory and flowers weren’t restricted to roses or carnations. They might use exotic blooms such as gardenias or camellias. The flower was usually backed by a small spray of foliage or a leaf.
The rose has always been a favourite for use in a buttonhole. At the beginning of the 1950s the rose was taken over in popularity by the carnation, backed with a piece of fern.
The rose then came back into vogue. Often a single rose matching the colour of the bride’s bouquet was chosen for the groom to set him apart from the rest of the bridal party.
Wherever possible a wired buttonhole would have been worn through the buttonhole and not pinned onto the front of the lapel. For this reason the flower stem needed to be very fine. Flower heads of thicker stemmed blooms such as roses were mounted on taped wire to achieve a thinner stem.
How to wire a rose for a buttonhole
The initial flower selection is important. You’re looking for a fairly small, beautiful flower in perfect condition. The flower should have already had a good drink. Big, garden roses don’t work well in button holes as they are too chunky, round and blobby. You don’t want a rose which will stick out too much and flop due to the weight.
Try not to touch the ends of the petals as they bruise easily. You may need to remove the outer guard petals and any damaged petals that are visible.
Bunch several rose wires together. Fold them over the scissor blades at one end to create a small “U” shape in each wire. Snip off these folded ends to make staples. The length of wire you’re folding is approximately 1.5 cm long. With practise you will get 5 pins out of 1 length of wire, just enough for 1 rose. Cut the wires at an angle for ease of insertion. The angle makes them sharper to go into the rose. Press these staples into the sepals — the small green leaves immediately below the petals — so they are held in place. If a sepal breaks, cut it off and put at the back of a button-hole. Pinning the sepals stops the flower opening too much.
Support Mount the Stem
The goal of wiring a single, beautiful bloom is to be able gently manipulate the flower head and surrounding leaves into the perfect angle once the button hole has been attached to the jacket lapel. You wire a rose to both lighten and to manipulate the stem. You wire to lighten and to move. Make sure you cut the stems short enough for wiring. Too long a stem will make a button-hole heavy and the stem may snap. There’s then no point in wiring in the first place!
Trim the rose stem at an angle just below the seedbox. It is important the rose is cut at a steep angle. This will mean a smoother finish at the end. You don’t want a big ugly stem which suddenly gets thinner. You want to aim for a beautiful tapered stem. Push a 22 swg, 0.71 mm gauge stub wire up through the base of the stem and up into the calyx. (Internal Support Mount). I think of this as the `Ju Jung! Action’. The mount wire needs to be strong enough to support, but not overly heavy. The gauge will vary depending on how thick the stem. You may need a thicker 18 swg, 1.22 mm stub wire. Push up about half way through the head of the rose. Cut the wire – about 4.5cm – 6 cm stem length.
The cross wire makes sure the support mount stays in place and provides stability.
Use a thin rose wire to pierce the side of the stem. I used a 0.56 mm, 24 swg for my cross wires. Traditionally rose cross wire is 0.46mm, 26swg, however this is very fine and bends easily. Use the thinnest you can manage without bending excessively. Cut the wire to a nice sharp angle for ease of insertion. Push this wire halfway through the stem at a 90 degree angle to the stem, so you have an equal length of the wire at each side. Keep fingers close to the stem to avoid kinking the wire. Once the wire is through pull the wire from the other side, don’t push. Repeat with another rose-wire to form a cross through the calyx. Bend each side of the rose wire 90 degrees so the four lengths are parallel to the stem. Twist one of the rose wires around the rose stem, the support wire and the remaining length of rose wire in a double leg mount. Cut the cross wires shorter than the support wire.
Tape the Rose
Gutta Tape is the generic name for the tape used to cover wires and seal stem ends. It is also known as stem tape. It seals in moisture and covers the rough cut end. Taping the stem holds in moisture which allows plant material to stay fresh for longer.
Parafilm,plastic Gutta Tape, is not inheritantly sticky. It is activated by the warmth of your fingers. It is best to put it somewhere warm such as a pocket or down your top, if you have cold hands.
Once the rose is wired hold the calyx between your thumb and forefinger in your left hand. Starting at the top near the head of the rose, gently wrap the tape down the wire, turning the item as you go. Make sure you cover the holes where the rose wire entered the calyx. Stretch the tape as you bind down and carry on until the whole wire is covered. Twist the tape at the end to seal before cutting off. (Stretch, warm, twizzle as you go.) Make sure you cover the sharp point.
Preparing the leaves
Traditionally a rose bloom is always accompanied by it’s own foliage. Choose three clean, firm leaves – one a little larger than the others. The rose leaves need to be support wired by a method called stitching.
Stitching is used to support individual leaves and does exactly what it says! A length of fine wire is stitched through the front of the leaf about two thirds of the way up then brought down to form a loop. The ends are then twisted together around the stem of the leaf to create a false stem.
Hold the leaf with the underside uppermost. Using a good length of fine wire take a small stitch through the front of the leaf over the main vein about a third down from the tip.( The size of wire depend on the leaf thickness) Form a loop with the wire ends and twist them together at the base of the leaf to form a stem. If green wire is available, it should be used. This is the one occasion when bare wire is seen, as taped wire will not go into the flesh of a leaf. The wire stems are then taped.
Tape the largest leaf onto the rose stem so that the leaf forms a backing to the bloom. The largest leaf will provide a protective backing for the rose. Add the two smaller leaves to the front of the buttonhole so that their fronts face the bloom. Trim off the wires at an angle and bind with stem tape. The stem should be about 3.75 – 5 cm long. Gently bend the leaves down in front of the rose to form a return end and hide the support wire. Support wiring enables you to manipulate the rose leaves aesthetically.
The finished rose buttonhole should be sprayed and a dress pin attached to the stem.
A rose buttonhole appears to be a very simple, classic design. However I hope I’ve shown that there is a lot of skill and patience required to make one. In trials I have found that they are much longer lasting than the more modern gathered, tied boutonniere.
Inspired by researching the floral designs used for my mum’s early 70s wedding I decided to create my own versions. The original flowers were orange in colour. I wanted to create my designs in a different colour scheme, but with authentic techniques.
Christine, the adult bridesmaid is carrying a Wired Posy Bouquet. This is a design which, although wired, was meant to look like a loose, mixed posy. The design was also known as an Edwardian or Colonial Posy and was a development from the tightly packed Victorian Posy to a more natural, informal style. Having said that the style is not quite the country garden just gathered look of the current trend.
Choice of flowers and foliage
A mixture of flowers and foliage is usually used for a Posy Bouquet. There were no rules as to the mix of materials. However exotic flowers such as orchids were not used and large flowers were avoided.
Lily of the valley
Ivy leaves, trails and berries
Ferns such as asparagus and nephrolepis
Small Eucalyptus gunnii sprays
I selected lilac Ocean Mikado and white Snowflake spray roses, purple, lilac and white freesias and white carnations as these seemed to me to be typical 70s flowers. Rather than going all out bright and bold like my mum’ s orange flowers I wanted to use a softer analogous colour scheme. For my foliage I used ivy and asparagus setaceus fern.
The Loose Posy is constructed using floristry wire. I must admit before I had embarked on learning about the techniques used to make Vintage bouquets I was sceptical about `mucking about with flowers’ with wire. I believe flowers are beautiful enough without having to manipulate or change them. However the process of learning about and making vintage styles has won me over to the appropriate use of floristry wire! Wires are used in floral design for control, support, anchorage, to lengthen stems and to bind materials together,
All the flowers and foliage were mount wired using suitable wire gauge. The aim was to use a wire which would support the material, but still allow for a certain amount of natural movement. In Mount Wiring the natural stem of the flower or foliage is replaced and the flower is mounted with a wire `stem’ to manipulate the material in a design and to create light, delicate work. There is no single correct way of wiring.The lightest gauge or thickness of wire for the purpose should always be used and wired material should not make the finished design stiff and heavy. I am by no means an expert. However I am amazed at how many techniques I have learnt over the last few months and how many different ways of mount and support wiring I employed in my 1970’s posy.
If I had been using larger roses for a buttonhole I would have pinned the sepals using small wire hairpins. However I felt it wasn’t necessary with small spray roses for a posy. The rose stem was cut at a steep angle to give a smooth finish. I pushed a 0.91 mm wire up through the base of the stem. (Internal Support Mount). The mount wire needs to be strong enough to support, but not overly heavy. The gauge of the wire will vary depending on how thick the stem is. The wire is pushed up about half way through the head of the rose. I then cross wired the rose. A thin rose-wire is used to pierce the side of the calyx. Traditionally rose cross wire is 0.46 mm, however this is very fine and can bend easily. I found that it helped if I kept my fingers close to the stem to push the wire through. It is best to use the thinnest wire you can manage without bending excessively. I also find it makes life easier if you cut the wire to a nice sharp angle before inserting. Once the wire is through pull the wire from the other side, don’t push. You then repeat with another rose-wire to form a cross through the calyx. Each side of the rose-wire is then bent through 90 degrees so the four lengths are parallel to the stem. One of the wires is then twisted round the rose stem, the support wire and the remaining length of rose-wire in a double leg mount.
The rose was then taped with gutta tape making sure the holes where the rose-wire was inserted were covered. Stem tape is used to seal in moisture and cover any rough ends. I found that my wires were too short for the posy So I just lengthened them by adding in another wire with more gutta tape.
I got my trusty Constance Spry Handbook of Floristry out and lost the will to live with the instructions to wire freesia flowers! `Freesia flowers need to be supported as well as the stems. This is done by taking a piece of 0.20 mm silver reel wire and attaching it by twisting with the main stem at the base of the bottom flower, twisting the wire up the flower to where it begins to bulge and then taking it down to the main stem. Twist the wire up the stem to the next flower and wire as for the first flower. Do this to all the open flowers.Twist the wire up the main stem at the base of the buds until the top bud, then twist the wire around the base of it and cut the wire away. Take 0.32 mm silver wire and push it into the stem where the binding wire began and twist down the base of the stem’. Trussed up like a turkey comes to mind! The purpose of wiring in this posy was to support the flowers and to be able to manipulate the stems into the desired shape in the finished bouquet. I have wired lily of the valley according to this method and didn’t like the result as I could see the wire and the flowers easily snapped off in the process anyway. I decided that as long as the freesia stems were mounted on suitable wire the flowers could be supported by the other flowers and foliage in my bouquet. I opted for a Branch Hook with a Double Leg Mount which seemed to do the job and no flowers fell off or got damaged in the process.
Hooking can be used to support and mount any flower where you can hide the hook amongst the petals. I pushed a 0.71 mm support wire up through the calyx and out the top of the flower. I then made a hook at the top and pulled the wire down until the hook reached the base of the calyx, The stem and wire were then taped.
For the Asparagus foliage I used a Single Leg Mount.
The ivy leaves were individually wired and then taped together to form a wired unit. The size should be graded from small at the top to larger at the bottom to give the impression that the unit is natural and is growing.
Individual ivy leaves were support wired by a method called stitching. A length of fine wire is stitched through the front of the leaf about two thirds of the way up then brought down to form a loop. The ends are then twisted together around the stem of the leaf to create a false stem. The process of stitching ivy leaves showed me how useful and versatile wiring techniques are. This method of support wiring really does what it says. The wire support allows you to manipulate the leaf aesthetically.
Once stitched and mounted the leaves were brought together to form a natural looking Branching Unit.
As soon as I had experienced using a wired unit made in this manner and compared with using unwired natural foliage I was hooked on the technique. Wiring individual flowers and foliage involves skill, time and patience. However the usefulness becomes apparent when you put the design together. It is so easy with a completely natural design to try to manipulate a flower or leaf into a more aesthetically pleasing position and snap it off. This can leave a gap in a finished design and look worse than if you’d left alone. Branching units are great as you can move the stem, leaves and flowers exactly where you want them.
Finally the preparation was done and I could construct the posy!
I laid out all my wired flowers and foliage in groups – 5 white freesia, 5 lilac freesia, 3 purple freesia, 13 lilac Ocean Mikado Spray Blooms, 7 white Snowflake spray roses, 7 white carnations, 8 branched units of ivy (about 24 leaves) and 8 asparagus fern.
The posy is put together with silver binding wire. I attached the binding wire to one of the Ocean Mikado spray roses. This flower was chosen to form the centre of the design. For an average size posy this is attached approximately 6-8 cm below the flower head. I then added five pieces of ivy leaf units and bound tightly into the same length as the first flower.
The ivy was bent down so the false stems formed a rough circle round the central lilac rose. This had established the overall dimensions of the posy. If you want a larger posy then the binding point can be a bit lower. You would then use more stems to start the posy.
I added a further five pieces of asparagus fern and bound in slightly shorter than the ivy. I wanted the ivy to trail a bit to create the impression of a loose posy. The fern was also bent down to strengthen the circular outline.
Then came the fun bit of adding the flowers. I used a wonderfully useful book `Professional Floristry techniques‘ by Malcolm Ashwell & Sally Pearson for my method. I also referred to the Constance Spry Handbook of Floristry by Harold Piercy. Both were useful resource material and achieve the same result. However Constance’s method is much more prescriptive and also over-complicated. I did learn the importance of the centre flower. `It should be fairly small, but an `important ‘ flower such as a small spray rose. It is placed in the centre and leans towards the top flower. It is the longest flower to build upto; nothing must be higher than the centre and nothing must be longer than the outline of flowers. It is easier to work with the outline shape first. The heaviest flowers should be near the centre. The leaves are placed attractively through the bouquet with larger leaves near the middle.’
The wire false legs form the handle of the bouquet. It is important not to cross the false legs and you always bind neatly in the same place. The wires are cut to the length of a clenched fist allowing an extra 2.5 cm. It looks neater to cut at an angle to form a tapered handle. The wire stems are then covered with white stem tape. The handle is finished with ivory ribbon with two bows tied neatly at the top.
Malcolm Ashwell says that `the finished posy should be circular in outline and slightly domed in profile. It should also be light and feel secure to handle.’
I enjoyed making my 70s inspired Loose Posy. It did feel very light to hold and I think the finished result is both pretty and dainty. I found all the wiring very time consuming, but rewarding. After it was made I was able to tweak the angle of the flowers and foliage for best effect.
Traditional 70’s Ladies Corsage
The mothers of the bride and groom traditionally wore a ladies corsage spray and my grandparents both wore corsages with a selection of different flowers. My Gran wore a vibrant corsage including orange spray roses, yellow freesia and asparagus fern which stood out against her navy suit. Nana’s corsage was daintier incorporating hyacinth pips.
As I had made a 70s inspired bridal posy I felt it only right to make a corsage too. These days it is popular for ladies to wear a loose natural tied posy button-hole. These look very pretty and are not as bulky as a traditional corsage. However they don’t always have the longevity of the traditional.
I wired all the materials in the same manner as I did for the bouquet. I made a few branching units of ivy leaves and asparagus fern. This reduces the number of individual stems to be bound into the binding point and also gives the corsage strength.
I first formed the outline of the top 2/3 of the corsage by taping foliage to form an outline as far as the binding point would be.
I then attached silver binding wire to the stem of the corsage.This determines the binding area and centre of the design.
It is from this point that all materials appear to radiate and is the point where the central focal flower sits. I chose the same Ocean Mikado spray rose as my focal flower to match the bouquet. Materials placed behind the focal flower are bent backwards to cover the stem of the corsage. This is known as the return end. The focal rose was bound in at a 90 degree angle low down directly over the return end. The finished corsage should be a kite shape. The flower material should be graduated in size towards the focal flower and then receding down in size into the return end.
The stem wires are trimmed just shorter than the return end flowers. I thinned the stem by cutting off some of the wires and cut at an angle to achieve a tapered end. The stem and binding point was then taped.
Making a formal 70s style corsage was an interesting exercise. I can see the benefits. With a bit of thought and imagination they are a beautiful accessory and are quite versatile as they can be attached to hats or handbags, coat lapels, wrists or shoulders. As all the elements are wired and taped to seal in moisture a corsage will be longer lasting than a natural unwired Boutonniere. However mine took ages to make. It was also heavy in comparison and quite bulky. I can’t imagine pinning it to a flimsy wedding frock as I think it might ruin the dress. Looking back over the 70s photos the corsages are worn on jackets which would accomodate the weight. I also think that my corsage would have benefited from a few small hyacinth pips or berries to balance the proportions. My flowers are all very similar in size.
I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing how much skill went into making 70s wired wedding designs. I definately now appreciate the amount of time and skill that went into creating them.