`LONE Flower, hemmed in with snows and white as they
But hardier far, once more I see thee bend
Thy forehead, as if fearful to offend,
Like an unbidden guest. Though day by day,
Storms, sallying from the mountain-tops, waylay
The rising sun, and on the plains descend;
Yet art thou welcome, welcome as a friend
Whose zeal outruns his promise! Blue-eyed May
Shall soon behold this border thickly set
With bright jonquils, their odours lavishing
On the soft west-wind and his frolic peers;
Nor will I then thy modest grace forget, Chaste Snowdrop, venturous harbinger of Spring, And pensive monitor of fleeting years! ‘
William Wordsworth 1819
Today I had a pleasurable outing to Welford Park to see the drifts of snowdrops amongst the woodland. I haven’t got many snowdrops in the garden as the squirrels seem to think the bulbs are nuts and dig them up! However the few I have mark the beginning of a new gardening year. I love the phrase in Wordsworth’s poem `Chaste Snowdrop, venturous harbinger of Spring, and pensive monitor of fleeting years.’ The dainty white snowdrop foreshadows Spring and the heralding daffodils and marks the end of one gardening year and the start of another.
The common snowdrop Galanthus nivalis runs riot in the woods at Welford.
Inspired by my visit I bought some snowdrop plants and enjoyed photographing them in a vintage scent bottle which seemed to capture the purity of the white snowdrops. Silver and clear glass work well with white flowers. I chose a Wintery blue/grey background to create an image reminiscent of a cold February day.
I have some beautiful Hellebore flowers in bloom in the garden at the moment. The pretty nodding flowers can be hidden by the leaves in the garden. My aim this month was to produce an arrangement which showed off the blooms with their intricate markings and exquisite beauty. Once cut they do have a hard time taking up water and droop easily They can be quite difficult to arrange in a vase. However there are a few tricks that can help.
Using Hellebores in Floral Design Work
Cut the stems and then sear the ends in boiling water for a few seconds.
The age of the flowers play a very important role in the longevity of a cut hellebore. You need to wait until the ovary begins to swell and the stamens and anthers have fallen off. The more developed the seedpod the longer the flowers will last as cut flowers. For artistic purposes I have photographed my hellebore flowers with their stamens and anthers intact so you can see how beautiful they are. However 24 hours later these flowers were very droopy.
Hellebore flowers look wonderful simply floated in a bowl of water. This was last year’s `posy’ of the month.
This year for my `February Posy’ I chose a vintage teacup to float a few blooms in. I love the water lily effect of the fancy, frilly pink flower. `
To ring the changes I decided to also use a vintage flower bowl which belonged to my Gran to show off my hellebore blooms. Whilst I was clearing my Uncle’s house I found this lovely Amber Cloud Glass Flower Bowl Set which was given to my Gran as a wedding present in 1937 by Ethel Marsh. Unfortunately I threw the plinth out as I didn’t realise it belonged to the flower bowl! Cloud glass is a form of pressed art glass, created by applying streaks of dark coloured glass to paler glass, which creates a random swirled, “clouded” pattern. The cloud glass technique was invented by George Davidson & Co in 1923. The Pattern number is 1910SD, 6.75 inches diameter.
Ethel Marsh was a colleague of Betty at the Liverpool Victoria Insurance offices. The stories my Gran recounted about the Liverpool Vic are more to do with the social side than actual work! Betty made many good friends whilst working there, many of whom came to her wedding. In the 1930s a married woman was not expected to work. When Betty got married she was expected to give up her job. During the Second World War women were needed to work whilst the men were away at war. After the war it was more socially acceptable for married women to go out to work. My Gran recounted going on trips away with the Liverpool Vic to Brighton. The offices would be closed and they would all go off to the seaside in a charrabanc. I have pictures of the girls on the beach. Winnie Holland seemed to be a bit of a goer and is showing her knickers whilst paddling!
I am gradually building up quite a collection of Hellebores. I would highly recommend them as they do provide some interest in the garden before the other Spring plants come out in a Blaze of Glory.
Helleborus x ballardiae ‘Candy Love’
HelleborusWinter Sunshine and CandyLove are virtually indistinguishable both having pretty creamy pink flowers. Candy Love does seem to have slightly smaller flowers.
Helleborus x ballardiae Gold Collection Cinnamon Snow
Pink buds open to creamy white flowers suffused with warm rose and cinnamon. Dark cinnamon rose petal on the reverse side. The large blooms face outward.
Helleborus niger Mini Blanc
This one is an early bloomer and can often be seen in flower at Christmas time.
There is an unknown variety in bloom in our front garden.
Pretty pale pink flecked flowers with double pleated dark burgundy anemone like centres that make a really eye-catching display over evergreen foliage from the end of December until Spring.This one is a such a beautiful frilly double form of Lenten Rose it really does remind me of a ballerina’s tutu.
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.
I’ve just finished reading Gardener’s World Magazine and was inspired by Carol Klein‘s article recommending her favourite plants for colour in each month of the year. I was struck by her description of plants being stalwarts of a particular time of year. Describing a plant as a stalwart means they should be loyal, reliable, and hard-working. `Every garden needs its stalwarts, and if they’re woven through the gardening year, then there is always something to excite your interest, a plant to celebrate for its flowers, foliage, berries and scent.’
Today I decided to reflect on our current garden and decide what are my seasonal stalwarts, selecting my 12 must-have plants.
Primula vulgaris (Primroses)
I agree with Carol describing the native primrose as the epitome of Spring. The pretty pale yellow flowers are less brash than the vibrant daffodil which is said to herald Spring. I was a romantic dreamer as a child and dreamt of having primroses in my bridal bouquet. They are too delicate and the stems are too small for a bouquet, but they do look wonderful in a small posy vase.
I chose Lunaria as I felt this plant is a true stalwart. I grow Honesty for the pretty Spring mauve and white flowers, but also for the seed pods. These are papery, translucent discs which can be dried and used in Winter arrangements. I must remember to sow more seeds at the right time as Honesty is a biennial plant. Biennials grown for flowers, fruits, or seeds need to be grown for two years as they take two years to complete their biological life cycle. I tend to find I forget and then get a year without flowers and seedpods.
I debated between including narcissi, tulips or alliums as my third seasonal Spring stalwart. Tulips are my favourites, but I decided alliums were more useful so they won. I find them quite easy to grow as I just plant the bulbs and wait for Spring. To make them more perennial, bulbs should be planted deeply, at least twice the depth of the bulb. I loved the planting colour scheme I spotted at RHS Wisley combining purple allium with lime green Euphorbia. Alliums are related to the onion so add a drop of bleach to the water to minimise the oniony smell or change the water regularly when arranging. They will look good for up to 2 weeks without rearranging.
Nectaroscordum siculum is a wonderful allium which has cascades of white or cream pendulous, bell-shaped flowers, flushed pink. These flowers are a true bee magnet.
I dried allium seed heads and then sprayed them gold for Christmas decorations.
I love Alchemilla and I used this frothy, lime-green foliage a lot last year. It is a great foliage filler for cut flower arrangements. One of my gardening contacts wanted me to dig it all up as she regarded it as a weed!
Other foliage I considered including was Bupleurum. I agree with Benjamin Ranyard from Higgledy Garden `Bupleurum is a particularly useful plant in the cut flower world…it adds a lightness and a ‘zinngyness’ to almost all arrangements.’ Alchemilla and Bupleurum can both be used to add lime green zing.
Astrantia is a dainty perennial which I admired at RHS Chelsea Flower Show exhibited by Letham Plants last year. The flowers aren’t big focal, show stoppers, but provide a beautiful supporting role. With their parchment like dainty petals and pin-cushion centre they look wonderful in bouquets and also have a long vase life.
I did a couple of weeks work experience with the wonderful team at Arcade Flowers last year and I saw Astrantia was put to good use in their Bridal Bouquets, adding pretty texture.
My selection of seasonal stalwarts includes a few `fancy pants’ show stoppers. However I have tried to to include reliable easy to grow plants which need little work. The poppy family are so easy. I have quite a few different types from our common native cornfield poppy to perennial ornamental poppies.
Patty’s Plum is an oriental poppy with deep frilly reddish-purple flowers in early summer. The silky, pleated petals of this popular variety have been compared to the faded silk of antique ball gowns.
I have another peachy, pink oriental poppy which has enormous flowers and is much admired by the neighbours as they walk past. I had to decide whether I really could call this perennial poppy a stalwart as her beauty is fleeting and ephemeral. However I save the seedpods of my poppies and use green in Summer arrangements and dry the seedpods for Winter designs. For this reason I decided to leave out peonies and include poppies. A hard choice as I do love a big, blousy peony!
There are so many flowers to choose from for High Summer. I just had to include garden roses as I love them. I don’t like cheap mass produced supermarket roses which have no scent and don’t open out. I had the pleasure of bringing a garden back to life last year. My customer was no longer able to do her garden due to mobility. However the garden had been hers for over fifty years and some of the roses were already in situ when she moved there. It was a humbling experience to get the garden under control and enable the owner to continue to enjoy her roses. At the end of my gardening session I would pick a bunch of her best flowers and place in her vase to enjoy the coming week. I’m not sure who got the most enjoyment out of the experience!
I have over twenty varieties of rose in my garden and know them all by name like children. I must admit they don’t last ages in a vase, but a few choice scented blooms lift my spirit when I see them in a pretty vase on the breakfast table.
Cosmos is very easy to grow from seed producing generous quantities of flowers from white…through to pale pinks and magenta. The stems are perfect for cutting and keep producing flowers as you cut more. I’ve even saved the seed and sown more the next year so they are true stalwarts of the Cutting Patch. Bees love cosmos too.
Dahlia’s used to have some what of an old-fashioned image, but they have come back into vogue and I am thankful. There is truly a dahlia for everyone’s taste. They range in shape and size and there is a magnificent array of colours from pastels to vibrant reds. Dahlias make excellent cut flowers and bloom from July until the late frosts. Last year I had dahlias in flower in November!
I bought the individual stained glass vases from Sarah Raven and I love the jolly range of colours.
I am in complete agreement with Carol Klein. Rudbeckia is such a useful Autumnal perennial as it flowers for months, particularly if we have an Indian Summer. I planted Helenium and Rudbeckia and the Helenium have disappeared, but my Rudbeckia plant is going from strength to strength. I love the bright golden colour. It really does brighten up the garden.
Hellebores (sometimes known as the Christmas or Lenten rose) are useful perennial garden plants with elegant flowers in late winter and Early Spring. They are the stalwarts of the garden when little else is in bloom.
For me the dainty white snowdrop symbolises the start of the new gardening year and the warmer weather to come. Simply beautiful.
It was a hard decision to decide on just twelve `seasonal stalwarts’. I have included some of Carol Klein’s favourites, but not all of them. I’d love to know which twelve must-have plants you would include.
It’s feeling an odd kind of week. I have made the decision to go back to work as a Dispensing Optician and start next Monday. I have had a wonderful time pursuing my floristry dreams, but decided the time is not right to make floral design my career. I even spent some time over the Summer gardening for other people. It was a joy to bring an elderly client’s garden back to life as she had lived in the same house for way over 50 years. Today I have a streaming cold and was feeling quite morose spending the morning moping about on the sofa reading a book.
After lunch I looked out of the window and spotted a purple Anemone flower which shouldn’t have been in bloom in December. It was in bloom last year in April! That was the inspiration I needed. Armed with my camera I went to photograph this magenta beauty and then one thing led to another….
An hour later I had found some wonderful treasures hidden amongst the fallen leaves, which still of course needed tidying. Usually I see primroses and violets in March not December!
The strawberry plants are rather confused too as they are flowering. Maybe we will have strawberries for Valentines day!
My hellebores are doing well which is to be expected. Now I need to look up a previous Blog Post and try to remember the names!
I bought this plant as an unknown cutting from the Oxford Botanic Garden a couple of years ago. It’s grown into quite a large bush which is in full flower at the moment with pea like yellow flowers. I still haven’t a clue what it is!
I know Physalis alkekengi (Chinese lanterns) can take over. However I love the seedhead skeletons. They look like Christmas baubles to me.
After an enjoyable hour with my camera I then gathered up some of the fallen leaves and debris which was in the way. I came in still suffering from my cold, but felt much more lively and refreshed from a bit of fresh air discovering my hidden garden treasures. I am looking forward to my new job. I am also looking forward to pottering in my garden again next year with no pressure, just for my own enjoyment. I hope you have enjoyed seeing this month’s hidden treasures in our garden too.
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.
The Edwardian era is the period covering the reign of King Edward VII 1901 to 1910, and is frequently extended beyond Edward’s death to include the four years leading up to World War I. I have chosen two photos to look at which represent the very beginning and end of this period in history.
1914 Wedding of Albert Arnold and Florence Birch
The sleeves of the early 1900s wedding dress are much fuller as are the skirts. The older members of the 1900 photo are wearing tailor-made suits typically late Victorian/Early Edwardian. The sleeve caps are less puffy than the earlier leg of mutton. After 1898 sleeves reverted to a more modest proportion for tailor-made suits. Interesting that for bridal fashion sleeves were fuller.
The later Edwardian wedding dress has closer fitting sleeves at the forearm. The sleeves have lost the bloused fullness of the early 1900s. Late decade styles simplified dresses and brought about a slimmer silhouette, with less fabric in the skirts, foreshadowing the changes yet to be seen in the 1920s. It’s not possible to see the waistline. However waistlines tended to rise in the period 1908 – 1913, reaching Empire line by 1913.
The first decade of 1900 saw a variety of hat shapes. In my 1900 photo the mother of the bride is wearing a toque – a brimless hat which is worn high.
Dundee Courier – Tuesday 14 October 1902
In the Edwardian period it was quite common for bridesmaids to wear hats as shown by our two photos.
The bridesmaids hats are very different to the toque worn by the bride’s mother. They appear to have a shallow, wide crown reminiscent in shape to this Platter hat from the Early Edwardian period. The hats have been draped in ivory material and are sporting feathers and a brooch. It is difficult to date hats because women often remodelled hats with new trimming.
A very useful book on fashion is Out of Style by Betty Kreisel Shubert. These illustrations are taken from her book. This is a valuable guide to vintage style and very helpful when trying to date family photos.
The hairstyle can also be important when dating pictures. The pompadour was typical of the early Edwardian era. The style was revived as part of the Gibson Girl look in the 1890s and continued to be in vogue until World War I. Hair was swept upwards from the face and worn high over the forehead.
Our two photos don’t show examples of Edwardian Picture Hats. A Picture Hat was a woman’s highly decorated hat with a wider brim. and was a fashion continued from the Victorian Age. Picture Hats were worn high on the head and held in place by a hatpin. They were elaborately decorated with fabric, feathers and flowers. Our 1900 wedding hats don’t have the typical high crowns. The high pompodour hairstyles worked well with the style of these high-crowned hats.
Framlingham Weekly News – Saturday 04 January 1913
Aigrettes were used in the Edwardian period. An Aigrette is the tufted crest of the egret used to adorn hats and head-dresses. During the late 19th and early 20th century a fad for wearing fanciful aigrettes resulted in large numbers of egrets and other birds being slaughtered by plume hunters for the milinery industry. Ostrich feathers were also popular.
Later Edwardian hats became wider. As the Edwardian Era progressed the trim on hats decreased as the brim size increased. A Cart wheel hat was a wide brimmed circular or saucer-shaped design. It was made in a variety of materials, including straw or felt and usually had a low crown unlike the earlier picture hats. Typically it was worn at an angle to show off the curve of the brim, rather than being worn at the back of the head. The cartwheel hat became popular in the years leading up to World War I. They could be covered in velvet, taffeta or silk and had more modest decoration than previously.
Cartwheel hats required a different hairstyle. The hair was drawn more to the side with less height. This style was secured with long hat pins up to 12 inches long.
The movement toward smaller hats began around 1913 where hats still had high crowns but smaller brims. Straw boaters, small top hats and mini versions of picture hats were very common. High crown hats were worn often sporting a bow and with more modest hairstyles. Our 1914 bridesmaids are wearing more modest hats of the Era.
A typically Edwardian accessory is a bar brooch or locket brooch worn at a high neckline. Both our 1900 and 1914 weddings show typical brooches of the Era.
I found these examples of inexpensive gold brooches from the turn of the century in the book Understanding Jewellery by David Bennett and Daniela Mascetti.
It seems very likely that the brooches I inherited are of this Era as they are very similar in design.
In our 1900 photo the necklines are very high with no neck exposed. At the end of the Edwardian Era necklines were slightly lower. One of the ladies in the 1914 photo looks like she is wearing a velvet choker. As high necked blouses gave way to a new fashion for slightly lower necklines the velvet choker appeared.
The 1914 bridesmaids are modelling typical large Edwardian corsages instead of bouquets. A corsage originally referred to the bodice of a woman’s dress. Since a bouquet of flowers was often worn in the center of the bodice, the flowers took on the name “corsage.” Our modern sense of the corsage comes from the French “bouquet de corsage,” meaning “a bouquet of the bodice.” Corsages are made from a small bunch of flowers or a single bloom. The corsage was originally worn at the waist or the bodice of a dress.
I have written a more detailed blog post about Edwardian Bridal Bouquets. The Edwardian Era brought about a complete change of bouquet style from the neat Victorian Posy. In the above 1900 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. Our 1914 bouquet is a neat wired shower bouquet by comparison and included a large statement Calla lily and Asparagus densiflorus and Asparagus setaceus ferns. The wedding was an early Spring wedding and the corsages seem to include Spring narcissi. The bride is wearing a traditional veil and wreath of orange blossoms in her hair.
Some of the 1914 ladies are wearing shirt collars with either a tie, floppy artist bow or tie neck cravat with stick pin bar brooch. This was a typical later Edwardian look and was much more functional for all types of occupations.
At the beginning of the century women wore the S-Bend corset, which was much more restrictive. The corset pushed the bosom forwards and the bottom backwards and constricted the waist to make it as small as possible.
Another clue in the 1914 photo is the boys wearing Edwardian Eton collars. I found a really useful site called the Photo Detective by Geoff Caulton and some of my information has been sourced from there.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my research. If you have any Edwardian family photos I’d love to see them and maybe even replicate another Edwardian Bouquet!
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.