Thanks to Constance Spry!
I have always believed that everyone can beautify their space…even on the smallest budget. A simple household container and a few clippings from the garden can bring life and beauty to any room. So when I stumbled across the history of social reformer, educator and floral designer Constance Spry…I just had to tip my hat to this woman. A modern woman before her time, and an early pioneer of the garden to vase movement.
Constance Spry was a British floral designer in the 1920s, who became a society florist and best-selling author. She taught mid-20th century Britons how to beautify their homes using unassuming materials such as berries, vegetable leaves, twigs, ferns and weeds and displaying them in an assortment of household containers from gravy boats to baking trays.
Constance didn’t believe beautiful flowers should be limited to those with a large budget. She felt that everyone’s life could be enriched by flowers — that all you needed was imagination and not a huge wallet and that if you made the arrangement yourself, it was that much more satisfying. She encouraged loose, fluid arrangements in solid blocks of color. She used materials that were usually discarded, like grasses and berries. She embraced vegetables in arrangements and preferred non-traditional containers. Ahhh yes….a woman after my own heart!
While Constance’s arrangements may not sound unconventional today, they were certainly show-stopping at the time. Literally. In the ’30s, Constance created a scarlet-roses-and-red-kale-leaf window display for a Bond Street perfumery that attracted crowds so enormous, the police had to be called to help with the traffic flow!
Image above: Spry’s flower school from the Design Museum
Constance opened a flower school in her shop and published twelve books on flowers (and one on food).
- Constance Spry, Flower Decoration, Dent, 1934
- Constance Spry, Flowers in House and Garden, Dent, 1937
- Constance Spry, Garden Notebook, Dent, 1940
- Constance Spry: Come into the Garden, Cook, Dent 1942
- Constance Spry, Summer and Autumn, Dent, 1951
- Constance Spry, Winter and Spring Flowers, Dent, 1951
- Constance Spry, How to do the Flowers, Dent, 1952, 1953
- Constance Spry, A Constance Spry Anthology, Dent, 1953
- Constance Spry, Party Flowers, Dent, 1955
- Constance Spry and Rosemary Hume, The Constance Spry Cookery Book, Dent, 1956
- Constance Spry, Simple Flowers ‘A millionaire for a few pence’, Dent, 1957
- Constance Spry, Favourite Flowers, Dent, 1959
- Constance Spry and Rosemary Hume, Hostess, Dent, 1961
Lucky for us, Design Sponge posted a lovely tutorial on how to recreate a Constance Spry arrangement. The photo on the left is a photograph of one of spry’s arrangements. The photo on the right was created by floral stylist Amy Merrick.
You will need a variety of house plant clippings and a thrift-store drinking glass for a vase.
Spray paint the glass/vase the color of your choice.
Once dry, ball up and insert a small piece of chicken wire that will act as a form to hold your stems. Add water and get your clippers ready.
Snipping from whatever greens you have on-hand (or find growing outside), place the largest leaves in first. They’ll act as your focal point, much as a large-faced flower would.
Turning as you go, add your other greens. Used here: begonia leaves, scented geranium and rabbit-foot fern. To keep your arrangement feeling natural, it’s helpful to establish a singular high point and a few low points to balance out the shape.
Now it’s your turn. Snip a few leaves from around the house and display them in your favorite goblet/wine glass. Perhaps display it on your coffee table or your desk…and relish in the fact that you just beautified your space for less than a cup of coffee. Now that sounds delicious!
Thank you Constance Spry for making the world a more beautiful place.
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