By Jill Brooke
Since Chelsea in Bloom’s flower festival asked participants to be inspired by British icons as its theme this year, Smythson’s stationary store chose Constance Spry as their focus.
Spry, an author and well-known hostess, was also commissioned to design the flowers for the Queen’s coronation in 1953 at Westminster Abbey. It’s a lovely way to tie this installation to the 70th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s reign which is also a prime focus of the annual outdoor flower festival that occurs simultaneously with the Chelsea Flower Show nearby.
You know that free-flowing meadow-like feeling so many are incorporating into their floral design choices? Well, turns out Constance Spry, considered the Grande Dame of floral design from the 20th century, was fond of that look and championed unconventional foliages which were considered bold at the time.
Smythson’s wisely used Amanda Willgrave to create their beautiful installation.
Spry’s design signatures were the distinctive shape of her arrangements, with sweeping, gravity-defying sprigs of greenery emerging from low wide vases. It is a look that we are seeing often today with Tulipina and Blue Jasmine Florals.
As florist Amanda Willgrave explains, Spry also had a penchant for incorporating wildflowers, grasses and even vegetable leaves into her design. (Her innovations were also why Charlotte Moss recently included her as one of her inspirations in the book, “Flowers.” )
While outside the Smythson store dignified colorful urns were sky-high with foliage and flowers ranging from alliums to lavender delphiniums, inside the store were vintage books by Spry including “Party Flowers” as well as recipe books and cards.
Willgrave used some of her illustrations from the books as inspiration for the 2022 floral arrangements advancing her principles in a contemporary way.
“We love Constance because she let her flowers breathe so you could see them naturally,” says Willgrave. “There was this loose natural element to her work. We also sourced our flowers from Sophie flowers since Constance was very much about locally sourced flowers and not using imports. With her sustainability focus, she is more relevant today than she has ever been.”
One added fun fact. Spry, who lived from 1886-1960, also created the coronation chicken.
Jill Brooke is a former CNN correspondent, Post columnist and editor-in-chief of Avenue and Travel Savvy magazine. She is an author and the editorial director of FPD, floral editor for Aspire Design and Home magazine and contributor to Florists Review magazine.