English Accents

Martha Stewart Weddings, Volume 33 2005

The natural lines of lemon boughs create the balanced curves that legendary English floral designer Constance Spry favored. Their stems are kept long, and jonquils, amaryllis, anemones, lilacs, hellebore, and speckled foliage fill out the arrangement. A pair of these might frame the altar at a wedding ceremony.

"Whether the wedding be of the simple, pretty order, or partake of the nature of a pageant, the flowers play an important part."

Constance Spry saw beauty in many things. If you were getting married in 1950s England, you'd probably have dreamed of a bouquet by Spry, a creative legend in social and gardening circles. Several royal weddings featured her florals, as did Queen Elizabeth's coronation. Yet despite such lofty commissions, Spry was an artistic free spirit. Rather daringly for the time, she mixed garden flowers, wildflowers, and blooming boughs, along with fruit and vegetables. "Do not be sparing or afraid," she counseled readers in one of her floral-craft books. Spry's exuberant eclecticism weaves charmingly into many modern weddings, where affection for the past meets an appreciation for today's more relaxed sensibility.

When choosing flowers, use contrasting shapes, she advised: Pair big cabbage roses with starlike jasmine; globe thistle with rubrum lilies. Spry was a wizard with white and colors like red and orange, which she repeated in different shades and shapes in an arrangement. She loved graceful, fluid lines but kept things simple, following the forms of the blooms.

As you plan your wedding, consider Spry (who died in 1960) a guiding spirit. She most certainly would have advised, "Be as daring as you like. ...It is so obviously foolish to shut one's mind to anything."

Spry loved roses, anemones, ranunculuses, fritillaria, and flowering quince for their contrasting shapes and colors.

"You will want solid as well as slim flowers, heavy as well as light, long and short, and you will be greatly helped if you can get branches of blossom, or better still branches of fruit."

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