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“She had a long white veil dependent from her hair, and she had bridal flowers in her hair, but her hair was white.” –Charles Dickens, “Great Expectations”

Whether they’re fashioned from silk, paper, or preserved in glass (giving major “Beauty and the Beast” vibes), people have always tried to make their flowers last longer. Some even decided that the artificial route was the way to go (keep in mind that fashions have changed, and fake flowers are no longer considered completely gauche: there is a time and place for them). 

Dried Flowers

There is an indefinable allure to dried flowers, almost gothic in its romance. Maybe a dried wedding bouquet is the only relic left after a jilted love affair (à la Miss Havisham in “Great Expectations”), or a wilted corsage is the only tangible item to accompany memories of a first cotillion. There are some flowers we just can’t part with…a bouquet from a particularly romantic date night, a best man’s boutonniere, or wedding flowers that kicked off a long and happy union, etc. 

Whatever the sentiment, we dry and press flowers in scrapbooks to preserve them all the time. It’s a wonderfully old-fashioned, romantic activity. Did you know that it goes as far back as the 1500s? It became popular as a meditative pastime for Samurai soldiers who wished to live in harmony with nature.

The best way to press a flower is to let it dry completely (no damp leaves or stem) for a couple of days (leave it by the radiator or fire if it’s wintertime; use the sun any other time) and then put it between two leaves of wax paper and place it directly in the middle of a big book. Place other heavy books on top and leave it for several days. Finding a small pressed posy in an old journal or prayer book always feels nostalgic and a little magical.

A rose is a rose is a rose.

When we think of romantic gestures, roses inevitably come to mind. Whether there’s a big bunch in a vase, a wild rosebush blooming nearby as a Romeo harkens to his Juliet on a balcony, red petals strewn across a hotel suite, a single petal atop a Ladurée pastry, a sachet of dried tea roses for a bath or boxed ones that supposedly last a year, there’s nothing quite like roses to evoke elegant beauty. 

Optimal Fleurs for Décor 

Dried flowers are popular for altars (especially in Catholic churches in Mediterranean climates) because they look beautiful for a very long time and don’t have to be watered. It’s always ideal to have lots of flowers displayed near saints around holy days, etc.

Some of the most popular flowers that dry beautifully include baby’s breath (especially when painted whimsical colors with floral dye), statice, celosia, blue sea holly, hydrangea, strawflower, tall grasses, yarrow, eucalyptus (which is very popular right now, especially when dyed dark pink and purple) and ageratum (blue mink).

Any and all of these flowers look divine when tied together in a bunch and displayed upside down by a string as a wall hanging.

For Beauty and Wellness 

  • In tea, jasmine pearls are wonderful, as are chamomile and chrysanthemum blossoms.
  • For baths, lavender, roses, rosemary, and eucalyptus (some even put a fresh stalk on their shower head for the ultimate perfumed spa experience) are all very gentle, fragrant, and soothing.
  • Of course, sage is commonly used after it is dried for smudging. When burned, the essence purifies a space, buoys spirits, and clears away negative energy.
  • Oak, pine and cedar leaves are wonderful in wintertime and, actually, fresh oak leaves are used as a platza in saunas. It’s a wellness treatment that includes being whipped by the branches; many refer to it as “Jewish acupuncture.” 
  • Naturally, herbs (parsley, thyme, basil, oregano, etc.) used for culinary delights are always ideal in a kitchen. A spice garden makes everything cozy and, of course, smells wonderful.
  • A bit of potpourri is always a charming and welcome addition to any sock or underwear drawer.

Kitsch: artificial flowers

Embrace the kitschy, vintage and chic. 

“That cool yellow silk–the boucle. See if it’s crushed. If it’s not too crushed I’ll wear it and on the lapel. That silver and turquoise pin in the shape of a seahorse. You will find them in the heartshaped box I keep my accessories in. And Stella… Try and locate a bunch of artificial violets in that box, too, to pin with the seahorse on the lapel of the jacket.” –Blanche DuBois, “A Streetcar Named Desire”

Women used to wear artificial flowers on hats and pinned to their bodices all the time! This can be either a Carrie Bradshaw moment  (Sarah Jessica Parker made oversized flower brooches very fashionable) or something more poignant like Blanche DuBois from “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Either way, it’s a fashion statement.

Pretty Porcelain Petals

And, of course, we love Capodimonte flowers! Italian porcelain pottery is a wonderful addition to any vanity, coffee table or bookshelf.

Floral Secrets 

When it comes to fake flowers for decorating, we’re not just talking about paper or cloth flowers but elegant silk ones used as accents and in enormous arrangements. You have to be careful, though, that they don’t get dusty! It’s no secret that top florists use artificial bits and bobs all the time. When mixed and matched with fresh flowers, you’d be surprised at how a glittery element can really make any bouquet pop. This is done to accent, fill in, and embellish show-stopping centerpieces that really have to stand out.

For all your flower-related information and shopping needs, check out Chelsea Flowers on the web.

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