When Constance Spry, already in her 40’s, gave up her work as a headmistress to open her first London shop, Flower Decoration, she was about to forever change the way we look at and arrange flowers. Wild and elegant, vibrant and subtle, sculptural and lush, she rapidly became a sensation. In 1929, her amazing arrangements and window displays for fragrance house Atkinsons literally stopped traffic in Old Bond Street. Both classic and modern, today her work is as relevant as it was almost a century ago.
Spry challenged the Victorian tradition eschewing the stiff arrangements of the time for more loose, relaxed designs that freely displayed all the grace and beauty of nature itself. Inspired by the Old Dutch Masters aesthetics, she revolutionised floristry incorporating unusual and then-discarded plant-materials like fruits, vegetables, branches, wild flowers and seed pods. She paired velvety red roses with kale leaves, exotic orchids with green vines. Pushing the boundaries, Spry contributed like no other to appreciate floral design as an art.
She became the biggest name in all things floral: revered by high-society, she created the designs for the Dukes of Windsor’s wedding in 1937 and was responsible for all the décor for Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953. And despite all the glam and fame, Spry, a woman who broke the mould in many ways, forever democratised floristry.
Her business was growing, she was a one-woman brand employing 70 people in her flower shops, however Spry was an educator at heart. She opened a school, authored thirteen books (twelve on florals, one on food) and encouraged women of all classes and conditions to learn first-hand the joys of cultivating beauty in all its forms. During and after war-time, when fresh cut flowers were scarce, she encouraged foraging and the use of grasses, weeds, leaves, vegetables, berries and all types of plant-material in a graceful and tasteful manner to create more interesting and beautiful homes and environments. She created her own line of vessels, and she praised all types of non-conventional containers, from kitchen and dinnerware to tin cans, jam jars, bird cages and shells. She became an icon for generations of women who realised that you just need a few plants, flowers and a little imagination to create beauty.
“Do whatever you please. Follow your own star: be original if you want to be and don't if you don't want to be. Just be natural and gay and light-hearted and pretty and simple and overflowing and general and baroque and bare and austere and stylized and wild and daring and conservative. And learn and learn and learn. Open your mind to every form of beauty.”
Inspired by the works and words of Constance Spry, we asked floral artist Carolina Spencer from Matagalán to create a series of arrangements evoking the colours, aromas and plant-based ingredients in our Winter Body Oil, a blend that transport us to misty, cold forests where tall needle-pines, ferns of all types and sassy wild flowers freely grow and show their wonders even during the coldest season of the year.
Like Spry, with whom she shares names initials and a sense of stylistic freedom when working with flowers, Spencer trusts in the raw beauty of nature to create playful, expressive compositions that speak for themselves. With a style that takes the essence of the ikebana tradition, she has arranged seasonal green leaves — ferns, camellia and mimosa leaves, asparagus — with seasonal flowers, some of them wild like burgundy Daucus carota ‘Dara’, yellow Solidago, white Campanula and purple Clematis, humble Tanacetum, eye-popping Dahlia and long, tendril-like cascading Amaranthus.
As a result, the following series, created by Matagalán for Rowse in Barcelona, October 2020.
Photography by Coke Bartrina
Floral arrangements by Carolina Spencer from Matagalán