Like fashion, flowers continually evolve with styles coming in and going out of favour as they align with trends in art, design and interiors. OK, the swings might not be quite as swift as the changes in fashion where it often seems like this season’s must-have are next season’s bargain bin, still there are marked trends. Favourite flowers come and go as maligned specimens come in from the cold and enjoy a renaissance.
Flowers often seems to reflect the zeitgeist, and there are notable swings every few years. In the late 1980’s, the flower statement of the moment was an abundance of white lilies, flouncy foliage and extra helpings of long decorative grass. This seemed to chime with the young and upwardly mobile go-getters (yes! remember yuppies!) who were around at the time, and such a display often formed the backdrop to Alexis Carrington Colby Dexter’s prime time shenanigans as she made mincemeat of every other character on Uber 80’s soap opera, Dynasty (she was also known to chuck the odd vase when things weren’t going her way at the Lex Dex Corporation). The 1990’s set a different scene with the rise of globalisation; as florists roamed a little further afield, they brought back weird and wonderful blooms from far-flung places, and tropicals began gracing our boardrooms, bedrooms and parlours.
The 2000’s witnessed a more thoughtful approach to the choice of flowers. Environmental concerns meant that many preferred to have flowers that were grown closer to home; the style was more garden-like and natural with flowers grouped and clustered together just as they might grow au naturel.
In today’s most uncertain times, there seems to be a more romantic and ethereal aesthetic, a wistful and yearning nod towards times passed. The style harks back to a simpler bygone age and seems to denounce some of the worrying and unprecedented developments that are been experienced around the world. So with flowers and fashion fixed on out minds, we bring you our top 5 Renaissance blooms that were once derided, but are now in vogue all over again.
Carnations, once the darlings of your local petrol station, are no longer causing us to chortle down our skinny soya flat whites. Yes, they were the cheap ubiquitous staple that was mindlessly shoved into every creation since the origins of the first flower shop, the people’s flower that marked almost every birth, marriage and death until the design revolution of the 1980’s and the rise of the super florist. This new breed decreed that carnations were naff and should be banished to obscurity for ever more. Today, they have a fun and kitsch appeal that we are all embracing, and while we at McQueens might still have a mighty big problem with the canary yellow variants or even the baby pink stuff, we adore some of the more tasteful or unique varieties, and are pretty smitten with the likes of ‘terracotta’ or ‘antiqua’ carnations.
Gyp, or Baby’s Breath, has for some time been a tired old floral cliché. White and frothy, it was liberally spread like Marmite through many a combination of flowers, instilling the same sort of love-hate emotions as that brown sticky yeast extract. It was a particular favourite for some florists (let’s just call them monsters) who decided to add it to a ‘romantic’ rose bouquet; red roses and gyp became a much-requested combination in the middle end of the last century. Then we all got wise to the horror and ignored it for decades. Well, stock in gypsophila has soared once more as we advance through the 21st century. We are less inclined to tease clouds of the stuff through a mixture of flowers but love a mass of it when its used on its own. And when it comes to weddings, well it’s every bit as essential as that lacy blue garter, isn’t it?
Consigned to the bargain bin, chrysanthemums were once considered a public relations disaster. The supermarket is the antithesis of fashion, and the humble chrysanth became a cheap and dare we say vulgar flower that dominated supermarket shelves – it was never given headroom in any chic establishments (such as ours). Spray chrysanthemum is still a difficult flower to stomach, especially if they are left all leggy in a vase (horrible vision). Wind the clock on, and these days we love some of the little button varieties and are more likely to remove the stem and use them head-to-head in some very stylish arrangements. We adore single bloom chrysanthemum, especially varieties such as Avignon, sheer purple, or Tom Pearce and they all come with an eco-friendly seal of approval (and amen to that).
The ultimate greengrocer flower, alstroemaria was rarely spotted in posh florist’s shops. A cheap bunch or a filler flower, they were considered just one step up from a weed, and often consigned to the compost bin. They are cultivated today in longer and stronger varieties with fantastic bold colours such as purple, cerise or lilac. we think they look especially magnificent when used en masse, and quite sensational when arranged all on their own. Like Liza Minnelli, this lot simply don’t deserve second billing.
The darling of the season, the dahlia’s renaissance has been a long time coming. The status is a contrast to the way they were viewed a generation ago when they were only available in bunches of short and rather nasty clashing colours. Nowadays, they take pride of place in our vases and are in a class of their own with fantastic varieties that we simply cannot get enough of (we’re salivating at the thought of cafe au lait).