With her pillbox hat, pearl earrings and remarkable bouquets, Constance Spry remains one of the nation’s most treasured and influential florists, famed in the 1930s for her imaginative and gifted approach to housekeeping. She once created a Bond Street window display so admirable that the police were called to control crowds that had gathered to see her vivid spectacle of roses and red kale leaves. Her innovative designs featured unusual and individual touches, incorporating gravy boats, baking trays, cabbages and birdcages. She arranged flowers for royal weddings and The Queen’s Coronation but more so taught Britain that using imagination and flair, they could use foliage, vegetables, twigs and weeds to beautify their homes. Spry socially transformed the way that society viewed flowers and their home, championing thrift and creative spirit. She wrote, “Perfection in living seems to me to consist not in the spending of large sums of money but in the exercise of a selective and discerning taste in the use of what we may possess.”
“Do what you please, follow your own star; be original if you want to be and don't if you don't want to be…"
There was far more however to Spry than just good housekeeping. Spry was an individual and an optimist with a vivid personality; hardworking, utterly charming and relentless. She rose from school teacher to national treasure, mingling with the crème of society, including Cecil Beaton and Oliver Messel. She advocated women in the workplace (before Spry, even floristry was dominated by men) and developed a glamourous public profile, which masked a turbulent personal life.
She achieved global notoriety for her unconventional methods but never lost sight of her integrity, stating: “Do what you please, follow your own star; be original if you want to be and don't if you don't want to be…. be stylised and wild and daring and conservative, and learn and learn and learn."
Text by Mhairi Graham