Flower Power - Three of the best floral artistry books for spring

Above: A compote vessel that holds an arrangement of cloni and butterfly rannunculus, daffodils, poppies, “Sarah Bernhardt” peonies and “Cafe Latte” roses.  Below: Rowan’s floral candlestick and showstopper urn featuring delphiniums, pink tuberose, sea lavender, roses and snapdragons; floral garnishes for summer drinks and a flowery cake stand; a large pickle jar filled with larkspur, lisianthus, delphiniums and “Quicksand” roses and Rowan’s pressed flower cards.

Above: A compote vessel that holds an arrangement of cloni and butterfly rannunculus, daffodils, poppies, “Sarah Bernhardt” peonies and “Cafe Latte” roses.

Below: Rowan’s floral candlestick and showstopper urn featuring delphiniums, pink tuberose, sea lavender, roses and snapdragons; floral garnishes for summer drinks and a flowery cake stand; a large pickle jar filled with larkspur, lisianthus, delphiniums and “Quicksand” roses and Rowan’s pressed flower cards.

Social media has done wonders to bring the art of flowers to a mass audience and, much to my delight, floral design is having a bit of a moment right now.  Photographs of flowers are everywhere. From gorgeous clusters of fragile snake’s head fritillaries and pale-hued tulips to bold ikebana-style creations and large scale wild and sculptural installations (and everything in between), floral design is being celebrated like never before.It feels fitting then that a flurry of new books exploring floral artistry have been published this spring.  One of my favourites for the sheer beauty of its imagery is Living With Flowers. 

With a background in the fashion industry, florist Rowan Lewis creates effortlessly chic and impactful showstopper arrangements in huge bowls and urns but is equally at home showing us how to rustle up informal, pretty posies displayed in reclaimed old bottles. She creates oversized wreaths and rose and peony crowns, and puts together beautifully-hued blooms in her own “meadow luxe” style to prettify a table when hosting guests.  There are also a series of foolproof step-by-step guides (with pictures) showing you how to create her looks and tips on how to playing with scale.


Above: La Musa de las Flores (Gabriela Salazar, Valle de Bravo, Mexico): Centrepiece using dahlias from La Musa's garden. Courtesy La Musa de las Flores. Below: Petalon (Florence Kennedy, London): hanging arrangement made with students at a Petalon workshop, using lavatera seed pods, smoke bush, hydrangea ‘Limelight’ and ‘Kyushu’, and hellebore ‘Winterbells’. Picture courtesy of Petalon; Matagalán Plantae (Carolina Spencer, Barcelona): from the ‘Totem' series, 2017, vase by Matagalán with anthurium, agapanthus, alliums, echinacea, calathea leaf and red-hot pokers. Picture credit: courtesy Matagalán Plantae/ Florencia Lucia; Frida Kim Flowers (Frida Kim, London): Dancing buttercup flowers with Solomon's seal. Picture: courtesy Frida Kim Flowers; Aesme (Jess Lister and Alex Nutting, London and Hampshire): tablescape using May flowers, including aquilegias, pansies, forget-me-nots, geums, alliums and pale clematis. Picture courtesy of Aesme.

Above: La Musa de las Flores (Gabriela Salazar, Valle de Bravo, Mexico): Centrepiece using dahlias from La Musa's garden. Courtesy La Musa de las Flores. Below: Petalon (Florence Kennedy, London): hanging arrangement made with students at a Petalon workshop, using lavatera seed pods, smoke bush, hydrangea ‘Limelight’ and ‘Kyushu’, and hellebore ‘Winterbells’. Picture courtesy of Petalon; Matagalán Plantae (Carolina Spencer, Barcelona): from the ‘Totem' series, 2017, vase by Matagalán with anthurium, agapanthus, alliums, echinacea, calathea leaf and red-hot pokers. Picture credit: courtesy Matagalán Plantae/ Florencia Lucia; Frida Kim Flowers (Frida Kim, London): Dancing buttercup flowers with Solomon's seal. Picture: courtesy Frida Kim Flowers; Aesme (Jess Lister and Alex Nutting, London and Hampshire): tablescape using May flowers, including aquilegias, pansies, forget-me-nots, geums, alliums and pale clematis. Picture courtesy of Aesme.

Blooms, published by Phaidon, showcases the work of some of the most innovative floral designers around the world, from established florists to rising new talent, and features more than eighty five designers who are reinvigorating the world of floristry. Two who stand out to me for their new approaches to floral artwork are Barcelona-based Carolina Spencer of Matagalan Plantae and London-based Frida Kim.  Spencer looks to the surreal in everyday life when working on ideas and is a great connoisseur of colour. Constantly striving to create something new, she makes her own pots in gleaming, rich colours that compliment her choice of stems. In Kim’s sculptural work (shown here) a quiet alchemy of buttercups and slender branches of Solomon’s seal is a masterclass in elegant understatement.


Above: a wild bouquet of cotton branches, cactus dahlias, evening primrose, pelargonium and flowering potato vine. Below: a vase of roses, nigella seed pods and flowering gum branches; a flower frog secured to the bottom of a ceramic bowl holds evening primrose flowers, dried allium and poppy heads and the flowering weed Paterson’s curse; the muted elegance of dried honesty seed pods; globe vase filled with pink syngonium leaves, flowering sedum, roses, grass stems and salvia azurea.

Above: a wild bouquet of cotton branches, cactus dahlias, evening primrose, pelargonium and flowering potato vine. Below: a vase of roses, nigella seed pods and flowering gum branches; a flower frog secured to the bottom of a ceramic bowl holds evening primrose flowers, dried allium and poppy heads and the flowering weed Paterson’s curse; the muted elegance of dried honesty seed pods; globe vase filled with pink syngonium leaves, flowering sedum, roses, grass stems and salvia azurea.

Taking a similarly unconventional approach to floral art is Annabelle Hickson in her wonderful new title, A Tree in the House. Hers is the ethos that is probably closed to my own heart. She likes things “a little wild, asymmetrical, whimsical and enormous wherever possible.” The isolated valley in north-west New South Wales, where she lives on a pecan farm with her family, provides the inspiration for her creations and she’s driven by an affinity for the natural world.

Using what grows around her: flowering fennel, gum leaves, wintersweet, lichen-covered branches - she creates natural, living vignettes within her home, casting new light on familiar objects, too by repurposing them. Rusty buckets destined for the tip become the perfect vessel for a mass of jasmine, old ink wells are filled with roses and sweet peas; troughs and buckets with wisteria, a concrete urn with magenta dahlias and pink Japanese anemones and vintage enamel jugs with roadside blossoms and branches laden with persimmons. Her style is wild and free, and by her own admission “chaotic”, but it works, and it works beautifully.

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Living With Flowers: Blooms & Bouquets for the Home by Rowan Blossom is published by Laurence King. All photographs are copyright James Stopforth. £19.99 www.laurenceking.com

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Blooms: Contemporary Floral Design is published by Phaidon £35.00 www.phaidon.com


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A Tree in the House is published by Hardie Grant. All photographs are copyright Annabelle Hickson unless otherwise stated. £25.00 https://www.hardiegrant.com/uk/publishing