It is a dream of mine to be able to take a sabbatical from work and study plants and flowers. I would spend time hanging out with Helen Dillon, take a flower-arranging class with Chelsea and one from The Little Flower School. And I would tour famous gardens and attend the Chelsea Flower Show.
If Constance Spry was still with us, she would be part of this fantasy. We talk a lot about the democratization of design, as if it's a brand new concept. But Spry believed that everyone had the right to enjoy a beautiful home and that the means of doing so could be found in woods, hedgerows or vegetable scraps. “I do feel strongly,” she once wrote, “that flowers should be a means of self-expression for everyone.”*
Born in 1886 in England, Spry lived and was educated in Ireland but left the country (and an unhappy marriage) to move to England with her son. She worked as headmistress at a school that educated factory girls one day per week and concentrated on practical skills, like cooking and dressmaking. But she quickly noticed the pleasure her students derived from making small posies. Only the wealthy had large gardens or could afford cut flowers, so Spry taught her pupils that it was imagination, and not money, that was needed.
In 1926, she remarried a man supportive of her passion for flowers and around the same time she began accepting commissions. She gave up teaching and in 1928 (at the age of 42) opened her first flower shop. Her simple yet abundant style attracted fans such as the Duchess of Windsor. Business thrived and she opened a second shop and wrote more than ten books. In 1952, Constance was commissioned to arrange the flowers at Westminster Abbey and along the processional route from Buckingham Palace for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation.
Book: The Surprising Life of Constance Spry: From Social Reformer to Society Florist
*Design Museum: Constance Spry
Image via David's Diary