Designing with Plants & Flowers

A new generation of floral artists & growers

The trend for creating botanical art is nothing new. Scientific interest in botany and horticulture towards the end of the 16th century inspired Dutch painters such as Jan Van Huysum, Jacob van Walscapelle and Rachel Ruysch to create studio still lifes that captured incredible detail almost 150 years before the invention of photography.

Flowers in a Vase with Shells and Insects, about 1630, Balthasar van der Ast 
(National Gallery, London)

Flowers in a Vase with Shells and Insects, about 1630, Balthasar van der Ast 
(National Gallery, London)

Flower paintings, such as this by Ast and other Dutch masters, are currently informing a new generation of floral designers whose work and posts on social media are presenting an alternative approach to working with botanicals.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BZmOKYuFmBr/?hl=en

A demo bouquet we made last week during our two-day class with @alicerosebeasley from Sydney – rose foliage, roses, cosmos, Abyssinian gladioli, zinnia, hops, helenium, marigolds, grasses and little gleaming buttercups.

A post shared by A E S M E (@aesmeflowers) on

This new breed of florists, many of which have come from a variety of non-traditional backgrounds such as fashion, styling and even farming are redefining flower art with their desire to craft arrangements that boycott commercial plant varieties in favour of heritage breeds by growing produce from seed or bulb. Erin Benzakein is one such farmer-florist, founder of Floret and co-owner of a flower farm in Washington State, whose work and research specialises in growing uncommon and heirloom flowers to create exclusive seasonal designs.

This year we put on a huge China Aster trial and now I'm completely hooked. These gems are the unsung hero of the late summer/early autumn garden. They are easy to grow, take very little care and produce loads of flowers late August through the first fall frost. What's not to love? #growfloret #floretseeds

A post shared by Erin Benzakein – Floret (@floretflower) on

Floral design ventures well beyond mass-produced bouquets to encompass a uniquely personal style from large-scale events to a highly individual, often painterly approach to flower arranging. Yorkshire based Anna Potter, owner of Swallows and Damsons, is recognised for her work with colour and seasonal flowers and is coveted by the press worldwide with a cult following on Instagram. Her Sheffield studio is the base from which she plans and creates edgy designs for private clients and weddings, using combinations that often include wildflowers, hedgerow finds, meadow flowers and woodland pine.

Swallows & Damsons

Swallows & Damsons

https://www.instagram.com/p/BZQ88E4B_cF/?taken-by=swallowsanddamsons

Master flower painters, working in the Dutch Golden Age were heavily influenced by the emergence of horticulture in the Netherlands and the new exotics available to them such as hyacinths from Asia, pineapples from South America and the highly prized tulip from Turkey.

Many of today’s ‘flower artists’ lean towards a very natural and earthy home-grown feel often incorporating flowers grown by the designer to create one-off hand tied compositions or quirky bouquets featuring anything from herbs to vines and grasses.

London based floral stylists Aesme, founded by sisters Alex and Jessica, use fresh produce from their Hampshire cutting garden. Inspired by their love of the history and romance of the English garden. Old-fashioned flowers such as wild foxgloves and heritage roses often feature in their designs and they add that growing produce, “not readily available to florists adds unexpected elements to our arrangements in their natural state – intricate tendrils of a vine, an over-arching briar, the movement of a foraged branch”.

Aesme Flowers

Aesme Flowers

A demo bouquet we made last week during our two-day class with @alicerosebeasley from Sydney – rose foliage, roses, cosmos, Abyssinian gladioli, zinnia, hops, helenium, marigolds, grasses and little gleaming buttercups.

A post shared by A E S M E (@aesmeflowers) on

Looking towards 2018, according to trend reporters Patternbank, the growing appeal of all things floral points towards greenhouse plants, playful flowery outlines inspired by vintage fabrics, wild, foraged produce and the woodland floor for inspiration.

Aesme Flowers

Aesme Flowers

And we can expect to see much more interest in heritage plants, rare varieties and wild flowers thanks to the burgeoning artistic imagination from the growing breed of talented and exciting new flower artists.

Words Michelle Mason


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