Many of us have picked up all manner of extraordinary habits in the past year — growing new spring onions from trimmed ones, fermenting anything and everything, baking banana bread, whether we like it or not (I’m very much in the ‘or not’ camp).
But as a lover of fresh flowers, the trend that surprises me most is the seemingly unstoppable rise of dried blooms, with sales up 115 per cent during our various lockdowns.
At 55, I think I am both too young and too old for this trend.
Sure, in 1978, my Christmas money hot in my hand, I raced to Dressers department store in Darlington to buy Edith Holden’s Country Diary Of An Edwardian Lady. I even had a flower press.
But I soon came to associate dried flowers with dust.
Debora Robertson gives her verdict on a selection of dried flower bouquets, following an increase in the sales of dried blooms. Pictured: Appreciation Project
They seemed to sit in the stale bathrooms of every slightly disappointing B&B, on the counters of provincial beauty salons and the desks of headmistresses’ offices. Their already-dead refusal to die was stifling.
Certainly, they are maintenance free, which has an appeal. Bex Partridge, author of Everlastings: How To Grow, Harvest And Create with Dried Flowers (£14.99, Hardie Grant) and owner of florist Botanical Tales, says she doesn’t see them as a replacement for fresh flowers.
‘It’s not either or — it’s just another way to use flowers.’
And she says there’s more choice than ever this year as, due to Covid-19, many British farmers who planted flowers in 2019 for 2020 weddings suddenly had to work out what to do with them when weddings were cancelled.
I decided to challenge my antipathy and get in on the trend. I do like dried hydrangeas — maybe they could be my gateway flower? How bad could it be? Well, initially, very bad.
Cartons arrived that were a mess of broken stems. There were odd mishmashes of flowers which looked as though they’d had a fight in the box, and bunnytails dyed lurid colours and sprayed with chemical scent.
But I persevered and eventually found dried flora I would be happy to give house room to.
But for how long?
Shane Connolly, the floral designer who created the arrangements that graced the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding, shares this concern. He used to work for florist Pulbrook & Gould, where grand dried arrangements were part of their winter repertoire.
Debora said Bloom & Wild (pictured) is pretty but for £45, it seemed quite expensive
‘The first Christmas I went back to my family in Ireland, I took a whole suitcase of dried flowers,’ he says. ‘My mother created some big arrangement and I think it stayed there for ten years, gradually looking worse and worse.’
Does he think there is a place for dried flowers?
‘Well, I just cut back some clematis tangutica from the garden, with its lovely seed heads. I might put them on a table with a pot of snowdrops, so you get that sense of spring coming.’
Finally an arrangement I could get behind, not either or, but the best of both. And not a dyed and sprayed bunnytail in sight.
If you’re keen to try the trend, here are my dried flower bouquet hits and misses . . .
Appreciation Project (appreciation project.co.uk)
Bold, fun, high-fashion flowers arranged with wit, drama and style. Posies from £32, larger arrangements from £52 to £99. I received the Sentimental arrangement, £66, which included jewel-coloured peonies, delphiniums and lavender, with eucalyptus, pampas, grasses, clematis seed heads and bunny tails.
VERDICT: Cool, statement flowers, with a striking theatricality and exuberance. 5/5
PRETTY BUT PRICEY
Bloom & Wild (bloomand wild.com)
Well known for fresh letterbox flowers, Bloom & Wild also has a selection of dried flowers. I received the Dried Flower Posy Party, a selection of dried roses, delphiniums, statice and grasses, with three small glass bottles to arrange them in.
VERDICT: Pretty, but for £45, it seemed quite expensive. 3/5
Debora said Botanical Tales (pictured) is a delightful combination of old-fashioned favourites and modern grasses
Botanical Tales (botanical tales.com)
This company is run by Bex Partridge, who creates subtle, charming and romantic arrangements of naturally dried flowers.
Bouquets of grasses, seed heads and dried flowers come wrapped in brown paper and garden twine and start at about £44.
The bouquet I received was a gentle arrangement of poppy heads, grasses, white daisies, purple statice and lemon astible.
VERDICT: Delightful combinations that mix some old-fashioned favourites with more relaxed and modern grasses and seed heads. 4/5
Debora said Petal Patisserie (pictured) was an overwhelming experience and she had to put them straight outside
Petal Patisserie (notonthehigh street.com)
I received the Raspberry Delice letterbox bouquet, £35, featuring bunny tails and grasses dyed bright pink and purple.
VERDICT: The website says: ‘We even spritz your packaging with our patisserie inspired Signature Scent for an all-round sensory experience.’
VERDICT: It was an experience so overwhelmingly, nose-tinglingly, eye-wateringly ‘all round’, I had to put them straight outside. 2/5
Debora said Grace & Thorn (pictured) are glamorous flowers with a touch of the wild that pack a great style punch
Grace & Thorn (graceand thorn.com)
This fashionable florist creates exuberant arrangements, whether the flowers are fresh or dried. Bunch of Dried Stuff, £25, comprises 15 to 20 stems of dried flowers and grasses.
I received the Walk In The Sky, £75, a generous bundle of grasses, honesty, ferns, poppyseed heads, cotton balls, white statice and pampas, all arranged in a large glass pickle jar.
VERDICT: Glamorous flowers with a touch of the wild that pack a great style punch. 5/5
Debora said Shida Preserved Flowers (pictured) are elegant and glamorous, with a level of sophistication you don't often find in dried arrangements
Shida Preserved Flowers (shida.florist)
Refined arrangements in subtle, strong colours; a wide range of arrangements, including chic, hand-tied bouquets from about £26 to £65, and wreath-making kits, £36.
The arrangement I received was the Celine, £58, which was a romantic combination of pink mop-head hydrangeas, velvety protea, pink gypsophila and willow eucalyptus.
VERDICT: Elegant and glamorous, these have a level of sophistication you don’t often find in dried arrangements. 5/5