The earliest silk flowers are attributed to the Far East whose earliest civilisations excelled in their depictions of the natural world. The art was revived in Twelfth Century Italy and later Florence, the birth place of the Renaissance after the devastating Black Death of the mid-Fourteenth Century and the court of Louis XIV, the Sun King, when Marie Antoinette’s dresses are recorded as being decorated with thousands of silk roses.
Popularised after the French Revolution and taken up by the Victorians calling the faux blooms, “permanent botanicals”. They used silk flowers with real materials for even greater effect. They are also accredited with the invention of paraffin coated wax flowers.
This idea was later taken up by Colefax and Fowler in the Twentieth Century when Constance Spry promoted an exquisite and expensive method of making wax coated flower arrangements.
In the 1990s there was a significant revival of paper, “Parchment Flowers” made from Mulberry Tree paper in Thailand. This lead to their widespread resurgence in acceptance, particularly in top-end shops such as Fortnum and Mason, the now gone GTC, Scotch House and other famous shops.
Though a rose by any other name smells not as sweet, and, as Proust reminds us in Le Temps Perdu, with Madeleines, scent is the most evocative of all sensory experience. So we have added a surprise element to our arrangements: they can be scented with essential oils.
“A few flowers at his feet and above him, the stars.”
Les Miserables, Victor Hugo.