With my boxes, you are all flower arrangers. I give you the flowers and you get to create and bring out your inner florist. But was there ever a time when floristry wasn’t the in thing? The answer is no. From the beginning, humans have been hunter and flower gatherers. We just can’t help it, we’ve always had a thing for flora and fauna.
Flowers fit for a queen
The first recorded plant hunter was Queen Hatshepsut, an Egyptian pharaoh who reigned for over 20 years in the fifteenth century BC. Her reign was peaceful and prosperous, prompting a cultural renaissance that gave rise to celebrate paintings, sculptures and temples. It is thanks to these that we know of Queen Hatshepsut’s plant gathering exploits.
In the middle temple of her palace in Luxor’s Valley of Kings, are reliefs showing an expedition of five ships sent by the Queen to the land of Punt to gather exotic goods.
Earliest known flower arranging dates back to ancient Egypt to 2,500 BCE. Egyptians were the first to cut and place flowers in a vase to decorate and add colour to their surroundings.
Egyptians were known as the first florists by trade and commissioned to place very high stylized arrangements around burials, processions, and table decorations. These florists would carefully select flowers that had a symbolic meaning with emphasis on religion. A big seller was the garland of flowers worn by loved ones and left at the tombs.
Greek & Roman
The Greeks and the Romans used flowers while incorporating herbs and olive branches with their floral design. Romans’ prefered flower was the rose, using them for dressing tables during many meals due to its overwhelming fragrance, which was known as the “Hour of Rose.”
Floral arranging finally reaches Europe by 476 AD. Big arrangements were popular in churches and monasteries where flowers were used for food (to eat) as well as decoration. An essential part of arranging was with herbs, which was used as a spiritual symbol in arranging.
Italy was the first in Europe to incorporate flowers in paintings, specifically in vases, thus creating a need for floral design. Adorning your balcony with different colours and petals in baskets was an inviting sign to your home.
Moving onto my fave florist and explorer of all time:
Even by the standards of fearless, globe-trotting Victorians, the flower painter and tireless traveller, Marianne North was an extraordinary woman.
In an age before air travel and motor transport, she crisscrossed the globe, living and painting in Jamaica, Canada, the United States, Brazil, Tenerife, Japan, Ceylon, India, Borneo, Java, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the Seychelles and Chile – all in the space of a decade and a half and on her own.
Wherever she went, and whatever the obstacles in her way (cliffs, swamps, jungle), she carried on painting her astonishing, botanically accurate, vividly coloured oil paintings of the exotic plant life she found. And virtually all of her flower paintings – some 833 – can be seen together in the Marianne North Gallery at Kew Gardens.
Centuries and centuries have passed, but one thing remains, flower arranging is a timeless art and will continue to be important in centuries to come. If you fancy becoming a florist, why not give my boxes a go?