06 April 2010

Surprisingly Spry

Constance Spry at work
(image from here)

“Dress by Schiaperelli,
photographs by Cecil Beaton,
flowers by Constance Spry –
The decorator of the moment,
the photographer of the moment,
the florist of the moment –
what more could you ask?” Vogue 1937 (of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor's wedding)

Everything you wanted to know about Constance Spry but were afraid to ask (here): A delightful looking read ,256 pages, of Constance by Sue Shephard to be specific:

'Any new book from Sue Shephard, whose meticulous research & quirky writing style enlivens any subject, is a happy event, but this fascinating account of the life of a woman who changed so much for my generation is to be eagerly awaited & devoured.' --Clarissa Dickson-Wright

 It is interesting to note that in 2004 an exhibition of Spry's work at the Design Museum caused Terence Conran to describe Spry's work at 'high-society mimsiness':James Dyson said 'shallow style.''  There were many defenders of the Spry lady- but bested by the poet James Fenton saying 'When you visit one of Conran's shops and find some amusing table decoration-a nice little aquarium full of broad beans or whatever some zany fetching assistant has thought up that day-all that derives from Constance Spry. The starting point of her philosophy was that wild flowers and weeds could be pressed into service, just as much as tuberoses. One could indeed spend a fortune. One could also spend next to nothing. This was the source of her popular appeal. It's fun. It's dashing, perhaps unacceptable. It's part of the uncensored history of design.' (from the Guardian)*
Pity these two could not see it, not to mention surprising.

Flowers of Fennel and Orange Lilies, 

Decorative Kale Leaves,

 Soft Pink Colourings,

The book is not available in the states yet, must go to amazon uk to get Spry. go now to pre order.
the Aesthete Cooks with Constance Spry TODAY! here
go to getty images here to see Spry in action with fashions by Victor Stiebel from 1934.

* British Vogue April 2010


  1. Ooooooh, Girly, I am ALWAYS impressed with your 'latest knowledge". Am off to order just now, as have always been interested in more about her.
    Thanks so. Off to HP tomorrow......!!

  2. Love the Kale leaves - I'm going to look this book up. What an interesting lady!
    On another note - doesn't the Duchess of Windsor look so sad in that picture?

  3. Is she who Beverly Nichols mocked in his Merry Hall books?? I know he changed the names of the characters but they were based on real people. Anyone know?

  4. Stefan, he was a fan of Constance Spry advocating the unarranged he wrote "standing before a bed of hydrangeas, when summer has fled, and seeing beauty in their pallid parchment blossoms. It means suddenly stopping in a country lane and noting for the first time a scarlet cadenza of berries, and fitting it, in one’s mind’s eye, into a pewter vase against a white wall. It means bouts with brambles, flirtations with ferns and carnival with cabbages." BN

  5. on kale and other- she waxed poetically "If to use a kale leaf for its fine modeling, a bunch of grapes for its exotic bloom, a spherical leek flower for its decisive shape, a bare branch for its delicate strength, is to like strange materials, then I am guilty, but not guilty of liking them for any perverse reason."

  6. & SF, yes they both look a bit piqued- but the flowers were holding up nicely!pgt

  7. Dress was by Mainbocher...Wallis Blue was the color.

  8. Interesting to see how Baroque/Rococo Spry's style now looks. In some ways she was obviously revolutionary - using herbs and weeds and so on - but in other ways she was so 1730s.

  9. Thank you for the heads up on the book. I am a Spry fan. An English friend of mine collected many of her One-of-a-kind matt-cream vases, which I will share with you all later. I love Gluck's flower paintings which would not have existed without her friendship with Constance Spry.


  10. Anon.Yes true-the quote from Vogue refers to another photograph I have seen with Wallis at the time of her wedding (one of the few not circulating yet) If I have it in a book, I will share it.
    The photograph definitely is Spry.
    Wallis Blue- sadly looks quite blush now-according to the Met the dye was unstable. Her hat of Wallis Blue retains its colour. pgt

  11. sounds like a good bio - made me pull down my old CS flower arranging book that I have not looked at in years - when I lived in London I took a couple of classes at the C S Cordon Bleu Cookery School - my first real adventures into cooking

  12. Debra, it sounds great. I am familiar with her flower arranging but less so with other aspects- Look forward to your posts and this book!pgt

  13. "Wallis chose a sapphire blue silk crepe dress and fitted jacket the the American designer Mainbocher for her wedding at Chateau de Cande on June 3 1937. An embroidered table cloth over the chest of drawers made an improvised alter. The tower of white blooms were by London society florist Constance Spry" Suzy Menkes "The Windsor Style"

  14. I had not heard of the new book, but will order it straightaway! Did you ever read the wonderful article about Spry in US House & Garden? It was published ages ago and was terrific.

  15. Now look what you made me do ... am overdrawn at the bank but placed an order for the book anyway.

  16. Debra, thank you for adding these details. Love the Wallis touch about the cloth. I do wonder what she was thinking on that day. pgt

  17. My cherish great aunt Goldie was a florist. I have to add this to my read list. I learn so much from you!

  18. I'm half way through reading the book. It's wonderful. She was (and still is) such an inspiring woman who had the most amazing sense of personal style and creativity. I'm now off to Covent Garden flower market asap! Enjoy the book.

  19. PGT-


    I found several of Spy's books at a church bazaar some time ago--and it turns out she wrote about 8 books--including one with the great Lesley Blanche. Spry was, like Beaton, very prolific, with books on seasonal flowers and parties and table flowers and suggestions for wreaths and urns.
    Her books give amazing insight into toffy-ish English life of that period--the decor of weddings and parties and bridesmaids' bouquets and balls and decor and galas and seasonal style was lavish and artful and chic. She clearly had amazing floral growers and gardeners and sources for all of her rare tulips and crocus and flowering branches. It all suggested an idyllic time before flowers and 'plant material' became commodified and overly commercialized or flew over oceans to markets.
    She was extremely opinionated about flowers and their use. She 'did' the flowers in Westminster Abbey for Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh. They're tasty and understated. She says in one of her books that she does not believe in turning a church into a 'floral bower' or a 'herbaceous border' for a wedding. She has opinions on every possible flower and grassa dn flax and bulb- and was incredibly influential on the 'right way' to decorate a table for a dinner party.
    thanks for great feature, LA!
    cheers, DIANE

  20. Oh, little augury, you know how we love Constance Spry. Her "Hostess" book is a must. It was an Etiquette Wednesday and the Cookbook Of The Day. My fave cookbook, however is "Come Into The Garden, Cook." Unfortunately, my book procurer in England sends my books steerage, so I am still waiting for the bio. Any day now...

  21. I am the fortunate owner of every Constance Spry flower book, gifts from a now gone lovely Quaker lady. She has been my floral inspiration for a long time and has helped me win many blue ribbons. The book is now available in Amazon. I'm reading it right now. Very well researched and lovingly written, sparing no truths. Connie Spry would be a great subject for a period movie.



Related Posts with Thumbnails