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Constance Spry and the Fashion for Flowers

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This summer the Garden Museum will be celebrating the doyenne of flowers, the 20th century’s most influential floral decorator, Constance Spry. Guest curated by floral designer and writer Shane Connolly, this new exhibition will explore Spry’s exceptional life, achievements and legacy, with exclusive access to her archive at the RHS Lindley Library.

Spry’s popularity has seen a huge resurgence in recent years as a new generation of floral designers rediscovers her ground-breaking approach to the art of flowers: seasonal, natural, yet unconfined by tradition and rules. 

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Dates


Photo of chard leaves. Silver Gelatin Print. 15.3 cm x 17.7 cm.

Chard leaves in a vase arrangement by Constance Spry c.1935, Reginald Malby / RHS Lindley Collections

For this exhibition the Garden Museum has gained exclusive access to Spry’s personal archives, which were deposited at the RHS Lindley Library after her death and have not been displayed publicly since. The exhibition will feature 100 never before seen photographs, documents and personal items from these archives, a precious record of an extraordinary life.

Constance Spry opened her first flower shop, Flower Decoration, in 1929. Her revolutionary approach to floristry garnered widespread interest in high society, while also democratising the form. Unconfined by traditional floristry training, Spry married classic flowers of choice with ‘unusual’ and uncelebrated plant material like kale and pussy willow, unconventional offerings from hedgerows and scoured Covent Garden flower market for statement flowers. Her influence can still be seen in floral design trends to this day.

Throughout her long successful career, Spry also opened a floristry school, a domestic science school, and published thirteen books. And for more than three decades, she provided inspirational flowers for society weddings, fashion shows, the Wedding of Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson and in 1953 stage managed the design of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

All images courtesy of the RHS Lindley Library

I was first, and hope last to be, a gardener; it was an unanticipated combination of circumstances that led me to do professionally something I did once only as a relaxation, and much as I love doing it, I don’t like the groove to be too deep. - Constance Spry, 'Garden Notebook' (1940)

Guest Curator Shane Connolly

Shane Connolly started his floral design business in 1989. Shane has always had an organic approach to his designs, and he is a passionate advocate of British grown, seasonal flowers.

Shane has decorated some the country’s most prestigious venues for an eclectic range of clients. In 2005, he was asked by HRH the Duchess of Cornwall to design her bouquet and all other flowers for her marriage to HRH Prince of Wales and the service of dedication in Windsor Castle. In recognition of this, he was awarded a Royal Warrant of Appointment to HRH The Prince of Wales in 2006. In 2011 Shane was appointed Artistic Director for the wedding of TRH’s The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. And was awarded a second Royal Warrant of Appointment, to HM The Queen in 2015.

This exhibition has been made possible thanks to the support of the American Friends of the Garden Museum and a Culture Recovery Fund grant from Arts Council England, the DCMS and HM Treasury.
Edward Bulmer Natural Paint are delighted and honoured to be supporting the Garden Museum and Arts Council by donating our paint made from plants to this wonderful celebration of Constance Spry.