It seems every other bride I consult with these days cites Downton Abbey as a major influence on the look she envisions for her wedding flowers.
I admit, I'm a bit late to the party as it relates to Downton Abbey. Although for over a year those closest to me have begged me to watch, saying "Carol, you will love it."
This was my first season, which means I'm a perfect pest now to my friends who have back episodes on Tivo. And for those of you who are also late to the Downton party, let me say, we are a small group indeed. In fact, The ITV / Masterpiece Classic phenom now runs in 100 countries and was entered into the Guinness Book of World Records for being the most critically acclaimed television series of all time.
Well, obviously, I needed to do my homework. Watch more television. Watch more episodes of the Crawleys, Lady Mary and the Countess and Earl of Grantham. Each with more lush and lovely flowers than the one before. Oh happy day!
Lord Grantham breakfasts one bright morning with a trio of silver trumpet vases filled with symmetrical ferns and flowers on the sideboard...then, another breakfast, another trio of garden goodness...
and then another...spring jonquils and blue muscari nestled in greenery.
The lovely sets - and lovely they should be, as the series is the most expensive ever filmed in England at an average one million pounds per episode - are the handiwork of scores of talented set designers and art directors and their staff. Top credit goes to Production Designer, Donal Woods and Set Decorators, Gina Cromwell and Judy Farr.
Much study of the era, which thus far spans the late Victorian, early Edwardian time period from 1912 to post World War I, has gone into bringing the story to life with authenticity.
The opulence of the Victorian style is depicted by a profusion of silver. Candelabras, footed compotes, trumpet vases.
Floral arrangements of the Victorian period were heavy-handed creations, packed with flowers in spherical and rounded shapes or slightly asymmetrical. Foliage was used to "soften" the look (true Lillie's style.) Little or no restraint was shown in the types of flowers used or the sheer volume. True to the Victorian mantra, more was more.
Victorian flower fashion of the day: Fern, ivy, foxglove, roses, bleeding heart, dahlia, freesia, hydrangea, jasmine, peony, gardenia, passionflower, stephanotis, sweet pea, evening stock, tuberose and verbena.
The lighter side of floristry at Downton comes from the Edwardian trend of de-cluttering Victorian excess.
Christmas dinner with the Granthams is a perfect example of the Edwardian table. Decoration is a series of simplified arrangements down the center of a long table, alternating with silver candelabras.
Edwardian flower fashion of the day: Seasonal cuts from the garden such as roses, hydrangea, lavender, fern and jasmine. All of the popular Victorian flowers, fewer and softer in hue. Popular colors were French blue, lilac, white, gray-green, rose and mauve pinks, pale yellow and amber.
The influence of The Art Nouveau period (1890 to 1915) give us those arrangements which fairly take flight. The primary characteristic of these designs incorporates a line on a curved path for a sort of “whiplash” effect.
Surely, The Earl of Grantham’s daughter, Sybil, would have approved the obvious rebellion against Victorian excess.
Again, vessels play a starring role in the overall effect. Most commonly this would have been a tall, contoured vase with a matte finish embellished with Nouveau design, similar to this vase in the drawing room beside Lady Grantham.
Secondly, we might find vessels of cut glass, ginger jars or even Wedgwood.
Art Nouveau flower fashion of the day: Texture is celebrated by the use of berries, seedheads, pussywillow and branches that give the design fantastic line and curve. Flower colors are subdued. Soft silver grays, mauve, pale peach and yellow, buff and greens.(A look I adore.)
I've saved the best for last...
A nosegay bouquet from Mr. Bates on the day he weds Anna.
Well, it's clear, I have my work cut out for me. Taxing as it is, I'm forced to research more episodes. Oh, the things I do for the love of flowers.
(Photo credits: ITV and screenshots)