Constance Spry was a woman of many hats. She is best known for her work as a florist, but she also knew her way around a garden or two. Constance Spry was renowned for her creativity, taking an activity that was predominantly for the wealthy and offering it to hostesses and housewives from all walks of life. She was a pioneer of her time and much more than a household name.
After the beginning of World War I, Constance juggled careers at the Red Cross and the civil service before being appointed headmistress at a day school in East London. Here, she found her niche, giving instruction on cookery, dressmaking, and, of course, flower arranging.
Spry eventually opened her first shop, which she called Flower Decoration. She was innovative in her use of unusual objects as containers for her flowers, often found by ransacking attics or scavenging at fairs and antiques shops. She would buy old containers and her staff would paint them before giving them to hostesses. Her approach was simple: all you needed was imagination to enhance and decorate your home. She also used unusual materials for the time with the flowers, like pussy willows, weeds, grasses, and ornamental kale.
With her success came a larger shop on South Audley Street with over sixty employees and new opportunities. That same year she published her first book, Flower Decoration, and established the Constance Spry Flower School. Spry began teaching again, lecturing women all over Britain, and then published a second book, Come into the Garden, Cook, to help the war efforts by encouraging the British to grow their own food.
A few years later Spry opened a domestic science school with her friend, Rosemary Hume, an accomplished cook; eventually the two published the best-selling Constance Spry Cookery Book, extending the Spry legacy to food.
Throughout her life, Constance Spry had her hands in many pots, but that didn’t deter her from finding success, joy, and pleasure in life. She found inspiration in her surroundings and had a passion she was able to share with the world. She was a trailblazer. Spry passed away in 1960. Her last words are rumored to be, “Someone else can arrange this.”
Text from Garden Inspirations (Rizzoli)
To learn more about Constance Spry, look in Charlotte’s new book, Charlotte Moss Flowers!