With its symbolism of new beginnings and rebirth, spring is the most traditional time of year to marry. The air has a feeling of freshness and anticipation. Spring bulbs have an astonishing rate of growth and bring a welcome flood of color to the garden, cheering up the dullest of shady corners. Along with color, the heady smell of perfume from ‘bridal crown’ and ‘cheerfulness’ narcissus begin to appear and contribute to the joys of spring. Hyacinths follow the narcissus, either grown on windowsills or in the garden, and are available now in yellow and peach along with blues, pinks, and white. These heavily perfumed, petite bellflowers, picked from the main stem, last well when wired separately for including in headdresses, buttonholes, corsages, and bouquets. Scented flowers are sometimes overlooked in favor of just a color theme, but are a valuable addition to a wedding, adding an extra element for everyone to enjoy when just a couple of bunches will fill any room with clouds of perfume.
Shrubs including Jew’s mallow, forsythia, and winter jasmine can now be used in place of winter greenery, which adds a light and bright airiness to arrangements of cut spring flowers. Other garden flowers to consider include green Helleborus foetidus, otherwise known as the ‘stinking’ hellebore, and its cousin Helleborus orientalis (the Lenten rose), which come now in a variety of pinks and the darkest shades of mauve, following on from the white winter Helleborus niger. Grape hyacinths available in the winter from the flower market are now forcing their blue heads up past their foliage in our gardens. While they are a welcomed addition to our flowerbeds, their self-seeding habit can overwhelm small borders and they can become a nuisance in a few short years, so my advice is: pick them! Their little blue flowers are dainty and fresh-looking and can be wired in wedding work or will happily sit in floral foam for small posies.
In the flower market, there is an ever-increasing variety of tulips in all sorts of colors and shapes, from sleek to multipedal and even picot-edged varieties, making them a lovely choice for that extra-special spring bouquet. ‘French’ tulips have particularly large heads and very long stems, which make them useful for sheaf bouquets and large arrangements. The sleek, slender stems of tulips, if left to their own devices, untreated with conditioning ‘paper straight- jackets’, will twist and curve into interesting, graceful shapes as they strain to find the light (tropism), creating a more natural and sophisticated look. Ranunculus are now plentiful and can cheer us with bright oranges, yellows, fuchsia
pink and reds, while the delicate colors of baby pinks, peach, and china-white are ideal for matching to a classical-look bouquet. Although their stems are soft and damage quite easily, they last for weeks, increasing in size every few days before reaching fruition and looking their best with full and sometimes frilly tutu blooms – such a splendid spring flower for hand-tied designs. Anemones also have very soft stems and can be difficult to arrange in floral foam, but grow in the most vibrant of colors, including purple, red, lavender, bright and delicate pink, and white with a green or black center. From the countryside, we have sticky buds, the very tactile pussy willow, and graceful, hanging hazel catkins blowing in the breeze. This robust foliage material conditions well and teams up nicely with garden or market-bought spring flowers. English bluebells are the most wonderful sight growing in woodland clearings devoid of any leafy canopy to overshadow the effect of a carpet of blue, the soft calming of their faint perfume filling the air.
But they are best left undisturbed for future generations to enjoy, as it is so easy to buy ‘English’ or ‘Spanish’ bluebells from the flower market, or create your own supply by growing them in the garden.
A bright and sunny spring day for a wedding can capture the best of all seasons as so many spring flowers come with the advantages of bright colors and perfumes. But their soft and hollow stems could be a disadvantage unless you use them in a sympathetic and natural way. Little posies in jam jars, where the stems can just sit in a little water, are a sensible option. It is always better to use flowers in the manner in which they grow instead of forcing them into styles and arrangements unsympathetic to their nature. This is a season of simplicity and spontaneity; recycled jars with untamed natural plant materials and flowers capture the true spirit of the season.
In the example wedding, charming little green sprites were hung in trees as accessories to the scene; they danced in and out of the branches in the breeze. All the arrangements, jar posies, and twiggy structures were made the day before the wedding, just leaving the heart, the backs of chairs, and the bridesmaid’s circlet to have their flowers added in at the last moment on the day. To get the bride’s bouquet to look its best, it was made fresh on the morning of the wedding. The young bridesmaid is carrying a natural birch trug. The bluebells were added to the trug to create the illusion of the ‘just picked’ look. A few natural dried mushrooms have been glued to the top of the rustic trug for further interest. In contrast, the handle was made easy to hold with a soft, pretty ribbon to match the bridesmaid’s dress. Her rustic circlet is fashioned from natural, twisted vines, blue and white wired hyacinth pips, blue grape hyacinths and little rolled pieces of birch bark, all to tie into the theme and match the bride’s bouquet.