Constance Spry, introduced in 1961, is one of the first English Roses hybridized by David Austin and its success contributed to the founding of the English Roses. David Austin Roses is a flower arranger’s dream. They can be used to make wonderful floral arrangements either on their own or with other plant materials. With its voluptuous blossoms and dainty habit, you can duplicate the beauty and charm of an Old Dutch floral painting.
Constance Spry can grow to a height of 6-12 ft. with a width of 6-8 ft. or 10 to 18 ft. as a climber. Bloom size is 3” with a petal count of 80+. It has a lovely pink color and very fragrant. The only drawback is it only flowers once in the spring but it blooms profusely.
Who is Constance Spry?
Constance Spry is the mother of modern floral design. She would have loved to use David Austin Roses for her floral arrangements. After World War 1, she changed the formal, rigid composition of floral design with unconventional pastoral compositions; flowers arranged asymmetrically with assorted shapes of foliage in various types of containers. She used all kinds of wildflowers, grasses, pods or practically anything the Victorian ladies shunned. Her style was full of drama and a refreshing reprieve from the more stiff floral design of her contemporaries.
Connie, as she was known to her friends, was born in Derby, England, in 1886 and raised in Ireland. She found refuge from her domineering mother in the gardens of her childhood, where she began to take note of what would become her favorites: old garden roses, lilac, mock orange, laurel, buddleia, and evening primrose, as well as grasses, weeds, and other typically overlooked plants and materials.
Though flowers and gardening would be her lifelong passions, under her father’s direction she began her early professional life as an educator and social reformer. Traveling by horse-drawn wagon through the Irish countryside, she became a proponent of healthy living, educating housewives on the benefits of fresh air and nutritious food as part of a “War on Consumption” campaign. After a disappointing marriage to a coal mine manager, she took her only son back to England to begin life anew. It was there she met and fell in love with Shav Spry, a colonial civil servant who would be her lifelong companion.
It wasn’t until the age of 41, that Spry’s amateur talents as a floral designer were noticed by an influential lunch companion, leading her to Norman Wilkinson, a theater designer whose encouragement would launch her meteoric design career. With a commission to do flowers for cinemas and a perfume shop, Spry took her unorthodox visions of gathered materials and artful references out of the homes of friends and into the public eye, where she was praised for displays that in an incredibly modern twist included leaves, berries, seed pods, wild clematis, and golden hops mixed with exotic orchids.
Suddenly this middle-aged woman found herself thrust into the social scene, befriending legendary decorator and fellow entrepreneur Syrie Maugham and an exuberant crowd of theatrical personalities and social luminaries. She became the florist of choice to London high society organizing the flowers for royal weddings. She designed the flowers for the Queen’s wedding and Coronation. Her books on flower arranging made her a household name.
Besides being an influential floral artist, Constance Spry is the founder of the Cordon Bleu cooking school and an author of a bestselling cookbook bearing her name.
Until next time. Stop and smell the roses.