Floriography – the use of flowers as a secret sort of language, where all details down to the type, colour and arrangement held their own cryptic meaning – was in full bloom in the 19th century Victorian era, a time where openly vocalising feelings good or bad, was a huge no-go. It’s never been easier to send a message of endearment than it is today – one whatsapp or iMessage filled with variations of the hearts or flowers (or both for the truly passionate) emojis could actually be someone’s preferred way of letting someone know you love them or think they’re special, all in the easy sensory touch of a few buttons. Still, there’s nothing that quite compares to the delicate beauty of flowers IRL, smelling their unique and individual scents, and fortunately floriculture has witnessed a revolution since its mysterious beginning. From weddings to catwalks and fashion shoots, there’s no where an arrangement of flowers would not go amiss to add a touch of grace or enhance the spectacular, as the following florists prove. Here they share the flowers that entice their olfactory systems.
English Garden Rose
"If you want to be technical about the smell of roses, David Austin splits it into fruity, tea, myrrh, musky and old. I grew up on a concrete council estate in Islington with no green spaces but my Italian grandparents lived in Crouch End with a beautiful garden that was like an oasis to me. Play time! What’s that? I’d rather be pruning my nan’s roses thank you very much! My nan had roses everywhere and having been very close to her, I will always remember the smell of going to her house when I smell a rose - memories of espresso, pastina and ragu. It’s a flower that has always been important to me, in fact, the whole idea behind my brand is a rose. I wanted to have two contrasting meanings in one title, that’s why I called it Grace & Thorn. The rose is graceful, beautiful and elegant but it has the thorn too, like it’s saying, “Don’t mess with me!” This contrast is true in everything we do - we’re not just pretty, we’ve got an edge and I love doing aggressive arrangements that shock." - Nik Southern, Grace & Thorn
Lily of the Valley
"Beautifully formed, small, discreet, understated. A beautiful, very classy flower. In my opinion, anyone getting married with taste should have Lily of the Valley in their bouquet. The scent is heavenly, however, I don’t like it in a soap or a handwash, it’s only the true flower with it’s delicate, sweet and heavenly smell that I love - it’s the most perfect scent. One of the nicest things about them of course is they are very seasonal, they only really are around from the end of April through the month of May which makes them even more special and exclusive. This cyclical nature means the flower really does live up to what it is often symbolic for, the return of happiness, or perhaps even just happiness itself. My mother was a keen gardener and grew them in our garden underneath our fig tree, so this flower will always connote nostalgia and family to me. Romance too, if I were to renew my vows, I’d almost certainly use it in my wedding bouquet. It’s very romantic, there are few flowers that are very heavily scented, and this is truly one of them." – Kally Ellis, McQueens
"My first memory of an iris surrounded would be in the garden of my childhood in Sussex – such a brief season of extraordinary loveliness against the cool grey april skies, laden with rain. Their scent can vary from musky and spicy to orange blossom or lily, the supermarket classic dark blue Iris doesn't smell at all. I once found a 19th century Japanese bulb catalogue but I was broke at that time with two small children, I couldn't afford 12 Iris woodblock pictures so sadly left the fair without them. My father arrived at my house two weeks later with a giant package and there they were! Now they’re at the JamJar studio where they’re admired by those who love flowers as much as I do. They’re quite an impractical flower for a florist because they don't last very long but they are so very glamorous, fragile and beautiful, that I can never resist. From their earliest years, irises were used to make perfume and also as a herbal remedy. The "orris" root is also used in the flavouring of some gins – all good reasons, in my book, to love them." - Melissa Richardson, JamJar.
"When I left school I went to Italy on a shoestring and stayed in funny bed and breakfasts where there were planted courtyards of geranium where I used to sit and draw in my sketch books when I was an art student. Scent does strange things – I really remember the heady warm smells from being in a hot city garden like that one, with the geraniums textural surface, shapely feathery green leaves, and very small pink flower. When British grown, it’s available from the months July to September. I find the scent of geranium soothing and refreshing, it has a lightness to it, with a smell a little like citronella – fresh and crisp and citrusy but also a little smoky and strong. I have a vase of it in my hall so I can have a quick noseful when I go in and out of the house and sometimes just have a leaf or two in my pocket and we use it in the shop whenever we can." – Viv Brotherson, Scarlet & Violet
"The unassuming, unconventionally beautiful and naturally elusive Tuberose blooms only at night. It’s scent is easily comparable to everyday jasmine but with a beguiling darker undertone, sweet, intoxicating and heady - the most floral scent I’ve encountered. Scientists have found that our olfactory senses are the strongest trigger of memories, so it always interesting to work with flowers that have a strong smell because you never know what kind of memories they will trigger in who the flowers are destined for. A tuberose’s properties have found it being used in traditional medicine around the world, with its strong smell proving to be relaxing and reportedly an aphrodisiac. It always reminds me of holidays; discovering it in locally handmade soaps in Lisbon boutiques, in tiny vials in Paris’ ancient perfumeries. These flowers are thought to be indigenous to Mexico but are now hardly found in the wild. Most cultures recognise its somewhat magical night blooming and its historical reputation as a flower symbolic of both of dangerous and forbidden pleasure." - Emma, Palais Flowers