Dried flowers are some of the most beautiful ways to preserve flowers for years at a time. Preserved flower arrangements have a long and noble history that most people have never even heard or thought about.
You’d be forgiven for assuming that these flowers were a modern invention. They are not!
Society has been making preserved flower arrangements for years! Pressed flowers are a staple of many cultures the world over.
Want to learn more about the exciting legacy of dried flowers? Look no further! Go on a path to the past here! Learn a bit about how the centuries-old tradition continues today.
The Origins of Dried Flowers - ‘Roaming’ Around the Ancient World
Flowers have always been beautiful. That’s indisputable. And humans have always had a deep fascination for pretty things.
But, unlike pyramids or coliseums, flowers don’t last all year round. The ancients knew the cycles of plants better than most do today. Ancient Egypt, India, and Mesopotamia understood how plants worked meant life or death.
So what is an ancient Egyptian to do if his favourite bouquet cannot bloom in spring? Buy some preserved flower arrangements!
Dried Blooms have existed since at least 4000 years ago. Ancient art and hieroglyphics depict strictly mono-culture ways of presenting flowers. Think of an old gardening book on a wall!
The Egyptians used these flowers as bases for perfumes, salves and oils. This practice continued into the classical era. For example, the Greeks and Romans created garlands and laurel wreaths of dried blossoms.
Julius Caesar is famous for depictions him wearing his Laurel wreath. And for a good reason! In ancient Rome, a laurel wreath symbolised almighty status among Roman citizens. It displayed a man as a defender of the Republic, an all-powerful, undefeated General of the Army.
Even today, eco flowers remain in many graduation ceremonies the world over. For example, Greek universities still give their graduating students wreaths of olive branches. It symbolises the ancient Greek pantheon and its wisdom. In particular, Olives represent Zeus, king of Olympus.
Making Moves in Medieval Europe – How Pressed Flowers Bloomed
As the Roman empire collapsed, Europe entered the Middle Ages. Here the culture of preserving flowers took on a new vision.
Many accepted the now maligned concept that disease was spread by bad air or a “miasma” of plague. So scholars and peasants alike began advocating for “good smells” to ward off evil spirits.
That gave rise to a problem. Flowers don’t last all year round. It’s impossible to grow anything in winter. These are the months when diseases run rampant around a skeletal, immune system. (Not that anyone knew what an immune system was back then…).
How does one ward off the evil spirits and keep their house pure and holy? Preserved flora, of course!
From doctors to farmers to kings and emperors. Everyone was using preserved flower arrangements to keep themselves healthy.
People thought the shape or smell of the flower would ward off specific maladies. It was a plant that looked like a disease/injury or smelt the same as it. Dandelions, because of their sap, was thought to protect nursing mothers. Churches kept extensive herb gardens for salves and ointments. Even the floorboards were sprinkled with lavender to ward off demons escaping Hell.
The most infamous image of the medieval period is the beak-nosed plague doctors. They wore proto-hazmat suits covered in wax. They stuffed dried bits of flora into their masks to protect them from miasma.
Doctors were unlikely to catch diseases in a turn of “correlation but not causation”. These doctors had invented face masks 600 years before it was fantastic. Maybe today, the shows would be better if they were scented?
From Medicine to Art form – How the Japanese Created a Revolution
The 16th century was a high tide of art and culture for the Japanese. Having recently ended a century-long civil war, Japan was ready for a culture shift. But instead, the shogun, or military dictator, declared the country closed to all foreigners.
When stuck inside, the Japanese began to experiment with new art forms as any culture does. Notably, the concept of Oshibana. This intense, intricate and exciting form of pressed flowers was immediately popular.
The flowers would be pressed and arranged against washi paper. The aim was to make nature styled motifs and still life portraits. All the hobby took to engage with was a book, flowers, a heavy thing to keep them pressed, and a lot of patience and skill!
Oshibana found its way to Europe through the Dutch trade in Japan. The 18th-century was ever more materialistic. The new European market ravenously consumed the floral art form.
The Victorian period added a new layer to Oshibana. Namely, the extensive courting culture of flowers. That, for example, is the origin of the idea that red roses symbolise true love!
Moving to the Modern Day – How Dried Flora Makes the World Better
Today, pressed flowers persist as one of the most popular floral art forms.
The benefits of preserved flower arrangements are apparent. It keeps delicate and precious flowers alive for years on end. Their scent and beauty are perfectly preserved.
Here, the mission is to see that every one of these preserved flower arrangements upholds both the long legacy of dried flora and its sustainable future.
The focus is to create a world of ecological and carbon-neutral flower delivery. For more information on the origins of flowers, click here!