Inspired by Constance
At 15, Susie Edwards received an invitation to travel to Australia with Constance Spry. We asked her to tell us how it came about and led her to spend her life in flowers
Photograph by James Adams ARPS from Ilford Colour Book of Flower Decoration by Joan Groves
I’d been a member of the Boston & District Flower Lovers Club for five years when the news came that they had asked Constance Spry to judge one of their flower arranging competitions. Well, I had to enter and was thrilled to win several prizes, but the best thing of all was that Mrs Spry commented “this young woman has flower arranging in her blood” and asked my father if I could accompany her on a forthcoming trip to Australia. He said no unfortunately as I was about to sit my GCEs.
However, the seed was sewn and, a year into my Sixth form studies, I decided that I didn’t want to go to University after all. What I did want to do was to go and work with Constance Spry. My father took the news very calmly and wrote to the Flower School to ask about their courses.
We were stopped in our tracks when were told that there weren’t any places – especially as I had already handed in my notice at school – but the following day, we received a letter from Mrs Spry herself offering me the chance to go and work at the shop at 64 South Audley Street for a few months before taking up a place on the Intensive course in January 1960. She also offered me a job in the Decorating Department once I graduated – providing I proved myself good enough.
Very sadly, Mrs Spry died before I began the course, but her offers were honoured so, having come top of my course, off I went to work at No. 64 as a, very junior, ‘improver decorator’. My job was simply to hand materials to the senior decorators, but watching them work taught me the skills of large scale arrangements. I also helped to prepare the flowers that arrived from the market every morning. Lifting the lid on the wooden crates and discovering long stems of Baccara roses, or teasing the lid open on a wicker pad and being knocked sideways by the smell of mimosa or narcissus or violets was a constant source of inspiration. It’s also one that has never left me; even now, at 76, I still get the same rush from holding a flower in my hand.
I was at Constance Spry’s for 18 months and flowers have been part of my life ever since. I have created displays in Government hospitality buildings, stupendous churches, at Chelsea Flower Show and in luxury retail establishments. I was even lucky enough to be responsible for the floral designs for the opening of the Channel Tunnel in Folkestone. It has all been such a privilege and I owe so much of it to Constance Spry. Working at the school gave me my love of leaves and foliage and taught me to appreciate the beauty of each individual stem and bloom.
Discover more about Constance Spry's life and on-going influence at our Celebrating Constance evening with Mig Kimpton