Is the anything quite as beautiful as the old millinery flowers? Even the 'newer' ones dating from the fifties and forward are cherished now, and I can remember when I turned my nose up at them, and kept on looking for the older ones...
The process for creating these works of art brings value and appreciation to their care and collection. I still have a few of the flowers and compositions shown above, many layered with intricacy and texture; many tiny cloth stems tipped with diminutive buds, each one studded with a hand dipped composition stamen. In contrast, the larger flowers burst forth with fringed petals hand painted in varying hues, and larger stamens wreathed in hazy halos. Even the leaves on one garland are tinted with darker tones to the outer boundaries of the serrated leaves. It is, to my mind, perfection.
And how to choose our favorites? Don't try. Put them in rotation, so they all get their due. Roses reign supreme, but the real holy grail of flower collecting has become the velvets...oh, the velvet flowers. Roses that include velvet petals offer a lovely contrast, and an all velvet spray is hard to come by these days. You'll spy some velvet pansies at the bottom of this photo, one of them a deep claret color that draws you in and doesn't want to let you go.
What about caring for your faux blooms? Steam is the only way to revive these beauties. I have two steamers now, one at the shop and one at home, but I still have my old copper kettle that I started out with, a huge Revere copper piece missing it's lid. We would fill it with water and sit a saucer on the top, and as the water came to boil, it would send a good spout of steam out, and we would dangle the flowers above it with kitchen tongs. It's an amazing little process, and was a favorite pastime of my daughter and her friend Lexi, who would always wait to work the 'magic'...the slow unfurling of petals and leaves that was tantamount to time lapse photography.
Nothing surpasses nature's offerings, but when you consider the time spent by craftsmen in setting each curl and dip in a petal, wiring the leaves so they could be shaped, and constructing the entire composition, well...credit given where credit is due. These little botanical wonders are worthy of our veneration.