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The Real Deal on Faux Flowers

Silk, artificial, fake, or faux, call them what you will, they're BIG right now. Imitations of natural flowering plants, they're used for both commercial and residential decoration. And they're expensive, crazy expensive in fact, but... they last for years and years so the cost is worth it in the long run. History... Faux flowers began as a "poor alternative" to fresh flowers. Floral professionals originally named artificial flowers "permanent botanicals". Today's silk flowers are praised for their realism and versatility. The creation of silk flowers is attributed to the Chinese, hundreds of years ago. These faux flowers were the province of artists and their patrons. This was the humble beginning of a several hundred million dollar silk flower industry.

Italy witnessed the Twelfth-Century birth of artificial flowers made of real silk. French artisans and other European artists began to improve the silk flower, using higher-quality fabrics and workmanship. By the time of the French revolution of the Eighteenth Century, Queen Marie Antionette chose a silk rosebud as her emblem. The French revolution scattered the silk flower artisans throughout Europe, with many landing in England and America. The advent of the Victorian period was noted for its extravagant, ornamental design. Fresh flowers and silk florals became a focal point for home decorating. During this period, flowers were assigned meanings for specific occasions and emotions. (more about that coming up in a future blog) Here in America, grandiose silk flower arrangements were used for ladies of high fashion, and were also included on hats, wedding gowns, ball gowns, etc.. The popularity of the silk flower grew so that during the early Twentieth Century, florists began offering a silk flower selection in their shops.

Fabrics... 'Silk' has now become a generic term. Most silk flowers are now made from cotton/polyester blend fabrics. These hold the color dyes and retain the applied textures well. The quality available ranges greatly, from low-end flowers sold in discount and craft stores to the new generation of blooms. The vast majority of the world's silk flowers are made in Asia, while a small tradition of exceptionally high quality handmade blooms remains in New York and Paris.

Painstaking attention to detail actually is taken to ensure botanically-correct designs. The design process now involves taking real flowers apart to closely examine their structure and observe the details of the stamens, leaves and calyx.

Fabric choices are based on how they take color and react to heat — the wide range of reactions is useful for creating different effects appropriate to different flowers. Special fabric finishes are often applied to give lifelike textures. For example, ironing the fabric used to make tulips, to replicate their characteristic shine. The fabric choice may also be directed by the actual texture of the flowers represented. Peachskin, which is a sueded fabric, is suitable for flowers such as magnolia with its velvety petals.

Advantages of Faux... Don't have to worry about soil conditions, sunlight or remembering to water regularly.

They won’t wilt in warm weather or freeze in cold weather and don’t require any special care to keep them looking fresh.

Faux blooms are non-allergenic and can even be scented to parallel the smell of real flowers.

They require minimal maintenance to keep them looking beautiful, can be used again and again, and are easily changed to reflect the season or occasion. Maintenance... The Hair Dryer Method: Use the lowest heat and air setting on your hair dryer to blow the dust off the leaves and blooms gently. (easiest method)

The Shake Method: Place your silk flowers in a paper or plastic bag with a sprinkling of salt, rice or cornmeal, and gently shake them around. Shake off the materials, and your flowers will look noticeably cleaner. (only works for loose or small arrangements obviously)

The Wipe-Down Method: Dampen a soft cloth with water or a mixture of water and white vinegar and individually wipe down each leaf and flower. Allow them to air dry. Be sure to always test your silk flowers for colorfastness beforehand, and avoid getting excess water on any areas with adhesive. (most time consuming method)

While high-quality silk flowers are produced to stay vibrant for many years, protecting them from excessive direct sunlight is a way to ensure this. Faux flowers can also be coated with a clear UV resistant spray to help prevent fading.

I have to be honest, when I started in the flower biz over 30 years ago, I wouldn't touch "silks" as the quality back then just, to me, was sub-par. Today, I love working with them as they're so much more realistic and they're fun to manipulate into an arrangement to fall, arch, or reach where I want them to. There are several arrangements on here available for purchase or contact me for a custom arrangement for your home or office!

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