Red. The color of love, the color of passion, the color of adultery, the color of power, and the color of...martyrdom?
It's true. When Mary Queen of Scots went to face her death by execution, she performed a symbolic strip tease; pulling off her outer garment to reveal a scarlet dress beneath. Her dress sent a clear message to faithful supporters, she was sacrificing her life for their cause.
(I'm going to have to watch that Margot Robbie movie this weekend).
Red has always been a special color. In medieval times, the seeds and berries needed to imbue textiles with shades of scarlet, crimson, and brick were hard to forage. Such colors were rare and the resulting fabrics expensive and through time that rarity became associated with kings and queens and great wealth.
Red still carries that luster.
Why then, don't we use much red in our F&B floral arrangements?
The answer is in how red needs to be used.
The way I see it, there are 4 common uses of red flowers:
- The classic dozen red roses Valentine's vase with lots of greenery and a little baby's breath
- The "fresh" Valentine's arrangements featuring high contrast, red, pink and white for a bright, happy look
- The Christmas centerpiece
- What I call the "Revolutionary Reds" in honor of floral designer Constance Spry. Here's what she said:
"Now I am going to advocate an entirely revolutionary treatment of red flowers. Abandon all idea of being limited to different shades of the same color, and mix together scarlet and crimson, vermillion, rose and magenta. Add quite crude and strong shades of pink and reddish-purple, and you will achieve an effect, not harsh and clashing, but brilliant and alive."
This is the red we love, an arrangement that gives the overall impact of red’s richness without screaming to be seen. When you actually look at the flowers one by one, you realize that red isn't even in the majority. Rather, the red ones are set off by the surrounding tones that you take away all the warmth and vivacity of red, but none, as Spry said, of the harsh, clashing effect. There’s a slight muddying of the red, not a complete tone-down, but just a neutralizing that lets red be not only looked at, but actually seen.
In the arrangement above, I let traditional red roses play with deepest purple carnations, pale lilacs, maroon cymbidium orchids, magenta lisianthus, and white anemone. I was please at how quietly dramatic and, well, red it looked.
And that’s why I keep red to special orders only- I like to know I’ll be able to use it with others colors that help it shine.
How do you feel about using red flowers?
Happy Valentine's Day ♥️