Mother nature always gets it right. Scientists have studied why we find plants and flowers so pleasing and put it down to the famous Fibonacci sequence, better known as the golden ratio, the pattern of perfect proportion that can be found across nature.
Yet there is more to it than that; flowers bring colour, aroma, texture and they connect us to nature and other people. The phrase “English rose” is a reference to a naturally attractive English girl or woman. Flowers are also powerfully symbolic, so fragile, yet a sign of strength and hope in the face of adversity. The most poignant flower in English culture must surely be the poppy of remembrance.
Across the globe, we see the flower, transformed into concrete, gold, fabric and even skin. Here are the most stunning ways that flower power has influenced us and our environment.
The golden ratio is often used in building design, to create pleasing, natural looking compositions that somehow just feel right. Flowers are also used more directly as inspiration.
The stunning Lotus Temple in New Delhi, India by architect Fariborz Sahba is a miracle of white petals rising like a lotus flower out of pools of water. The 27 free-standing petal structures are clad in exquisite white marble.
Buildings can be influenced by flowers in other ways too. Cutting-edge solar panels track the sun, just like a sunflower does throughout the day. This enables the panels to maximise how much energy they can harvest.
From classic to modern, floral wall paper is an easy way to introduce colour and character to our homes, offices and environment. The great grandfather of the floral print is William Morris, who began designing nature-inspired wallpapers back in the 19th Century. The designs are now instantly recognisable classics, somehow capturing both the randomness and symmetry of nature. The company continues to draw from nature for new wallpaper designs.
A more recent approach used by interior designers is to use feature walls with wallpaper showing a single flower enlarged to fill the space. It provides a hit of colour as well as a chance to see the sculptural beauty of a flower with all its intricate detail magnified.
3. Artificial plants
Practicality and beauty combine with artificial flowers and plants. The best examples are sourced from around the world and rigorously compared to their botanical counterparts before being accepted.
Modern manufacturing means that silk flowers emerge flawlessly from naturalistic greenery. This incredibly detailed process considers not just the basic shape and colouring of flowers but the finer details of leaves, the feel of the petals and the effect of aging. The result is highly realistic, incredibly convincing and undeniably gorgeous. Just look at the perfect delicacy of this cherry blossom tree, combining a natural wood stem with pretty pink petals.
Craftsmen and women across the ages have often drawn inspiration from nature. From the ancient Egyptians to Charles Rennie Mackintosh – artists, builders and designers have imbued their creations with floral symbols and elements. In today’s world, the Bouquet Chair designed by Tokujin Yoshioka for instance, is made out of hundreds of fabric squares to form petals, resulting in a comfortable but striking piece.
Lights often take the form of flowers, but the innovative Lull light (not yet in production) has a unique design that takes this influence a step further. Norwegian designers Varmo, Kollstad and Buene chose to mimic the behaviour of a flower by incorporating opening and closing petals into their design. As the evening progresses, the light gradually closes its petals and softens its glow before returning to bud form and turning off for the night, only to open and brighten the next morning.
Structural engineers are increasingly looking to nature to find new ways to build indestructible bridges. They are learning how delicate objects, such as a leaf on a tree, can withstand the intense force of wind, rain, or impact against a tree branch, and are using this knowledge to create strong yet flexible bridges.
Meanwhile, in London, the new Mayor, Sadiq Khan, is continuing with the development of a Garden Bridge crossing the Thames. The Thomas Heatherwick designed leafy walkway would be packed with flower beds and trees, placing nature at the heart of the city through its design.
We have always looked to nature for inspiration, yet the deeper we look the more we find. Once you realise how interweaved flowers are in modern culture, they are impossible to ignore, bringing beauty, sculptural perfection and colour to all walks of life.
Gemstones and precious metals create flowers that last forever. From tiny rose ear studs, to dramatic necklaces, such as this oversized flower necklace worn by Sarah Jessica Parker, floral motifs are everywhere and always have been. From Lalique to Dior’s lily of the valley and Cartier’s orchids, floral inspiration has resulted in masterpieces created by the world’s greatest designers for centuries.
Ever popular, Tiffany continues this tradition with the stunning flower inspired Victoria collection, where marquise and diamonds form sparkling petals, as well as this adorable daisy locket charm based on an archival design.
Floral fashion is believed to originate from the East, when the first traders brought beautiful silks printed with exotic flower designs. Now, most of us have at least one floral print in our wardrobe, whatever our gender. And few people would claim they’ve never seen a stunning floral kimono. With designers like Oscar de la Renta and Erdem being big fans, there’s little chance of the style wilting any time soon.
From ditsy floral print vintage tea dresses to big bold tropical flower maxi skirts, no area of fashion has escaped – floral embroidery brings character to denim and a finely embroidered fleur de lys can bring a touch of subtle luxury to men’s shirts and ties often feature flower and foliage.
From Marc Jacobs to Kate Moss, tattoos have exploded onto the catwalks of the world giving every model the chance to make a dramatic personal statement as well as making the idea of tattoos increasingly acceptable in popular culture.
As with any form of fashion, trends will continue to come and go. Yet there is one motif that remains consistently popular in tattoo circles – the flower. Flower designs are a big hit with celebrities too – most famously, Cheryl (formerly Cheryl Fernandez-Versini) had her entire behind and lower back tattooed with large red roses.
Pepper Ink, offering temporary tattoos, also demonstrates the demand for flower power with a huge range of floral inspired designs – such as full colour wildflowers or vintage-style black and white roses. They can even create custom tattoos from real flower images.