Confessions of a floralist



Like Susan and I’m sure others, I too took a walk around the house after reading Michele’s post to see how much of our major décor featured floral imagery. And the answer: a LOT. We have a Victorian too, and we’ve pretty much gone with the period for the furniture and rugs, though not for the artwork.

Floral décor was very big in Victorian times—of course, when you say Victorian, you’re talking about quite a range. She reigned from 1837–1901, and I think what we see as typical Victorian design is probably toward the middle of this, say 1860-1880. And flowers were big. They were part of the Victorian 2 Es: embellishment and excess. So you find flowers and plants carved into furniture, into marble fireplaces, even embedded in intricate brass doorknobs (above).

I guess it’s no wonder that we bought into the flower motif, in rugs (of varying quality, i.e. cheap crap we bought vs. better stuff inherited from relatives)


And then there are the lamps.


And the kitchen curtains.


And the loveseat.


And way more, including some art (not much), plates, napkins, placemats, and tablecloths.

It’s an interesting question, kind of a chicken/egg. Do I love flowers because I’m a gardener or am I a gardener because I love flowers, including depictions of them? Or, are these two completely separate things with no relationship? It’s possible. In one of my favorite novels, Ordinary Families, by E. Arnot Robinson (a wonderful Virago title), a character theorizes that members of large families are more likely to wear exuberant floral prints, and I’m one of six.

In any case, it looks like a lot of flowers have made their way into our house. And, I guess because I can, I’m sharing some that I found with you, Garden Rant readers. In fact, you may want to do the same thing and post your floral items. I bet there are a lot of other floralists out there.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. I have that same fabric on my loveseat! The collection of geranium pictures in the bathroom, the floral stenciled trim in my daughter’s old bedroom, various rugs (same sources/quality ratio as yours) and valances in two bedrooms. Other artwork, quilts, pillows…I guess I’ve got a lot. But other than artwork there’s at most one “big” floral thing per room…I don’t think it’s too blatant!

  2. i am a gardener because i love flowers. not vice versa. i am still a beginer, i’d say i’ve only been into gardening for about 2 years, and i immediately got hardcore into it, i didn’t just dip my toes in at first, i dove. the reason i became interested in gardening was because i got a job at a florist, and designing floral arrangements made me just fall in love w/ flowers, and shortly after i got that job my husband and i bought our first house so i became extremely interested in gardening. i never was much intereted in floral decor though, i have a mix of slightly modern and retro 40’s – 60’s style of furnishings and accessories in my house, any stuff w/ flowers i have i inherited from my grandmother who loved stuff w/ flowers on it. i am more into it now that i am into gardening.


    p.s. anyone worried about generation y not being into gardening can, i guess, take a little bit of relief in knowing that i became interested in gardening, became a floral designer, and bought my first house all when i was 21 years old, plus i have gotten some of my friends interested in gardening as well since i’ve started

  3. Elizabeth, I keep staring at your door hardware with envy. Whoever ordered the hardware for my house just ordered the cheapest, most common Anglo-Japanese stuff and called it a day.

  4. I think gardening motifs go back past the Acanthus leaf — I know decidedly NONgardeners who have homes filled with chintz cabbage roses and daisy wallpaper — most people naturally gravitate to the beauty of nature – even if they can;t grow it themselves.
    BTW in high fashion (clothing not decor) – big flower prints are once again declared in for Spring ’08 — when are they never not in, really?!

  5. We live in an old farmhouse that still needs a lot of work – after 25 years and more. But I realize I do have lots of floral patterns on sheets, duvet covers, sofa pillows, art work and curtains. I have one set of chintz curtains with a rose pattern that are literally over 50 years old. I love them so much and they have lived in several houses. But they are starting to rot – and soon I’m going to be looking for more flowers. I think everyone must love some floral designs. Except maybe architects.

  6. My husband calls my obsession with flowers in/on our wallpaper, sheets, upholstery, etc., “more flucking flowers.” I have to admit, when you look at it objectively, I did go overboard. Now the wallpaper in our foyer is stripes – but I hate it.

  7. I love flowers outside but hate them in decor. For me flowers are all about the scent, I also don’t grow flowers that don’t smell unless I am growing them for some other purpose (IE. For Butterfly/hummingbird garden or herb garden). I find depictions of flowers frufey and vaguely irritating.

  8. I just picked up a lovely hardcover anthology (originally $25.95, remaindered for five bucks! Yay Harvard Book Store) of short stories about gardens and gardening as a Yule gift for a friend in Florida…

    And it got me thinking that books about flowers and gardening are one of my guilty little collecting pleasures…used bookstores are full of them, although the older books may not be as chock full of color photos as newer ones…but the writing is more charming…

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