6 Exotic blooms you must have
04 September 2020
By Bryanna Sweeney
“Are they real?” I was often asked by customers who'd point at one particular bucket of luxurious florals from the many, many buckets of blossoms crowded around my feet. When new flowers arrived at A Room In Bloom, the shop overflowed with colour, immersing us in the fresh scent of each season. In winter, the cold air was filled with the citrus scent of leylandii and in spring, the sweet scent of the peony took over. Our wedding flowers could vary from fragrant pink champagne garden roses to cornflower blues and lemon gerbera daisies, all depending on the bride’s choice. With an ample palette of blooms to choose from, we strived to design a suite of arrangements tailored to our client's taste and our favourite combinations.
At the beginning of my floristry training with Lorna at A Room In Bloom, I was overcome by the abundance of flowers on offer. Every blossom had at least two names. When customers would ask the name of the flower that looked like tiny fluffy clouds (gypsophila or baby’s breath) or that mysterious rubber plant that I never noticed before, I’d freeze like a crashed computer while my mind ran through a mental list of every flower I could remember. People are always impressed if you can recite the botanical name and you get double kudos if you could tell them the common name. You learned your favourites first. Certain flowers and plants are so alluring that it was hard not to pet and smell them during the day, especially the exotic and scented ones. To my touch, roses resemble smooth silk while celosia feels like embroidered velvet. As these are luxury top-quality blooms, they come with a higher cost due to their production and lifespan. Every single flower has its own story to tell and these six indulgent blooms, in my opinion, provoked the most attention from customers who couldn't believe they were real.
6. Celosia - (se-lo-se-a)
There were several types of Celosia, but the two we commonly used were Woolflowers and Cockcombs. From the greek, kelos, referring to the burned appearance of the flowers of some species like the woolflowers which resemble thick feathery flames. I recall a buyer likening the crested variety to a hairy tongue. Cockcombs are also known as the Dr Seuss flower. Celosia has an unmistakable texture and works well when paired with other vibrant buds.
5. Anthurium - (an-thaw-ree-uhm)
A relation of the lily and also called the Painter's-palette. Anthuriums are popular houseplants that are associated with hospitality. At the shop, cut Anthuriums arrived in a long box with their delicate heads wrapped in plastic to prevent their petals from bruising and their stems plugged with a water vial. They compose of a bright glossy leaf called a spathe with a protruding spadix. Some are blood red and dimpled, others are pale and veiny, some are heart-shaped gothic black and cup the spadix, some are fluorescent and enshroud it like a flame. You'll never be disappointed by the diversity of this simple flower.
4. Strelitzia - (stre-lits-e-a)
Or the bird of paradise or crane flower. It was named after the birthplace of Queen Charlotte, Queen of King George the Third. The flower is native to South Africa and is featured on the reverse of its fifty-cent coin. Representing freedom and joyfulness, the elegant birdlike pose and long stalks make this flower stand above the rest. Strelitzia reginae, the orange variety with a stroke of blue, and the white-flowered Strelitzia Nicolai are commonly grown as houseplants in warmer climates. Cut flowers can still be ordered when in season at A Room In Bloom. You only need a few stems of this beauty to flatter an old vessel or vase.
3. Protea cynaroides, King Protea - (pro-tee-ah)
Named after the shape-shifting Greek god Proteus who could change his form at will referring to the vast species that makes up the Proteaceae family. A thick stalk supports a head made of thick velvet core enclosed by furry spikey bracts. They were often mistaken as artificial flowers to the unfamiliar. Using this bloom creates a distinctive focal point and elevates a design.
Other types of eyebrow-raising Protea include the Leucospermum or the pincushion flower because of its extended styles that give it the appearance of a species from the alien planet Pandora. Combining both members of the family with bamboo or palm leaves to create a long-lasting and exotic composition that’s bound to arouse the florally inquisitive.
2. Gloriosa - (glo-re-o-sa)
Also called the flame lily or glory lily, gloriosa is highly toxic to humans and pets. From the Latin gloriosus, relating to its striking red and yellow crinkled petals. Gloriosa is a tropical climbing tuberous-rooted plant so this exotic vine will spread its tendrils invading the garden unless they are contained in pots or on a fence. Left to its own devices, Gloriosa comes together to create a pulsing frenzy of bursting flames. If you want a delicate touch, two or three of these stalks arranged simply produces a sense of airiness.
1. Orchids - (orc-ids)
Orchids are the ultimate shapeshifters and, in my opinion, at the top of the exotic flower chain because of the many peculiar forms available. Cymbidium (or boat) orchids and Phalaenopsis (or moth) orchids commonly adorn windowsills and reception desks and they are a popular choice for prom corsages. Dendrobium orchids are long and dainty and the Vanda (or Singapore) orchid has leaves like a rubber fan. There are dark purples and electric pinks, silk whites and orchids whose petals are spotted like a frog. One plant on its own is delightful to look at but a cluster of orchids summons a tropical rainforest sensation. The best things about orchids are that, while they love humidity, they are not confined to warm climates as Ireland has a wildflower spotted-orchid which is a treat to spot in the summer.
What’s your favourite exotic bloom? Have you seen any unusual flowers you didn’t recognise as being real?