150 years of Alice in Wonderland

I have a fascination with all things fantastical so I can’t help but wonder what flower arrangements could be created to mark the 150th anniversary of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Striped or premestine rose. A watercolour on vellum by James Bolton, c. 1790sAs I come from the heart of the Fens, at this time of year my mind naturally turns to flower arranging. Not only are there some lovely blooms in the garden but in the coming weeks the churches of South Holland, Lincolnshire will be filled with floral displays as they host their annual flower festivals.

Perhaps the place to start is to take a particular moment from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to illustrate. I would argue that the most iconic scene is that of the mad tea-party. Though quite whose tea-party it is I can never decide.

It is held at the March Hare’s house but it is the Mad Hatter who takes the role of the host so it could belong to either of them. One thing is for certain, it is not the Dormouse’s. There are a number of designs among the books at the Lindley Library that would be delightful components to a display depicting this event.

Judith Blacklock’s Flower arranging: the complete guide for beginners showcases a number of recipes including an arrangement in a tea cup and floral cupcakes; cupcakes of course being a very appropriate accompaniment to a cup of tea.

An unidentified form of Calceolaria, from a watercolour by Caroline Maria Applebee, 1852Similarly Paula Pryke’s The Ultimate Floral Collection contains a design in a tea cup, a giant glass teacup filled to the brim with petals and roses. She describes the piece as having “a slightly Alice in Wonderland feel”. Unfortunately I would have to disagree with the author: I think there is more than a slight feel of Wonderland to this design. Not only does it fit nicely into the mad tea-party theme but goes beyond it by referring to the roses of the Queen of Hearts’ garden as well as Alice’s constant size changing through the disproportionate largeness of the cup. You could even go as far as saying that being made of glass, it foreshadows Alice’s second adventure, Through the Looking Glass, but perhaps that’s stretching things a bit far.

Of course, another alternative would be to take a more traditional table arrangement from the Victorian period and surround it with tea things. After all, the mad tea party in Carroll’s novel would have been a version of a Victorian tea party.

If you would like to find any information on flower arranging or recipes for designs in a range of styles visit the Lindley Library catalogue to find more books on the topic.

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