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Everlasting appeal of dried flowers: Chic, sustainable and great value

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The roots of the dried flower revival, one of this season’s biggest style movements, lie in the new love affair with floral patterns. 

At this week’s Decorex, the London trade show that features the key trends for the year ahead, blooms and foliage adorned cushions and wallpapers, as the era of minimalism retreats further into history.

But there are other reasons why dried flowers — which were one of the smartest home accessories of the 1980s — have returned from obscurity, making the latest in a long series of comebacks.

On trend: Dried flower bouquets - which were one of the smartest home accessories of the 1980s - have returned from obscurity

On trend: Dried flower bouquets – which were one of the smartest home accessories of the 1980s – have returned from obscurity

The ancient Egyptians were the first to dry flowers, decorating tombs with sacred lotus blossoms. The drying and pressing of flowers was also a favourite Victorian pastime.

Today, amid growing concern for the planet, dried flowers are increasingly considered to be the eco-friendly choice.

Interiors expert and entrepreneur Alison Cork says: ‘Thanks to new techniques, dried flowers are more beautiful than ever before; they are no longer the second-class citizens in the floral hierarchy.

‘Also the zeitgeist is changing. Dried flowers are seen as more sustainable. People do not like the waste involved in fresh flowers — or how expensive they can be.’

Bouquets, particularly those with orchids or out-of-season roses, can harm the environment, either through the use of pesticides in their cultivation, or through their transportation. About 86 per cent of cut flowers are imported.

 Anyone raising an eyebrow at the return of dried flowers will be relieved to learn that they are not accompanied by other 1980s’ accessories, such as floor-sweeping curtains and swagged blinds

Cost-consciousness is another major factor behind the rise of what people are calling ‘brown flowers’, although many displays are colourful, and contain twigs and leaves.

With a little maintenance, a £25 bunch of dried flowers will delight for years, while a fresh flower bouquet may be consigned to the bin only a few days after its delivery.

Anyone who is raising an eyebrow at the return of dried flowers on snobbish grounds will be relieved to learn that they are not accompanied by other 1980s’ accessories, such as floor-sweeping curtains and swagged blinds.

The interiors of the lavish homes in the shoulder-pad TV saga Dynasty were the influence for these pieces, which, for the moment, are not predicted to burst back into fashion… although never say never.

Pick of the bunches: John Lewis offers the Luxury Brights priced at £69.95

Instead, those people who always prefer an understated interior style will choose a dried flower arrangement as a nod to the vogue for florals. 

If you prefer neutral shades, Phohm, a business based in Brighton, offers the £45 Ombre, a bunch of Pampas grass, palm leaves and reeds.

Beards & Daisies has the £32.99 Wild Honey, a mix of papaver, plume, protea and ruscus (beardsanddaisies.co.uk). The £50 Sinead from Bloom & Wild contains a blend of blues and autumnal hues.

John Lewis has a wide selection including the Ixia Meadow (£44.99), ideal for a pine table in a cottage kitchen; and the Luxury Brights (£69.95), whose pinks and purples would provide a bolt of colour in a pale bedroom.

If off-the-shelf bunches are not to your taste, making your own dried flower arrangements can provide an outlet for your creativity — and also a form of therapy. This is how it has always been regarded in Japan, where Oshibana, the pressing of flowers, is considered an art form.

Learning the finer points of this craft was part of the training of 16th-century Samurai warriors, who needed better powers of concentration, rather than ways to beautify their homes.

Jennifer Stuart-Smith of Blooming Green, a floristry business, based in Yalding, Kent, which grows all its own flowers using chemical-free methods, says that it is easy to dry your flowers in an airing cupboard or in a warm, dry place in your home.

She says that one of the best guides on the subject is Cut & Dry: The Modern Guide To Dried Flowers, From Growing To Styling, by Caroline Dunster.

Stuart-Smith adds: ‘I had always been a bit sniffy about dried flowers, considering them to be dusty and old-fashioned, but then I started to see how they were being used in interiors in hip East London homes and restaurants.

‘We were also getting requests for wedding bouquets with pampas grasses.

‘I realised this was a trend that we could not ignore — and that we could dry our own flowers and also reduce waste, which is one of the goals of our business. We now supply dried flowers to Planet Organic, the organic supermarket.’

Such is the interest in the DIY approach to dried flower decor that Blooming Green is running £180 one-day courses on the subject, which combine practical skills with mindfulness. The next will be held on November 7.

Besides busting stress, dried flowers also provide an excuse to show off vases which sit unused in the winter months when your garden is no longer an easy source of greenery.

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Ikea offers personalised design service in Ireland

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Ikea is piloting a home design service in Ireland. The Swedish furniture giant opened the new service in Naas on Monday.

Customers will be able to consult the retailer’s in-house home interiors specialists at the new store. The company said the service would be free, personalised and one-to-one.

It said people would be able to talk through ideas for upgrading their kitchen, living room or wardrobes with a designer. They will also be able to order any Ikea products from the store for delivery. Unlike Ikea’s other smaller store in Carrickmines, south Dublin, there will be no items available on site to bring home on the day.

The company said Ireland was one of eight markets worldwide in which it is piloting the new service.

“This new service allows us to bring our home furnishing expertise to the many, with bespoke design solutions that best reflect our customer’s unique style and design challenges,” said Martyn Allan, Ikea’s market manager in Ireland. “At the same time, we get the opportunity to listen to and learn from our customers to continue to develop our store formats.

“We are so proud that Ireland is part of this pilot, offering us the opportunity to move closer to our customers in towns and cities currently without IKEA stores,” he added.

People looking for a design consultation will need to book in advance online. When the company confirms the booking, it will let the customer know what to bring with them, such as measurements or photographs.

Over one or two consultations – which will not cost anything – the designer will draw up a 3D plan which will be accessible on the Ikea website to the customer up to five days after the consultation.

The store on Naas Main Street will feature some room sets and the company says the consultations will operate in strict compliance with current public health guidelines.

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Dubs get exercised over digital dollars

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Dubliners are to be “paid” for a walk in the park with “civic dollars” they can cash in for coffee and cake and other goods and services, in an effort to encourage outdoor exercise.

Visitors to five parks in the Dublin 8 area can earn the community currency if they sign up for a new smart phone app to allow Dublin City Council to track their park use.

The scheme is being piloted in the area from the Liberties to Inchicore, following research by the council’s Smart D8 team which found just 40 per cent of local residents took regular exercise, but 92 per cent said they would use a park for exercise if it was available to them.

Visitors to St Audoen’s Park, St Patrick’s Park, Weaver Park and Oscar Square in the Liberties, and Grattan Park in Inchicore who use the app will be rewarded with civic dollars for every 30 minutes they spend in the park up to a limit of 5 dollars a day.

Data anonymised

The system uses GPS data and allows users to opt in once they enter a park. Their data is anonymised, and a user’s session will end automatically once they walk out of the park. Data gathered will be used by the council to analyse park usage and allow for future planning and infrastructure improvements.

The dollars can be cashed in for discounts in a number of local businesses including Little Bird cafe, the Bike Hub, Mobility Genie, the Digital Hub and Epic Ireland. The dollars can also be donated to community organisations for more expensive services including marketing or IT advice and legal consultations, with participating companies including Core Tech IT, Paul Saxon Consulting, Éire Graphic Design and VAVA Influencers.

The Smart D8 project was established earlier this year to investigate innovative approaches to improve citizens’ health and wellbeing in Dublin 8, with the involvement of St James’s Hospital and the Digital Hub.

The civic dollars pilot will run for five months, with the aim of attracting 1,000 users in the first two months, and could be rolled out to other parks in the city if successful.

Organisations accepting dollar donations include Warrenmount Community Education Centre, Robert Emmet Community Development Project, Solas Project and Fatima Groups United.

The scheme had the potential to “improve the health and wellbeing of our citizens”, Lord Mayor of Dublin Alison Gilliland said.

“We need to encourage increased use of our parks, and the civic dollars project will do that while having the added benefit of contributing to local businesses and community organisations.”


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‘I felt safe, everyone had a mask and the kids had a ball’

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There was only excitement and joy outside the Gaiety theatre in Dublin on Sunday afternoon, as children waited to watch the first showing of its annual pantomime.

The show, The Little Mermaid, began its six-week run in the 150-year-old venue much to the delight of ticket holders who were nervous about whether the show would go ahead.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) last week recommended to Government that children under 12 should avoid “indoor seasonal events” for the next two weeks due to a high level of Covid-19 in that age group.

However, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said it was up to parents as to whether children could attend these events over the weekend, as the Government would make a formal decision on Tuesday.

While the Government considers the recommendations, those in attendance at the Gaiety panto on Sunday felt safe and excited that they could witness the festive showpiece.

Jennifer Rattigan and her three daughters – Evie (4), Jayda (5) and Callie Mae (7) – had tickets to the show for November 30th, but following the recent recommendations they bought a second set of tickets for Sunday in case the later date was cancelled.

“We decided to get tickets today in case we couldn’t go on the original date. It’s not fair on the kids, they’re after missing out on so much already with school, lessons and dancing,” she said.

“At the start of the lockdown, all of the emphasis was on the kids, people were moving out of your way, it was like they have the plague. I do think the kids are being punished unnecessarily.”

Ms Rattigan asked if children could go to school, matches could continue outdoors and adults could attend nightclubs, “then why can’t children go to a little show when all the precautions have been taken?”

Susanna O’Toole was in attendance with her sisters, nieces, nephews and daughters.

“The show was brilliant. It was lovely, the kids had a ball. I felt safe, everyone had their mask on and it was totally safe,” she said after seeing the production.

“We were glad we got to see it because we were planning on booking the Olympia panto on Stephen’s Day and then when we heard that thing about the under-12s, we said there’s no point in booking it now. You only go for the kids.”

Priscila Centenaro was attending with her seven-year-old daughter Haily, who had never attended a show before.

“This is a classic of Disney. That’s why I brought my little one, so she knows the story. I read to her so this time she can actually see it,” Ms Centenaro said.

Asked if recent advice about children being indoors made her nervous, Ms Centenaro said “not at all”.

“In winter normally everybody gets a cold. It’s just happy days and enjoyment.”

Friends, from left, Mia Sokolwski, Haily Gdowska and Julia Sokolwski from Portlaoise before the start of The Little Mermaid pantomime. Photograph: Tom Honan
Friends, from left, Mia Sokolwski, Haily Gdowska and Julia Sokolwski from Portlaoise before the start of The Little Mermaid pantomime. Photograph: Tom Honan

Peter Sokolwski who attended with his eight-year-old twin daughters said they were there for fun after a very challenging year and a half.

He said he was “absolutely not” nervous about being indoors with his children, despite recent advice from health officials and high daily case numbers.

“I have my vaccination so everything is alright,” he said.

“They’re kids. They’re supposed to be outside. They’re supposed to be playing. They’re supposed to have fun.”

Lynsey Feeney, from Dublin 2, attended with her two daughters, Penny (7) and Priya (5), and their cousins.

Sisters Penny and Priya Feeney before the start of the Gaiety pantomine. Photograph: Tom Honan
Sisters Penny and Priya Feeney before the start of the Gaiety pantomine. Photograph: Tom Honan

“It’s Christmas, we just said we would do something with them before they are locked back up,” she said.

Ms Feeney said she was fully vaccinated and felt she couldn’t keep telling her children they couldn’t do things.

“It is hard when you’re stuck. I live in an apartment and I’ve another baby at home, so the minute it goes dark we don’t move. And now we can’t go anywhere seeing Santa or anything like that,” she added.

Minister for Culture Catherine Martin has announced that extra money will be found if necessary to support those staging pantomimes and other Christmas theatre events that might be affected by the Covid pandemic.

The new scheme, which has €2 million in funding, will open on Monday for venues and producers putting on pantomimes and other Christmas events.

Under this scheme commercial operators will be able to apply for up to 50 per cent of their costs back if the pandemic interrupts the production.

Asked if there has been any clarity on rules around pantomimes over the weekend, a Government spokeswoman said the Nphet advice had been communicated to the Minister and Government in the usual manner.

“Government will consider any recommendations arising at the next Cabinet meeting,” she added.

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