The Flowering Of Fake Flowers

15 Mar.,2023


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As it happens, artificial plants have been respectable in Europe, Asia and Africa since antiquity, but it was not until the nineteen‐thirties that Constance Spry, a prominent London decorator ‐ florist, was persuaded by several New York society matrons—among them Mrs. James Forrestal and Mrs. Ogden B. Mills—to set up shop across the street from the Waldorf. Soon, Constance Spry artificial flowers graced the finest homes, and became not only acceptable, but fashionable, in the upper levels of society.

Even so, artificial flowers did not gain acceptance elsewhere in America, where they have long been considered tasteless, until they were made of polyethylene. Technologically, polyethylene's adaptability to precision injection‐molding processes was a crucial factor.

Its application to plant life was accomplished in 1956 when Lino Bosco, an Italian. A. Fristot, a Frenchman, and John Corelli, an American florist, made the molds for a sevenpart rose. Today the Corham Artificial Flower Company, Corelli's firm in White Plains, N.Y., sells 30 kinds of roses, a 1,200‐part liatris and at least 469 other varieties of blossom. And among his many competitors is Zunino Altman, which employs 10,000 flower‐makers in Hong Kong, requires 250,000 square feet of space to house its inventory and sells some of its output to Woolworth's, reputedly the world's biggest retailer of plastic posies.

WOOLWORTH'S heavy commitment in the market is indicative of just how thoroughly plastic plants have been accepted. Schling, who admits that he uses plastic plants, as well as real ones, in his own home, regards them as decorative, rather than gift, items. He doesn't believe plastic flowers will ever replace real ones, and he blanches at the thought of sending someone a dozen polyethylene roses.

On the other hand, R. T. Rock, president of Constance Spry, Inc., says he has several wealthy and socially prominent customers who give plastic plants as gifts. One of his clients—a Philadelphia manufacturer of railroad equipment —has spent $10,000 over the past three or four years on $150 gift bowls of lily‐of‐the‐valley.

As yet, however, plastic flowers are not much in demand for those two great American status events—weddings and funerals. There is still a definite preference for real flowers (U.S. Department of Agriculture surveys estimate the retail fresh flower market at about $700 million a year—more than half of which is funereal), and even florists who trade heavily in polyethylene greenery would rather sell $5 worth of real orange blossoms than $10 worth of plastic ones.

The New York World's Fair attracted plastic plants as the sun attracts real ones. Its major industrial exhibitors—General Motors, Ford, General Electric, Pepsi‐Cola and CocaCola—invested about $1,000,000 in false foliage, the Coke pavilion leading the way with a $400,000 tractor‐trailer load of jungle, rain forest and Alpine greenery.

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