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Green Acre #218: Real Thoughts About Fake Flowers

LittleBird “Stephanie Gardens” champions artificial flowers in her window boxes and elsewhere outdoors. Her affection for them does not extend to their use in the house. / Photo by Stephanie Cavanaugh.

I’M SITTING at the dining table staring at a milk jug filled with peonies in full bloom. They are fake. 

The jug appeared on the kitchen counter a few days ago, along with a clay pot with a live plant I suspect is Mexican heather; a little leggy but healthy enough.  

My Prince found the pot of heather on our front steps. I don’t know who left it or why. It’s like an offering and I feel honored. Plants do find their way here. Our good friends Robert and Judith brought a planter filled with geraniums when they came to dinner Sunday night. They decided they’re done with their Country French in the Courtyard concept and so the flowers are mine. 

The fake peonies—one full-blown white, three pink and a pink bud—are another matter. 

The Prince and I are scavengers, magpies picking up sparkly stuff—though our street taste is exceptional, if I say so myself. Among the finds: several fine Oriental rugs, Limoges coffee cups, a fanciful wrought-iron bistro set and a Downton Abbey library of a leather club chair. That last was actually retrieved on a trip to the city dump;  A truck bed of trash was left, the chair came home. 

When you live in a fast-paced city like Washington, where life transitions can be abrupt, treasures are left on the street with some frequency. Also, when you’ve been doing this for 40 years you can be very fussy about what you pick up. 

The peonies are another story. The Prince found them on a walk to Eastern Market, bringing them home to me like a cat with a dead bird. It’s one thing when Aunt Elphaba presents you with a horror of a vase.  You smile, thank her and stuff it in the closet—in case she visits. It’s another when . . . well. 

Have you picked up on how much I dislike those peonies? Sorry, my sweet, I know you’re reading this, but please no. No fake flowers inside the house. 

Outside is another matter – and perhaps I’m responsible for the confusion. There’s a sprinkling of fake geraniums in the upper window boxes when nothing is in bloom, and a six-foot fake banana tree tucked in a corner of the back porch. I’ve been known to wire fake lilies to stems of plants when flowers die, and spray-paint astilbe when their blossoms fade to brown.

I consider this to be garden trompe l’oeil, a surrealistic tease for the eye to make you smile. There’s nothing magical about fake flowers inside the house. Unless the place is on the market and they’re used for zero-maintenance decoration, please no.  

They certainly should never be sitting two feet from your nose on the dining room table, where you can’t avoid the artificial sheen of the leaves, the slight fraying of the flower’s fabric edges. Most of all, the sad scentlessness. 

Please, my love, I appreciate the thought, but take them away. 

—Stephanie Cavanaugh

LittleBird “Stephanie Gardens” is, let’s face it, a snob about fake fleurs.

2 thoughts on “Green Acre #218: Real Thoughts About Fake Flowers

  1. Just planted 150 in the backyard, Jean (plus pansies and big fat allium).

  2. Jean Gordon says:

    Real tulips look fake so fake tulips are not bad in a pinch. but I agree nothing like the real thing…..they need care but the rewards are great.

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