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Home  >>   Different Types of Artificial Flowers

Different Types of Artificial Flowers

Types of ‘Silk Flowers’

Artificial flowers come in a huge range of different fabrics and different grades and the properties of each type of flower are quite varied. If you’ve ever been to Ikea or Poundland then you’ll have seen the low end of artificial flowers and it’s such a shame when people stigmatise them with these. There are so many high quality alternatives and it’s actually quite overwhelming when you consider the permutations. So, we’ve written this guide to educate our customers about the different types of flowers, the grades and properties of each type and the advantages and disadvantages too. We’ll also explain the ways in which we use each type of flower to enhance our product ranges.

Traditionally, fake flowers were made from ‘silk’ and it’s a term that’s stuck through time. These days, the term ‘silk flowers’ has become synonymous for anything that’s ‘artificial’. Silk flowers are not at all popular any more and you really only find them in millinery shops on hats and fascinators. It’s an older technology with fraying edges and hugely varying quality so it’s not what we’d use in our products at all.

With the advancement of new technologies, artificial flowers have come a very long way. These days, artificial flowers are made with a huge range of fabrics from lower grade papery nylons and foams to the higher grade latex, wax coated and polymer based fabrics. New types of artificial flowers are being developed regularly and with each new advancement comes increasing realism in terms of the look and the feel of the flowers. Fresh touch or real touch flowers have taken things to a new level as they are so realistic that even a seasoned florist may struggle to tell the difference. The quality and realism can be truly incredible.

Florist Techniques When Using Artificial Flowers

Florist Working at Silk Blooms, Glasgow

At Silk Blooms, we’ve had over fifty experienced florists come to work for us but traditional florists find it really difficult to adapt and only a handful of the best remain. Using artificial flowers requires much more arts and crafts skills than floristry so it’s more difficult than arranging fresh flowers. Only the very best florists can turn their hand to silk flower work as it requires a lot of additional skills. Essentially, this comes back to what we’ve outlined above; that artificial flowers are all so different in terms of grade and quality. With fresh flowers, you can get away with just bunching stems together and the natural beauty will take care of the rest. With artificial flower floristry you need to be far more selective and a lot more careful in your flower choice. Our florists need to ensure that the quality is right and that the flowers nest well together and look nice. It’s much harder and you need a very keen and discerning eye.

Working with artificial flowers is also more physically demanding. Cutting and bending the thick wire stems is much tougher than snipping through fresh flower stems. Our florists work with bolt cutters, hot glue and power tools but your fresh florists work with a pair of scissors and some tape. It’s really a different game, physically and with over 7,000 weddings each year it is much more mentally challenging too. We have so many deadlines to meet and so many approval photos to take. It’s a very demanding environment here at Silk Blooms.

It takes experience to become a good, artificial flower florist. Knowing how to choose the right mixture of different flowers to achieve the most realistic look takes time and practice. We aim to strike a perfect balance with a mix of different shapes, sizes textures and shades in the flowers which best suit the design we’re creating. Some fabric, some foam and some polymers. We prefer to mix fabrics and styles to maximise the realism of the flowers as the slight shade and shape differences will just make them look really real. It’s a fine art!


Fabric Based Flowers

Silk Flower Choices are Infinite

These are the flowers that most people associate with “silk flowers”. They are similar in so far as they’re made of material but they’re not actually made from real silk. These tend to be manufactured from nylon and polyester based fabrics so they’re similar to the old silk flowers in so far as the edges that fray and the supple nature of the petals. Fabric based ‘silk’ flowers are still the most common type of artificial flower on the market with a huge variety of choice. There are drawbacks to using them but there are advantages too, let’s explore these in more detail, below.

The main advantage of this type of flower is the huge variety and ready availability. These flowers are practically infinite in terms of colour, size, shape and design with a massive choice of roses, lilies, peonies, flora, blossoms, gerberas, orchids and more. There is an enormous selection of fabric based flowers on the market but the quality is also very quite varied so when we use them we are very selective.

Another big plus point with fabric based flowers (silk flowers) is that each flower head is slightly different from the next (just as they are in nature). So, when they’re nested together in a bouquet or arrangement they can look very lifelike and convincing. When the flowers are nested, they press against one another and take on different shapes and sizes, giving extra realism to the each floral arrangement.

Fraying Edges on Silk Flowers

The main drawback with this type of flower as previously mentioned is the tendency for the tips of the petals to fray. It’s an inherent problem with most fabrics if the edges aren’t seamed and almost all silk flowers will have fraying edges.

Another disadvantage of these silk flowers is that they can’t be dyed very easily. Some of the fabrics are impermeable and dye does not take to them so you’re often limited to the colours which are available off-the-shelf.

The weight of these flowers can sometimes take you by surprise as the stems are usually made from raw steel wire with a thick plastic coating. This, combined with the weight of the fabric used to make the petals and the sheer amount of flowers and steel required to make a bouquet means that silk flower wedding bouquets can feel heavy, making them hard to carry the whole day.

In terms of touch and realism, no matter how lifelike these flowers may look, as soon as you touch or feel them you’ll know that they’re fake. These have no fresh-touch realism at all unless they are have been wax or latex coated. Only a very select few silk flowers will have any fine detailing like veins and patterns as the only way to achieve this is with a pre-printed fabric.


Foam Flowers

Better Quality Foam Roses

These tend to be the cheapest flowers on the market but it’s primarily roses which are made from foam. They are very lightweight as they are manufactured by adhering lots of thin foam petals to a polystyrene ball and they can look quite lifelike when they’re mixed in a bouquet. They come in a huge range of colours, sizes and shapes but there are two main grades; colourfast and non-colourfast (so the dye can run if you don’t choose colourfast – we always use these).

The low price is the main advantage of foam flowers, but they are also really easy to work with. They’re extremely durable and very pliable so they’re easy to bend and manipulate into position. The main disadvantage with these flowers is the fact that the underside can look really untidy. The aesthetics of the flower from the side and from below is really poor as these flowers are intended as mixer flowers to go in the middle of arrangements as a cheap way to fill out the space. If you’re using a professional florist like Silk Blooms then they’ll know how to use foam flowers to enhance your arrangements and save you money. Be careful though because some florists over-use them and the end result can be shocking at times!

Another less obvious disadvantage of foam flowers is that every rose in a pack is identical to one another. This can greatly reduce the realism of a bouquet if all the roses are identical. Only a few very select bouquet styles can actually pull this off so be careful when using foam flowers, it’s really difficult to get them looking realistic if they aren’t mixed through with other flower types.

In terms of touch and realism, as soon as you feel a foam flower you’ll know right away that it’s fake. These have no fresh-touch realism whatsoever and you don’t get any printed foam flowers so the petals are featureless and mono toned.


Wax Coated Flowers

Wax Coated Orchids with Detailed Petals

These flowers are often classed as ‘real touch’ as they’re coated in an oily feeling wax that makes them feel a little like skin. Essentially, these are just silk (fabric based) flowers which are coated in a layer of wax. These are much more realistic than your uncoated silk flowers as you will find that manufacturers coat the flowers for one reason – to maximise the realism. Since the objective at a manufacturing level is to make the flowers as realistic as possible, then this is quite often achieved.

Normally, wax coated flowers will have very detailed veins and patterns on the petals and they can be really, really beautiful. When you add the fact that they’re coated in a waxy glazing then you get some of the most realistic flowers on the market. The downside is that they are usually just silk flowers underneath so you do still occasionally see frayed edges!

The price of coated flowers is higher than silk flowers because the base flower is already on the higher quality side to achieve printed patterns but add to this the coating stage and the price is usually two or three times higher than the plain silk counterpart. Because of the price, you tend to find this type of flower in limited supply. This is because UK retailers are not comfortable with the unit price and they tend to carry only a very few different styles. At Silk Blooms we import and manufacture our own range.


Latex Flowers

Latex Moth Orchid with Veins and Intricate Detailing

These are really similar to the wax coated flowers as they have similar properties and so they are also classed as ‘real touch’ flowers. They’re are also coated in an a thin oily wax to make them feel like real petals and they also have very detailed and lifelike patterns. These are slightly better quality than the wax coated flowers because they’re not made from a base later of fabric, they are pure latex. So, you do not get any fraying on the edges of the petals as latex does not fray like silk.

The quality and realism of these flowers are absolutely fantastic and they are getting better and better all the time. The fact that they’re latex means the petals can be made thick and rigid to look and feel like the real tropical flowers like orchids, plumeria, anthuriums, birds of paradise and heliconia. The latex can also be made from really thin and pliable grades that form perfect rose petals that can fool even me!

The downfall with using latex flowers is the lack of variety. Not a lot of wholesalers stock a good range of latex flowers and there’s really a limited selection to choose from. They can also be expensive as the material is not cheap and the moulds required to create each flower part are costly too. It’s an expensive manufacturing process and it’s reflected in the price which might explain the reluctance of most suppliers to import and stock these types of flowers. We manufacture and import our own range of latex flowers.


Fresh Touch Flowers (Polymers)

Fresh Touch, Premium Quality Artificial Roses

These are very similar to the latex flowers, but they are taking realism to another level up. These are made from a blend of foam and latex that feels lovely and soft to the touch and the convincing feel of the petal has earned them the ‘fresh touch’ name that they deserve. Fresh touch flowers are usually the preferred choice when customers are discussing their ideas with us. Even if they are incorporated with a blend of foam roses, they will help bring out the realism of any floral arrangement. However, there are some disadvantages which we touch on below.

Fresh touch flowers aren’t stocked by many suppliers as they are quite expensive to manufacture and import. This has a knock on effect with the price of bouquets and vase displays. It’s like anything in this life and these are a prime example of, ‘you get what you pay for’.  Most florists don’t use fresh touch flowers as they are so highly priced. At Silk Blooms we love them though, we have a huge range and we use them in most of our work.

As with silk flowers, a big plus point with fresh touch is that each flower head is slightly different from the next so just like mother nature intended, they look extremely lifelike. When the flowers are arranged, they sit against each another and take on different shapes and sizes, which coupled with the realism of the fabric just completes the look. They are the most realistic flowers of all.

The biggest disadvantage to fresh touch flowers is their tendency to change colour over time.  This happens through oxidisation from the airflow but it does only happen to the white and ivory tones so the bright colours aren’t affected by this since the pigment in the fabric prevents it.  Sadly, it does mean that white or ivory fresh touch flowers will take on a darker, more vintage tone as they age.

Another slight disadvantage with these flowers is that they’re prone crushing if packed tightly into a box or suitcase. It’s pretty rare and they will eventually come back to their original shape but it’s best not to store them if the petals would crush under their own weight.

After all this being said, we still believe that the plus points of fresh touch flowers by far outweigh the negatives. These are the best quality flower you can buy. If realism is important to you then the extra cost is definitely worth it.


Preserved Flowers

Preserved Flowers in Artificial Flower Floristry

Preserved flowers (also known as freeze-dried) are just fresh flowers which have been placed into a Glycerin compound and left to soak this preservative into their petals. This results in a perfectly preserved fresh flower but the result is quite brittle. They are eternally beautiful though, unchanging in appearance and sure to last forever if taken care of properly.

These flowers are generally too delicate for floristry work. They are very easily damaged and if they’re not handled properly they’re sure to break. We do use a small range of preserved or freeze dried flowers though, just to give just a little extra realism. Artificial (silk) gypsophilia for example can look really cheap and it can totally detract from a floral arrangement, however, we use freeze dried gyp instead and it has the opposite effect and just makes the arrangement look totally convincing.

Surprisingly, a big drawback with preserved flowers is the cost. These are even more expensive than fresh-touch flowers. These are the most expensive flowers on the market.

If you’re conscious of the environment and you want to do your bit to reduce manufacturing processes and waste then preserved flowers are environmentally friendly. They aren’t mass produced in factories as they were just grown as a fresh flower.


Summary

Hopefully this article goes some way to explain the general differences between the different types of artificial flowers out there. We do get a lot of questions asking us to explain the difference in price from one piece to another and the differences in quality, realism and material cost outlined above is primarily the reason. We will discuss price differences in more detail in another article.

Essentially, it’s not always the flowers that make the difference but the florist. If you don’t use a professional who is used to working with artificial flowers then you’re likely to get poor results. Our florists have been working on artificial flower arrangements for years, day in and day out so they know which flowers to use and which ones to discard. Arranging artificial flowers is difficult and you need to have a really good eye for what goes well together. We use a range of flowers from silks, polymers, latex, foam and preserved and we mix them through to achieve the best results with varying textures, shapes and sizes. Silk flower floristry is about maximising realism and it takes a lot of practice.

 

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