Artificial flowers aren't for everyone. For many, they still conjure up images of plastic fakery - you know the kind of thing.....countless grave yards across the country are a prime example of how unrealistic and tacky they can be, but don't dismiss them just yet.

In recent years the artificial flower and plant industry has evolved dramatically.

Some of the better quality artificial and silk flowers available today are so realistic that it's almost impossible to visually distinguish them from the real thing. Even on touching some of them, it isn't always instantly obvious that they're artificial and I for one have been persuaded by their beauty and realism.

It's still very difficult to find really good examples and as I won't settle for anything less, I tend to be an opportunistic buyer. All of my purchases have been made while I've been shopping for other things. Unless you're already aware of a good quality supplier of artificial and silk flowers I wouldn't recommend going shopping with the sole intention of finding realistic-looking products - you'll probably just end up trawling the shops and still be disappointed. Myself, if I accidentally stumble upon a flower or plant that's so realistic I have to touch it to be absolutely sure it isn't real (and I have a bit of money to spare) I buy it there and then. It allows me to have all year round flowers on display despite our unpredictable seasons and, yes, it's cheating but so is the colour of my hair.

Plants and flowers around the home can lift the spirits - particularly on grey miserable days. If you're a hay-fever sufferer, artificial flowers can be an absolute God-send if you yearn for the visual beauty of flowers around you.

Of course the dead give-away for even the most realistic looking of silk or artificial flowers is perfume - or lack of it to be precise - but this can be addressed using essential oils. I adore lovely perfumes and scents around me and around my home and I use numerous ways of achieving this, so it was a natural progression for me to use what was already in my essential oil cupboard to add perfume to my 'flowers'.

In some cases it's possible to be absolutely authentic when choosing which oil to use. For instance, my lavender spray looks, and now smells, so authentic that people just assume it's real lavender. This little vase of lavender sitting on my upstairs window-cill wafts its perfume down the stairs and it's lovely. There are other varieties of artificial flower that it's possible to authenticate precisely perfume-wise, such as roses, geraniums, jasmines, chamomiles etc..... these essential oils are readily available.

But there are some beautiful flowers that don't possess a detectable scent, or even smell a little unpleasant, and so it's not really possible to be authentic in your choice of essential oils. Nevertheless I prefer not to waste the opportunity to use essential oils here also, as a way to freshen the area or me a much prettier alternative to plug-ins.

Lillies are particularly beautiful visually but I find their scent so unpleasant. However the main reason I don't buy real lillies is because they're extremely toxic to my cat but there's no reason why an artificial lily, or any other flower, can't be scented. Just try to be a little discerning about which oil to use....I quite often use chamomile oil or mandarin oil on delicate looking 'flowers' because they have quite gentle, subtle aromas. Try to choose an oil which 'matches' the appearance of the plant or flower....don't choose a very potent essential oil for a delicate looking flower, and vice-versa - for a strong vibrant looking artificial flower, if you can't find the actual essential oil required choose the oil of an equally vibrant flower.

Artificial flowers and plants can also be scented with 'practical' essential oils. For example, during hot weather - if we ever get any that is - an artificial plant or flower sitting in front of an open window and laced with an insect deterring essential oil. Lavender or even citronella (admittedly, a very strong aroma but still much pleasanter and less harmful than fly spray) may help to reduce the number of flies willing to enter your house.

During episodes of illnesses such as colds or mild coughs, a 'plant' laced with rosemary or eucalyptus can provide relief or ease of symptoms by permeating the air unseen.

A word of caution though, be very careful where on your 'flower' you place your oil - avoid the flower petals as the oil may damage or stain them. I normally use the leaves if appropriate, or the stems themselves if I think it's safer. If you're really worried stick to the very lower part of the stem which is inside the vase and therefore not visible - or as a last resort rub a little oil around the inside rim of the vase itself.

Of course real flowers can never be replaced and I'm not suggesting for one moment that artificial is 'better'. However, they can be a useful addition and, for some, the only alternative to the real thing.

It's possible now to buy really tasteful looking products which are an enhancement, rather than an embarrassment, to your home :)



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