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It’s All in the Vase

Last year was our busiest so far for workshops with almost thirty dates fully booked ranging from career courses, collaborations, growing cut flowers at home and floral design.

Pot by Harriet Coleridge

This year I am planning to add to our course repertoire with some new subjects including flower painting, a ‘perennials and woodies’ masterclass and a residential flower farming course in October – more about those in my next blog.

I am also keen to bring back a few tried and tested favorites.

One of the most popular newbie’s of 2017 was ‘It’s All in the Vase’, I came up with the idea for this full day of floristry after working on my book in which I focused on natural style floral designs in about thirty different vessels.

Over the past ten years of working with garden flowers I have come to the conclusion that the choice of the container is equally as important as the selection of flowers and foliage to go in them. I strive to enhance the seasonality, form and colour of the composition with the shape and texture of the vase/pot/jug – it doesn’t matter what you use as long as it is watertight.

This full day of floristry focuses on this principle with three vase arrangements in a range of shapes and sizes aimed for different places in the house.

Harriet Coleridge throwing a footed bowl.

I loved preparing for this course as it meant shopping for vases and even more fun designing custom made pots which meant indulging in one my favorite crafts – pottery. I am just a beginner who can make a pot but not one with any intentional design.

For this I needed to call on the professionals – Harriet Coleridge and Joanna Oliver. Both are local potters who like to work on the wheel using stoneware but their throwing style, glazes and firing methods are very different. Together we designed a series of ‘pots’ which I felt would enhance the colour and form of the materials for each season.

Bowl by Joanna Oliver

Vases, bowls and jugs are already being planned for 2018 and each season will include a hand thrown pot from Harriet and Joanna which is very much a collaboration of their signature style and my input to make sure it works as a vessel for the seasonal gatherings of flowers and foliage. For Spring, Harriet will be making a bowl inspired by a trip to Japan, the perfect shape for holding noodles or in this case flowers with a turned foot in a beautiful, warm, creamy shino glaze.

I am also mindful of how these vases will work in people’s homes, I want then to become a go to favorite for the kitchen table or mantlepiece for years to come.

I had some lovely feedback from people who attended last year’s workshops including a blog by visual storyteller Cristina Colli who attended the Spring class and recorded the day with beautiful photographs of everyone’s work.

As much as I love ceramics we do include other materials include glass and metallics to reflect the different seasons and play with various sizes and shapes – here are a few of my tried and trusted favourites.

There are three dates available this year, one for each season with the first spring date of April 22nd now live on the website. So, if you fancy a day of full floral immersion with lots of ideas on what to grow in your own gardens for cutting, techniques for arranging in a natural style without using florists foam and three beautiful, bespoke vase arrangements to take home, have a look!

 

 

 

 

Reflections and Rejuventation

After a couple of months ‘nesting’ in our new home on the farm it is time to put down the paintbrush and start plotting and planning what we will be getting up to in our tenth anniversary year.

Before I throw myself into seed orders and plans for 2018’s weddings and workshops it is time for some obligatory reflections on 2017 which was a year of fruition.

It kicked off with my book release in February. I felt really proud that all the flowers and foliage (bar the orchids and protea) were grown and arranged here on the farm and I have to admit it is satisfying seeing it nestling amongst some of my favourite books on flowers and gardening in the bookshops.

The Flower Book was closely followed by the first in a six part series in the House and Garden magazine about growing cut flowers through the seasons at home. Beautifully photographed by Eva Nemeth who I hope to work with again this year. It was a pleasure to work with Clare Foster the garden editor on these articles.

The finale was a seven page spread in the June issue of Country Living photographed by Andrew Montgomery a master at capturing the artisan at work…and dogs it seems.

I felt all of these publications reflected a decade of hard work building this flower farm from an excited idea and a name, conjured up on a dog walk, to a thriving business with it’s own identity enjoyed by all of our visitors whether they are a regular Saturday shop customer, a bride or one of our workshop attendees.

Photo by Clare West

Our focus has always been on growing high quality flowers and foliage on a fairly large scale so with that benchmark in mind there are always crops that delight or disappoint each year. I suppose the most important thing I have learned is never to get too disheartened by an apparent disaster, as we have had many and are still thriving. For every flower that gets eaten by something furry or flattened by high winds there will be something else that should be winning first place at the country show for it’s utter perfection.

Flowers that could have been show winners this year included our Ranunculus which included some painterly new varieties from our supplier in France. They were at their best for our annual Wedding Intensive collaboration with the talented duo Becca and Maz of The Garden Gate Flower Company.

Ranunculus table styling

Photo by Imogen Xiana

Infact the two day course was such a success we have decided to run it at the same time this year (April 24th-25th) to hopefully repeat the Ranunculus magic.

The Anemones were also the best I have grown thanks to taking the measure of sterilising the soil in our tunnel which had become rather sickly from the past ten years of intensive growing.

Sweet Peas also had a bumper year with my tunnel of Sweet Pea becoming a popular destination for photo shoots. I much prefer growing Sweet Peas undercover and have found a good selection namely from Japan that cope well with the warmer conditions.

Photo by Clare West

Roses were also surprisingly good, I was plucking up the courage to grub out bushes that had been in for 7 years including my beloved Margaret Merril but she rallied and produced blooms that were so perfect that I was reduced to tears.

There were new discoveries and favourites which there will certainly be more of this year included Phlox drummondii ‘Cherry Caramel’ and ‘Sugar Stars’, Rudbeckia triloba ‘Prairie Glow’, Echinops ‘Arctic Frost’, Zinnia ‘Queen Lime Blush’, Rosa ‘Ash Wednesday’ and Clematis ‘Paul Farges’.

Of course there were disappoints too, an entire tulip crop devastated by a gang of bulb addicted rats, a flattened crop of delphiniums from one wet, windy day in June and my dahlias did not live up to expectation, which I cannot blame on pests or weather. Flower farming is a juggling act and it is easy to drop a ball, which was the dahlia one so I am already making plans to make sure that doesn’t happen this year.

So what can we do better this year? More physical barriers against rodents and rabbits, more weed suppressing landscape fabric for our annuals and galvanised stock netting for our lofty delphiniums are some ideas…

On the plant front I am looking forward to a bumper crop of biennials thanks to an earlier sowing than usual, a couple of hundred new bearded iris and a few new roses and peony varieties. On top of that I am placing another order overseas for some exciting new annual varieties. Our new home has a large garden with lots of opportunity for trees, shrubs and climbers. I have also inherited a large herb garden which will be very useful for all the delicious meals we will be providing for our courses.

So what does 2018 hold ? Well hopefully rejuvenation, we are currently rebranding. The business has come a long way in the past decade and I want our makeover to reflect where we are today with more emphasis on G&G as a learning resource, a place of floral inspiration and retreat.

Photo by Eric Mcvey

I like each year to have a bit of a theme and I think this one will be about flowers in the home, now that I have a house where I can accomodate more than one vase! We have spent the last three months creating lots of posh painterly backgrounds to display our 2018 range of flowers and vases which I am busily creating in my new little pottery studio.

This theme will run through instagram and all of my workshops this year whether it is what to grow to decorate your home, how to choose the right vessel and materials for the room or how to use flowers as inspiration in another art form.

So collaborations are a foot including flower painting with Debbie George and a day of floristry with Shane Connolley. Plans area also in the making for a fully immersive residential course in the autumn, just need to get the bedrooms painted!

I am so lucky to live this flower filled life doing what I love every day and am very grateful that it has been made possible by everyone’s support and custom over the years.

All the best for 2018 x

Palette on a Plate from an English Summer Wedding

When I asked if they had any colour preferences for their wedding flowers, keen foodies Gaenor and Paul presented me with a picture on their phone of an amazing plate of salad…

 

They certainly had food at the top of their list when they chose Michelin-starred Caldesi In Campagna in the village of Bray, Berkshire for their reception celebration.

Their wedding was in June, in the midst of a heatwave, it certainly felt like the hottest day of the year…

Fantastic Foodie Wedding in Bray - Clare West Photography

I was so pleased when they chose Clare West as their photographer, as I knew her love for photographing flowers would mean there would be more than the normal quota of flowery pics and I would get a good idea of how well my flowers stood up to the extreme conditions.

I never guarantee specific flowers for a couple’s wedding day, that would be a dangerous game when you are relying on our unreliable weather to play along. But I always work with colour choices and in this case I had a plenty to conjure up – blue, lilac, pink, peach, coral, oh and of course, green were all on that inspirational plate.

June is the peak flowering time for hardy annuals,  so sweet peas, cornflowers and nigella ticked most of the colour boxes, whilst the annual quaking grass briza added movement and a wildflower meadow feel.

I love arranging with sweet peas –  they come in such a range of colours, are wonderfully fragrant and if picked with some of the vine, create a lush, untamed feel. We grow about 30 different varieties both indoors and out so that they are available from May through till July.

Sweet pea jungle in our tunnel, seasonal British flower grown by Green and Gorgeous

The high temperatures had brought my roses on all at once so they were centre stage in the bouquets and table flowers, providing plenty of scent along with the sweet peas.

Tall spire shaped flowers for the milk churn and church pedestal arrangements were provided by larkspur in an unusual smokey lilac, blush pink delphiniums, peach chantilly snapdragons and a punchy coral penstemon.

These grow to extraordinary heights in our tunnels sheltered from the wind and the rain.

I was pleased to see that even the flower girls crowns stood up to the high temperatures, a testament to using freshly picked, seasonal flowers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And being next to a picturesque stretch of the Thames, the guests were able to have a chance to cool off at the end of a perfect day…