Archive | Floristry Courses

It’s All in the Vase – homegrown & handmade

Here I am back in the blogging saddle, with my usual January good intentions. I thought I would focus on a recurring theme that shaped 2016 – the vase– and how it has motivated me to introduce a series of new floristry workshops for the season ahead.

This preoccupation with what to put my flowers in has been bubbling away for a few years now with my attempts to master the potter’s wheel and fulfil my dream of setting up a ceramic studio here at Green and Gorgeous, where I would throw tailor-made vessels to perfectly complement my garden-grown beauties.

This longing was reinforced this year whilst working on a floristry book with Dorling and Kindersley in which I was commissioned to create a series of seasonal vase arrangements (more about that next month when the book comes out maybe…). As we progressed through the flowering months I struggled to find the right shape and finish of vessel to echo my seasonal selections. Instead of feeling compromised by what you can find, wouldn’t it be great if you could design and make that ‘enhancing’ vase, perfect in shape, colour and texture for your arrangement..?

I have always felt that the vessel, vase, container (whatever you choose to call it) is equally as important as the flowers. I guess I have become a little bored of vintage (apart from fan vases of course!), very very bored of jam jars and find the throwaway imports offered at the wholesalers rather depressing. Being a bit of a purist I wanted to explore the idea of everything about the floral design being not only homegrown but handmade….

My quest to throw that vase is ongoing – just before Christmas I spent three days on a residential pottery course at the wonderful West Dean College. For anyone who yearns for a bit of quiet, creative downtime in a gorgeous setting with great food I can highly recommend it. I was so excited by my progress that on my return I went and bought myself a pottery wheel. Now all I need to do is keep practising!

Anyway I am fortunate to also know a very talented potter nearby, Harriet Coleridge, so at the beginning of the year I asked her to make me some footed bowls to use as centrepieces for my wedding work. I recorded the process so you can see the skill and time it takes to make beautifully hand crafted pots. I have collaborated with Harriet for some years now for Artweeks and always enjoy the unique blend of my flowers and her pots.

We decided to go for a stoneware clay which can take a bit of wedding wear with a tin glaze, which is white, shiny and opaque, a good neutral for the florals.

The first step was to throw a bowl the correct shape and size ten times.

Some tools of the trade.

Once these were dried to the leather-hard stage they were ready to be trimmed to get a smooth curved shape ready for the foot to be attached. A bit of cross hatching marks the spot.

The foot is made separately by throwing a short cylinder of clay.

Once attached it is shaped on the bowl. Harriet makes this look easy but I can assure you it takes years of throwing to be so adept at it.

After a bisque firing the bowls are ready to be glazed. This requires a large bucket of well stirred glaze and a pair of tongs.

The finished bowls after their glaze firing, already booked for a number of weddings next year.

The next project for me and Harriet to work on will be to create a vessel for my first ‘All in the Vase’ workshop in the spring. I am imagining a wide, shallow shape to accommodate the fleshy stems of tulips, anemones and Ranunculus perhaps curving in slightly at the top to make arranging a little easier.

I have just put up dates for Summer and Autumn ‘All in the Vase’ classes, each will be quite distinct in the selection of florals and the vessels I source and create for them, if you would like to add to your vase collection and learn how to get the best out of them come and join us.

Spring Florals Class with Jo Flowers

I met Jo Rodwell last summer when she came to the farm with a lovely group of linen-clad ladies on a floral foray with Sarah Winward. After bonding over peachy-coloured roses and poultry I asked if she would like to collaborate on a workshop the following season. She said she would love to, so eight months later here she is again rolling up with a van full of blossom and stone urns.

Credit: Erich McVey

Jo is the mistress of painterly, wild and romantic urn arrangements and enjoys working on large scale designs. ‘Going big’ is often something people lack confidence in tackling so that seemed the perfect topic for the day. We had some old flowery friends come along to join us and some new ones only admired on Instagram before now.,,


We were able to spread out into a beautiful new teaching space for the day, a very old tithe barn soon filled with buckets of blossoming branches and wonderfully long-stemmed Ranunculus from Julie Clark at Hillcrest Nurseries.


Of course I did not want to pick everything myself, because my contribution to the day was to let the attendees loose in the tunnels, field, hedgerow and orchard with a bucket and a pair of snips. I also kicked the day off with a tour of the farm and some tips on growing Spring cut flowers. After a chocolate chip cookie break (recipe courtesy of the fabulous Violet Bakery) we adjourned to the barn to watch Jo Flowers do her magic floral thing, bathed in a shaft of golden light. I love watching other people design with flowers, especially if they are really good, it is surprisingly therapeutic.







Jo worked at a thoughtful, considered pace which gave everyone the opportunity to ask questions  about her philosophy and practice.





Then it was time for one of Ashley’s superb home cooked lunches – Spinach tart followed by Rhubarb Upside Down Pudding were enjoyed whilst sitting in the sunshine.

Fully fuelled, everyone was itching to get start picking, tulips were pulled from the tunnels and the pole lance came out in earnest to grab some choice branches of blossom.






Here are some of the impressive arrangements made by everyone, it always amazes me how different the results can be when visitors use our flowers on any given day.









Huge thanks to Clare West for capturing a wonderful day and for everyone being such a fun group. You can find Jo Flowers’ blog here.



Rachel Siegfried


A Vintage Season

I know it has been an age since my last post, I guess I have been busy with the doing rather than the thinking or writing about it. Anyway, now things have slowed to a respectable part time (!?) pace I have some reflecting and planning to do.

Delphiniums at Dusk

2014 will go down in my memory as a vintage year for growing cut flowers, the weather was almost perfect – come on no farmer ever says perfect! We got off to the earliest start in our 7 years in business with an abundance of spring flowers for Mothers Day.

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Our April and May weddings had plenty to choose from, with June varieties flowering early to close any tricky gaps.

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Rain and wind held off and there was very little damage overall, the flowers just soaked up the sun and bloomed their socks off. At the other end of the season the mild autumn meant further extension of flowering, with no signs of frost for a good month longer than normal.

Fortunately I had plenty of demand to keep the G&G team busy with the cycle of sowing, planting, picking and arranging.

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And there was plenty of subject matter for Clare West whose seasonal photographic diary enabled me to view the garden and flowers with fresh eyes.


There will be more from Clare in the coming months, we are presently planning a flower photography course for next year, so watch this space!  It will be aimed at growers and florists who want to ‘up their game’ with breathtakingly beautiful images for their websites and learn more about how their cameras work.

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Our weddings this year included lots of our popular ‘buckets and bouquets’ option which has urged me to run a new course next year for DIY brides who want to brush up on their arranging skills (DIY Wedding Flowers).

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Speaking of courses I was amazed at the popularity of my two new ones this year – Flower farming for Beginners and Flower Club – it certainly demonstrates a rising trend for local, seasonal flowers whether as a business venture or just for fun.

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I am also toying with the idea of running a monthly practical workshop called a ‘Grow Along’. Attendees will join our team for a half day of hands on seasonal tasks in the cutting garden. There will be tips on everything from propagating techniques, favorite varieties, timings for continual flower, effective watering and feeding, support, best tools and equipment and much more.

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It will be a great opportunity to learn as you grow, whether for profit or pleasure.

Thank you to Clare West for the images in this post.