Archive | Floristry

A Floral Review of 2019

After the rush and blur of Christmas and before the New Year begins, it’s a good time to stop and take stock of all that happened over the past year.

Foxgloves in the Learning Garden at Green and Gorgeous

My review at the end of each year is of course always in flowers –  I like to look back at both the triumphs and the failures. I must confess it is incredible how I struggle to remember it all by the time we get to December. Fortunately taking pictures most days is a great way of record keeping, so I thought I would share a few of my favourite pictures through the season and reflect on what I could tweak to have more triumphs and less failures in 2020. Of course that is with a big caveat – all my knowledge and experience can be scuppered by the increasing challenges of our weather. How to sustain a flower farm with prolonged periods of wet or dry weather putting a lot of stress on the plants is something we are all having to adapt to fast to stay in business. Sustainability will be my keyword for 2020 and ways to keep both myself and Green and Gorgeous thriving.

Our Spring got off to a good start with all of our flowering bulbs doing well just in time for our busiest Mother’s Day ever, which was a wonderful way to open our Farm Gate Sales for the season.

I was really impressed by the outdoor tulips which were just as good as the polytunnel grown varieties. I think planting them in raised beds next to the tunnel meant they benefited from the tunnel’s radiated warmth giving just as good stem length but a longer flowering period. I couldn’t resist planting more in the Autumn so there will be a Tulip class looking at both growing and arranging to make the most of the harvest in April.

The mild Winter and dry Spring meant the plants were stressed and succumbed to the worst infestation of black fly I had ever seen. Flowering shrubs like Viburnum opulus were unusable and the only thing which would remedy it was rain. Thanks to our irrigation system we could keep everything else going and with a decent enough stem length to cut.

The rain finally came and by the bucket load, flowers were picked in full waterproofs and dried off in the greenhouse.

The Sweet Peas flourished in the tunnel, I always find early flowering indoor varieties so much more reliable and longer in flower than the Spencer types which seem to come in to flower just as we get a hot, dry spell. I am considering not growing them next year but it is hard to let go of beauties like this striped variety called Nimbus. I think a position that only receives sun for half the day would make a big difference.

One of the most triumphant flowers of 2019 was the Foxglove, both biennial and the summer flowering Camelot series. Not only were they premium quality but I sold or arranged almost every stem. I can only class something as a success if it ticks both boxes.

I was so excited to see our second rose tunnel come into flower with lots of new varieties to trial buy (not pick – hands off until 2020!).  We will be celebrating with a Rose class in June, as part of our Floral Favourites this year.

Perennials were a big subject this year with an ever-increasing range thanks to visits to specialist plant fairs and plantswomen like Jane Edmonds. They are one of my strategies for creating a resilient and sustainable business, as they are generally more tolerant to weather extremes and of course as I celebrate my 50th birthday next week a little easier to look after and basically less knackering! They will also keep me interested as there seems to be a never-ending list of varieties to discover. If you are interested in learning more I will be running a Garden Masterclass through Gardens Illustrated in July.

Dahlias were good this year and plentiful with 500 in the ground and over 50 varieties. They were at their best for a magazine shoot with Clive Nichols and then an early frost at the beginning of September put a bit of a downer on things. Flower farming really is about the highs and lows (Celsius!) with some hasty covering not really being up to the job.

However, after some brutal cutting back they returned with a final flourish in the last days of summer.

Dahlia drama at the end of the season

To round the season off the Chrysanthemums really did us proud this year, by having them all in the tunnels even the early outdoor varieties they stayed in good condition and allowed me to continue arranging for events right through November. Each year I add to my collection carefully saving the ones I have so I can generate new plants from basal cutting in the early Spring.

All of this beauty and general flower hustle and bustle has helped me through a tough year on the personal front with much bereavement. Thanks to the flowers and my wonderful team and customers I felt enormously supported through it all. I put everything I have into caring for our rather large garden/flower farm and in times of need I know I can step into it and feel that care returned to me.

Best wishes for 2020 and another decade of Great British flowers,

Rachel

 

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!

 

 

 

 

The Flower Book

 

It was about this time last year that I was invited by the publishers Dorling and Kindersley to work with them on a book all about flowers and natural-style floristry.

Their plan was to feature sixty cut flowers through the seasons using their signature portrait-style macrophotography. My brief was to provide all the flowers for these and choose thirty of my favourites to showcase in a series of floral designs.

The schedule was tight with just five months to photograph and write the book. I have always dreamed of writing my own book so I thought this experience would be a useful way of learning about the process. It certainly turned out to be a steep learning curve!

We began work on the book in April, just in time to catch the first wave of spring flowers in the tunnels. Each fortnight the Flower Book team would reconvene here at the farm to shoot what was in flower that week, slowly working our way through the seasons. In my naivety I had not realised there are so many people involved in producing a book – at each shoot there was at the bare minimum the editor, artistic director and two photographers, one of whom was Clare West.  She has been photographing our flowers for the past three years, and is responsible for many of the images on our website, she also teaches a Flower Photography workshop here.

Clare was responsible for the arrangement shots and Gary Ombler for the macrophotography which exposed every hair and grain of pollen in incredible detail. It was quite a job finding the perfect flower for these meticulous images and to see them in this new light was revelatory even after years of spending so much time with my flowers.

The writing was squeezed in during spare moments of a busy growing and wedding season – quite a challenge! It certainly takes discipline although I was writing about a subject I love and know well. The premise of the book is to encourage people to have a go themselves so each arrangement comes with a list of what you will need, my inspiration behind each design and a description of how it was achieved.

Each of the sixty flowers featured also come with advice on what to look for when buying from a florist or flower market, or for those who are able and willing, a few growing tips. There is also information on conditioning, the best way to display them and how to prolong vase life.

I have learnt so much from working on this book namely how to arrange for the camera and how to work with a publisher. It certainly stretched my abilities and patience at times but I am already keen to do another one, this time about growing cut flowers.

I think as a floristry book it is unique in one significant way, every flower bar the Leucospermum and Orchid were grown here on our flower farm, this makes me very proud and just goes to show what is possible.

The Flower Book is now available to buy on Amazon and I will be selling copies here on our courses and in our Saturday shop once the season starts.