Archive | Floristry

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


The Cultivated Palette Series – Hellebores


I have been cutting back the old leaves on my Hellebores this week followed by a quick weed and mulch. My favorite tool of all time the Japanese Razor Hoe does a great job at getting all those pesky weeds out that like to colonize around the crown of the plant.


I don’t think they have enjoyed this mild winter, there is a lot of black spot around so I think a good mulch will help keep the spores from being splashed up on to the emerging flowers.


Hopefully in a months time they will be looking something like these which were photographed in March last year by photographer Clare West. We got together a few times last year and focused on just one flower on each occasion, so I thought it would be fun to share these beautiful images with you over the coming months in a series of blog posts called The Cultivated Palette. I will include lots of growing tips and recommendations for sourcing stock plants and seeds and I will share some thoughts on why I choose to include them in my ‘palette’ of plants for cutting.


I am going to have another go at hand pollination next month. I will have to select a mother and father plant from each variety, based on stem length, good flower shape and general vigor. This Harvington double pink is a good example, the plant has formed a big clump relatively quickly with long stems and well you can see heart-breakingly beautiful flowers.


So on a sunny day I will set aside ten minutes and go to my Hellebore bed armed with a pencil and some odds and ends of yarn. Firstly I rub the end of the pencil over the anthers of a fully open flower on the father plant, then I will select an almost open flower bud from the mother plant and tie a little bow of yarn around its neck.


It is important that no others pollinators have been there first. I then transfer the pollen from the pencil to the stigma.



That is all you have to do until the seed ripens around the end of May, the shiny black seeds should be collected and sown on a loam based, gritty compost whilst nice and fresh. They do take a few months to germinate, so keep the seed tray in a cold frame and hopefully by September you will start to see some signs of life.


All my hellebores were bred by Hugh Harvington whose nursery Twelve Nunns, now run by his daughter Penny Dawson in Lincolnshire, has recently been featured in the January edition of RHS magazine The Garden. They do supply wholesale plug plants, as long as you order ten or more of a variety, they can be potted up and grown on for a season before planting out. Harvington hellebores have a purity of colour which I find very useful for my wedding work. This one below is Harvington single smokey.


Hellebores are an investment but I cannot resist them, I think they add a subtlety to the more flamboyant and bold spring bulbs and have a good long harvesting period from February to April. Once you grow your own from seed you realize why they are expensive, it takes two years from pollination to the first flower.


I have found the double forms hold better so I have just placed an order for some more including blush, apricot and double speckled cream…yum! I am establishing a new bed under a line of mature beech trees which should give them a bit of shade in the summer months.

Vase life can be rather fleeting especially before they start to set seeds. I don’t think searing the stems does make much difference, but scoring a line down either side of the stem and then plunging the stems in a deep bucket of water up to their necks overnight seems more successful. I have to confess most of mine are picked in April when my season is in full swing, they are very ripe by then and happily hold for up to two weeks.

The next instalment will be on Anemones which I have just started picking, the earliest harvest recorded here at G&G.


Blogging Backwards

After falling somewhat behind with the blog this year I have decided to catch up over these quieter winter months starting with the latest news and working backwards.

The reason for this retrospective is that it has been another incredibly productive and creative year in which I have experienced new flower varieties, projects and flowery people. All of this has been well documented with more breathtaking pictures by Clare West and I had pleasure of two other photographers capturing the farm with Eric McVey visiting for the Creative Process Workshop in August and Mark Lord in September.


So starting with Autumn which is usually my ‘burnt out’ season when I am not as productive and inspired as I would like to be. Always a shame as it is probably the best time to create the really wild and ‘grown in’ arrangements that I love. So, this year I decided to prolong the marathon of growing and arranging all the way through October and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. It felt like I had a whole new palette of plants to play with.


Our bountiful orchard and the native hedgerows surrounding the plot provided plenty of fruiting branches of sloe, hawthorn, damson, crap apple and pear to give scale to the larger arrangements. Dahlias in colour-coordinated patches made any bride’s preference possible although everyone seemed to be drawn to the coppers, creams and peach varieties.


Texture and variety is easily achieved by the end of season with a good selection of berries in every colour provided by a large purchase chez Kolster a couple of years ago and lots of half hardy annuals looking pristine undercover in our tunnels.


There will be more on what we were growing, picking and arranging in my next post which will include a beautiful early morning shoot of the G&G team on a busy Friday in September, photographed by Mark Lord.


The end of the season was rounded off by a trip to Japan to enjoy the ‘fall’ colour in the strolling, tea and dry gardens of Kyoto, Kanazawa and Okayama and whilst hiking a bit along the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route.


I would love to add Japanese maple to my long wish list of things to grow but my alkaline soil and exposed site would not be to their liking.


We saw a wholly different world of Chrysanthemum varieties carefully pruned and trained, in some cases even bonsaied. I have had a couple of years off from growing them but I will definitely be back on board in 2016.



Of course a lot of our time was spent exploring gardens and seeking out flowers but we did still find plenty of time to enjoy discovering the food, textiles, pottery, hot springs and overall otherness of Japan.


The warm weather and refreshingly polite and friendly people was an added bonus. I am now smitten and am already thinking about returning next year to learn more about this fascinating country and it’s appreciation of natural beauty.


I have had Japan on my wish list for a long time after researching Japanese garden design whilst working on a hospital courtyard garden. The principles of design I learned then are reflected in their approach to floristry. The Japanese aesthetic of asymmetry and ’empty’ space are essential to composition, creating a ‘wildness of nature’. The sense of harmony between the plant materials, container and setting and the emphasis on greens are all principles I would like to incorporate into my work.

So I signed up to a class at the Ohara School of Ikebana in Tokyo. It was an amazing coincidence to find myself sitting next to Chickae of Okishima and Simmonds! Her Japanese heritage coupled with a few classes already under her belt got me thinking about an Ikebana themed collaboration next year….



The lesson was based on Basic Hana-isho, which is a beginners form of Ikebana. We worked with an impressively large pinholder, called a kenzan in a shallow container and just five stems of shooting hydrangea and bouvardia which we used to create two compositions – the rising and inclining form. Stems are always positioned in a line as I think it is intended to be viewed from one angle.

So Japan has left me with a yearning to return, a lot of large Kenzan, a long plant list and a strong desire to make my own vases….looks like I am going to be busy.




On 27/11/2015 07:39, Rachel Siegfried wrote:

Blogging Backwards