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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!





Making the Cut….in House and Garden


It was this time last year whilst pruning the roses that I got a call from Clare Foster, garden editor for House and Garden. She asked if I was interested in working with her on a 6 month series about growing flowers for cutting – each issue would be filled with information about what to grow for a continual supply of flowers for the house from April through to September, which are the best varieties for cutting, when and how to complete tasks and ideas for how to arrange what you have produced .

The garden photographer Eva Nemeth had been commissioned to work on the images and over the next few months she paid regular visits to the farm to capture the rapid succession of horticultural tasks, flowers, floral designs and created some gorgeous flat lays to illustrate my favourite seasonal pickings. Eva took so many beautiful images that I thought it was a shame not to show more of them in a blog to run alongside each monthly installment. It also seemed like a good opportunity to talk a bit more about what we get up to throughout the season.

April is often considered the start of the cut flower growing season but I find March a more realistic month to get started. There is plenty of cutting back and pruning to do if you are growing perennials, shrubs and roses for cutting. These will all need a good mulch afterwards with well rotted manure or compost. It is important to get this job done earlier before buds start to break into leaf and new growth starts to sprout from the ground.

I tend to do most of my perennial and shrub planting in March. There is plenty of moisture around for the roots to get established before the warmer months.

I always earmark my older more congested perennials for lifting and dividing at this time, this year the focus is on my large collection of phlox, I am saving this job for the attendees on the Propagation Masterclass who will be taking some healthy clumps home with them.

March is also when things start to get busy in the greenhouse. If you are lucky enough to have one it is a good time to sow a whole host of annuals (both hardy and half hardy) plus perennials which you would like to see flowering in their first year. I grow many of my favourite perennials from seed including scabious, Eryngium, delphiniums and Achillea, it saves a lot of money and is many germinate varieties germinate very easily. Sowing will continue into April with some of the hardy annuals that dislike root disturbance being sown directly outside.

Just as things start to get busy with growing tasks it is time to start picking all the flowering bulbs that were planted between September and November.

The Anemones are in flower first and once they start they come thick and fast, producing stem after stem from each corm. To find out more about how to grow them have a look at my post here.

The tulips follow close behind, I pull them  and lift bulbs and all, clearing the bed as I go for the next crop – more about growing tulips in my cultivated palette series here.

Narcissus are flowering in our field and in my pots, I love showing off the more delicate varieties this way and I find they last longer in a pot than tulips.

To accompany all these spring beauties April is an ideal time to go foraging, I cut from our surrounding native hedge and orchard, carefully selecting the branches that will create the shape I want in my arrangements. The emerging leaves of hazel and hawthorn accompanied by blossoming branches are my favourites.

No April arrangement would be complete without a hellebore or two, by now they are setting seed and this ripening gives them a much longer vase life.

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.