Archive | Weddings

A Year in Flowers by Erin Benzakien


'A Year in Flowers' by Floret

Last week I flew out to Arizona for a short stay. I hate flying and would love not to, particularly now with the very real fear of what climate change is doing to our planet, but half my family live there so it’s tricky. Anyway, the 11 hour flight was made far more bearable by Erin Benzakien’s of Floret Farm’s gorgeous new book called ‘A Year in Flowers’.

Firstly I have to say Erin and her husband Chris (who has done all the photography) never cease to amaze me. They began their business around the same time as me and have been a constant source of encouragement, inspiration and knowledge over the years. So I knew I was in for a treat when I opened up the book, I literally read it cover to cover, pouring over every page whilst stroking them because the images are so beautiful (my phone snaps not doing them justice here) !

Erin’s first book focused on growing seasonal cut flowers, whilst this one is all about designing with them. It is packed full of practical design techniques, resources and a visual library of flower and foliage varieties to grow.

Not only is it a feast for the eyes but a valuable teaching tool if you are interested in learning a fail-safe way to arrange in a natural style with a step by step guide to a number of different types of arrangements .When I got home from my trip I had a go with the beautiful footed bowl from ‘Oh Flora’ that was included in my goodies box from Floret.

The emphasis on foam free, sustainable solutions was really helpful and it is heartening to see suppliers coming up with ‘floral mechanics’ beyond the ball of chicken wire.  I particularly liked the floral frog Erin included in her favourite ‘flower-related tools and supplies’. This is by Floral Genius and allows you to insert stems at any angle – I tried out in the arrangement above and it works brilliantly. Where to source all of these is in the back of the book although I wish we had something similar to these companies in the UK.

Erin is the queen of trialling and selecting cut flower varieties and here the book excels. The materials she has selected are shown both in arrangements, in the garden and as a flat lay so you get a very good idea of their character, sense of scale and how they work with other materials. Each has it’s own category – structural, supporting, textural, focal and airy, which I think helps to make intentional choices about what to grow so that you have a good balance of materials to cut.

We are planning an acre of shrubs and trees to go in this Autumn and my list is now a lot longer!


Lastly I would like to say how much I enjoyed reading the back story to Floret and how Erin became a floral designer. I think many of us flower farmer/florists can identify with her journey and it is heartening to see what can be done with determination, a huge amount of work and of course quite a bit of talent.

Congratulations to Floret and the team for making it onto the New York Times Bestseller list this week!


Erin & Rachel

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…




The Friday Buzz – getting ready for a summer weekend


During the season Fridays tend to be rather frenetic with weddings to arrange and flowers to be picked for our Saturday shop, last minute pick ups and arrangements to be made for all the Saturday goings on and of course there are still the plants themselves that need looking after.



I am fortunate to have a more than capable team of both growers and florists to help me make all of this work possible in just one day.



Back in September I had the pleasure of being visited by photographer Mark Lord who was keen to record all these activities and capture a few good animal shots at the same time.


I first noticed Mark’s work whilst looking at Waterperry Garden’s website where he spent the last two years capturing some sublime images of their gardens, flowers and gardeners. Mark has both a garden photography blog in which we appear and a website for his wedding and portrait work.


I have to confess I particularly like his animal portraits and I am always keen to get my whippets photographed as much as possible!


Mark arrived bright and early which is always the perfect time lighting wise to photograph the garden but perhaps not my most attractive hour – oh well, as ever the flowers must come first!


We always pick for a Saturday wedding on a Thursday apart from some of the key blooms, in this case dahlias and roses which I want to look as ‘vital’ as possible.


So my first job is selecting specific flowers for the bouquet work. I am a bit of a control freak when it comes to picking roses and unless I am really up against it always cut those precious blooms myself, despite the thorns it is a job I savor.



Everyone else is sent to the field to ‘walk the line’ as we affectionately call our 100 metre long dahlia row. Flowers are picked into our trusty dutch buckets which we buy in from Holland by the pallet load. Once back at the packing shed they are conditioned and stored in our walk in chiller.


A coffee break….followed by lots and lots of floristry……


Lucy and ‘Scratch’ are on buttonhole duty and I take up my usual spot at the bouquet table.


I have quite a structured approach to making bouquets especially when there are multiple bridesmaids. Each bouquet has a bucket in which the prepared ingredients go into, that way I can ensure everyone has their fair share and all the arrangements are consistent.


Once assembled I tie them off with raffia which will be replaced in the morning with tape and silk ribbon, this helps to loosen them up and achieve the wild, ‘grown in’ look I am after.


Ash brings in the Saturday shop haul from the field in our back-saving harvesting buggy – it’s saved us a lot of walking this year. Looking like it originates from a pre-atomic era, it is a lot of fun to drive and there’s space for a lucky passenger. The one wheel at the front results in a nifty turning circle and it makes quick work of harvesting, essential on hot days.


Everything Ash and I do is centered around my mantra ‘minimum effort maximum results’ with six acres to cultivate and seventy weddings to supply and arrange it is the only way to make it work.


I am working on a new series of full day floristry workshops at the moment, some I hope will be collaborative and all will focus on capturing the essence of each season. I plan to release the dates in the New Year with my next blog post.


Talking of seasons I have always claimed to be a Spring girl, I love the freshness of everything and I guess I feel pretty good at the beginning of the season too. But I am becoming increasingly fond of the end of the season when there is a lot more to play with in both our cutting fields and beyond on my regular dog walks.