Journal

Visiting Gardens: Vann Garden, Hambledon, March 2019

Vann Garden in Godalming, Surrey has open days throughout Spring under the National Garden Scheme. It is a treat to find a garden which looks good so early in the year when my cut flower garden at home is only just beginning to show signs of life after Winter. Vann Garden is a celebration of Spring flowers and and I visited on a perfect sunny day.

The garden is fun to explore because you stumble across different areas. Whilst not occupying a large plot of land the space is cleverly used and divided up into ‘rooms’ by a combination of shrubs, trees and topiary. The different levels of the land also help to create these hidden moments and the Garden has a delightful air of secrecy.

Water features heavily - there is a water garden, dell and stream - which increases the variety of plants on display and creates a tranquil atmosphere. The ferns and grasses on the banks of these were looking particularity luscious. In the woodland walk there was a carpet of bright daffodils, dusky hellebores and delicate fritillarias - one of the most impressive collections of the latter to be seen growing wild.

At the centre of Vann Garden is a beautiful period house inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement. The house itself bedecked with rose vines and a trailing clematis armandii which looked magnificent under swathes of blush pink flowers, and the structures low into the garden by way of a pergola. The planting in the formal garden which surrounds the house was inspired by Gertrude Jeckyl and characteristically the borders have a silvery blue sheen. Colour is also used effectively against the red brick of the house.

One of my favourite areas in any garden is always the vegetable patch and Vann has an elegant potager jardin and a large greenhouse. It was here that I met the owner of Vann, Mary Caroe, who with gardening gloves in hand was talking passionately to all her guests about the garden. What an inspiring lady and an inspiring garden.

The beautiful clematis on the period house

The beautiful clematis on the period house

The Woodland Walk

The Woodland Walk

A dainty white fritillaria

A dainty white fritillaria

A view of the house and a spectacular magnolia across the Water Garden

A view of the house and a spectacular magnolia across the Water Garden

The dingley dell

The dingley dell

Dappled sunlight on the formal garden by the Arts and Crafts inspired house

Dappled sunlight on the formal garden by the Arts and Crafts inspired house

Me with one of the gardeners at Vann - also my Mum!

Me with one of the gardeners at Vann - also my Mum!

One of the many enchanting moments in the garden

One of the many enchanting moments in the garden

Another exquisite fritillaria

Another exquisite fritillaria

Visiting Gardens: Polesden Lacey 23rd February 2019

The history of Polesden Lacey under 20th Century socialite Maggie Greville is Great Gatsy-esque. Mr and Mrs Greville bought the manor house in Great Bookham, Surrey, in 1906 and immediately expanded and renovated the property to make it into the stately home we see today. Whilst Ronald Greville tragically died at the young age of 36 in 1908, Mrs Greville went on to become a renown and beloved hostess and transformed Polesdeon Lacey into a famous party house, playing host to royalty and nobility from around the world. Mrs Greville left the property to the National Trust in her will, and they have owned it since 1942.

It was a beautiful day in late February when I visited, and the seasons were on the cusp of changing from Winter to Spring. There was warmth in the sun at last and a light, comfortable breeze, but the sky was still hazy with cold air high above. The house overlooks a spectacular valley and I walked through woods below the rolling lawns of the house down into the dell and across to the fields beyond before winding back up the hill into the formal gardens of the house.

Guests who attended the famous weekend house parties enjoyed outdoor activities, and so it was important to keep the gardens and lawns immaculate. Polesden Lacey had a team of gardeners and a head gardener’s cottage, which is still used today and can be rented as a holiday home! Besides the formal walled gardens including a spectacular rose garden, there is also a vegetable garden and orchard.

The best display on my visit in February came from a border simply burstingwith beautiful Spring flowers - dainty Iris’s in shades of blue and violet, lilac cyclamen, hellebores in antique tones and blooming pure white snow drops. The air was heavenly fragant with scent from japonica, daphne and cherry blossom.

I am looking forward to going back when the herbaceous border and rose garden are a riot of intoxicating Summer colours.

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Themed Weddings

I was in my element designing and making the flowers for a wedding on the 29th December at Northbrook Park. It was a wonderful combination of elegance and decadence, befitting of the stately venue, but with a playful theme of Beauty and the Beast for the table centres.

The bride chose beautiful winter colours - rich burgundy, dusky pink, blue/grey eucalyptus - and wanted a cascade bouquet focusing on dark roses and calla lilies with berried eucalyptus. I also incorporated scabiosa stellata for texture and pheasant feathers as a feature, these also being used in the magnificent mantelpiece display above the lit fire in the ceremony room. It was a delight to design and to make!

The table centres were each unique and incorporated a prop from Beauty and the Beast. I used vintage books stacked on a log base and moss to bring the fairytale to life. I arranged the flowers in the prop where I could - the tea cup, tea pot, tankards contained posies of flowers, the candlestick and antlers had trailing ivy - whilst other tables had gold bottle containers to augment the arrangement. The tables were harmonised by the addition of a gold candlestick and burgundy candle.

The top table had a long table runner complete with roses, gold fern and fronds of pine cones, again evoking a magical display of colour and nature.

The mantelpiece arrangement which was 6 foot across

The mantelpiece arrangement which was 6 foot across

The top table swag

The top table swag

One of the table centres which used tankards

One of the table centres which used tankards

Once of the table centres which used flowers in a teacup

Once of the table centres which used flowers in a teacup

Thank you Felicity! Everything was AMAZING! Better than I imagined! Thank you so much!! I truly loved all of it !
— The bride, Tahira

Secretts Workshops raise £500 for charity!

I ran a fortnight of wreath-making workshops at Secretts of Milford. Overall a total of 50 people attended the morning and evening sessions and successfully made their Christmas wreaths, fuelled by mince pies, prosecco and of course my hilarious chat.

I am proud to say that my workshops raised £500 for local charity the Hunter Foundation which cares for people with dementia. It was such a worthwhile cause and a lovely thing to be able to raise money for them in the run up to Christmas when are reminded about the importance of caring for each other a little bit more.

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I went to see the foundation to deliver the cheque

I went to see the foundation to deliver the cheque

Class of Christmas 2018

It may only be November but I have been working like a Christmas elf making Christmas wreaths and running workshops!

I had a brilliant evening at the Weyside Inn in Guildford making wreaths with a group of 10. Fuelled by Christmas songs and prosecco everyone was quick to learn how to attach the foliage and the wiring techniques to make the decorations.

I had pre-made a moss base for each person but gave a quick demo of how to make one whilst the food and drink was served. Then in was plates away, drinks off the table and time to attack the huge branches of noble fir stationed around the room, cutting it into ‘fingers’ and ‘hands’. We used noble fir to provide the main coverage for the wreaths and added variety with holly and bay, then decorated the wreaths with dried orange, lime and apple slices, cinnamon stick clusters, pine cones, beautiful pheasant feathers and a luxurious festive bow.

There were some very good and very considered designs and each was unique. I heard back from several people that their wreath was the envy of their friends, and I’m not surprised.

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A rare picture of me in action!

A rare picture of me in action!