The Enchanted Forest

I had a go at making this beautiful enchanted forest centrepiece with the Sussex Flower School. Such a treat to make!

The structure of this arrangement is similar to a topiary tree with the ‘trunk’ wrapped with flat moss. I used eucalyptus, pistache and ivy to create the round shape before placing the flowers which are slightly recessed.

The flowers I have used are lilac, blush and apricot coloured roses, pink dahlias, white hydrangeas, cream astilbe and ivory lisianthus - the combination was magical!

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Autumnal Memorial Wreath

I made an Autumnal memorial wreath for my Granny’s grave which we visited on the weekend of her birthday in September. Sadly Granny passed away 3 years ago and her grave is in Worcester so we only visit a couple of times a year now that we don’t have any ties to the place.

The wreath is moss-based on a woven willow frame.  My aim for the wreath (besides it looking lovely) was to make the whole design biodegradable so that once we’d left it the wreath would continue to look nice as it dries out and will then disintegrate into the ground. I have included pictures below showing the different stages involved in making a sustainable wreath.

I used Autumnal foliage to cover the moss choosing bushy pieces which would create a 3D effect. I love using maple at this time of year as the leaves are changing colour to a deep burgundy and it has lovely bouncy seed-heads which are great for jumping out of a wreath or any arrangement which needs depth. I also like using oak because it lasts well out of water and ivy for the same reason and that it currently has beautiful bright green flower heads blooming.

When picking the flowers I followed a vintage colour scheme and used small flowers which will last well out of water and dry nicely.  After covering the moss with foliage I put in the red berries – hawthorn and rose hips – and then the flowers – dahlias which were only just open, everlasting flowers, statice, zinnias and a small amount of tanecetum. I used clematis to fill in any gaps at the end to give the wreath a uniform shape; again I find the fluffy seed heads great for making an arrangement 3D and adding a real contrasting foliage.

I think Granny would have loved it :)

Beautiful long branches of willow to form the circle for the wreath

Beautiful long branches of willow to form the circle for the wreath

Moss secured around the willow frame with twine

Moss secured around the willow frame with twine

Autumnal foliage covers the moss and provides the 3D shape for the wreath

Autumnal foliage covers the moss and provides the 3D shape for the wreath

Red berries and long-lasting flowers added in a colour scheme of green, peach and burgundy

Red berries and long-lasting flowers added in a colour scheme of green, peach and burgundy

Brand promotion through floristry

The right flower arrangements can do a lot to promote your brand. Not only does a floral display on a pop-up stall or in a shop window attract the attention of potential customers, but it can also reinforce your brand image and reflect the ethics of your company.

A friend who has set up Farnham-based Nibbs Gin asked me to create a natural, wild display for for their pop-up stand at a gin festival.  Nibbs wanted me to use foliage, nuts and berries to reflect the Surrey and Sussex countryside where they source the elderflowers from to make their trademark cocktail gin (which is delicious by the way).

For the small arrangements in bottles I used elderberries, ivy, fern, clematis, beech nuts, gyp to mimic white elderflowers and sprigs of rosemary and mint for the fragrance. In the centrepiece I used beech, oak, maple and hawthorn branches to create the shape and I love the fact that at this time of year you can find nuts, acorns, keys and berries on this foliage.  Ivy, fern and clematis was useful to create the 3D shape of the arrangement and finally I added the detail of rosehips, vibernum, snowberries and dried seed heads.

As well as a table display I’ve found that an effective way of drawing attention in a room full of trade stands is to have something visible above the heads of crowd and I achieved this with the aid of the “Nibbs Gin” sign.  I used sheaf-style bouquets, brightened with gyp and red berries, to create an asymmetric frame around the sign and trailed ivy and clematis down the vertical pole.

Companies which market themselves as natural or wholesome lend themselves to a beautiful display of foliage and seasonal British flowers, whilst more exotic flowers can be used for fashion brands who want to promote a certain culture, era, trend or style. Flowers can be emotive and certain flowers have meaning, an obvious example being roses symbolising love or poppies for remembrance. Admittedly I had to do some research into this but you might be interested in the meanings of some flowers currently in season available: dahlias mean forever thine, zinnias thoughts of absent friends, achillea is supposedly a cure for heart ache, asters symbolise daintiness, chrysanthemums abundance and wealth, sunflowers haughtiness and hydrangeas say thank you for understanding…

Restaurants have a variety of table centres to choose from to create the right atmosphere. I think that a single rose looks elegant on a couple’s dinner table, a vintage jam jar is fun for a group having brunch, and a jug of seasonal flowers sets the scene on the bar of a country pub.

Flowers really can say a lot about the values of your business and create the right ambience for your customers. I’m looking forward to designing a new display for Nibbs when they launch their next flavour of gin.

Luckily set-up was before the gin tasting began!

Luckily set-up was before the gin tasting began!

Nibbs’ natural look couldn’t be better reflected than in this wild backdrop

Nibbs’ natural look couldn’t be better reflected than in this wild backdrop

Visiting Gardens: Munstead Wood 31st August

I was lucky enough to be invited on a tour of Munstead Wood, former home of garden designer Gertrude Jekyll, and the experience was an absolute treat. Not only did I learn about the characteristics of an archetype English Cottage Garden and the Wild Gardening style but also about Gertrude Jekyll herself who I find an incredibly inspiring woman.

I admire Gertrude Jekyll as a garden designer and also as a successful businesswoman who forged her way in 20th century male-dominated society.  Jekyll purchased the 15-acre plot for Munstead Wood garden in 1882 and designed the gardens and outbuildings leaving a space for the main house which was designed by Edwin Lutyens and completed in 1897 to meet Jekyll’s requirements to be able to run her business.

As Jekyll’s home from 1897 to 1932 Munstead Wood was a commercial venture rather than just a show garden. Jekyll’s clients would be shown around the formal garden in which Jekyll would trial her latest ideas for design, and this area was supported by a reserve garden, nursery, potting shed and greenhouses. Jekyll would also sell plants grown in the reserve garden and operated a cut flower business from the house. Besides income from horticulture, Jekyll received rent from letting out the properties in Munstead Wood and regular income from publishing books, newspaper columns and photographs – Jekyll specifically asked for the house to have a dark room for developing photographs. I find her hard work ethic, entrepreneurship and passion inspiring, especially as I am on the cusp of my career as a florist and determined to make a success of it.

You can see Jekyll’s artistic background in her garden design which harmonises colour and texture, and each area of the garden feels like a separate composition. Interestingly, many of the plants choices made by Jekyll which have come to define the English Cottage Garden style were influenced by her travels abroad. Jekyll was practical in her planting, using species she knew would survive in sandy or dry soil, for example, from the time she’d spent in Algeria and Levant.

Elements of Jekyll’s garden design which I would love to recreate are growing plants in walls, trailing rose plants down through large trees such as ivy and hawthorn and also using foliage with blue and silver tones in borders. I am also going to trying out some ‘wild gardening’ techniques such as planting in drifts and allowing plants to spill onto paths (something I have inadvertently been trying out already..!).  Now all I need is a few spare acres to plant my own ‘decorative woodland’ with giant rhododendrons, ferns, gorse, and carpets of daffodils in Spring – pure heaven!

Jekyll’s detailed plan for planting a border

Jekyll’s detailed plan for planting a border

The border has been designed with ‘hot’ colours in the foreground and ‘cool’ colours towards the far hedge

The border has been designed with ‘hot’ colours in the foreground and ‘cool’ colours towards the far hedge

Jekyll was the first to use trailing plants growing horizontally to create a swag or curtain of foliage

Jekyll was the first to use trailing plants growing horizontally to create a swag or curtain of foliage

The house designed by Lutyens

The house designed by Lutyens

Visiting Gardens: West Green House Opera Garden 24th August

I was lucky enough recently to visit the Opera Garden which sits in the grounds of West Green House in Hampshire. As the name suggests, the garden plays host to year-round events including an opera season, open cinema and dinners. The garden itself is open to the public during the day.

The Opera Garden is made up of several mini gardens which experiment with a host of designs and come into their own at different times of year. I began my tour in the chicken pavilion with its elegantly cut topiary, then entered the walled garden, went through the moon gate into the water garden, wove my way around the towering trees in the wild garden, admired the tranquil ponds of the paradise garden, meandered through the garden of the five bridges and across a meadow to the lake and finally made my way back through the temple garden, grotto and dragon garden.

The walled garden was still looking lovely at the end of summer, whilst the gardens involving water were sadly suffering the effects of a dry summer. A potager garden is one that combines growing vegetables and flowers alongside each other and the walled garden is masterclass in how this can be done.  Colourful flowers such as dahlias, French marigolds and towering sunflowers were in full bloom and most of the vegetables were fully grown alongside the flowers. The garden is cleverly laid out in a pattern and makes extensive use of archways leading up to large fruit cages. Walking through the arches you are surrounded with a variety of hanging gourds, beans and tomatoes growing up the frames. Another eye-catching element of the design is the planting of the borders, with perennials growing in blocks of colour which very pleasing to the eye. Rainbow chard, one of my favourite veg, is used imaginatively to achieve this effect.  

As well as looking great and economising on space a potager garden can benefit your plants and wildlife – the idea being that your garden becomes a series of small ecosystems. Needless to say it can be functional to incorporate vegetables and herbs into your garden flower beds. But there is also the benefit that flowers will attract pollinators such as butterflies and bees which are needed for the veg to grow, and can even repel some pests.  

The Opera garden is designed by Marylyn Abbot and elements were recreated in The Topiarist’s Garden which featured as one of the Artisan Gardens at the 2014 Chelsea Flower Show. Topiary is a recurring theme throughout West Green House garden and is used impressively, particularly in one of my favourite areas of the garden which has an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ theme: think low box hedges, mazes and only red and white flowers. In fact I was later inspired by this theme when designing the flower arrangements for a tea party.

I will be returning to the Opera Garden later in the year to see which areas have blossomed in winter…  

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