Sunday, 25 September 2011

Eye-popping wedding flowers

Today I went to the Luxury Wedding Show at the Millennium Hotel in Grosvenor Square. The first stand to catch my eye was Urbanstems, a florist based in Potters Bar in Hertfordshire. There were table centres atop of very tall vases and a long garland with bright pink and purple flowers, including the most beautiful hydrangeas. There was a hot pink bridal bouquet, made up of roses, calla lilies, chrysanthemums, and some bling. Pearls and diamantes are often used in bridal flowers, but they don’t always work for me; these definitely did. Some of Urbanstems’ bridal bouquets featured in the catwalk show, and they looked amazing. At a time when the main fashion for wedding flowers seems to be vintage or classic (i.e. white), these bright bouquets looked modern and, dare I say it, sexy.

The women there were kind enough to chat to me about floristry during a quiet period. It was lovely to speak to people who are so enthusiastic and knowledgeable about their work, and who were happy to offer me some last minute advice for the wedding I’m doing next weekend. There’s a huge gallery of wedding flower photos on their website, which is well worth a look.

I was mainly interested in wedding flowers, but I was curious enough to stay for the catwalk show. I’m glad I did! It began with Kerry Birkett, a First Artist from the English National Ballet, dancing to Swan Lake in what I think was the ballerina-style wedding dress that was especially designed for her. She’s getting married next year, and I’m sure the wedding guests will be in for a treat as she and her husband (English National Ballet Soloist, Zhanat Atymtayev) do their first dance.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Buttonholes and botanical names

I started my Level 2 Diploma in Floristry a few weeks ago, and I am enjoying it so much. My tutors are lovely and give us lots of feedback, often making us do a design again and again until it’s better. I’m glad I started reading my huge RHS Encyclopaedia over the summer, as we will get tested on the botanical names of flowers and foliage throughout the year, although there are some names that I just can’t remember. Waxflower is ‘the one that begins “Cha”’, I say, but apparently that isn’t enough information. It’s Chamelaucium uncinatum, in case you were wondering.

Here are a few of the designs I’ve done so far. A line arrangement, a natural-tied posy, a table centre (‘It needs more flowers,’ my tutor said, ‘but it’s ok, because we know you had to make do with what we gave you’), and lots of buttonholes. I seem to have got the knack of buttonholes, which is a relief since I’ll be doing my first wedding next weekend. Eek. And if you’re concerned about the dishevelled look of the bottom gerbera in the first picture, that’s because I had to take it home on the train during Hurricane Katia. If someone was paying for them, I would have packaged them better!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Digs, shoots and leaves

Having prepared a bed for bulbs a few weeks ago, I finally got around to planting the bulbs today. It took me a few attempts before I could use the bulb hole digger properly – I kept digging holes that were too shallow, and when I covered the bulb with soil, I kept upsetting the soil around it. I got the hang of it in the end!

So far I’ve planted muscari latifolium (grape hyacinths), pink daffodils, Thalia narcissi, Yellow Cheerfulness narcissi, Abba and Freeman double tulips, Swan Wings and Cummins fringed tulips, Black and Blue parrot tulips, and Angelique and Mount Tacoma peony tulips. (I’m aware that I’m mixing up my Latin and common names.) There’s still room for some more bulbs, so it’ll be another trip to the garden centre next week.

An update on the bulbs I planted in the greenhouse: I went to water them and saw that the ranunculus have started growing shoots! This is promising...

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Jeff Koons’ Puppy

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao is difficult to describe. It kind of looks like a giant art project by a very talented and neat pupil.

Outside the museum stands the 43 feet tall installation Puppy by Jeff Koons. It’s a steel structure filled with soil and about 70 000 flowering plants and, so I’m told by my Basque friends, the flowers change throughout the year. I wish I lived nearer!

The Tree of Gernika

I went to visit my penfriend in the Basque Country last month. We’ve been writing to each other for 23 years, and in all that time we had only met once, when she came to visit London in the 90s. The Basque Country is incredible – the beaches and mountains are gorgeous, the sea is a lovely blue-green, and the architecture is beautiful. And the people are very laid back and friendly. We got to see many places – San Sebastian, Gexto, Bilbao – but one place that meant a lot to me was Gernika (Guernica in Spanish). I’d studied the Spanish Civil War as part of my dissertation on George Orwell, and had read about the destruction of the city in 1937 when it was ruthlessly bombed by Germany’s Condor Legion (the fascists in Germany and Italy were supporters of Franco).

The town was almost completely destroyed, but this oak tree, a meeting place for the local Basque community, survived. The remains are still preserved.

A new tree, formed from an acorn of the original oak, stands outside the meeting house.

Gernika is a beautiful place now. I’m glad I got to see it, so that my thoughts of the city are no longer limited to a catastrophic event that I read about in history books, but a combination of the tragic past and the enchanting present.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Milkman on your doorstep

It’s a shame that as shopping habits have changed, people don’t buy milk from milkmen as much as they used to. The milkman from my childhood delivered orange juice, bread, and even potatoes!

Could you imagine a milkman delivering flowers? I saw these small milk bottles and holder in the beautiful and friendly West End florist, Vive La Rose, and I’m waiting for the right occasion to use them. I tried them out with some garden roses, jasmine and viburnum bodnantense. The dark red rose is a David Austin rose called William Shakespeare 2000 and ‘it smells to heaven’...but in a much nicer way than Claudius spoke of in Hamlet.

The gorgeous bouquets on the Vive La Rose website are inspired by and named after places such as Moray, St Ives, Maldon and Oxford. I wonder if some of my favourite British towns and cities will get their own bouquet one day – a red and white tribute to Sunderland or a coastal-themed Swansea arrangement, perhaps?