Monday, 31 October 2011

Happy Halloween

I offered to take flowers to a friend who had invited me over for dinner. He asked for something ‘unusual’ and ‘interesting’. I’m hoping that this Halloween/autumnal arrangement fits the bill. I’ve used orange ilex berries, orange brassicas, and Picasso eucalyptus in a hollowed-out pumpkin. But no scary face, especially since I am going to be delivering this on All Saints Day!

And either side are more leftovers for me. One of the perks of floristry!

Half term report

We were allowed to take all of our flowers home from college for half term. Some of them had only been delivered a few days before; others had been sitting in the fridge for a fortnight. Here’s what I made with flowers I had left over and those that some other students had given me.

This was a hand tied that I made in college – it wasn’t quite right, but when I took it home, I cut the string (that would normally be left alone), and it kind of fell into place.

And lastly, I had bought these beautiful Sweet Dolomiti and Peach Avalanche roses and pale pink astilibe to create a thank you bouquet for someone. I put the leftovers in my favourite container – my Elizabeth Blackadder ‘Poppies’ jug – and both these and the poppy heads, lisianthus and santini chrysanthemum vase stayed on my table while I did some work over the holiday. They were a joy to look at when work was taking its toll!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Will I help with flowers for the Savoy? Definitely!

I enjoyed my first day of work experience this week, helping with flowers for a wedding reception at the Savoy Hotel. It was hard work, and my shoulders are still aching from all of the heavy lifting, but I absolutely loved it. The women from Urbanstems as well as the freelancers were all incredibly friendly, and it was such a joy to work with them. I rather expected to be prepping flowers or getting water, while they did the creative work, but I was encouraged to get stuck in. I helped with the wreath table arrangements in which we placed bowls with floating candles or tall vases with another arrangement, and one of two huge urns that were at the front of the ballroom. The theme was white but very ‘natural’, so there were buckets and buckets of Vendella and Avalanche roses, white hydrangeas, lilies and alstroemeria, green lisianthus, and lots of ivy. The leftover roses were used to decorate the stage and the table for the wedding cake, and I think the whole room looked gorgeous once we had finished.

The London Film Festival and the India-set Thomas Hardy

I tend to go a bit crazy at this time of year. Work and the outside world get put on hold, while I spend two weeks and far too much money on the London Film Festival. Now that I’m a student again, I’ve tried to be a bit more sensible and I’ve just allowed myself one week of LFF films, instead of the usual two.  I love to see big films that I’ve been waiting ages for, small films by actors and directors I’ve never heard of, world cinema that I probably wouldn’t choose to watch normally, and new British films. I’ve been moved and delighted as Colin Firth finally won me over with his incredible performance in A Single Man and Tom Ford didn’t fail to disappoint with his first feature, I’ve cheered as (spoiler alert) James Franco was eventually free of his arm in 127 Hours, I managed to hold back tears as I watched Brilliante Mendoza’s Foster Child, and failed to hold them back as Abbie Cornish shook my core in Bright Star. LFF 2007 was also the first time I cried at the cinema, at the beautiful film Grace is Gone, which I believe sadly never got a UK distributor. And now LFF 2011 is the first time that I’ve left a film dry-eyed, but wept when I got home.
I’ve talked about Jude the Obscure before – it’s a beautiful David Austin rose, and a depressing Thomas Hardy novel. Tess of the D’Urbervilles is also both of these – it’s a dark red rose, a little bit like William Shakespeare 2000. The book was adapted by Roman Polanski in 1979 and the BBC in 2008, and now Michael Winterbottom has used the story as inspiration for a story set in modern day India. The film screened on Saturday at the festival to two packed audiences.
I absolutely loved Gemma Arterton’s Tess in the BBC series. She was strong, feisty and outspoken (and on a superficial note, she was the reason – along with Karen Carpenter – that I took the plunge and decided to get a fringe). Freido Pinto’s Trishna is quieter, more passive, but also a little more difficult to read, which is not a bad thing. As there are some significant changes from the book, and some clever updating, I don’t want to spoil the film by talking about the plot. However, I will say that there was a point when I thought, ‘For goodness’ sake, Michael Winterbottom, don’t you know when to stop? This is why you get accused of misogyny!’ But then something happened, and I wasn’t thinking that for much longer.
If you’ve not read Tess of the D’Urbervilles or seen any filmed versions, but you were one of millions who were moved by Little Mo’s plight in EastEnders or Jackie McQueen’s in Hollyoaks, then you may enjoy Trishna. Although ‘enjoy’ isn’t really the right word.
I saw my last film of the festival today – Richard Linklater’s wonderful black comedy, Bernie, in which Jack Black plays an assistant funeral director who the whole town loves. I’m pleased to report that there were no tears today!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Photos from the Luxury Wedding Show

Emily from Urbanstems kindly sent me some photos from the Luxury Wedding Show - one of a model who sported one of their bridal bouquets during the catwalk show, and another of their stand. Just have a look and see why I was so wowed by their flowers.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Chocs N’ Roses

Today I wanted to make a bouquet and two posies – a bouquet for my old boss and his girlfriend who I’m visiting tomorrow, a posy for their young daughter, and another for a friend who’s just come home from hospital.

Ever since I heard that there was a flower that looked and smelt like chocolate, I thought I can’t wait to use that! Today I did. Chocolate cosmos are small, dahlia-like flowers that are a rich, dark burgundy-chocolate colour, with velvety petals, very thin stems, and a delicious vanilla-chocolate scent. They won’t be in season for much longer, so this was my last chance to use them this year. New Covent Garden Market is currently full of bright Halloween things like Chinese lanterns and crab apples, pretty wintery things like pussy willow, and even spring tulips…which seems a bit wrong to me! After wandering around, I also bought some British dahlias before they disappear for the year, beautiful and strongly-scented Augusta Luise garden roses, and some salmon-pink celosia.

I used everything but the cosmos for the bouquet, some of everything for the posy for my friend, and the cosmos mixed with some lilac asters from my garden for the little girl’s posy. I’m not sure if the girl will be pleased to receive chocolate-scented flowers or disappointed that I didn’t give her real chocolates instead!

The cosmos is quite delicate and, like the dahlias and garden roses, has a short vase life. But when flowers look this beautiful and smell so exquisite, it seems a small price to pay for the intense pleasure they bring. I put the worse-for-wear leftover cosmos and a few wobbly dahlias and roses in a vase for me to enjoy while I did my floristry coursework.
What a perfect Saturday.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Yorkshire Pudding: The Wedding

L-R: Best man Andy, bridesmaid Melanie, groom Mike, bride Jo, bridesmaid (and cake-maker) Helen, and bridesmaid Laura. Photo by Pete.

The best Yorkshire pudding I’ve ever eaten was with my friends in York, about sixteen years ago. It was massive. I was about to leave the table once I’d finished it, when I was told, ‘That was your starter. Your dinner’s nearly ready.’
Ok, now that I’ve got the tenuous link between an American teen-flick and an English delicacy out of the way, I can talk about the wedding.
Jo and her family are my oldest friends. They moved next door to my family when Jo, her brother Pete and I were very young, and we’ve stayed good friends, even after they moved back to York. I remember running outside to say hello when I saw their van pulling up – they barely had time to get out before I was getting under everyone’s feet, asking them nosy questions and telling them gossip about our neighbours! One vivid memory I have of that day is sitting in their front garden with Jo, silently making a ‘bird’s nest’ out of leaves, rose petals and snapdragons. It was funny, because I’m a few years older than her, but we had the universal language of flowers to unite us.

Jo, Pete and I outside the Sidings, dressed a little better than we were in the 80s.
Fast forward twenty-five years, and I am standing in her grandparents’ kitchen in York, arranging flowers for her wedding. I still cannot believe how much fun my first experience of doing wedding flowers was, and just how lucky I was to have done them for Jo, who I now describe as the anti-Bridezilla (or the perfect bride). It was lovely to spend the wedding eve and morning with Jo’s family and friends in York, many of whom I’ve known since childhood, and create arrangements for someone I really care about. Jo and her bridesmaids Melanie, Laura and Helen provided some much needed company and lots of tea, and Jo and Laura helped me out by getting buckets of water and giving me feedback on my work as I went along. Jo’s grandparents let me use two big tables in their kitchen as my workbench, and Jo’s grandfather cut some gorgeous ivy from their garden for me to use as table decorations.

The wedding colour scheme was pink and green, although Jo and her groom Mike wanted mostly white for the bridal bouquet and the buttonholes. After bouncing some ideas around, we decided on white Blizzard roses, white bouvardia, a few pink Heaven roses and some green ivy for the bridal bouquet; a Blizzard rose, bouvardia and ivy leaves for the groom’s buttonhole; a Blizzard rose and an ivy leaf for the buttonholes for the best man and Jo’s father and brother; and Heaven roses, pink and white Mimi Eden spray roses and ivy for the bridesmaids. I used dark green satin ribbon and white lace for the bridal bouquet and pink satin ribbon and white lace for the bridesmaids.

I used huge, fluffy, pink Lolly Pop hydrangeas, variegated ivy trails and a few pink snowberry stems for the tall vase arrangements either side of the wedding cake; and green ivy from Jo’s grandfather with pink beads and snowberries for the table decorations.

As the wedding reception was held in a beautiful hotel and restaurant that comprised a central ‘station’ room surrounded by old railway carriages, right next to a working train line, I attached wedding ‘luggage tags’ with the names of the flowers used on the day and their traditional meanings to the arrangements.

The Sidings was a beautiful venue, with ample opportunities for train-spotting.

'Can I have that big cake on the top?'

And if the sight of those lush lemon cupcakes and chocolate top tier cake is making your mouth water, then have a look at Helen York’s other cakes. I can assure you that they taste as good as they look – I was one of several guests who went for up seconds!

If you are curious about the traditional meanings of the flowers used in Jo and Mike’s wedding, here they are:
White roses: Purity, new beginnings
Pink roses: Joy, gratitude, admiration
Bouvardia: Enthusiasm
Ivy: Marriage, fidelity, friendship
Hydrangea: Heartfelt emotion, gratitude at being understood
Snowberry: Fate

The girl next door is all grown up! Photo by Pete.