Monday, 22 October 2012

Magnificent Miranda

Sorry, my titles are rather uninspired today. I think the alliteration is just making them worse!

I visited the plant centre at David Austin Roses last week, to discuss wedding flowers. My wonderful supervisor, Jane, from my Valentine's work did the consultation and was surprised to see me as my partner had booked the appointment in his name. We had a long chat about the wedding flowers (and floristry in general) and I came away with lots of useful advice and some more ideas. I was sad to hear that Jane was planning to leave floristry, but I guess she's been doing it longer and is not as wide-eyed and romantic about it all as I still am!

She gave me some roses to take back with me, so I could see how they open up differently and how they smell. This was a couple of days after I got back - just look how wide the pink Miranda rose has opened. It's amazing; it's like a saucer! It has a delicate scent, the Kate and Keira roses have a stronger scent, but the heady fragrance of Patience still blows me away.

Glorious guelder rose

I made some arrangements for my little sister's birthday this week, using blue and green hydrangea, green guelder rose, and purple limonium. I also made her a little wishing tree. It's horribly dark and foggy today, so I'll add photos of these later in the week - hopefully the weather will brighten up and the photos won't look so gloomy!

There were some small stems of guelder rose and limonium and one stem of hydrangea left over, so I made up some jugs of flowers for the flat. I added some blackcurrent sage and pennyroyal mint from the balcony garden to the medium jug, to tie in with the red wild rose and to add a bit more interest. I like how the lime green guelder rose and the purple limonium are the same colours as the flowers on the Beverley Hewitt, small green and purple jug.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

The One

I didn't find a 'The One' when I was having fun trying on modern vintage-style dresses at Tobi Hannah's studio and actual vintage dresses at Fur Coat No Knickers (great name, great dresses, great service; just not the right dresses for me). But today I got to try on the dress that Tobi and her team made for me, and I absolutely loved it. Argh...I wish I could say more about it, but I can't.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Smile for the camera

When my partner and I first casually talked about getting married 'at some point', I thought about the flowers (unsurprisingly) first and then the venue. As soon as we were agreed that we were getting married early next year, we started looking for a photographer. Once we saw Binky Nixon's photos on her website and read her blog, we were sure we'd found the right person. Her style is natural and colourful, her images are full of interesting details and the emotions of her subjects. Once we met her at her studio, we were enchanted by the gorgeous wedding albums she showed us (including a 'rainy wedding', which still looked beautiful in her photos), the interest she showed in us, our relationship and our wedding, and the slide show set to 'Sweet Disposition' by The Temper Trap (it's used in the film 500 Days of Summer, which features in our wedding scrapbook). As we left, my partner said, 'We're not going to look at anyone else, are we?' and that was that. We even changed our preferred wedding date to ensure we could book Binky to do our photos. I imagine that after the post-wedding come down, viewing the wedding photos is something couples can look forward to.

The screensaver that we saw before and after the slideshow was a photo of some pretty jam jar flower arrangements. There were summery garden flowers and peachy Juliet David Austin Roses. They were from a sample that Binky's florist had made for her own wedding.

Binky got married last month, and she wrote a blog post about her wedding and her emotions around getting married, which was so touching, I wanted to share it here. I'm sure there are people who work in the wedding industry for whom their work is just a job that pays the bills. But for me when I work as a wedding florist, and for many of the professionals we have chosen for our day, weddings are something special, beautiful and heartfelt, and our work, I hope, reflects the excitement we feel at being involved in something as wonderful as a celebration of a couple's love.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Sweet charity

I recently did wedding flowers for a lovely couple who sourced their containers for their ceremony and reception flowers from charity shops. I was so thrilled to do their wedding and the containers they chose were fantastic - they had so much character and really fitted in well with the style of the wedding.

Here's a sneak peak of the arrangements before they were delivered and set up at the venue, which was a barge on the Thames.

I'm collecting tea caddies for my own flowers, so I was certainly glad to arrange flowers in this vintage tin. I like the pops of colour from the roses, pale blue ageratum and white snowberries (which you may remember means 'fate' from the wedding I did for my friends a year ago), the trails of jasmine, and the mysterious-looking pink scabious.

This beautiful glass vase was filled with Sorbet Avalanche and pink spray roses and later topped up with freesias, which were the main flowers for the bridal party. The vase was for the ceremony table, so I thought I would do an arrangement that was less rustic-looking and more romantic and pretty-pretty, with fairy-like ammi/dill (I'm not sure which - it looked like bishop's flower and the stems were tiny) and panicum 'Frosted Explosion' (which looks like a kind of fountain grass). As well as plenty of jasmine, meaning 'attachment' in flower language, and a pretty foliage to use in wedding flowers.

This cute cake vase ended up being used on the sweetie table, and it fitted right in with the pastel sweets! I love the scattering of delicate white cosmos, panicum, and nigella - it looks like a vase of pick 'n' mix!

You can barely see it in this photo, but I like this ivory and gold vase - to me it looks both simple and opulent. As it's taller, I included some bright cosmos on their long, wiry stems, curvy snapdragons, and trails of foliage.

I have to admit, I am a little bit envious of this birdcage. Look how beautiful and dramatic it is...and that's before it's in situ (on an amazing cake table). It's an incredible find, and one that was just asking to be filled with flowers! As it's a bit of a fiddly job and it uses floral foam, I mainly used stronger-stemmed pink Michaelmas daisies, pink and white snowberries, spray roses, pittosporum and senecio.

If I can find beauties like these, I think I'll spend my spare days touring charity shops!

Now, about the flowers. The bridal flowers, which I've not shown here, are mostly Sorbet Avalanche roses, pink spray roses, and white freesias. The jasmine and pittosporum is from the garden. But the rest of the flowers and foliage - nigella, ammi/dill (not sure which!), scabious, snowberries, ageratum, verbena, clary, cosmos, achillea, flowering mint, Michaelmas daisy, veronica, snapdragons, panicum, senacio and eucalyptus - were from Blooming Green Flowers near Maidstone in Kent. It's a flower farm run by two friendly and very hard-working women, Bek and Jen, who I met a few months ago when I was looking for growers. They grow all sorts of wonderful flowers and foliage for cutting, which you can either ask them to arrange, or you can pick yourself. If you have any aspirations to do flower arranging and you love seasonal, British flowers, it's well worth experiencing the pick-your-own bucket. It felt like the first time I went to a charity booksale at my old place of work, where there were tables and tables of fantastic new books being sold for 50p each, and I was like a kid in a sweet shop. I know I cut flowers from my family's garden (and that is awesome), but being in a field full of different flowers is something else!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

The Balcony Gardener

One sad thing about moving to a flat has been the loss of a garden. But I am very fortunate in that my dad still lets me use his garden and greenhouse to grow things, and our flat has a little balcony.

Isabelle Palmer has written a wonderful book just for small spaces like ours, called The Balcony Gardener. As well as chapters for absolute newcomers to gardening in general, it also has lots of ideas for making the most of small balconies, roof gardens (we should be so lucky!) and even windowboxes. Well, as soon as I'd started to read her book, I knew we needed to use our balcony for more than just hanging out the washing!

I went to the RHS Wisley Flower Show last weekend. It was nice - there were many different growers from the ones I saw at RHS Chelsea, and because it's later in the year, there were beautiful displays of different types of flowers, as well as different things for sale. At Chelsea, I bought basil and pennyroyal seeds from Jekka's Herb Farm. At Wisley, I bought herb plants from Hooksgreen Herbs. At the May show, there were stunning displays of daffodils, grown in special conditions so that they all flowered at the same time. At the September show, I became a bit of a bulboholic, especially when I learnt that the grower was from Bridgend (where I've been visiting friends since 1998).

So last week I went to look for a balcony trough and planted up the herbs. I tried to plant them according to the conditions needed for them (thank you, Jekka), but I think I got the lemon mint wrong and it should have gone in a single pot. Hey ho. We'll see how well they survive. Here they are on the balcony. I know, gardening and floristry are all about odd numbers, and I did plan to just put three single pots at the bottom and one somewhere else. But...there isn't really anywhere else except right by the door (accident-prone person plus tripping hazard equals mess plus swearing). The top pot contains (left to right) lemon mint, orange scented thyme, and marjoram 'Gold Splash'. The single pots are (left to right) bay, blackcurrant sage, myrtle and rosemary 'Sudbury Blue'.

It's a shame the weather's starting to get cooler and the days are getting shorter!

I'm hoping that they survive well into spring. In flower language, mint means virtue, myrtle means love and marriage, sage means health and a long life, and thyme means courage and happiness. They're all good sentiments for weddings, I think, and they look beautiful and smell good. The blackcurrant sage has beautiful red flowers and the rosemary has pale blue flowers, but I don't think they'll be flowering in spring.

Here are some more herbs that I grew from seed. From left to right: sweet basil, cinnamon basil, upright pennyroyal, and another cinnamon basil. One cinnamon basil is now sitting with the sweet basil in the kitchen, the pennyroyal is on a windowsill in the lounge, and I have wrapped up one of each basil for a friend who likes gardening and cooking Italian food.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Domestic goddess

Lately, I've had plenty of free time to indulge my inner domestic goddess. I hand-sewed a table runner from an exquisite V&A fabric, and plan to make a table cloth and curtain ties with the rest of the fabric.

And I've been baking. Inspired by an incredibly talented and friendly wedding cake maker, Emma Drew of Cake Maison, and a pile of baking books on my shelf, I've attempted to make pretty-looking cakes and biscuits. The pink cakes are rose flavour and the brown and yellow cakes are chocolate, orange and geranium. My piping needs a lot of work, but I'm happy with my bows!

Not-so-flat flowers

August brought a beautiful array of colour in the garden - the asters have been flowering all month, the sweet peas and chocolate cosmos have continued to blossom, and the repeat-flowering roses have started to bloom a second time this summer. Even the jasmine, still full of foliage, has some flowers.

I've made sure the new flat has fresh flowers every week to brighten it up until it starts to feel like home. There has been a David Austin 'Enigma' bouquet, some roses and a dahlia from The Real Flower Company that I arranged, some florist British bloom chysanthemums (which have a wonderful marshmallow texture), asters and stocks.

There have also been flowers from my family's garden that I've taken over to the flat to arrange. And the scent of stocks, garden roses, sweet peas and chocolate cosmos has been a delight to come home to.

I took a sweet basil plant that I have been growing from seed in the greenhouse to keep in the kitchen. I bought a few different types of seeds from the Jekka's Herb Farm stand at the Chelsea Flower Show. Jekka McVicar is an expert in herbs - I've spent many happy hours reading her book, Jekka's Complete Herb Book, which she signed for me at the flower show. Here is the plant on the day I brought it over, two weeks ago.

And here it is today. It smells yummy - I can't wait to use some when I make dinner!

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

My Summer of Love

This summer is flying by. I’ve been busy with floristry stuff and looking for work. Oh, and I’m moving today. But here are some photos from the last few months.

This is a hand-tied with lilac, phlox, Queen Anne’s Lace and asparagus fern.

The next few arrangements are all made of garden flowers. This one has William Shakespeare 2000 roses, Jude the Obscure roses and chocolate cosmos.

Roses, a Cariad rose, hydrangea and chocolate cosmos.

This one has roses, jasmine and sweet peas.

Here is a small jug of chocolate cosmos and roses. I cut them a few days ago, and the roses have opened up beautifully now.

A small jug of sweet peas, which are such great cutting flowers – they just grow and grow!

And finally, here they are with Peter Parker's Peonies!

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Hats off

I made a hatbox arrangement for a friend’s birthday recently. I decided to use colours I wouldn’t normally use together – deep reds and purples – but I think they worked well. I used seasonal Sweet Williams and beautiful clematis, with jasmine and William Shakespeare 2000 roses from the garden.

I made a little posy with the leftover Sweet Williams and clematis. I could imagine this being used as a little bridesmaid’s posy alongside the vibrant low tablecentres, with a bridal bouquet of huge garden roses and jasmine, and buttonholes of jasmine, clematis and Sweet Williams.

Peter Parker’s Peonies

Another bouquet that I’ve longed to do since I started sketching ideas last summer is a peony bouquet, in honour of Mary Jane’s favourite flowers. I think watching Spider-Man III at the cinema was the first time I had seen or heard of peonies, but I remembered the scene well – poor Peter Parker goes to meet Mary Jane, with a bunch of her favourite flowers, planning to propose to her, but the date doesn’t go too well.

The first time I went to Columbia Road Flower Market last June, I got a bit carried away, buying as many different flowers as I could carry on the bus and train (I managed to carry seven or eight bunches, but goodness, did I have a back ache when I got home!), including peonies which I’d seen in the flesh for the first time. They are huge when they open up, and many of them smell incredible. I understand why they’re such a popular wedding flower, although they are only in season for a few months.

As you can tell, I didn’t buy these flowers at the same time – the pale Sarah Bernhardt peonies are fully opened, and the darker pink peonies were bought a few days later, and were not so willing to open. I reckon Spider-Man could have used his superpowers to speed up the process. But you get the idea.

Just look at how large and fluffy the flowers are. They are unashamedly girlie.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Aurora, Colorado

I was going to write a review of The Dark Knight Rises, which I saw this morning, but I will hold off for a while. After I got home, I heard the shocking news about the shooting at a screening of the film in Aurora, Colorado. My thoughts are with the people who were there and their loved ones.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

The sweet smell of summer

The garden is gorgeous at the moment. Everything is blooming and there are so many scents as soon as you step outside – sweet peas, jasmine, roses, and chocolate cosmos. We did have one solitary peony last month, which didn’t smell of much when outside, but was very scented after I cut it for a little vase arrangement, along with a few pink garden roses. I don’t know what any of the varieties are, but they lasted well in a vase.

Here are the sweet peas two weeks ago.

And here they are today. I’ve cut some for a vase and they smell amazing. 

Sarah Raven includes a sweet pea  'wigwam' in her plans for summer flowers in The Cutting Garden, and also recommends particular varieties. As it's my first attempt, I bought a multi-pack from Suttons Seeds. I'm growing Noel Sutton and Mrs R Bolton, which are purple and pink respectively. Next year I'm going to grow the remaining colours in the pack: red Air Warden, burgundy Beaujolais, and White Ensign.

Here are the first jasmine flowers which emerged this week; the foliage has been gracing the garden for a month.

Some scented peach and cerise roses:

There are three pink hydrangeas dotted around.

I didn’t have much luck growing dahlias, but this one has flowered.

And last of all, my new David Austin rose plant – Cariad, which means ‘love’ in Welsh. It’s stunning and very sweetly scented. The perfect symbol of the many happy years I spent in Swansea and the Welsh friends who I‘ve kept in touch with!

Wedding dress by Tobi Hannah

I have picked my wedding dress, and although I am going to keep the actual design a secret (or at least, I’ll try to), I do want to share the name of the wonderful designer who will be making it.

My wedding scrapbook includes pictures of Kirsten Dunst’s outfits in Marie Antoinette, Ali MacGraw’s wedding dress in Love Story, and Audrey Hepburn’s black and white Givenchy gown in Sabrina – I am definitely not someone who could always picture the exact dress they wanted! After a lot of searching, I came across Tobi Hannah’s website. Her dresses are amazing – short or tea length, modern but vintage-style, and inspired by everything from Degas’ ballet dancers to Haruki Murakami book covers.

I must have tried on nine or ten dresses during my first appointment. I wanted pretty much all of them, but Tobi and my friend Grace helped me to narrow my choice down (and the first dress I tried on was called Grace, which was a nice start to the appointment). I’ve made my final decision now, and it felt a bit sad to have to say ‘no’ to so many of her gorgeous dresses. There wasn’t a ‘the one’ in my case, but hopefully I’ll feel like my dress is the right one on the day.

In the meantime, here are some of Tobi’s stunning dresses. I’ve even had trouble narrowing the number of photos down to ten! These dresses are (in order): Tutu Ballerine, Dahlia, Grace, Nataliya, Amaze, Goddess, Running, Bratt, Julianna, and Lin. Running reminds me of Stephanie Seymour’s wedding dress in the music video for November Rain (one of my guilty pleasures) and Goddess, as well as looking beautiful, has an incredible softness – it felt like the Chantilly cream in a LadurĂ©e dessert. Texture is a key element in Tobi’s designs.

But if you don’t want to bare your legs on your wedding day, Tobi’s sister company, Lara Hannah, does ethereal-looking long dresses, many inspired by Waterhouse paintings. As Waterhouse did one of my favourite paintings in what I call ‘The Miserable Women in Literature’ trilogy (along with Millais' Ophelia and Mariana) at Tate Britain, Waterhouse wedding dresses were bound to be a hit with me! It’s hard to pick a favourite, but I think the Alberta dress is particularly gorgeous.

If you are looking for something modern but vintage-inspired for your wedding, I highly recommend a visit to Tobi’s studio. As well as being super talented, she is very friendly and honest – I’ve enjoyed my meetings with her and, as the designer, she can see which of her dresses will suit you best.

Her company turned four years old last month…but the designer at the helm is still in her twenties! I’m kind of in awe.