In one of my favourite Thomas Hardy novels, the heroine Tess of the d’Urbervilles wears ‘roses at her breast, roses in her hat; roses and strawberries in her basket to the brim.’ Given the chance, I would adorn myself with roses as Tess does.
Failing that, working at David Austin Roses was a joyful way to surround myself with the most beautiful and heavenly scented roses. I worked the five days leading up to Valentine’s Day. The first two days were mostly spent doing preparatory work, such as cutting cellophane squares and pieces of ribbon, stripping and conditioning foliage (I think we needed about twenty buckets of ruscus), and doing the odd non-Valentine bouquet. The last three days were spent making bouquets – there were hundreds of Valentine’s orders.
I have to say, this was probably the best job I’ve ever had. The people were lovely and the work was fantastic – the day after I’d finished working there, I woke up longing to dethorn some Miranda roses! I got to make many different bouquets, and I learnt a lot from the other florists. It may have been freezing outside, and not much warmer in the room where we worked (garden roses are especially delicate and need to be kept in the cold), but I was enjoying the work too much to care.
Here are some ‘Purely Roses’ bouquets – Miranda (the first bouquet I made there), Emily, Emily once it was in the box ready for delivery, Juliet, Patience, two Darcey (each using different foliage), and Miranda and Rosalind.
These are a couple of ‘Cottage Garden’ bouquets – Juliet and Patience, and Darcey and Keira.
These are some of the newer bouquets: a ‘Portabello’ bouquet, a 20-stem ‘Vintage’ bouquet and a 25-stem ‘Vintage’ bouquet, an ‘Enigma’ bouquet, and a ‘Floral Tapestry’ bouquet.
And just so you can see how much dethorning was involved, here are the thorniest of the cut roses, the beautiful Miranda.
In the language of flowers, specifically roses, a deeper colour reflects a stronger affection. So white roses are a sign of new and pure love (hence their popularity as wedding flowers) but deep red roses are a sign of passionate love. Unsurprisingly, given the tradition of red roses for Valentine’s Day, there were many orders for bouquets with Darcey roses, which are a deep berry-red. But there were also orders for pale peachy-pink Keira, deep pink Emily and Kate, rose pink Miranda with streaked green outer petals, blush pink Rosalind with a lovely fruity scent, as well as pale creamy-yellow Patience roses. I was given some Patience roses to take back to London with me. They looked gorgeous and filled the room with their incredible scent. The roses in the photos above are all quite closed, but will open once the receiver has put them into fresh water. Here are my Patience roses – and patience is certainly rewarded when this rose starts to open.
My first train on my journey up to Albrighton was called ‘A Shropshire Lad’. As well as the name of one of my favourite collections of poems (by A. E. Housman), it is also the name of a David Austin garden rose. I hoped it was a sign that my work experience would be positive. I guess it was just coincidence, but it certainly turned out to be a wonderful experience, and well worth the journey.
My final photo is of the view of the nearby field while I was waiting for my lift early one morning. What a lovely start to the day.