Sunday, 17 November 2013

Birth flowers and trees in November

My birthday has come and gone this month, and one of my gifts was a handtied from an old friend. I don't think I've received anything other than petrol station flowers for my birthday before, so it was a lovely surprise. There were beautiful anemones, lemony waxflower, and a big, marshmallowey chrysanthemum bloom in the centre. Chrysanthemums are the birth flower for November and I've never been keen on them, associating them with the petrol station spray flowers that I've been given in the past, but of course there are so many types of chrysanthemums, and blooms are brilliant.

As there have been some lovely clear days in the last week, I decided to make the most of my RHS membership and visit Wisley, to see how it looks in autumn. It's beautiful!

There are autumn leaves, of course, with acers aplenty. And there are pretty berries like cotoneaster. Below are Acer palmatum 'Inaba-shidare', Acer palmatum 'Atropurpureum', and Acer palmatum 'Osakazuki'.

Everywhere you turn, there are beautiful grasses, including miscanthus and stipa. In the language of flowers, grasses are the symbol of homosexual love.

But there are flowers, too. There were stunning pink nerines in the gardens, with many more on display in the glasshouse. The glasshouse also had a display of chrysanthemums. Begone, petrol station memories!

And walking around the gardens, there were lots of Eryngium 'Silver Ghost', dancing Gaura 'Whirling Butterflies', and late roses (in order of appearance below: Lucky, You're Beautiful, and Crocus Rose).

There were other late-flowering gems to be found, such as Rudbeckia 'Goldsturm' and Achillea 'Credo', and autumn treasures like red-stemmed dogwood. Gardens don't shut up shop at the end of the summer; there is beauty to be found all year round!

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Remembrance Sunday in London

This year, my dad wanted to go to the Remembrance Sunday service in London, so I went with him. There were thousands of people lining Whitehall, and we stood in the cold, autumn sunshine with people of all ages, a few in military uniform, watching the service as it was shown on a huge TV screen for those of us further away. We felt the intensity of the two minutes' silence that began and ended with the sound of a World War One gun being fired; I have rarely known London to be so quiet, especially when it is so crowded.

We walked around, saw the police memorial, went through St James's Park, and watched the march as it went along Horse Guards Road. There were many young schoolchildren who waved at the veterans and civilians marching past, and many veterans waved back. The atmosphere was warm and respectful.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Pumpkins and brains

Happy Halloween! The chocolates and traybake have been polished off by the local children, and all there is to do is try to think of a decent recipe using pumpkin.

Today was the perfect excuse to make some pumpkin arrangements and to use bright pink 'brains' (celosia) and red, trailing amaranthus, which are both from the same family and have stunning stems.

I also got some peachy, pink-tinged roses, orange euphorbia, and cut some pink roses and viburnum flowers and berries from the garden. There was some pepperleaf left over from my Tregothnan DIY box, too. Do make sure you wear gloves if you use euphorbia - it releases a milky sap when you cut the stems or break off the leaves, and this irritates the skin.

I made a big pumpkin arrangement in foam, a little pumpkin posy (which my little sister helped with), and a hand-tied in a fishbowl with the leftover flowers.

Floristry has a lot to answer for - I was never this fussed about Halloween before!

Saturday, 26 October 2013

DIY flowers

If you can’t travel to a pick-your-own flower farm like Blooming Green in Kent, Green and Gorgeous in Oxfordshire, or one of many flower farms in the West Country, then here is something to try: a DIY box of flowers from the Cornish farm Tregothnan. I think this is something new that the company has just introduced, but I hope it takes off.

There are three different sizes/prices of boxes of flowers and foliage – a posy box, a bouquet box and a deluxe bouquet box. I ordered the posy box, which was £19.95 when I ordered it last week, and I was very happy with what I got.

For starters, there was more than a posy’s worth of flowers. There was a big bouquet’s worth, with plenty of foliage left over. They are lasting very well, and still look as fresh today as they did when I made the posy on Monday, soon after receiving the delivery box. The box included some striking pepperleaf (drymis) foliage, which has red stems and glossy green leaves and a sort of cinnamon scent, and beautiful pink-red kaffir lilies, which look rather like mini gladioli until the flowers open – both of them are things that I am unfamiliar with and probably wouldn't have ordered on their own, but now, I’m enamoured by them! It was also wonderful to receive the first narcissi and anemones of the season, both stunning.

Tregothnan uses a combination of flowers and foliage that are growing in its farm, but tops up, if necessary, with extras from other Cornish farms.

I hope other farms will do similar boxes. It would be nice to order flowers from somewhere that is less than 300 miles away! In the meantime, I just hope Tregothnan continues to do these DIY boxes. They are a great idea for anyone who wants to make a bouquet as a gift or to arrange themselves, and they are a fantastic present for someone who loves to arrange flowers. And of course, they are an easy way to buy British, seasonal flowers.