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.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Great British Flowers

I want to wax lyrical about the fantastic British flowers I got for two events that I did at the start of autumn. I bang on about using local, seasonal flowers, at least in the warmer months, and hopefully these photos demonstrate why.

Firstly, there was the pick-your-own bucket of flowers at a local flower farm. We picked a stunning collection of white and pink flowers for the London Zoo wedding, with some blues for the 500 Days of Summer photoshoot, and some foliage, grasses and seedpods. The delightful Jen at Blooming Green, near Maidstone in Kent, gave me the metal bucket that is their ‘measure’, and we filled it with as much as we could gently cram in. Cutting the flowers from the acre plot is a joy in itself, although it was a scorcher of a day so we had to work fast so that the flowers in the bucket wouldn’t wilt before we’d even left the farm! I separated them out into different buckets when I got home – Blooming Green provide two plastic buckets to take the cut flowers home, but I’ll take a few of my own next time, as it’s a bit of a squeeze, and things like dill and sweet peas tend to get tangled up with everything else.

Secondly, there was the special delivery from Cornwall! Tregothnan, which is famous for being the first farm in Britain to grow tea, also grows cut flowers and foliage, and sells these along with ready-made garlands and bouquets. I bought some delicious-smelling rosemary and glossy myrtle, and some white dahlias, sunflowers and baby blue hydrangeas. The sunflowers and hydrangeas were stunning and they lasted so well.

Finally, there was the rest of the foliage, which I mainly used for the garlands and the registrar’s table arrangement, and it all came from the garden: eucalyptus, laurel, jasmine, Japanese quince, and a few mystery trees and shrubs. There was still some pink hydrangea in the garden, so that was cut and used for some of the table centres.

For the wedding, I would say about 80% of the flowers and foliage were British. Just the white hydrangeas and matricaria were Dutch, and the snowberries…I’m not sure where the snowberries were from, but I assume they were Dutch, too. I did cut some snowberries from Blooming Green as well. But everything else – stunning hot pink cleomes (I’ll overlook their nasty, tiny thorns), snapdragons, cute zinnas, cosmos, dahlias, delicate ammi, clary, veronica, ageratum and agastache, and gorgeous foliage from eucalyptus to senecio – was all from the south-east (or south-west) of England.

But for the 500 Days of Summer photoshoot, I’m pleased to say that the flowers and foliage were 100% British! I used some Mayfield lavender in the bouquet, and of course the photos were shot in the beautiful Mayfield Lavender farm. There were sunny, Cornish hydrangeas and sunflowers, and romantic rosemary and myrtle from Tregothnan, and cornflowers, scabious, dill, grasses and seedpods from Blooming Green, as well as some purple sweet peas from the garden.

I hope this gives a taster of beautiful and varied British flowers, and encourages you to buy local when you can!

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Going AWOL

I'm sorry I've neglected my blog over the last month. I have reasons (or excuses if you're feeling less generous), but they don't matter here; what matters is that I catch up! There are a few more 500 Days of Summer posts to come, but I want to do them justice as the photoshoot and the reasons for it are so important to me. So I might end up spreading them out a bit randomly, rather like the days in the film! And I may be short on words at the moment, but I have plenty of photos.