Monday, 30 June 2014

Abandoned bouquets

Here are some photos of the abandoned bouquets from Sunday's Lonely Bouquet Day. I've no idea if they've been adopted or not; I hope they have.

Firstly, I left this posy outside All Saints Church on Blackheath Common. I've never been inside, but it's a pretty church that makes the landscape even prettier. Random Orwell fact: George Orwell and his first wife, Eileen O' Shaughnessy, used to go horseriding on Blackheath Common before they got married.

I left this one beside the Cutty Sark. I visited the Cutty Sark several times as a schoolkid, and drew a huge picture of it which hung on the wall at school until it got tatty. I love the architecture of the Old Naval College and the views of the Thames from Greenwich - no wonder the town is jam-packed with people every day.

I went to the shopping centre in Bromley, which was called The Glades when I worked at Boots as a Sunday girl (when the shops first opened on Sundays in 1995) but changed its name to Intu Bromley a year or two ago. It was early and the shops hadn't opened, so I left it on a bench outside Coast. I'm hoping a fellow Sunday girl or boy found it on their way to work!

Lastly, I left one at Grove Station again. I did leave it next to the lavender, but it was too sunny, so I moved it close to the bridge. There were too many people on their way to the end of the platform, so I didn't take a photo of it in its final abandoned place, but here's one of the posy. I hope you all had a happy Lonely Bouquet Day!

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Lonely Bouquet Day 2014

Sunday is Lonely Bouquet Day 2014. If you saw last year's post, you'll know what a lovely idea I think it is. Although people can and do leave lonely bouquets throughout the year (as I did for British Flowers Week), the day in June is designed so that people can make the most of the flowers available in their gardens, or their kind friends'/ neighbours'/families' gardens. The bouquets are made by florists and non-florists alike, from local flowers and foliage, and left in a recycled container of water for someone to find (in locations all over the world).

I started off the weekend by leaving a lonely bouquet of red, pink and yellow roses and pink hydrangeas outside Lewisham Hospital; it was adopted (by I don't know who) within twenty minutes.

I made up four more bouquets which are ready to be abandoned - I'm planning to leave them in various places in Lewisham, Bromley and Greenwich boroughs. Keep your eyes peeled!

There are more hydrangeas, roses, Escallonia 'Apple Blossom' and Pittosporum 'Oliver Twist', as well as Salvia 'Hot Lips', 'Genova' dahlias, pineapple mint, melissa (aka lemon balm), Lavender 'Vera', osteospermum, sweet peas, hebe, cornflowers, and pretty, silvery senecio cineraria. You can imagine the scent of the sweet peas, sage, mint, melissa, lavender and roses!

The containers are a couple of random glass jars, as well as a beautiful Tiptree tea caddy and a Women's Institute jam jar that I've been hoarding!

If you're taking part in Lonely Bouquet Day, or you were lucky enough to find an abandoned bouquet, I'd love to hear your story.

Monday, 23 June 2014

British Flowers Week: Five days of gorgeousness

I know British Flowers Week has been and gone, but the summery British flowers have only just begun. My first zinnia opened up this morning, and what a summery flower it is!

I saw this photo on Twitter, and I just had to ask for permission to share it here. The stunning photos were taken by Julian Winslow, the flowers are from New Covent Garden Market, and this composite was was painstakingly put together by Okishima & Simmonds, whose antler-like design featured on Day 1 and brought new energy to the British lisianthus.

The other florists featured here are Hybrid, who used British Sweet Williams and calla lilies for a Shakespeare-inspired shoot; Simon Lycett, who made three very different designs with scented British pinks; Euphoric Flowers, who showed off British flowering foliage, including eucalyptus, oak, scented philadelphus/mock orange and lavender (well worth looking at if you want to use British flowers in the winter); and McQueens, who finished the week off with classic British garden roses. You may know how much I love both British and imported garden roses, but I didn't realise you could get Augusta Luise roses that have been grown in Britain. What a bonus!

Friday, 20 June 2014

British Flowers Week: Gallantry in Postman's Park

When I thought about the British flowers that would be available for British Flowers Week, a few leapt out for me: peonies and Sweet Williams.

British peonies are only available for a short time in the early summer, but they are so popular all year round, particularly for weddings. I once worked for a florist who would buy imported (from New Zealand) red peonies for Christmas bouquets, just because she liked them so much. They were beautiful and understandably expensive, but I thought it was madness to order them, especially as it would teach customers that it was reasonable to expect peonies in December in London.

It's interesting that they are so popular for weddings as their symbolic meaning is bashful shame. I guess, like lavender, they are too beautiful and sweetly scented for people to mind what they have represented in the past.

Sweet Williams are beautiful flowers, with a sweet, clove scent. They are from the dianthus family, like carnations and pinks. Sweet Williams and pinks were both the subject of special photoshoots organised by the market and some very talented florists.

Sweet Williams symbolise gallantry, but also finesse and dexterity. It's gallantry that I thought of as I planned to create a floral spray (like a funeral sheaf) to photograph in Postman's Park. I ordered the Sweet Williams from Tregothnan and bought the peonies from the market.

Postman's Park is in the City, close to St Paul's Cathedral and not far from Cannon Street and Blackfriars train stations. My friend Francesca took me there years ago when we had one of those casual, walk-around-town days. It's a lovely green space, usually filled with people sitting on one of the many benches. It got its name from the postal workers who worked nearby, and who would take their breaks there.

Once we got to the artist G. F. Watts's Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice, I realised I had seen the park before (on screen, at least) in the film Closer. Closer is one of my favourite London-set films. It's quite vicious and miserable at times, but tender and funny at others, as you'd expect from Mike Nichols, the director of The Graduate and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Watts's Memorial was based on the artist's suggestion for a gallery to commemorate people who had sacrificed their own lives trying to save someone else. The idea wasn't taken up, so he made the gallery himself, using ceramic tablets inscribed with the name of each person and details of the heroic act that killed them. Each tablet is so beautiful and there is something touching and haunting about the language used. For example, Henry James Bristow, an eight-year-old boy, "Saved his little sister's life by tearing off her flaming clothes but caught fire himself and died of burns and shock". There are a few sisters and brothers who tried to save their siblings, but also people who tried to save strangers, neighbours and colleagues. If you ever need a reminder of the potential kindness and selflessness of people, visit this memorial.

So for British Flowers Week, I made a floral spray using Sweet Williams for gallantry, Sarah Bernhardt peonies (just because they were in season and would add impact), alchemilla mollis and eucalyptus which both symbolise protection, cornflowers which stand for delicacy, rosemary for remembrance, poppy seed heads (the flowers represent consolation) and hazel for reconciliation. When I took the photos, I saw that someone had left a red rose there.

I also made a lonely bouquet with William Shakespeare 2000 roses, a peony, Sweet Williams, poppy seed heads and alchemilla. I left it under Alice Ayres.

British Flowers Week: the flowers!

Here are some details of the beautiful British flowers and foliage I have been using for British Flowers Week. The Sarah Bernhardt peonies, stocks (matthiola), alchemilla mollis (lady's mantle) and poppy seed heads were all from Pratley at New Covent Garden Market. You can imagine the incredible scent of the peonies and stocks.

The blue cornflowers, brodiaea, astrantia, Sweet Williams, rosemary, contorted hazel, and eucalyptus were from Tregothnan. The other bits were from the garden - William Shakespeare 2000 David Austin roses, sweet peas, pink cornflowers, scabious, caraway flowers, Genova dahlias, nigella flowers and seedpods.

It was wonderful to use British poppy seed heads, alchemilla, and astrantia for the first time. The imported seed heads and astrantia I've used in the past are all very uniform in size, but these looked more natural, and there were sometimes four seed heads on a stem! The astrantia was absolutely stunning. Unfortunately, the intense heat meant that my peonies opened up, even after I'd stored them in a cold shed overnight. Usually I have the opposite problem - I buy them a few days early for an event and they just won't open in time!

I made three bouquets for Woman's Hour, Time Out London, and my local newspaper, the News Shopper.

Ten minutes after I had delivered the News Shopper bouquet, I was sent a nice thank you tweet from the Lewisham and Greenwich reporter, Mark Chandler. He said he'd never been sent flowers before and the whole office was happy with the flowers. Hurray! That's what the #Britishflowers community hoped to do - make people smile by giving them some beautiful British flowers. I think I wrote more letters to the News Shopper when I was a kid than I did to my Basque penpal. There was a children's section that ran competitions every week, which I would always enter. I used to keep all of my replies from the children's editor; I'd love to dig them out and have a look again! I also did work experience at their sister paper, the Kentish Express. The first time I went to report from the Magistrates' Court in Ashford, I embarrassed myself by saying, "Oh! It's just like EastEnders!" as I walked in.

Back to the flowers: I made a spray and left a lonely bouquet in Postman's Park, which I'll post about separately.

I also made some lonely bouquets which I left dotted around Lewisham and Bromley. And a blue, white and red posy for a journalist friend who invited me over to watch the football yesterday. Well...he enjoyed the flowers at least.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

British Flowers Week: British flowers at New Covent Garden Market

As British Flowers Week was launched by New Covent Garden Market, I have to share some photos of the wonderful British flowers that you can find there. If you weren't able to visit, you can see the website which is full of glorious photos of British flowers such as pinks and Sweet Williams, styled by some amazing florists such as Simon Lycett and Hybrid, as well as photos from florists and growers around the country. The launch on Monday was buzzing with people, and many of the flowers had sold out early on. A stand in the centre of the market was set up with photos of bouquets of British flowers, a display of boxed flowers from a competition run by the market, and a huge wallchart showing which British flowers are in season at different times of the year. You can see it here. Kathryn and Alastair from the market were on hand to welcome visitors with strawberries and cream and copies of the wallchart.

If you enter the flower market by the pedestrian entrance at Door 7, one of the first stands you will see is Pratley. You can tell straight away that British flowers is its speciality!

Pratley had plenty of beautiful summer flowers on Monday - Sarah Bernhardt peonies, stocks, all sorts of sweet peas (including a pretty salmon-pink one called Nancy), larkspur, delphiniums, bright red dahlias, pastel-coloured snapdragons, lime-green alchemilla mollis (lady's mantle), poppy seed heads, scabious, alliums, lisianthus, freeias, brodiaea, eryngium (sea holly, aka thistles), and pinks in different shades.

Last month, I visited the market with two flower farmers who had travelled all the way from the West Country - Fi from The Good Flower Company and Grace at Corfe Flowers. Helen Evans, the director of business development and support, who has worked at the market for almost twenty years, talked to us about the flower market in the UK, and British flowers in particular. She gave us a tour which was even better than the tour I went on as a student, because of Helen's vast knowledge and understanding of the issues that flower growers and florists face, and also because of Fi and Grace, who often identified flowers that I admired but didn't know.

Here are a few photos from that tour in mid-May, with British flowers and foliage on display at Pratley, Zest, Porters, and GB Foliage. There were late tulips, delphiniums, peonies, cornflowers, calla lilies (arum lilies), whitebeam, and gorgeous red-pink hawthorn.

There were also British sweet peas at S. Robert Allen, which is one of my favourite stands because of the brilliant way they group their flowers by colour. There is cerinthe at the front, which I tried in vain to grow, but that Fi and Grace have grown successfully!

The peonies at John Austin weren't British, but this display gives you an idea of the range of British peonies that are available during the short peony season here.

If you ask the traders in advance, I'm sure some would be able to source British flowers for you. Last summer, Dennis Edwards sold a fantastic array of dahlias by Withypitts Dahlias - I'm hoping he will again, as I missed out on buying them last year!