Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Harvest flowers at the Garden Museum

I've recently started doing some flowers for the Garden Museum. I wrote about the London museum in March, when I visited it for the first time - it's such a lovely place, it's a joy to do flowers there now.

This week, the flower cart needed to look especially bright and beautiful, so I cut, collected, and foraged as much as I could: conkers from Greenwich Park, purple grasses and pretty ivy trails from Hither Green Station embankment (thank you Lewisham Gardens for the invite), and berried ivy, mystery tree foliage, jasmine, cotoneaster, lavender, sedum, zinnias, cosmos, borage and nicotiana from the garden. I also cut a bucketful of prettiness from the museum's cutting garden: rosemary, euonymus, more zinnias, verbena, grasses, Michaelmas daisies (appropriately, since it is almost Michaelmas), tagetes, and a beautiful blue flower that I still don't know the name of. Finally, I bought sunflowers, celosia and carmanthus for the bold "autumn flowers" and artichokes, radishes, peppers and fresh dates for the "pretty harvest".

With some help from a kind assistant, we made a couple of wooden boxes, and drilled holes in half of the conkers. I wired some of these conkers and made a garland with the others. I mossed up a wire wreath frame, and decorated it with conkers, dried hydrangea heads (thank you Sara Willman for prompting me to dry my flowers), sedum and wired radishes. I also made a garland with berried ivy, mystery foliage, hydrangeas, sedum and snowberries.

And today I put it all together, along with more arrangements for the cart.

One of the loveliest things about doing flowers at the museum is the visitors; many stop and watch and have a chat about the flowers and why they are visiting. It's wonderful.

Today a few people commented on the conkers, saying that children don't seem to play with conkers anymore, so it was nice to see so many of them!

Sunflowers: reminding us that despite the cold nights, it's not winter yet!

Monday, 22 September 2014

Chocolates for Juliet

I did some pink and chocolate brown bouquets a few weeks ago. It's one of my favourite autumn colour combinations (see this post a few years ago), but I added the peachy tones of Juliet David Austin roses this time.

I used dark cotinus foliage, pink snowberries (my autumn favourite!), astilbe, and sedum, cosmos, cleome, panicum and euonymus from the garden.

I love the mixture of textures here. (The first photo was taken in the evening and the second photo was taken in the morning - it makes a big difference to peachy Juliet!)

Speaking of Juliet - here's a leftover rose, opened up.

And more leftovers here.

Autumn isn't just about Chinese lanterns and falling leaves, you know!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Withypitts Dahlias: The cut flowers

After walking around Richard's dahlia field a few times, I had to make some difficult choices: which dahlias would I buy? I wanted a mixture - when you buy dahlias wholesale, you usually have five or ten of the same variety or colour, so it's quite a treat to be able to pick 'n' mix different colours, forms and sizes.

Richard walked around with me and cut the flowers I wanted, trimming the bottom leaves off. I'd sometimes slow down and pause by a particular dahlia, and Richard would carry on talking (it was lovely to walk around the field and chat to him) and wait for me to ask what the dahlia was called and ask for a stem. It was hard knowing which to choose - I liked so many of them!

In the end, I got three pompons - Prom, Dunaj, and Fenstergucker...

I also got some anemone and collarette dahlias: Blue Bayou, Fashion Monger (aka Flower Monger), and Pooh (as in Winnie, although Richard says this red and yellow dahlia reminds him more of Rupert the Bear).

Withypitts Dahlias is not too far from the Hundred Acre Wood and Poohsticks Bridge where Winnie the Pooh played Poohsticks with his friends. A Winnie the Pooh walk has been on my to-do list for years. As ever, I do more as a tourist in far away places than I do as a local in nearby ones, so while I've not visited the locations in Sussex, I have visited the Winnie the Pooh statue in Winnipeg, Canada. (That wasn't a special trip just for the statue; I was visiting my aunt!)

I got a few dahlias for their name as much as their beauty. The dark red cactus dahlia, Black Narcissus, in particular - you know how much I love my films! I've still to make my improved, spring Black Narcissus posy - I'll try to remember next year. Here is the dahlia next to (I think - I didn't write it down) Polka.

Another couple of wonderfully-named dahlias are the orange Arc de Triomphe and the cactus dahlia, Shooting Star.

Pippi is a cute name, but I think of this gorgeous orange and red flower as "The Lion King" - it reminds me of a scene when a young Simba sticks his head into a flower to look as though he has a mane.

This big, beautiful salmon-coloured dahlia is Carolina Wagermanns, and I haven't got the name written down on my list, but I think this pale pretty one is Bracken Ballerina.

This huge pink flower turned my head a few times in the flower field. It's called Bloemswaard.

I asked Richard for one of his best white dahlias and we went to the polytunnel, where he cut a stem of this: White Ballet. It lasted the longest out of all of the cut dahlias.

But this was my favourite: Thomas Edison. The flowerheads are massive, the petals are just perfect, and the dark maroon purple is luscious. And the man it was named after, by most accounts, was pretty cool.

I didn't want to mix anything with the dahlias; I just wanted them to sing on their own. I also didn't want to cut the long stems down at first...long stems are such an expense for a florist (compare the prices of 80 cm roses to 50 cm roses of the same variety), but I didn't have enough tall bud vases for them, so I had to cut some, otherwise they just wouldn't stand up.

Then I made a big handtied with them, but left the White Ballet on its own in my chicken vase.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Withypitts Dahlias: The flower field

After admiring gorgeous flowers on Twitter for the best part of a year, I went to the open day at Richard and Hazel Ramsey's dahlia field. And what a sight it is! I can't imagine there being a more diverse range of dahlias on display somewhere than the ones I saw at Withypitts Dahlias.

I went with my dad, who was not that fussed about dahlias before (probably because he's seen my cackhanded attempts to grow them), but now he's converted and wants to grow them himself. Such is the power of a flower field like this.

I spent ages walking up and down each row, photographing the dahlias, thinking, "This one's my favourite...no, this one...no, this one...", and chasing butterflies that seemed to love the colourful blooms.

Richard showed me the famous Flower Monger, aka Fashion Monger - a striking dahlia that attracted bees.

I saw huge Cafe au Lait blooms, which are very popular with florists. (Although personally, I can't see why they are so universally adored...they're beautiful enough, but, I don't know. I prefer others.)

Like these...

Or these. The first is Wizard of Oz, the second I am not sure, the third is Orange Garden, the fourth is Orfeo, the fifth is Hapet Belladonna, and the sixth is Black Wizard.

It was lovely to get a tour of the field with Richard afterwards, as he cut stems for me to take, and to hear about his work and about the different flowers. He is so knowledgeable and a delight to chat to - I recommend a visit to his flower field for anyone who likes dahlias. And for Sussex florists, this is kid in a sweet shop territory - do go and visit. This is my bucket of sixteen different dahlias. Beautiful!