Beautiful Cornwall

woodflowers

This is the season for flower shows, first The Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show and then, closer to home, The Royal Cornwall Flower Show.

I’ve been lucky enough to squeeze attendance at both these two important flower shows into my busy schedule this year. I say important, because as a floral designer, visiting flower shows ticks a few boxes for me: professional profile (I get out and about and plenty of chances for good chats with other professionals, potential clients, and suppliers); industry insider tips (lots of great design/materials ideas to take back to my workshop for upcoming commissions, weddings, and formal displays); personal pleasure (last, but not least, because I just love flowers!).

So how were they? Well, Chelsea was spectacular, always inspiring, amazing, a phenomenon really, but if I am perfectly honest, the stress of getting to the venue, the time it takes to gain entry and the sheer physical slog of going round with the throng has to be set against that. I loved the work on display (what I could see of it) but this year the sheer numbers of people present were off putting. There was an amount of pushing and shoving, straining forward to see the stunners and the winners, and for me, ‘elbows out ladies’ goes against the whole idea of what flowers and gardens should ideally be about – harmony, balance, relaxation. Flowers and floral design  should bring sensory delights – colours, smells, textures – and also elements which are spiritually uplifting. This year, at Chelsea that was not so easy to find.

Royal Cornwall, however, was as ever, a delight. As the website says, Royal Cornwall’s event is:

A flower show that prides itself on a well-earned reputation for being one of the country’s best. It attracts trade exhibitors from far and near and they compete with each other to mount the finest displays.

And once into the whole event, it’s free. I’d recommend going, every time.

I had a great day looking round, and the flowers were excellent, really stunning. For my competition entries, I had two good results overall: a second prize and a ‘Highly Commended’ in the imposed class. For this last challenge, a race against the clock, they say working under pressure can bring out your best qualities… although it never feels like it at the time.

Reading that paragraph above back, I think my perspective on those shows boils down to the fact that Cornwall is such a great place to live, the pace and quality of life here are just hard to beat. I love going on trips ‘up country’, London even, but at the end of the day, I love good old Kernow and all it has to offer, more. I love the lifestyle, the views, the coast, the mild climate (most of the time), the unspoiled areas, the sub-tropical flora, the list goes on. Cornwall is such a fantastic venue for weddings, for anyone out-of-county looking for a truly beautiful and magical location, Cornwall is so unique and memorable, it has some wonderful spots, and if you have the right contacts (like yours truly :), you can find the same tip-top professional services in this  county as anywhere else, the only difference is, you will be happier with what’s left in your pocket.

Case in point, I have just had a booking for a wedding next year at Cornish Tipi in St Kew, “the closest you can get to an outside wedding in the UK”. With such beautiful wild woods, woodland streams, a wood, willow and canvas Pavilion, tented spaces, tree arbours, fire pits, charming outdoor accommodation in Tipis, where else could you find a lovely location like this, except Cornwall?

Further on this local theme, it gave me great pleasure this month to install my first  church flowers – either side of the altar at the chapel of Carclaze Methodist Church. It was the Sunday School Anniversary that day and as it so happened also the Anniversary of the date of the first Chapel ever opening. That morning a special anniversary service was planned and the flowers were there to add an especially colourful celebratory touch.  

Also on a local note, LOCAL FLOWERS ARE NOW AVAILABLE! Sorry about the capitals, not meaning to be shouty and all that, but last week was British Flowers Week, and not only did the event make it to Countryfile, (read all about it here) I just had to announce that this also marks the key week for the plentiful availability of local flowers here in Cornwall. Locally grown flowers are fresh, sustainable (no air miles), great for the local economy, beautiful, traditional, and, more importantly, affordable – so get some while you can.

And finally, if you’re interested in seeing some more pretty pictures of weddings in Beautiful Cornwall, look out for Floral Creations St Austell’s contribution to the photo shoot with Jules Mackintosh in the upcoming July issue of Pure Weddings.

In summer, the song sings itself…

summerwedbouq

In summer, the song sings itself‘ said a *poet, but if you’re marrying in summer, there’s still plenty of wedding planning to be done.

So this is the start of my busy time, with summer being the most popular season for weddings, when I end up driving from one end of the county to the other fulfilling orders for wedding flowers. I get to see the beautiful locations the couples have selected, from moorland to coast, and all hopefully in the sunshine. Already this month, I’ve provided the flowers for one couple in St Austell and another at The Greenbank Hotel in Falmouth. For the wedding table centre, the bride had chosen beautiful two-tone pink roses, the colour and texture of whipped ice-cream – so lovely to work with and so summery – they looked almost good enough to eat.

There are so many beautiful blooms to choose from at this time of year, it really does makes sense to make the most of your wedding budget by selecting flowers which are in season. Flowers in season are fresh, they’re available, they’re grown in Britain, and fewer air miles on the order ends up working wonders for your pocket.

Here are some early summer choices:

Allium Alstromeria Antirrhinum Astilbe Astrantia Brodiea Campanula Cornflower Delphinium Forget me Not Foxglove Freesia Gladioli Gypsophillia Iris Ixia Lavender Lilac Lily Lupin Peony Poppy Ranunculus Rose Scented pinks Statice Stocks Sweet Pea Sweet Williams Tulip

And for high summer:

Alstromeria Ammi Antirrhinum Astrantia Calendula Cornflower Cosmos Dahlia Delphinium Eryngium Fever Few Foxgloves Freesias Geum Gladiolus Godetia Gypsophillia Lavender Larkspur Lily Malope Nigella – ‘Love in the Mist’ Oriental Poppy Phlox Rose Salvia Scabious Statice Stocks Sunflower Sweet Pea Sweet William Verbascum Verbena Veronica Zinnia

What could be more romantic at this time of year, than the fantasy of a vintage Romany wedding? Such was the idea behind the photo shoot I took part in last week with Christine Trewinnard Couture and Julia Macintosh Photography. With all the elements in place, a beautiful model in a bridal gown which struck exactly the right note, perfect make-up, a charming painted wagon, rustic-style floral designs, it all worked wonderfully. You can see some behind-the-scenes shots over on my Facebook page.

With all this floral inspiration around, it is of course also the season (24-28th May) for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show so, on that note, I’m off. (Pictures in my next update!)

[*From ‘The Botticellian Trees’ by American poet, William Carlos Williams]

 

Sleepless summer nights

ehdgWhen important events happen as they should, the guests turn up at the allotted time, events proceed with due ceremony, and everyone from principal players to minor cast, enjoys the lovely food, admires the flowers, joins in with socialising, and feels a part of the occasion.

For those of us in the events industry however, as you can imagine, much more nailbiting and drama goes on behind the scenes and this month, the general bugbear for florists and floral designers across the land has been the problems at the Channel Tunnel.

In my business, it is important to offer variety and choice, and although I source many of my flowers with local growers, some customers want special orders out of season. Similarly, I offer sustainable materials, but feel it is also part of my work to be able to include elements grown outside the U.K. In short, I also rely on imports from Holland, Belgium and France.

So, with a big wedding coming up, and all the reports on the news, you can imagine how many sleepless nights I’ve had worrying about large orders not arriving in time, bespoke blooms sitting spoiling in a lorry refrigerator, trapped on the hard shoulder, and what a headache and organisational hassle finding a last minute alternative can be. For brides, the colours, the varieties, all the details, of their floral choices have been much discussed and carefully planned. 

Fortunately, I have my ways and means, and my plan B’s. In spite of the Channel Tunnel problems everything has worked out fine (so far!) this summer. And I was lucky in the timing of one wedding in particular during the worst of the disruption. Kyle and Hazel’s nuptials in mid-July were based on a country ‘picked from the hedgerow’ theme. Phew! Depending as it did on a choice of local varieties, that was one event which helped me get a few good night’s sleeps that week!

 

 

 

 

Dancing Flames

FlamingJJune is often known as ‘Flaming June’. The phrase comes from a famous painting by Frederic Lord Leighton, of a sleeping woman in a bright orange dress, a reproduction of which was popular in many Victorian homes. Although what ‘Flaming June’ has to do with the average weather in Britain in June is less easy to fathom. The phrase is used more often in irony than in truth!

Such is regularly the case with the weather at June fixtures. Take Glastonbury and Wimbledon, annual events held in June often affected by wind and rain. The Royal Cornwall Show (4-6th June) is sometimes no different, as loved by its fans as Glastonbury, almost as competitive as Wimbledon, and as proportionally well-attended whatever the weather. The Flower Show in particular draws the crowds. For this reason, it is an important June date for regional florists. 

This year there were three classes. One, inspired perhaps by hope of soaring June temperatures, was entitled ‘Dancing Flames’. I entered a design in each class and was delighted to be awarded Third for my piece… ‘Dancing Flames’

On June 13th it was my role to create the floral designs for the wedding of Leanne and Neil at Glendorgal Hotel, an inspiring setting with its stunning views of Cornish seas across the Atlantic. I hear they had a wonderful day. You can see some of the floral work for it, and many other pieces, over on my Facebook page.

It has been a busy month, so after all the creative output, it was lovely to get some input at a small and friendly floral skills workshop at Holbrook House, Wincanton, Somerset, with Sabine Darall, a highly respected floral stylist and event designer. We explored key aspects of dressing an event, everything from the expected, to spectacular floral canopies. Sabine feels it is “a privilege to work with such a beautiful medium“.

I have to say, I wholeheartedly agree. 

Warm days on the way

jugbouq2Did you know?

“The UK is the world leader in the commercial production of daffodils, with over 4,000 ha grown. Nearly half of the output of bulbs and cut-flowers is exported to Europe and North America.”

[Dr Rosemary Collier, Warwick Crop Centre, The University of Warwick.]

And West Cornwall is one of the major daffodil growing areas. It’s certainly no surprise to me, because since I was a girl, I’ve loved seeing wild spring daffodils and narcissi showing colour in Cornish hedgerows before they even hint at appearing anywhere else.

Down in Cornwall we leapfrog the cool white snowdrops that are a sign of spring coming but still a couple of months away ‘up country’, and launch straight into spring yellows and oranges. Which makes the county the perfect place for a spring wedding. There may be a touch of rain, it’s true (a fine excuse to carry a pretty umbrella), but temperatures outside will be warmer than everywhere else in mainland Britain.

This Sunday, March 1st, is the first wedding venue open day to be held at a well-loved local hotel, Trenython Manor, (gorgeous views over the Bay and Italianate touches) and I will be there among the champagne and canapés.

So come along, say hello and talk flowers. You’ll find me in the chapel!

Spring into Spring!

To send to your valentine?

Celebrated since before the time of Chaucer and courtly love, some say loosely connected with the Roman fertility festival of Lupercalia, and linked with the first rites of Spring, Valentine’s Day is a busy time in every Florist’s Calendar. Spring seems to start properly with all the preparations for the luxury bespoke arrangements ordered as romantic gifts.

Romance, it seems, is just the lift we need at this time of year, and so it’s often the time when brides turn to wedding planning. One very busy and successful Wedding Fayre over in January, my diary is quickly filling up, not only for this year but next, and even into 2017, as I meet more brides-to-be and bridal flowers become part of their plans. My next attendance at a bridal event will be at one of Cornwall’s biggest wedding fairs at the Hall for Cornwall on February 15th.

Everything for the bride and groom to be will be available, from photographers to videographers, cake makers, flowers, bridal wear and entertainments. Designs from the Bridal House of Cornwall will be modelled on the catwalk and free goody bags will be given to lucky brides to be. It’s only £2 to get in, so if you are planning your wedding, come along and find my stand, and we’ll have a chat about about the flowers for your big day.

With the Wedding planning season underway, I was invited to take part in a glamorous wedding photo-shoot at Tregenna Castle (a fantastic wedding venue) organised by artistic, wedding-inspired, professional photographer Olivia Whitbread-Roberts. Not only was it great fun (I designed the brides’ bouquets and the bumper decoration for the VW wedding car included in the shoot), but fascinating to see what can go into one wedding day, so many creative crafts and services involved, including Makeup by Verity, Freelance Makeup Artist In Cornwall, Locks and Lashes, Claudia Montano, Weddings & Events, Honey Bugs Cornwall, Funky Flags Bunting, Sammy’s Cakes & Serendipity. You’ll be able to see the final photos in the upcoming edition of the magazine – I’ll post a link here when it’s issued.

On a slightly different note, there’s more to floristry than weddings of course, and I’ve already had an inspiring and interesting start to the year in other aspects of my work.

In early February, I helped decorate Exeter Cathedral as part of a team of florists from the Academy of Floral Art. If you’ve been to the Cathedral you’ll know it is a beautiful, large, and awe-inspiring building, and, being a centre of worship, has a solemn and reverent atmosphere; these were elements we had to consider in our final designs. We combined textured plant materials with fresh green and white florals, built around key note structural elements, to create large, tasteful arrangements with high impact, which would echo the colonnades and arches. I think all of us were pleased with the results. You can see some of them here, on my Facebook page and in the Gallery page on this site.

A week or so later, I had another lovely day at British Growers South West, meeting many florists & enjoyed a tip-filled presentation from Rona Wheeldon, of Flowerona – who writes another popular florist’s blog here, at Rona Wheeldon’s Flower Blog.

For Floral Creations St Austell this year so far, February really has meant springing forward into Spring!

The last rose of summer?

If there is a flower that reminds us of summer more than any other, it surely has to be the rose. Tourists love our heritage English rose gardens, views of rambling roses spilling over country cottage walls, brightening the corners of pub gardens, roses on show at village fetes, the best of Britain in Bloom. And everyone loves to see a summer bride with a beautiful rose bouquet.

summer bridal bouquet

The rose is one of the most versatile flowers to include in bouquets and arrangements. I love to use them in my creations, especially at this time of year. They’re so compact and layered, with such lovely velvety petals and that famous mysterious centre, perfect to convey the mysteries of love!

From a florist’s point of view, firm long stems are a plus point, and they last well, but to me, their truly priceless quality (apart from the scent) is their sheer variety – they come in so many colours, shades, shapes, and sizes. In the language of flowers different colours mean different things, so roses are fun as well, for including messages (secret or otherwise) in arrangements. Roses also suit pretty much any floral style, vintage/shabby chic, or contemporary.

Taking a simple popular flower like the summer rose and seeing what can be achieved when you combine it with new materials, in fresh ways, using up-to-the-minute styles and techniques is one of the challenges and pleasures of my job. Keeping ahead of new trends makes sound business sense, but is also a personal joy.

So business was combined with pleasure earlier this month when I attended [email protected], an event showcasing some of Europe’s most skilled and flamboyant master florists, to take part in demonstrations and workshops by (among others) favourite designers of mine, Per Benjamin and Gregor Lersch.  It was a wonderful weekend, included displays and demonstrations by Stijn Simaeys, Robert Koene, Bruno Durate, and Rob Plattel.  The work shown to us by these talented guys has filled my imagination with plenty of ideas for future designs.

In fact, I was so inspired, I tried out some new pieces (featuring roses) when I got home – perfect to include in the Floral Creations St Austell display stand at a Wedding Fayre held a few days later, on Bank Holiday Monday.  Organised by Partini Balloons, the venue was the charming setting of St Petroc’s in Bodmin, a lovely old Cornish church. I thought the event would provide an ideal opportunity to meet some prospective new brides, grooms, and mothers-in-laws (who often help organise the flowers), and so it proved to be.

We had a great day, made lots of new contacts with plenty of busy and productive networking. I’d say the event promises to become a ‘must add to the calendar’ for wedding services and suppliers across the county and I will be going again.

(See my Facebook page for some pictures of my stand, complete with new exhibition banners, and of course, a variety of freshly [email protected] bridal arrangements!)

So, as Gok Wan might say, August has been ‘all about the roses’. But there is a nip in the air now, September is round the corner, the garden roses are past their best and it feels like summer is nearly over. However, don’t despair, if you want arrangements of roses for your event, the roses don’t run out for us. We have our ways of finding beautiful blooms, whether from local suppliers or further afield, for your floral orders – all year round.

Floral art is full of surprises

Whenever we think of the main rites of passage in life, from weddings to funerals, we take for granted, perhaps, that the services of a florist will be on hand to help us mark the occasion. This month, though, seems to have been as much about that other large area of floristry work, ‘Other Occasions’ – all those diverse other events that make interesting and unusual demands on our creativity and floral art skills.

One key commemoration this summer has of course been the First World War 2014-2018 WW1 Centenary and the marking of the D-Day landings. Community groups and local organisations across the country have been busy planning events to honour previous generations and remind the new ones of the historical impact of the two world wars.

This is my contribution to one event in a picturesque corner of Cornwall, as part of Charlestown Church Flower Festival. The theme for this element of the event was, ‘There’ll Always be an England’, based on Rule Britannia, to commemorate D-Day.

RuleBritannia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the event finished, the flowers in my entries were still fresh and vibrant, so I rearranged them and donated the resulting creations to Mount Edgcumbe Hospice to be enjoyed there.

Later in the month, an even more unusual floral challenge awaited me around around the corner, set by the ‘Academy of Floral Art’ in Exeter, where I trained…

This summer, Ambius, the world’s largest interior landscaping company, decided to commission a celebration of Britain’s sporting achievements. Following a poll conducted to find the nation’s favourite sporting heroes and heroines, Ambius came up with the idea of asking floral experts to create works to celebrate these outstanding individuals.

I was one of the group of students and teachers from the Academy of Floral Art chosen to design floral portraits of the trio of winners – Andy Murray, Jessica Ennis-Hill, and Lewis Hamilton – made entirely out of natural plants and flowers. Let me tell you, this was no easy task.

But it gave us an opportunity to plan complex work on a large scale and really show our floristry skills. We were determined to source flower material solely from a local British flower grower and wholesaler, and found plenty of locally grown material to create contrast, colour, and texture to the faces, including Dianthus, Eucalyptus and Beech leaves.

We were quietly chuffed with the results – see what you think – I’ve posted the portraits on over on my Facebook page here.

June round-up

lonelybqdayWeddings, proms, celebrations, summer dinner dances, as you might expect, June is a busy month in the world of flowers and floral design. Florists, the floral industry, customers marking events from graduations to anniversaries, all of us like to make the most of everything the British summer has to offer. Floral Creations St Austell is no exception!

Monday June 16th saw the start of ‘British Flowers Week‘ : ‘a week‐long celebration of the wealth and variety of the Best of British cut flowers and foliage, championed by New Covent Garden Flower Market‘.

I love to use locally grown and British flowers in season in my work, there’s a glorious variety to choose from.  Lisianthus, stocks, hydrangeas, calla lilies, and peonies, are all among my favourites, and beautiful scented British ‘garden roses’ of course, perfect for weddings. You might be surprised how many British beauties are on offer – have a look at this fantastic chart (helpfully produced by the New Covent Garden Flower Market – it takes a moment or two to load but worth waiting for) and find the range of seasonal flowers you could choose for your event – all grown on home soil.

Later in the month, came the *’World Flower Show’ at Ballsbridge, in Dublin. Even a hard-working florist sometimes takes a holiday in summer, so I combined work with play this year and took a trip to the *WFS for some wonderful floral inspiration (and relaxation) and a chance to see the House of Waterford Crystal, a scenic train-ride down the coast.

There were some truly astounding floral creations on display at the World Flower Show, a feast for the eyes, everything from a spectacular range of orchids (another favourite!) to even more exotic and outlandish uses of foliage and form. Here’s but a small selection of my snaps from my Facebook page. The Twitter hashtag for the day was #FloralOdyssey and a journey through a sea of flowers it proved to be.

The month ended on a sweet note, too.  Sunday 29th June was ‘International Lonely Bouquet Day‘. This is a lovely idea which really appealed to me (and not just because I’m a florist) – share a little floral happiness by leaving flowers for others to find, ‘spreading smiles one flower at a time‘.

I decided to take part and made some pretty and portable summer posies (including the one at the top of this page) and left them in likely locations in and around town.

I’ll keep you posted on what happened next…