Flores para los muertos : flowers for the dead

chrysanthemums and roses

If you have been anywhere outside your front door this last week, you can’t have failed to notice evidence of an approaching event which seems to become more visible every year – Halloween.

The history of how we have come to mark this date in Britain is long and complicated, but whether you’re in favour of ‘trick or treating’, wearing ghoulish costumes, taking part in a religious observance, or just having some family time with apple-bobbing and pumpkin-carving, it would be true to say that most cultures across the world mark something similar at this time of year – Allhallowtide, All Hallow’s Eve, Hallowmas, The Mexican Day of the Dead, All Soul’s Day. What these events share is that in some way – typically by laying flowers and gifts on the graves of our ancestors – they all commemorate and pay public respect to the dead.

Flowers are the very symbol of how quickly life passes, beautiful one moment, gone the next, colourful, but temporary. Each culture, from Fiji to Fife, Mexico to Malaysia, seems to claim a different flower for it’s own tradition. In Mexico, at the three day festival leading up to The Day of the Dead, the traditional flower of choice is the marigold.

In France, pots of chrysanthemums are placed on the graves, creating a beautiful spectacle of yellows, golds and reds. In fact, because they are an autumn flower, chrysanthemums are popular across the Northern hemisphere, often accompanied by a candle or a symbolic loaf of bread. Some traditions favour wreaths, others more extensive creations which include decoration, photographs, gifts of alcohol or milk. In Germany, evergreens are worked into the church yard arrangements perhaps to suggest that in the face of death, life goes on.

Needless to say, this is a very busy time of year for florists. Whether your event is traditional to your faith, or more pagan in spirit, I like to combine the rich seasonal colour palette, autumn shades, British blooms, natural evergreens, and interesting floral materials to create special impact for Halloween.

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…

 

Competitions

contemporary wedding bouquetAs with all creative professions, there are different styles of working, and floristry is no exception.

Alongside the highly respected international names (Dutch, German, Japanese and American) who put a strong stamp on their work and host demonstrations of their art which influence us all, there are of course talented home-grown designers coming forward contributing to new trends. With each season, inspirational designers find fresh ways to include new floral materials in their designs. Some cutting edge floral creations are like the fashion catwalk, a little difficult for most of us to wear, but the trends trickle down, mellow and mature, and influence the high-street. Before long we all want that new style.

Competitions are where this all comes together. Aiming for prizes challenges our creativity and gives the industry stamp of approval to our professionalism. Entering new work is daunting, but it’s an important way to stretch our talents, develop, showcase our credentials and let our clients know we’re up with all the latest trends. (Brides, in particular, know about up-to-the-minute fashions in bridal flowers and we have to keep one step ahead!)

So this is a roundabout way of telling you what I’ve been up to lately. You guessed. Developing new work for competitions.

Last week I took part in my first Royal Cornwall Show and entered some new work in 4 floral art classes. There were some amazing designs from some very talented people and the ‘Imposed’ class (where you get a bag of materials you open when they say ‘Start!’) was great fun.

I was very pleased with my results. I was awarded a 4th in one class, and two Highly Commendeds, including one in the ‘Imposed’ class.  The constructive feedback from the other two classes was really helpful.

Congratulations to all the winners. See you next year!

Busy times for the business

It’s been a hectic fortnight, building up to to some key events in the life of my new business enterprise, but it’s all been worth it. 

The Floral Creations St Austell website is launched, I’ve already had some brilliant feedback on my arrangements, and I’ve met some of my first official customers. 

weddingbouquet

Last weekend was the Cornish Brides show at Kingsley Village, on the outskirts of Fraddon. Brides-to-be from all over the county would be coming to get ideas for their big day, and I’d decided this would coincide with the official launch of my freelance floral business. One of my specialities is, of course, wedding bouquets and bridal flowers. We cater for every stage of the event from bridesmaid’s posies, to large bridal arrangements for the wedding venue and reception, traditional themed events and eco or green weddings.   

There was a lot to organise in advance of the event. The stand was booked, leaflets printed, badges done, but the flowers were the most important part. All week my store-room was full of beautiful fresh blooms, the rafters ringing with the sound of clipping and cutting (and Radio 2) as we prepared and made a variety of arrangements to show-case some of the types of flowers and designs suitable for weddings, as the day approached. I love the challenge of building up to a big event, and I think the looming deadline and working under pressure brings out my creativity (although I admit one evening I nearly forgot to feed the dogs!).

Anyway, it all went  really well. We (my floral assistant and I) took along some additional flowers to create some of the smaller arrangements actually at the event. We drew quite a crowd for the demonstrations, which gave me a good chance to chat with the brides-to-be, talk about flowers, and swap details. It was a great day. 

wedding bouquet

Of course, the floral arrangements on view weren’t for sale, so after the event, I donated several to a corporate event being held at Kingsley Village the next day to decorate the tables, and some to Cloisters Restaurant at St Austell College for the Students Awards evening

 

An autumn arrangement

seasonal colour

Designed for the welcome area at a small corporate event held in autumn. The warm colours and the informal arrangement of the flowers were designed to reflect the brief, to help set the tone of the evening, as guests were welcomed with a glass of steaming punch.

Welcome home

We all love celebrating special occasions – the planning, the preparation, the nerves before the event, and then the sheer delight and strong emotions which arrive with the guests when the festivities begin.

Flowers can say so much, so simply. Imagine this table arrangement at a large family dinner, a gathering to welcome home a husband, a son, a brother, a friend, a serviceman who is home on leave from a tour of duty overseas.

yellow roses for welcome back

In the language of flowers yellow roses can mean, ‘Joy, Gladness, Friendship, Delight, Promise of a new beginning, Welcome Back, Remember Me,  “I care”. 

They can say something of the feelings of everyone there.