A new year begins

floral tribute funeral flowers

Happy New Year to my customers, let’s hope 2017 brings health and happiness to all.

In this second week of January, when we get up in the dark and return home from work in the dark, when nature seems asleep, as if nothing will ever grow again, all we need to do is take a closer look to see those first small signs of spring. Already, peeking through the dark blanket of last year’s fallen leaves, are the first green shoots of 2017’s crop of snowdrops and daffodils. As always, the cycle of life begins again.

In the floristry services sector, it is this cycle which sets the rhythm of our year, with each new round of births, baby showers, birthdays, engagements, milestone celebrations, and marriages, with colours and flowers-in-season changing with the weather along the way. Often on these pages, the weddings are the focus, as large events are the mainstay of my business, but funeral services are as much a part of life, and so quietly in the background, throughout the year, come the orders for  floral tributes (like the one at the top of this page), commissioned to mark the passing of loved ones.

Thank you, Karen, for the beautiful design – thoughtful winter whites in the roses and lisianthus, with a splash of yellow through, her favourite colour, to mark her passing and celebrate her life – the sheaf was exactly how I imagined it when we spoke and looks lovely in the memorial garden.”

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My first key business diary date for 2017 is the Art of Weddings Bridal Show at St Austell Conference Centre (11am-3pm) on Sunday January 22nd and so begins again the cycle of wedding plans…

With free admission and free parking, this the perfect friendly venue for engaged couples and brides-and-grooms-to-be to take a stroll past local wedding suppliers, browse their wares, ask some questions, and arrange consultation appointments. I will be there, with a special display, so do come along and see what sorts of effects might be possible for your event.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas

christmasring

Pine cones, ponsettia, Christmas roses, Nordic spruce, cinnamon, oranges, stars, and spice, these are a few of my favourite things (and just a small selection of the ingredients which can be added to a Christmas wreath).

After my holiday in November, and a really interesting visit to Flora Holland (the Dutch flower auction house) it’s been a busy month leading up to Christmas, and as you might expect, I’ve been mostly making Christmas rings (or wreaths) for local customers to adorn their front doors for the festive season. Just a short trip wandering around your local town and you’ll see such a huge variety of these traditional ‘welcome’ rings decorating most front doors in the neighbourhood: some shop-bought, of course, some home-made – and there are some excellent home-crafted examples out there – and others with that extra special something, no doubt deftly assembled by a skilful artisan florist…

I’m still taking orders, by the way, until Wednesday 21st December  🙂

I love it when my customers give me free reign to incorporate unusual plant materials and make the most of my creativity. This season, so far, I’ve been able to include many things, from the traditional, like apple rings, limes, acorns, star anise, holly, berries, to the more unusual, like dewy spider-web strands or shiny buttons to add a pop of colour.

The traditional designs have been especially popular this year, so it’s worth pondering what it all means. The word ‘wreath’ stems from the Middle English word “wrethe” meaning a twisted band or a garland of leaves or flowers, so, like most of our modern Christmas traditions, the Christmas ring is a ‘weaving together’ of ideas and traditions from pagan, Roman, and modern Christian times.

In the pagan tradition, these winter decorations brought natural living evergreen materials into the home at a bleak time of year to show the promise of spring to come. Historians report that the Romans gave each other holly wreaths as gifts, and British Romans often displayed them on doors as a sign of status or victory. By Christian times, weaving evergreens together comes to represent eternal growth and the everlasting circle of life brought through the birth of Jesus, and the circular shape signifies God, a being without beginning or end.

Put it all together and you have a tradition which goes back centuries, one which blends past cultures and diverse religious ideas into one symbolic design. How better to sum up the spirit of Christmas than to pin to your front door a decoration which smells lovely, looks pretty, and remains as charming and popular as ever today?

On which note, I must get back to making some more – and sign off until the New Year. Meanwhile, I would like to wish all my customers and friends,

‘Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year!’

Professional development

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The U.S election result has been a stark reminder of how rapidly change can happen, bringing with it knock-on effects for all of us. So, as early winter can be one of my more quiet times, I’ve been thinking this month about my business in the wider context. Whatever line of work you do these days, a rapidly changing and competitive world means it really does pay to try to stay ahead of your game. The best way I’ve found to do that is through continuing professional development. This has been CPD month.

Technically, it all started at the end of October when I went to a workshop which explored ways of working with ribbon, following on with attendance at Fleurex, The Annual Floral Fair for today’s Professional Florist at the Chesford Grange Hotel, Kenilworth. I was particularly interested in watching two outstanding demonstrations, one by Laura Leong (who I have mentioned here before) and the other by Annette von Eimen. Wonderful work. The British Florist Association, who organised the event, has posted one of Annette’s displays on Facebook, so if you would like to see a florist working really fast with flowers, have a look here. 

If someone had told me when I left school how many more qualifications, workshops and CPD events lay ahead of me in my lifetime, I wouldn’t have believed them. But I’ve been lucky enough to have had a varied and interesting career path so I’ve taken part in plenty of fascinating, enriching, challenging, difficult, frustrating, and fabulous professional development events, which have all added up to bring me to the point I’m at today – running my own floral design business and loving it.

When you’re working for yourself the demand to create fresh business and meet orders is always there, on the calendar, right in front of you, and it might seem tempting to put CPD on ‘the back burner’, especially when you are building the business, but I’ve found that CPD activity goes hand in hand with those other vital parts of the business cycle.

Attending courses and professional events away from the hub of your SME cave can feel like a luxury but as much as technology is altering the way we do business (yes, even in floristry) it can also help save on costs by bringing CPD to your desktop. The growth of online forums, social media, webinars and e-newsletters all make it easier to take part in training, even from home.

That said, I do like to get out and about, so my final CPD for 2016 was a trip to a special workshop on floral ‘mechanics’ with Laura Leong. I returned with a box of interesting structural items in autumn and winter colours to inspire a variety of glittery, light-reflecting creations perfect for winter work.

As to be expected in November, there are fewer weddings at this time of year, but I will mention one commission from last month I particularly enjoyed. The bouquet for the couple is featured at the top of the page. As you can see, the bride and I settled on an arrangement suited both to the season and to the couple’s choice of venue, Knightor Winery, with its wild winter garden and Cornish granite outbuildings and barns. That combination allowed me to use those freshly honed CPD skills and draw on recent inspiration for ways of mixing beautiful winter textures and colours.

Lastly, before we start to prepare for Christmas, I’d like to say thank you to all the brides and grooms who voted for me in the Simply Wedding awards. I didn’t win, but I really appreciate all the support that made me a finalist. Thank you!

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]

 

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!

Plant Materials

 

Flowers are my first love, but my recent travels (a holiday trip of a lifetime) have given me fresh inspiration for the sheer range and variety of stunning foliage, mosses, ferns, variegated leaves, ornamental grasses, herbs, and evergreens, we can include to give structure and impact to floral design.

Blue skies in Dubai

Perhaps it used to be the case that plant materials were underrated, typically they formed the base of an arrangement, the canvas on which the flowers were the paint, but contemporary floristry has evolved. Nowadays, plant materials are just as likely to be the focus of the piece. There are so many interesting shapefrom nature, from seed pods to plant roots seen in floral work now. They are popular across the board, whether creating a dramatic key note in award-winning floral creations or adding an odd, exotic shape to the window of the high-street flower shop.

The contrast between dark waxy monstera leaves, for example, and the curly fronds of a fiddle-head fern, leave us stunned by nature’s bounty. Certainly, no florist worth their salt today would be without knowledge of or access to an all year-round range of stunning plant materials in the making of stand-out floral designs.