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. 

Flora & Fauna

 

bouq2April, and May so far, have been a whirl of wedding-related activities.

First of all, there was some essential networking to be done at a recent Designer Flora Meetup in Gloucester. Most florists work as part of, or run, small businesses, and many of us work alone, so it becomes even more important to make the effort to catch up with other professionals, swap stories, good and bad, exchange tips and share some of the ‘tricks’ of the trade.

Photography isn’t a ‘trick’ as such, but often we floral designers are so used to seeing our flowers centre stage, when it comes to taking photographs, it’s easy to forget that the composition and the background around the flowers can detract from the star of the show if you don’t consider them – and ruin the effect of the work. The photography workshop at the Meetup was great for encouraging us to practice the art of snapping our work to best effect – essential in these days of instant social media marketing.

Alongside networking, are the all important floristry workshops. I’m a firm believer in keeping my skills up to date, learning new techniques and trying fresh twists on familiar styles. For example, a recent workshop with Laura Leong at Kingston Maurward College was a great introduction on how judges mark floral work in competitions, and provided an insight into key aspects of design we should be attending to whether working on a competition entry or not. Laura is an “award-winning florist, teacher and demonstrator with many years’ experience as a retail florist and teacher. A background in fine art means that interests in contemporary design and crafting techniques are at the forefront of her design work”, so it was fascinating to see her in action. This was followed shortly after by a workshop with Francoise Weeks, skilled in woodland designs and an expert in ‘botancial couture‘ where we learned all about shoes and wedding clutches made from foliage, petals and gilded leaves.

Another part of my regular work is to meet brides, often at their chosen venue, to plan the final details of the floral arrangements for their big day. I get to drive all over Cornwall to visit some beautiful venues, fine hotels, and charming old churches. I love it. I don’t get to go to the wedding, of course, but it’s particularly special for me to imagine my creations in the exact spot where they will be immortalised in the wedding photographs, and usually I do get to see those.

Which brings me to the photo-shoot. As every bride knows, wedding magazines are a rich source of ideas in the planning stage, and as a florist, or floral designer, it is a real coup to get your work showcased in print in this way. I’m lucky enough to have been involved in a few wedding shoots specifically for the wedding magazine market now, and I have to say, it is as glamorous as it looks.

Typically, there is a hair and make-up artist, a lovely young model, maybe bridesmaids, and a florist (in this case, yours truly) on hand, the all team set to transform the bride-to-be into Princess for a Day.

You can see some of the results over on my Weddings Gallery, here, and on the Wed Magazine online edition, here.

You can see, when you have the services of a professional wedding photographer on hand, like Lisa from Kernow Dream Photography, in charge of the shoot that day, the composition, background, and details, are all taken into account. The flowers play a part, but there’s no doubt who is the real star of the show.

New arrivals

some of my ordered flowers Rainbow pastel gerberas! I just had to post a picture of these beauties freshly delivered in a crisp white box. They arrived at my studio today in readiness for my latest round of designs.

This March I’ve felt a bit like the Mad March Hare, as my business activities have really taken off and my diary has been filling up at a dizzying speed. I’ve attended two wedding events (see my new Weddings Gallery page), been part of an exciting collaborative wedding photo shoot, prepared flowers for seasonal celebrations, taken on a new hotel contract, and kept up with my networking meetings – I’ve had no time to blog!

But before I get into all that, I wanted to have a quick word about another new arrival that seems to be gaining in popularity in Britain now – the Baby Shower!

Once again we seem to be following our American cousins in the way they celebrate Halloween and Mother’s Day (colourfully, with flowers and cakes!) by adopting the way new mums-to-be in the States have pre-natal parties to celebrate their pregnancies. It’s a great way to gather all the girls (female relatives and friends) together to toast the old life, before baby, and welcome in the new world of motherhood.

If you would like to throw a baby shower, but you’re not sure quite how to go about it, I’m increasingly asked for flowers for these events, so I can help with those, but if you’d like some more general tips, here is a handy guide on some do’s and don’ts when planning your baby party.

Talking of celebration days, March of course has two more traditional (saints) days on the annual calendar: the well-known St Patrick’s Day on March 17th which is a fine excuse to raise a half a pint of Guinness in the name of all things Irish (more appropriate than in my grandmother’s day, when a ‘milk stout’, like Mackeson’s or Guinness, was said to be good for a pregnant or breast-feeding mother!); and St Piran’s Day on March 5th. If you are from out-of-county (or ‘up country’ as we call it), you may be wondering who St Piran was.

He arrived in Cornwall from Ireland via The Saint’s Way, and became the patron saint of tin miners and, as such, is celebrated in Cornwall. St Piran’s flag, a white cross on a black background, has become the emblem of the county.

Every year, I make fresh designs for these days of saints and celebrations, whether to mark a parade, decorate a church, to brighten a family party, or adorn a hotel reception room. You can find some of my latest ones over on my freshly updated Floral Creations gallery page, or more details on my ‘Other Occasions page.

As I said at the start, it has been a busy month. Early in March I had a stand at the Wedding Fayre at fantastic luxury venue, licensed for weddings, The Llawnroc Hotel, Gorran Haven, in south Cornwall, meeting plenty of future brides and grooms and talking floral ideas for their Big Day.  The hospitality manager was so taken with one of my large pieces, set in a giant wine glass, specially designed for the bridal event, that I was offered the contract to create a regular display for the Reception space at the hotel. Good news!

Another new arrival to the business in March resulted from a networking event. As any new business person knows, getting out into the market place is essential, both a challenge and, when it works, a delight. Recently, I met Bella of Designer Flora

an online floral directory of stunning floral designers. Our aim is to link up some of the best independent, designer florists in the UK to provide you with beautiful, fresh, seasonal flowers.  Quite simply, we are your little black book of awesome florists.

and joined the directory as one of just two designer florists in the county of Cornwall.

And as far as networking goes, for a florist enchanted by plant materials and textures, what better networking venue could there be than the Mediterranean Biome at the Eden Project?  I was there yesterday to take part in Cornwall Hour, an opportunity to meet new contacts and suppliers from far and wide – a stimulating way to end the week.

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!

Bridal Extravaganza

If you’re interested in all things bridal, from frocks and frills, to flowers and favours, The Wedding Alliance Cornwall are holding their first 2015  Bridal Extravaganza tomorrow ( Sunday 18th January ) from 11am – 3pm at The Atlantic Hotel, Dane Road, Newquay, TR7 1EN.

wedding15The event is free, “one of the biggest in the annual calendar. With over 60 exhibitors and specialists from the best of the Cornish wedding industry and an amazing setting that is the luxury Atlantic hotel.”

Floral Creations St Austell will be there. I love the buzz of these events, the entertainment and demonstrations, all of us who provide products and services for weddings, love to share in the excitement of the planning, so please come along, say hello, pull up a pew, and talk flowers with me.

All under one roof

silkflowers

When I got married *+!~# [cough] years ago, weddings were done differently than the way they are today.

Planning was involved, of course, but the variety of wedding-related products and services available to your average bride and groom were far fewer than nowadays. Most likely, you married locally, or near the home of your husband or wife to be. Your wedding venue was a church or registry office; at that time, registrars were not licensed to marry couples at hotels, castles, stately homes, beaches, or moors! You chose your colours, but the rest was maybe more straightforward than it can be today; then, your flowers and your cake were probably made by someone local who came recommended by a relative or friend. There was less spectacle, perhaps, but things were simpler. These days, I sometimes think, when I chat to about-to-be-married folk at wedding fayres and other floristry events I attend, that there are almost too many options.

Anyway, times change, and thankfully, the wedding industry has changed as well. More services are available online, and for those personal elements which call out to be touched, or tasted, or tried on, a Wedding Emporium is a popular option by gathering everything you need under one roof. This helps save on all the searching and driving around (and expense). Who could resist the chance to be a bit pampered by all that experience and expertise in one place? It’s almost guaranteed to make the planning and shopping not only easy and convenient, but fun. This is one improvement I wish had been around in my day…

Now no longer a blushing bride, but a freelance florist, you can imagine how delighted I was to be invited to join in with such a venture to become the florist in residence at Frocks & Frills Wedding Studio near Falmouth. It’s great not only to be able to show what I can offer, and have my flowers form part of someone’s Big Day, but to meet some of the other suppliers and see each whole event come together in a co-ordinated way.

Frocks and Frills offer a fantastic service, a full range of artisan, freelance, and bespoke services, from one lovely location, Mill House, Trewardreva Mill, Constantine.  As their website says,

Choose your dress and accessories, bridesmaids dresses, mother of the bride outfits; try a classic wedding car for comfort and size; select your favours and flowers or candy buffet; view products and information from cake makers, photographers, chair covers & sashes, venues, outside caterers, handmade silver jewellery and stationery – all under one roof. 

I’d advise anyone planning their wedding in the county to save themselves some stress and go along and have a look – it really is something special – there’s a glittering array of bridal products and services, including, for wedding flowers, yours truly…

At Floral Creations St Austell we offer a complete and personalised service with fresh flowers to order, all colours of the rainbow, all year round, so to give customers a starting point to chat through ideas and arrive at choices, I’ve made a sample range of bouquets and wedding arrangements from silk flowers. You’ll find them on my stand at Frocks and Frills, they look just like the real thing, beautiful, realistic colours, soft to the touch (See the picture at the top of this page). Silk bouquets are also available to order if you would like to keep your bridal flowers (one ‘vintage’ idea that’s come back in fashion!) as a memento of your day.

So, here’s to a new business arrangement. I’m really looking forward to working with the Frocks and Frills team at Mill House – we hope to see you there.

(There’s a tale to how I came by these silk flowers. Have a look over on my Facebook page for the whole story 🙂 )

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.

A month of inspiration

Whenever I have the chance (and time) I read Floristry Magazine, follow flower growers blogs and Twitter feeds, and keep an eye on styles and competitions with the British Florist Association and their associated magazine, BFA Florist. I look out for award winning designs from well respected national and international floral designers, too. I love to learn from the world of floristry at large and think it’s important to keep up with the latest trends and developments.

A recent visit to B J Richards Nurseries with the Academy of Floral Art was an interesting window on the delicate process of flower-growing, vital to the final quality and freshness of our floral work. Senior Richards gave us so much history on the family business it was fascinating to hear.

BJ Richards Nurseries

Also this month, of course, it was the Chelsea Flower Show.  Every year there’s a competition to find the RHS Florist of the Year which we all watch with interest wondering if we will know the winner. This year, talented South West floral designer Amanda Randall (based in Tavistock) won a Gold for her entry. Congratulations, Amanda!

Last, but not least, back to my own designs. From this Thursday, H. Samuel in St Austell will be running a special wedding promotion. Some of my floral wedding work will be on display alongside the gorgeous bridal jewellery, so brides-to-be, mothers of the brides or grooms, please pop in if you’re passing and pick up a leaflet – and watch this space for a photo of one of my new  wedding designs.

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