As we move gently from summer to autumn, I thought you might like to see what we are cutting. All the Dahlias, leaves and Cosmos were picked today in our cutting garden. The hips are from Hampshire and the Scabious from Norfolk. I love the lush abundance that the season brings.
We have come to the end of what I think of as the summer wedding season....which slips seamlessly into the winter wedding season. We have flowered some gorgeous weddings this year and got to know some special brides. Over the coming months I will gradually upload all the stunning pictures they have sent me. and write some more detailed blog posts.
We are the process of sorting Christmas...sorry!! More details to follow.
This weekend I went to a very interesting exhibition at The Design Museum (Kensington High Street), called Breathing Colour by Hella Jongerius. A very thought provoking take on colour. Colour is a huge part of my work. Wedding work and flowers for photo shoots demand working to a customers colour brief. The best situation is when a client has identified a broad brush colour scheme and we can work with it. More challenging are situations where clients want to exact colour match colours of their flowers to fabrics or colour charts etc.
Flowers are natural products and as such they are rarely single colours. If you look closely at flowers they often have different colours through the flower, sometimes in the centre or outer petals, sometimes the colour changes from base to tip of petal. This can be subtle changes of tints and tones and sometimes it is an altogether other colour. This is particularly true of garden or outdoor grown blooms. They are influenced by weather, water, soil minerals etc. and as such the flowers can vary in colour from bloom to bloom even from the same plant. I like to use flowers which I think of as transitional colours which move from one colour to another as they include more than one shade. These flowers are fabulous flowers which link blooms of different colours together.
If you look closely at the flowers below you can see examples of colour variations within the same flower head and within the same petals.
Some flowers are more difficult to be certain of colours....white Roses and white flowers in particular are difficult. They are often white plus green, pale yellow/cream, white with a very faint hint of pink....pure white is almost impossible to find. Take a look at some of the "white" flowers below.
Hydrangeas are well known for colour variations dependant on soil acidity. The effect I understand is caused by the PH of the soil affecting aluminium availability. The Hydrangeas being blue in acid soil and pink in alkaline soil.
In addition people not only see colours differently but also describe colours differently and in my experience this particularly applies to more subtle shades of colour e.g. blush, nude etc. How would you describe the colours of the flowers below?
Colours look very different in different lighting conditions. Morning, afternoon, evening, summer, winter, inside, outdoors etc. Photography, the internet and filters also alter things...Colours are not always what they seem on line. Take a look at the dark Dahlias below...photographed in different conditions.
Plants grown in less natural conditions...hydroponically and undercover can have less colour variation and therefore be more consistent from bloom to bloom. This is because there is less variation in their growing environment which is highly controlled. In my view this tends to make them look more solid in colour and have less subtlety. They may also have been bred for specific colours sometimes those less easy to achieve naturally e.g lilac coloured Roses. There are situations where this is useful. However from the artistic point of view there is nothing to compare to the gorgeous colours created by nature.
Colour combinations are a whole other consideration....what looks good together and why. When I was training we were encouraged to work with very restricted colour palettes...e.g. Pinks, purples, creams...I love to work with unusual variations in colour palette and can honestly say that most of my work is never repeated on the colour front as each combination is unique. Perhaps something for another blog post!!
It is high summer and I have noticed to my horror that I haven't written a post since March! That is how things have gone here at The Garden Gate. We have been cutting and cutting from the cutting garden Tulips and Narcissus have given way to Alliums, Iris, Sweet Peas, Scabious, Phlox, Fennel, Cornflowers, Ammi and more. The Dahlias are just starting to flower but it will be a couple of weeks before they really get going. Last year we cut in the region of 15,000 stems but I have to admit to losing count. This year there will be more. We also buy in from other British growers. We do this to increase the varieties available but also to keep up with the quantities we need. Due to our sandy soil I source Roses from The Real Flower Company as they don't grow well here. Then I source flowers from other East Anglian growers...mostly in Norfolk. Sarah grows Peonies and Julie any number of things, currently including some gorgeous Mallow. Then we go further a field to growers in Lincolnshire and the West Country where the larger growers tend to be. Currently we are sourcing Cornish Agapanthus and Scabious from Lincolnshire amongst other things. luckily we are able to access these flowers via some small scale British flower wholesalers who help us source different varieties from the growers they buy from. Finally we buy Freesias from a family farm on Guernsey. When I send out bouquets I add details of where the flowers have been sourced from but I have started to add a little posting on the website each month so if you buy bunches you can see what we are using. With weddings I also try to share with the couple where their flowers are sourced from and what we have used. Often we have used so many different types of flowers the list isn't exhaustive but I think it is nice to know some information about your flowers...varieties and where they have been grown etc.
It is very important to me that our flowers are ethically sourced. I like to support other small scale artisan style growers, located as locally as possible. It is important to us to know where the flowers we use are grown and where possible by whom. We also use small scale British Flower Wholesalers that we trust to do like wise.
What we are cutting now...
I specialise in making natural funeral flowers...these are popular with gardeners, people wanting old fashioned flowers, people wanting a more personal service, people wanting beautiful understated flowers....
I pick flowers and foliage from family gardens if wished and make sheaths of flowers from my garden and other British growers. Like my bouquets they are scented and contain old fashioned and less common varieties of flowers. Most commonly they are finished with raffia but sometimes ribbon. To extend my skills and ideas next week I am going on a natural funeral flower course. I am keen to make and dress willow shapes for funeral tributes....more information and pictures to follow.
This natural floral theme is extended to church flowers for the service either funeral, memorial or celebration of life. I make big urns of flowers and vases of flowers. One of the huge benefits of this type of approach is that the flowers can be taken home by all the guests or incorporated into the service e.g. thrown into the sea or river with thoughts. I have discovered that many floral foam type arrangements are simply placed in the bin at the crematorium.
More recently I have arranged flowers for Mary Goodrich who makes gorgeous funeral teas. Many of you may know Mary when she worked in Nutters delicatessen in Southwold.
Do get in touch if you would like more information.
I love this work...in many ways the most personal of all the work I do.
What have we been up to in the cutting garden? This week I am sowing the next batch of seeds...Scabious, Sweet Peas, Cornflowers, Marigolds. I try to sow three batches of these one in the autumn and then two further sowings in the spring. Also I am planting bulbs in the green....500 Snowdrops are due to arrive from Scotland this week. Snowdrops are definitely best planted in the green, after flowering but whilst they still have leaves, they tend to establish better this way.
I am cutting....
I am collecting Ranunculus and Anemones from another local grower who has large glasshouses. She also has a small orchard and I buy arm fulls of blossom.
Spring is such an exciting time because the cutting garden begins to show all the promise of the year ahead.
I am getting organised for Mother's Day, which is a big day in the floral calendar. I have started picking my own blooms...Hellebores, Narcissus, Daffodils, Hyacinths....then I am collecting foliage from Julie along with her Anemones and if they are ready Ranunculus. Finally Tulips will arrive from Lincolnshire, Narcissus from Scilly Isles and Freesias from Guernsey. I have a limited number of bouquets available and deliver to people around the local area and post boxes of flowers to other areas in the UK mainland. If you would like to order one please contact me as soon as possible, so I can put you on my list.
Creating a seasonal bouquet....As you can see all my bouquets contain lots of seasonal foliage...which at this time of year includes, buds, blossom, catkins etc. This is important in creating a truly seasonal look....using very standard imported mass produced foliage creates a look that is the same all year and tends to make all the bouquets look similar. Sometimes I am asked for foliage only or green bouquets. Then I focus on flowers that are currently available, grown in the UK and as locally as possible. Other than flowers I have grown myself I prefer to buy from small artisan growers who grow flowers on a small scale. They usually grow less common flowers, out doors and naturally. I do buy from medium to larger British growers...my early season Tulips come from Lincolnshire and are grown undercover, hydroponically...in water and my summer Roses come from a grower in Hampshire. Both these growers only have their blooms available seasonally but their season is slightly longer than mine. The Roses are also a better quality than mine as I grow on sandy soil. However most of my flowers come from market garden style growers. This results in less standard flowers which are not available all year and so automatically my bouquets are completely seasonal. Finally I consider colour ....this is more customer specific but some colours are associated with different seasons. I use more red at Christmas and white generally through the winter. Spring favours pastel colours including a little yellow and Autumn is for warm burgundy's and oranges.
As you can see my bouquets are rather different from things you can buy in supermarkets or from on line providers or even traditional florist's shop who buy imported flowers from the Dutch wholesale markets. Unfortunately big business has become involved and so many imported flowers are now available all year. My bouquets are scented, using many old fashioned British grown flowers as well as seasonal foliage and flowers but with contemporary styling. They are truly seasonal and each is unique in that no two are ever the same.
Perhaps not surprisingly I am often asked to make bouquets for older people. This weekend a 98th Birthday...Many people retire to Southwold to enjoy the sea air and our slower pace of life. This set me thinking about what makes the ideal bouquet for a really elderly and in many cases housebound person. Flowers are a great gift for this situation, where the person needs nothing but immediate pleasure and an expression of love.
Things I think about:-
, Today has been Valentine's Day...I don't use imported Red Roses but I do make lovely natural bouquets. This year I had Narcissus from the Scilly Isles, Tulips from Lincolnshire, lots of lovely foliages, my Amaryllis, Hyacinths, Hellebores and Paperwhites. I have had to use a few imported Ranunculus this year as the grower I usually use in Cornwall has run out of supplies.
The season seems to have started earlier than usual this year..three quieter weeks at the start of January and now we seem to be in full swing. Luckily we made good progress in the autumn with planting, mulching etc. although as we move into spring there will still be plenty to do.
The real stars of the show currently are foliages with little scented flowers...Christmas Box, Winter Honeysuckle etc. I have planted more Christmas Box this year and also some White Forsythia which is new here. Hazel catkins, Dogwood, Pussy Willow....Using these natural lovelies makes for a really wild, naturally styled bouquet. This palette of materials continues into early March when my other gorgeous Narcissus start flowering. There are lots of buds and shoots in the garden, so I am really looking forward to things to come!
I am trying to document what is growing in the garden each month. These blooms were all photographed in the garden or the conservatory today 4/2/17. They include Winter Honeysuckle, Viburnum, Paperwhites, Amaryllis, Snowdrops, Hellebores....Each year is different depending on the weather. This year has seen some colder weather and frosts which is or certainly hasn't been the norm for us for a few years. That said we have had some cold March and April weather for the last two years and we can certainly do with out that! The mice have been having a nibble at a few Tulip bulbs mainly in pots, so I am putting to use some Holly clippings left from Christmas which I gather puts them off! (The picture of the seedlings in the greenhouse was taken in late January as part of a project to photograph seedling to bouquet for The Natural Wedding Company, growth is quite slow at this time of year so they don't look a great deal different this week.)
Rather amazingly I find a patriot collection of red, white and blue! British flowers!
Other jobs in the garden this week have included planting the absolute last batch of Paperwhites for this season. Preparing some new beds for this years annuals, repairing a hole in the greenhouse and ordering seeds. We have had a few glorious days and it is so therapeutic getting out and gardening.
These days we make lots of bouquets for delivery locally...a couple we have made recently...gorgeous wild scented gatherings of flowers.
January can be such a difficult month. Cold and grey after the glitz and sparkle of Christmas. I always plant Hyacinth bulbs for forcing but mine are never ready for Christmas as intended it is always January when they get going! BUT what a relief because come January I have scent and colour. Through January I make up containers of bulbs as an alternative to my bouquets starting from £20, please contact me for details.
Hyacinth bulbs for forcing are planted in the autumn and initially kept in the dark and cold before bringing them into light and warmth once they are shooting. The bulbs have been tricked into thinking they have done Winter and it is now Spring and flowering time! Some other bulbs are suitable for forcing/growing indoors e.g. Amaryllis and Paperwhite Narcissus. In addition some other varieties of Narcissus, Muscari and Tulip are reported to be good for forcing but I have less experience with these. I will be trying some different things this year as they are such a treat through the later months of winter January and February while waiting for the weather to improve, daylight hours lengthen and outdoor flowers to happen!
My story in flowers started as a child growing a tiny patch of London Pride Saxifraga...also known as Whimsey or Look Up and Kiss Me! Fast forward to 8 years ago when I started a City and Guilds training in floristry. I qualified as a florist and then to deepen my growing knowledge and skills I trained in horticulture as well. I trained under a WRAGS scheme at Darsham Nurseries and at Somerleyton Hall. Developing a passion for both growing and designing/arranging British garden flowers, I planted a cutting garden. Having become increasingly concerned about where and how flowers are grown, coupled with a love of British grown flowers. and natural styling, I now specialise in growing and using beautiful British grown flowers to make romantic natural designs. for weddings, events, gifts and much more.