Thursday, 27 April 2017


The tulips are now up in our garden. We have a lovely array this year. These orange and dark colours.
These lovely pink blousey ones, a bit like roses.
These red ones also look a bit like roses with their multiple petals which feel like velvet.
Tulips came to Europe in the sixteenth century from Turkey. The Turks particularly liked tulips with elegant, pointed petals, a bit like this modern version.
Tulips sent the Dutch mad during the period 1634-37. This was the period of Tulipomania when single bulbs of rare tulips could sell for the price of a town house in Amsterdam, or 15 years of the wages of a bricklayer! The most valuable tulips were those that were 'broken' rather than plain-coloured. This is an example of a broken tulip growing in our garden. It looks as though the red has been painted onto the cream background. At the time nobody knew how the break was created (and this made it hard to reproduce) - we now know that it was caused by a virus spread by aphids!
Today tulips are very cheap in Amsterdam. When we visited last year you could buy 50 stems of lovely tulips for just 12 euros,
And we found mass plantings all over Amsterdam - like these (with hyacinths) outside the Rijks Museum.
Closer to home, I spied these gorgeous white tulips in a mass planting at Chatsworth last May.
I have pondered on the best way of arranging tulips. I really like them simply presented so that each individual, magnificent stem can be fully appreciated.
Or, how about this.
Tulips also look great mixed in with other seasonal flowers to create a painterly sort of arrangement. I have included hellebores, soloman's seal, bluebells, vibernum, alstroemeria and roses in this one.
If you would like to know more about the fascinating story of the Tulip have a look at Anna Pavord's masterful work The Tulip which includes some stunning images.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Desperately Seeking Spring

It was a miserable February, but at least it was short! A few days ago I ventured out into our garden looking for signs of Spring. There were a few. The hellebores are lovely at the moment, but it is really hard to look into their faces as they resolutely look down into the earth. Why, I wonder? Mike has suggested that they must be trying to attract some early insects and they are providing a protective cover, like an umbrella!
Our earliest clump of daffodils is trying to open:
The patch of grass outside our house is colourful with crocuses:
And there are just a few snowdrops still in bloom in shady parts of the garden:
I was keen to get some of these early spring flowers into our house. I have completely failed with hellebores in vases - drooping heads and a very short vase life. The answer is to float them in small containers (like the cup and saucer above) or this sundae dish. Exquisite!
I popped the snowdrops into a pretty glass with a few tete-a-tete - they made me smile.
I was also pleased with these little primulas which I put in a tiny shot glass and they lasted for several days.
The garden is full of stirring things which aren`t yet ready to open. Especially buds. These tree peony buds are the most dramatic. Big and sticky.

I`ve been buying seeds over the last few weeks. Mike and I usually start our seeds off inside, even if the packets say you can sow them straight in the ground.This is because we find it really hard to distinguish between germinating flowers that we have chosen and germinating weeds. At least if we start them off we have a fighting chance of recognising them. But both my information sources - Sarah Raven and Louise Curley - recommend sowing quite a lot of hardy annuals straight in the ground. So this year, I`m trying an experiment. I am clearing loads of old shrubs and perennials out of our front border and then I am going to scatter Sarah Raven's Flower Meadow Mix over the whole area. I have chosen the 'Cottage Garden' mix and I am hoping for a brilliant, bright border all around the front of our house. I will keep you posted on progress........

Friday, 6 January 2017

Christmas 2016

This was a great way to get a wreath home from my workshop a week or so before Christmas. Here’s a close up and an example of how the wreath looked up on the door.
I also ran a large workshop for 14 people to make a traditional round table centre like this:
Most of all I enjoyed the workshop where we made an oblong arrangement by putting jam jars in these mini crates. We packed in a bit of moss around the jam jars and used chicken wire to hold the flowers in place. All the flowers and foliage were English – anemones, alstroemeria, tulips, narcissi, pittosporum and eucalyptus. Everything was really fresh and smelled lovely too. A breath of spring air! We just added a few wired cones as a gesture to Christmas!
We also made some place settings out of dried flowers and dried seed heads:
My mind is shifting towards the garden now. Just before Christmas and before the weather turned cold it was time to lift our dahlias.
This is the first time I`ve tried this and all the advice I read said you should use a fork to gently lift them from the ground. I looked high and low and couldn`t find a garden fork anywhere. So, lo and behold, Mike and I were given this splendid fork as a Christmas present. It is gorgeous – stainless steel and hardwood. I`m really looking forward to using it in the Spring.
So, as we say goodbye once again to the festive season, I would like to thank you all for your custom and support throughout 2016. And here's to a happy, peaceful and successful 2017.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Hot Orange

As November slides into December, we lose light and colour fades from our gardens. Bright, autumnal orange can take a stand against this! A few days ago I ran my first workshop on high impact flowers – flowers that really stand out and make you take notice of them. I chose contrasting colours – they sit opposite each other on the colour wheel – orange and blue-violet. We made a front-facing arrangement and helped it to stay upright using natural river stones. Here is one of the arrangements packed up and ready to go. As you can see we tied it with natural string
Here is my arrangement standing by a light. The orange came from the roses and the (single) leucospermum. The blue-violet came from lisyanthus and veronica. There is contrasting green with Anastasia chrysanthemum and foliage (ruscus, eucalyptus and aspidistra) and also foliage with an orange tint (leucadendron safari sunset – wonderful name!). This arrangement certainly had impact and and the workshop participants enjoyed learning a new method of hand-tying.
I have also recently run a woodland log workshop. This workshop offers a real chance for participants to get creative! I offered all sorts of materials to use – including plant material in different colours and white, interesting foliage, succulents, dried seedheads, cones and bark. Here is a taste of it:
In the event, everyone chose to use only white and green. Very classy.  Here are some examples – can you guess how we made fresh flowers appear to ‘grow’ out of the logs? This first one is a long, meandering log. It excites your eye as it travels along the log to meet a little robin sitting on a branch:
This is a fatter log with great texture and lovely use of succulents.
This one is beautifully proportioned with gorgeous green and white contrasts.
I bucked the trend and added orange to my log – I`m on an orange roll at the moment!
This weekend I put together some simple table centres for Sickleholme Golf Club. Just a rose, some lisyanthus, a stem of ruscus sprayed gold, a wired pine cone, a stem of hypericum berries, a sprig of holly and a couple of green chrysanthemum heads. Simple, quick and effective. This is the start of the Christmas flower season….on from orange…. and into red, gold, green and white!