Sunday, 12 July 2020

Flowers in lockdown

It has been a quiet few months for Meadowsweet. No weddings and no workshops, and to make it all worse, my webhost ceased to operate which wiped out my website overnight. But when I reflect over the last few months, I realise that I have done quite a lot with flowers, but quietly. It was my grandson's first birthday right at the start of the lockdown and I picked these April flowers from the garden as a virtual present. If you look you will see narcissi, tulips, hyacinth, muscari, wallflowers, hellebore and, best of all, snakeshead fritillary.  Here are the same flowers popped into a jam jar:
Then a couple of weeks later it was my daughter, Jessie's, birthday. So I made the best virtual birthday bouquet I possibly could from our garden flowers. I photographed the bouquet outside and inside our house.
I almost always have a small vase, jug or jam jar of flowers on our dining table, and these were the beautiful, simple flowers from one day in April.
In May I followed most of an on-line art course. I liked some of it, but not all. The best bit was making shapes with the cardboard inside part of a loo roll, potato carving and just a finger. We used water colour which makes good layers and I used an ink pen which has been sitting dormant in a drawer for years. The best things I painted were these flower pictures.
In the Spring a dear friend died. She loved bright yellow flowers and I made another virtual bouquet in remembrance of her. It makes me smile to look at the colours and to think of her vibrant, happy personality.
In my last blog I posted lots of pictures of tulips. Once they had faded, Spring had a second wind and our front garden was filled with glorious irises and alliums.
Our summer garden is now coming slowly to life and we have cosmos, flowering mint, scabious, cornflowers, hebe, lavender, sweet peas, borage, love-in-a-mist and alliums. Here is a flavour of it all.
I am expecting that we will be wearing face coverings more in the coming weeks, so I decided to make some. There are lots of patterns available and I have gone for the pleated version. I got my sewing machine out and made them out of old shirts. For myself, I used a suitably floral fabric.
I am looking forward to our lives opening up now. I hope you are all keeping healthy and safe and that you are venturing out into the world more...perhaps with some interesting face coverings that you have run up!

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Tips for tulips

The tulips are now fully up in our garden. We have lots of different pinks/purples - from really dark through to delicate hues. In this blog I`m offering a few simple ideas for making the most of your tulips - whether you`ve grown them in your garden or found them in the supermarket. I like to place single tulips in a collection of glass bottles. In this example I`ve set them up along the dinner table, mixing up the heights of the bottles and the tulips. Some of the bottles are old ones, picked up from junk shops and some are modern ones - they originally contained bubble bath or gin! (tip: make the water the same height in each bottle and make sure the stems reach the bottom of each bottle - this gives a consistent feel across the different shapes/heights of both bottles and tulips).
Have you noticed that tulips continue to grow after you`ve put them in a container? Sometimes by as much as 2 inches! You have to take account of this when you decide what to do with them. It can be easiest to just use tulips on their own - at least they all grow together at the same pace instead of sticking their heads up above the other flowers in the vase. After I moved these bottles from the table to the sideboard, they had grown more than an inch (as well as opening up) in two days.
If they grow much more, tomorrow I will cut a couple of inches off the bottom of each stem. The great thing about bottles is that they hold the stems in place really well because the necks are narrow. Once you place a lot of tulips in a vase with a wide neck something very different happens.
I quite like this relaxed look, but I think something more pleasing happens when you place the same tulips in a tall vase with a narrow-ish neck. The neck holds the tulips in a more upright position, though this is still a pretty informal look.
You can create a completely different, more contemporary look by holding the tulips in place with a grid made of sellotape. For this I have used a 14 cm glass cube vase. I made a grid with sellotape across the top of the vase, using three pieces of tape from left to right, and three pieces from top to bottom, creating 16 small square spaces. Then I picked 16 tulips from the garden - three different pink/purples and a few contrasting yellows. I took off all the leaves and cut all the stems to the same length so the tulip heads sat on the sellotape and the stems reached the bottom of the vase (tip: add the water before attaching the sellotape).
I have placed the tulips in four groups of four, working with the symmetry of the vase. I really don`t want these tulips to start wafting about above the sellotape, so once they start to grow I will cut the stems back. I have then used the same grid technique (again making 16 small square spaces) with the same tulips to create a very different effect in a traditional, ceramic pot. This time I have mixed the tulips up and also added a bit of foliage - about 6 pieces around the edge of the vase and about 5 pieces in the middle - this softens the look. The foliage can be slipped in with the tulips in the square spaces. I used sarcoccoca, a shrub which thrives in a shady part of our garden, but you could use anything you can lay your hands on - euonymus, hebe, ivy, box....(tip: make sure you strip off any leaves which would sit below the sellotape, otherwise you will have difficulty getting them into the small spaces along with the tulip stems).
Another idea for holding the tulips in place is to tie them. In this first example I`ve taken a large bunch of tulips and tied them with brown garden twine. This will keep the heads reasonably together and stop the tulips flopping (tip: tie the twine carefully so that it looks neat and make sure it sits well above the water line, otherwise it will get soggy and look unsightly).
Another variation on this approach is to use a rectangular vase and divide the tulips into three bunches which are then tied (tip: keep the heads fairly near the top of the vase so you get a massed effect of tulip heads).
Finally, another way to hold the tulips in place is to start with a base of foliage and then add some other flowers as well as the tulips. In this example I have kept to a monochromatic use of colour with a light shade of mauve for the hyacinths and a dark shade of mauve for the tulips. The mauve is also picked up in the vase (tip: cut the tulips to different heights so the eye is drawn from the top flower down to the bottom one).
I hope this has given you a few easy ideas to make the most of your tulips. Bringing spring flowers into the house is always a joy and I find that doing something with flowers takes my mind off all the dreadful stuff going on in the world at the moment and makes me smile - both in the doing, and in the finished outcome.

Friday, 27 March 2020

Tips for daffodils

In these difficult and worrying times, flowers can really help. Just look at this array of spring flowers and smile to see the colour and the hope of new life. It may be hard to find flowers in the shops at the moment, but there are still daffodils around in some supermarkets - and many people will have them in their gardens. This blog is about the relationship between your daffodils and your vases! So...if you take a tall vase with a reasonably narrow neck you can add just a few daffodils with long stems. The vase will hold them tightly and the look will be pleasing to the eye. There is a good balance here between the stem length and the height of the vase.
If you would like your display to look even more bountiful - just add another handful of daffodils (the same sort, or a different variety). I have cut some of the stems a little shorter so that the blooms are graduated from the top to the bottom - drawing the eye from the highest flower, through to the lowest.
I have used one of my favourite jugs here. I like the way the yellow flower painted on the vase helps to connect the daffodils with the jug. In fact, I`ve collected 3 vases with a similar design on them, but different sizes and shapes. They all work really well with daffodils. Look what happens when I place the long-stemmed daffodils in a squatter jug with a wider neck.
This makes the daffodils fan out and space is added between the stems. It's a very different look. And if I take the same daffodils and cut them a lot shorter I can create a massed effect. Completely different!
Daffodils are prolific and cheap. Two jugs placed next to each other look great when the two jugs are painted in a similar way.
Or how about three. Vases and jugs displayed in threes work especially well when all three are different heights.
I collected these three jugs from various junk shops and antique shops - I always have my eyes open for pretty jugs and vases. I find I have to be careful selecting jugs that work together - if the patterns are too busy they will compete with the flowers. Another approach is to use just one colour of container. This creates a more contemporary effect with the same daffodils.
I hope this may have given you a few ideas about what to do with your daffodils. It looks like we might be confined to our homes for some weeks yet and I plan to put another blog together with tips for tulips once ours are in bloom and I have something to work with. I hope you can enjoy the flowers of the early spring whether you grow them in your garden, on your balcony, or just appreciate them in the park during your daily walk. Stay safe and well.

Monday, 27 January 2020

Hurrah for the humble jam jar

This is one of the most popular images I have posted on my instagram feed over the last few months. A painted jam jar full of pretty flowers has a timeless quality which people seem to like a lot. I love to use jam jars...sometimes naked, like this:
But more often decorated. Sometimes with pretty paper.
Sometimes to celebrate a special event like Halloween.
The great thing about jam jars is that they are cheap (or even free as a by-product of your honey or your gherkins) and they can be dressed up or down in many ways. Often I decorate them with lace and string/ribbon for weddings.
The jars look great on tables or window sills, and after the wedding they can be given away as gifts to selected guests.
But most of all, I like a painted jam jar. The pattern I have developed looks brilliant for a country wedding.
I often fill these painted jam jars with flowers and give them as presents. They are lovely to take round to someone's house when you have been invited for supper - you can just place them in the middle of the table. They look great and make everyone feel happy!
If you come to my next flower workshop you will make a small posy using spring flowers from Cornwall. These will be placed in one of my painted jam jars. This will be your chance to practice hand-tying before making a large bouquet to fill a pretty jug.

Thursday, 5 December 2019

Happy Christmas

Christmas is in the air! It's made me dig out one of my jugs decorated with poinsettias. I`ve filled it with white flowers (so soothing and a lovely contrast to all the bling coming our way).
The pine cones and dried peppers around this jug are pointing the way to the materials needed for wreath-making. I will be running my wreath workshop next Saturday. The wreaths can be hung inside or outside and will look something like this:
I think this is the last year I will run this kind of wreath workshop. I might experiment with other approaches in future years. Here is an example of one I made a few years ago. Instead of wire and straw as the base, I used branches from our cotoneaster tree woven together. Then I added dried materials. Jessie said it looked a bit Mrs Haversham-ish - hmm, she had a point!
Over the years I have run several Christmas flowers workshops and I've picked out a couple of the more interesting ones. For this first one we used dried materials to make a container and then we added gorgeous dark red roses, berries and foliage.
This second idea was inspired by Francois Weekes' woodland arrangements concept. All the materials were attached to a piece of wood through the medium of moss. We made a little moss-covered container for a few fresh flowers.
After all the work preparing and running workshops, when it comes to my own Christmas flowers I prefer just placing my flowers in jugs - I especially like pewter, ivy designs and vintage with a bit of gold in the design:
A couple of years ago I left everything too late and I just couldn`t bring myself to buy the glittered, glitzy, nearly dead red flowers in the supermarket. Instead I bought a couple of bunches of flowers in vibrant, mixed colours. I was pretty pleased with the arrangements I got out of them.
This weekend I will be in Filey where the fishtive Christmas tree will be turned on. This is a tree shape made out of lobster pots by Filey's few remaining fishermen. It's a tradition in Filey and it's brilliant.
A very happy Christmas to you all.