Thursday, 10 March 2016

Monet, Mother's Day and Killer Daffodils

My Mother's Day present from Jessie was lunch at Brasserie Zadel in Piccadilly (I could have been in Paris!) followed by a visit to the Royal Academy of Art's current exhibition - Painting the Modern Garden:
The exhibition has received ecstatic reviews, and it was absolutely wonderful. It brought together a stunning collection of paintings which celebrate gardens, flowers, growing and garden design. I especially liked the work of Monet, Kandinsky, Renoir, Klimpt and Nolde. For me the really stand out thing about the exhibition was the way it linked the painters with the gardens they had created and the canvases they painted. It was as though both were part of a seamless creative process. These pictures from the catalogue (a fabulous piece of research in its own right) capture the essence of it. The first shows Monet in his garden at Giverny and the second introduces Monty Don's interview with James Priest, the Head Gardener at Giverny.
The exhibition is not all about Monet, but the star of the show is a massive, more than room-size triptych of Monet's lily ponds. Here is a sample.
Sheffield Hallam University runs an Events Management undergraduate degree and, during March, groups of students run live events which they plan, market and deliver themselves. One group had the idea of running a flower workshop where participants would make posies for Mother's Day. I was asked to help them with the floristry part of the event. They called it A Floral Touch
The students had some really good creative ideas and they put together a thoroughly enjoyable evening. They showed the participants how to decorate jam jars in different ways and then I showed them how to make a hand-tied posy. The flowers and foliage were lovely. The flowers came from a range of supermarkets - but the students stuck to a colour scheme of pinks and white, and a limited range of flowers - roses, alstroemeria and gypsophila. The foliage was fresh and vibrant and had been gathered from the countryside. Everything looked gorgeous. The event took place in the Leopold Hotel, where the evening started off with canapes and wine. It finished with everybody carrying home a pretty posy in a unique jam jar. A great success!
Just about every floristry book I own tells me that I shouldn`t mix daffodils with other flowers, especially tulips, because the sap which exudes from the daffodils is toxic. Hmm......this is a difficulty because I like to mix up flowers in my arrangements and, at this time of year, it is hard to avoid daffodils because they are abundant and relatively cheap. So, I have conducted an experiment to see if the claim about killer daffodils is true. I took three kilner jars and put just tulips and just daffodils in two of the jars, and a mix in the third. I placed the jars in a south-facing room, but out of direct sunlight. I didn`t move them throughout the experiment, nor did I change the water. Here they are on day 1:
By day 4 the daffodils had opened up nicely and the tulips had grown a couple of inches - but there was no difference between the tulips in jar A and B.
By day 7 the tulips were all a bit taller still and all starting to leach colour. Two of the tulips in jar B were bending over, but otherwise looked pretty much the same as those in jar A
By day 10 all the tulips were looking worse for wear, but I really couldn`t see much difference between those in jar A and B. All the daffodils were ready to chuck out.
So, my broad conclusion is that exposing the tulips to daffodils doesn`t appear to make much difference to their longevity. Perhaps things would have been different if the flowers had been crammed into smaller containers with less water. But if that were the case, in normal circumstances I would have changed the water every 2-3 days. In the absence of any better evidence, I have decided to stop worrying about mixing spring flowers. On that note, here is an example of a posy of mixed spring flowers (tulips, daffodils, narcissi and ranunculus with ivy mixed in) in an up-cycled container which I made for Valentine's Day.
And, finally, another Valentine's Day gift. This time a classy little handbag made with red ranunculus, succulents and ivy. 

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