Sunday, 1 December 2013

Christmas flowers: bouquets and workshops

As December begins everyone is gearing up for Christmas, including me. I`ve decided to use this blog to tell you about my Christmas flower offers. I have just bought some lovely Heron Cross jugs with festive designs on them and I spent this morning designing and making different bouquets to place in them. Earlier in the week I had a delivery of flowers and foliage from Cornwall – the type of thing I expect to be available for Christmas – fragrant narcissi (white and yellow), white and red alstroemeria, anemones, pittosporum and two sorts of eucalyptus. I added white and red roses and hypericum berries from Sheffield flower market to the mix. The first arrangement was made for a red and white jug decorated with poinsettias and white hellebores (the one pictured above). What could be more Christmassy!
These close up pictures show the beauty of the flowers:

Then I made a bouquet with a warmer feel to it (bringing in the yellow narcissi) for a jug pattern based on autumnal fruits.
Here is the vibrant detail:

For a striking contrast I made a cool bouquet using only white and green which looked very elegant in this jug with an ivy pattern on it.

What lovely white flowers:

If you would like to order your Christmas flowers from me, the special Christmas prices are as follows:

Bouquet in a jug (including the price of the jug which retails at £20): £40
Bouquet wrapped in cellophane with water and packed in a Meadowsweet box: £30

I have a limited number of each of the three jug designs and will sell them on a first come, first served basis. I have to get my order in to Cornwall as soon as possible (there will be a huge demand for fresh flowers in the run up to Christmas) and the deadline for ordering flowers from me is Tuesday 10 December (so please hurry).

My Christmas flower workshop on Monday 23 December is all full up, but I do have places available for the workshop on Saturday 21 December. This workshop will be to make a hand-tied bouquet (rather like the ones above) and present it in one of the festive Heron Cross jugs. You will also get to make a small posy (to practice hand-tying) in a Christmassy jam jar. The cost of this is reduced to £40 and is really good value as you have a great experience, learn a new skill and take two lovely arrangements away. Please get in touch as soon as possible to book a place (phone 0114 2363634, mobile 07717 757565, email

I am now introducing Christmas gift vouchers for Meadowsweet flower workshops in 2014. You can buy a voucher for £45 and the person receiving it will be able to attend any of my 2014 workshops next year (subject to availability of course). What a great (and unusual) Christmas present for someone who loves flowers. Please contact me for more details.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Mists and mellow fruitfulness

Autumn has made a colourful start this year. This is the view from our back door in mid-September. The flowers still in full bloom include scabious, cornflowers, phlox, astrantia (second flush), anemones, lavender, verbena, geraniums and cosmos. You can also see the berries starting to turn red on the cotoneaster tree, the last of the beans and the enormous broccoli plants Mike planted – they have an architectural look to them and I hope they will produce something to eat in due course.

I ran two workshops in September using seasonal English flowers. The first was on a Saturday morning – bright and warm. The picture above shows the room set up. The flowers in the jug are blue ageratum, asters (China asters) and astrantia. You can just see some of the flowers and foliage in the buckets – beautiful tall delphiniums, ever-lovely alstroemeria, proud up-standing liatris and really pretty small white asters (September flowers). Then there is the mechanical stuff – wire, tape and containers. The plan was to make a round table centre in a bowl covered with aspidistra leaves and finished off with a band of raffia. It is amazing just how many flowers can be fitted into the container. The participants were a group of friends/sisters and here they are at the end of the workshop with their wonderful, arresting arrangements. And a glass of celebratory wine in hand!

And here is a close-up of one of the arrangements in all its splendour.

One of the great advantages of arrangements made in chicken wire (as opposed to oasis) is that dead flowers can be taken out and new flowers slotted in to perk up the arrangements. One of the participants wrote to me two weeks after the workshop to say ‘with a few adjustments and replacements most of them are still going’. It was excellent to hear this and to have yet more evidence to support the case for chicken wire and against oasis!

The next workshop was on a Thursday evening after work and it was made up of people who work at Sheffield Hallam University. They all seem to find the flower workshops therapeutic and relaxing after a hard day at the chalk face (or in frustrating meetings). This picture shows the room set up from a different angle.

This workshop had a different theme. The plan was to make a large hand-tied bouquet and present it in a lovely Heron Cross jug with an autumnal pattern on it. But because it is quite hard to make a hand-tied bouquet we practiced first by making a small posy and presenting it in a jam jar. We used similar flowers as in the previous workshop with just a few differences. Instead of liatris we had some gorgeous deep purple snap dragons to add height to the bouquet.  We also added in interesting foliage – rosemary, eucalyptus and ruscus – and some pretty carnations (a mix of deep purple and white). For the small posies I also used some flowers from our garden – purple verbena bonariensis, white snapdragons and white garlic chive flowers. Then the crowning glory was the addition of exquisite red kaffir lilies around the edge of the posy and the bouquet (these are only available for a couple of weeks or so in the Autumn).  When constructing the bouquet, I encouraged everyone to set up all their flowers and foliage in the order in which they would be used, working from left to right – like this:

As you can see the night drew in as the workshop progressed and by the end we were in artificial light. Here are some pictures of the finished arrangements. If you look at the flowers in the jam jars you can see what a good job the participants made of creating a spiral - the essence of the hand-tied arrangement. The riot of colour has been created by the number of arrangements on the table (8 in all), the pattern on the jugs and other arrangements in the background. Gorgeous.

Then to finish off this blog here are a few additional arrangements I made in September that have something in common with the workshop themes. First, there is a different arrangement in the Heron Cross jug:

Then there is another round arrangement in wire. In this one I used fatsia leaves from the garden to cover the bowl – I like the way the veins on the leaves look a bit like a sunrise.

And finally, here is a large arrangement I made in chicken wire and placed in an old Victorian urn. Whilst the urn is not particularly pretty, I do think it is rather handsome and that it works very well with tall blue flowers like delphiniums.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Pies, pickles and and flowers for St Lukes

Our friend Hazel is a trustee of St Lukes – the Sheffield Hospice. St Lukes is greatly loved and supported in Sheffield. It has provided palliative care to thousands and thousands of people and fantastic support to families. It is currently running an appeal to build a new in-patient section to the hospice and to refurbish the existing structure. The appeal target is £5.5 million and £4 million has already been raised. As part of the push to raise the last £1.5 million, Hazel organised a ‘pie and pickles’ lunch. She worked really hard to organise the event and to use her powers of persuasion to get everything donated – the pies, pickles, salads, pizzas, fizz, wine, beer, strawberries, the entertainment and, of course, the flowers!

I made arrangements in jam jars for the tables and decorated them with pretty vintage paper. I also made two large arrangements in jugs.

I used flowers from Cornwall and I also added in some flowers and foliage from our garden – our hydrangeas, snapdragons and scabious were particularly lovely. I made 12 jam jars and here they are ready to go on our kitchen table.

The lunch took place in Baslow village hall on a sunny Saturday in early August. When I arrived at the hall with the flowers it was a hive of activity – in the kitchen, setting out glasses and wine and getting the raffle ready. The tables had been set with blue table cloths, cutlery, place settings with a quiz and paperwork for making donations. The vintage paper I used for the jam jars was mainly blue and matched the blue table cloths. The flowers helped to bring the hall to life. Here are a few examples of the flowers in place. I have tried to capture the ‘feel’ of the room.

The idea of the tags on the jars and jugs was that lunch guests would be encouraged to write their name on a tag if they would like to take the arrangement home…..then they would make a donation for it.

When the guests arrived they were welcomed with a glass of bubbly. Over 80 people attended and they were treated to good food and lots of wine. No wonder they looked as though they were having a great time! Here are a couple of pictures with people in them. They include a picture of my Dad (last picture) who came along with me to the lunch. He has just moved to Sheffield and he helped me with some of the flower preparation. I am threatening to train him up to be a flower arranging assistant!

As well as having a fabulous time, people were also very generous and the event raised £2,600 pounds. Fantastic! All of the flowers were tagged and taken home. I was very pleased that they made a contribution to the success of the event - both in terms of adding to the ambience of the occasion and in raising extra donations. Flowers just make me want to smile….I hope they have the same effect on you.  


Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Sunshine and flowers

South Yorkshire has been like the South of France for most of July. The sun shone nearly every day and our garden has flourished. We have had glorious roses, poppies, cornflowers, astrantia, cosmos, alchemilla, phlox, lavender, mint, geraniums, verbena bonariensis, scabious, sea holly, campanula and penstemon…..and the tomatoes have just started to turn red. I ran a couple of flower workshops in July and the main challenge was to keep the flowers in a good state in the tremendous heat. The first workshop was to make a grouped bouquet of summer flowers and here are the main ingredients.

Most of the flowers were from my Cornish wholesaler – pinks (gorgeous smell), agapanthus, pink dahlias, pink cornflowers, ‘misty blue’ limonium, white alstroemeria, white astilbe and powder blue scabious. Then I supplemented these with flowers from our garden – blue cornflowers, alchemilla and dog daisies (leucanthemum). We also included two different sorts of eucalyptus and ruscus. Once the different groups of flowers had been made into individual posies they were bound together into the bouquet. This was then wrapped in cellophane, filled with water and finished off with some candy pink raffia.

The bouquets were then placed in their Meadowsweet gift boxes. They had a light, frothy, mid-summer look. Lovely. 

The second workshop was to make three posy arrangements in hand-painted jam jars. This is a really good workshop as participants get a chance to practice hand-tying three times…everyone feels that they really get it by the end. We used similar ingredients as in the previous workshop, but with a few additions from the garden – spiraea, snapdragons, astrantia, lavender and alliums. This meant that the flowers were just as fresh as they possibly could be as they had been cut from the garden that very morning.

Here is the finished product and some pictures of the participants with their arrangements. Between the four of us we made 12 jam jars – quite enough to use as table centres for a wedding or a party.

Talking about parties…we had a celebration this weekend to welcome my father to Sheffield (he has recently moved here from Cheshire). I decided to fill our house with flowers and I bought a bucket of flowers from Rachel Dyson who grows flowers on her farm on the outskirts of Sheffield (you can`t get much more local than that!). My idea was to combine her flowers with mine. Here are the flowers that I bought from Rachel.

Her flowers had a really fresh just-picked country feel to them and the things I liked the best were the different sorts of mint, the clary sage, the love-in-a mist and the hydrangeas. I added my own cornflowers, cosmos, dog daisies, hydrangeas (ours have only just started to flower) and scabious to Rachel’s and I also added some phlox, sea holly, penstemon, lavender, spiraea and verbena to the mix. Our flowers combined together really well. It was interesting to see the similarities in our choice of flowers, though Rachel is growing on a far bigger scale than I can achieve in my small domestic cutting garden.  I made lots of posies in jam jars similar to the ones we made in the workshop and also three jugs of flowers – I used the same Heron Cross pattern in all of the jugs to give the room a sense of coherence.

To finish, I have selected a couple of images that capture the vibrancy of our garden at the moment. Look at these vigorous daisies and this exquisite rose. It is wonderful to be surrounded by such incredible beauty and we still have all of August to look forward to…..