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.