Wednesday, 5 November 2014


It’s all orange, red, yellow and black at the moment. We are surrounded by autumnal leaves, witches hats, pumpkins and fireworks. I wanted to capture something of this for my Halloween workshop last week. So I painted these jam jars. The Cornish flowers we used were alstroemeria in red and orange, yellow narcissi, yellow and red snapdragons and exquisite red kaffir lilies. We also had three different sorts of Cornish foliage to work with and I added in a few orange roses and bright orange asclepias (the fluffy orange flowers you can see below) from Sheffield flower market. Here are the flowers ready to go:

And here are the jugs and jam jars we used.

The main arrangement was a large bouquet presented in an autumnal Heron Cross jug. Here it is on the night of the workshop, and again in the daylight.

I can`t resist including this picture of one of the workshop participants – I love the way she is smiling whilst surrounded with so many flowers.

As an alternative to the Halloween painted jam jars, I decorated some with pretty vintage paper depicting all sorts of pumpkins, gourds and squashes - a more muted look than the bright orange jars.

Then, having used the alternative jam jars for flowers, I put candles in the Halloween jam jars and placed them in our porch to welcome our ‘trick or treat’ visitors who came to our door on 31st October.

My next flower workshop is on Saturday 22 November when we will be making arrangements in vintage containers. Here is a taster of the kind of thing we will make in cups and saucers and sundae dishes:

Thursday, 16 October 2014


Here are the three primary colours – red, blue and yellow. I have been thinking about colour a lot this summer. It all started on holiday in St Ives when we were surrounded by vibrant summer colours – deep blue sea and sky, yellow sand and multi-coloured seaside paraphernalia – things like umbrellas, bikinis and beach towels. Also we visited the Tate Gallery and I bought a book about an artist called Winifred Nicholson called ‘Music of Colour’. Winifred painted from the 1920s through to the 1970s and she painted flowers a lot. She also wrote about colour: 

'Flowers create colours out of the light of the sun, refracted by the rainbow prism. So I paint flowers……The flowers are sparks of light, built of and thrown out into the air as rainbows are thrown, in an arc.’ 

This is the heart of it – the perception of colour is created by the reflection of light received by our eyes. The full range of colours can be seen in rainbows. Books about art and photography usually depict the relationship between different colours in the shape of a circle – often called the colour wheel.  I have shown it here with small jars of flowers.

The circle shows how new colours are mixed from the three primary colours. When creating flower arrangements colours can be used in many different ways. I like to work with analogous colours – these are colours which lie next to each other on the colour wheel – like these yellows and oranges (I am including some green here as well because I generally add some foliage to my arrangements and I see it as being neutral in flower arrangements).

Yellows, reds and oranges are called ‘warm’ or even ‘hot’ colours, not just because we associate them with sun, heat and fire but because they are vivid and energetic and they seem to advance towards us when we look at them . Here are some examples of arrangements using these colours. The flat arrangement below is a funeral sheaf, but these bright colours celebrate a life well lived rather than a sad loss.

My favourite colours are the analogous colours that reside around blue – blue itself, blue-violet, red-violet and even a bit of red or pink (but no yellow, except perhaps the centre of a daisy or a cosmos bloom).

My portfolio is full of arrangements using these colours. Here are some bridesmaids posies and flowers for a wedding reception.

And here are some examples from just a few days ago when I was demonstrating a couple of ways of making arrangements (hand-tying and using chicken wire) to a group of ladies from WIs in the Peak District.

Complementary colour schemes use two colours that lie approximately opposite each other on the colour wheel. For example, blue and orange. This is an unusual, but really effective combination. The arrangement in the blue jug is made from fair trade roses and clary sage which I grew very successfully in our garden this year (oh...and there are a few of our Sheffield-grown apricots!)..

Or, yellow and violet. This is a combination that I really like. The arrangement below is made from fair trade roses and flowers from our garden - verbena bonariensis, sweet peas and self set fennel.

The high contrast of complementary colours is exciting to the eye and more striking than analogous colours. But often I want to create a more muted, gentler effect. Black, grey and white are achromatic (without colour) and they all work in a neutral way with flowers to set off or enhance colour. This can be in the form of vases, or as white flowers which lighten the impact of an arrangement. I tend to use a lot of white in wedding arrangements, like this bridal bouquet.

The wedding circlet below used muted colours – light pink sweet william, grey-blue lavender and sea holly and white avalanche roses. It was placed against a neutral grey wall and I think the whole effect is really lovely – soft and romantic.

I will finish with a wonderful burst of colour. It was my birthday last month and I was given this exuberant arrangement by Aunty Joan. I placed it on top of a table runner which I had put in place for my party. It just happened to use the same colours as Joan’s arrangement.  I had made simple jam jar arrangements in white and green – the colour in Joan’s arrangement brought these to zingy life. What a fantastic birthday present! 

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Summer in the city

It is now high summer in Sheffield and we are spending a lot of time in our garden – both tending it and enjoying it. I can`t quite believe how fantastic the weather has been throughout June and July. August has also started off with a blast. At the beginning of the summer we had a wonderful crop of astrantia – you can see them here arranged with peonies and white snapdragons from the garden. I love the light quality created with the glass jug and the whiteness of the flowers.

The sweet peas are in full flow now and I am cutting them just about every day.

 We have also had a great crop of cosmos, scabious, dog daisies and love-in-a mist.

I made a repeating arrangement with flowers and foliage from the garden for our front porch. They look fresh and welcoming for visitors to our house. Those dramatic seed heads are love-in-a mist. You can just see my feet in blue sandals in the lower picture – I think they match the blue flowers rather well!

I ran a flower workshop in July – the last before the holiday season. It was quite a celebration of frothy summer flowers. Here is a bucket of flowers from Cornwall (white astilbe, ‘misty blue’ limonium, powder blue scabious, pink alstroemeria, white gypsophila and bright blue agapanthus). Then there are flowers and foliage from the garden (ivy, jasmine, lavender, alchemilla mollis and verbena bonariensis). We also used pinks, brodiaea, astrantia, hydrangea, spirea and sweet peas. Here are the flowers before they were arranged.

The plan for the workshop was to make three arrangements. The first used a parallel hand-tying technique and we made it in the tall up-cycled container (a juice carton covered with pretty vintage paper). The second used spiralled hand-tying and the arrangement was placed in a pretty glass container tied with ribbon. The third was made in a small jam jar decorated with lace and string. Here are the containers ready to go.

And here are the finished arrangements – all different, but also complementing each other beautifully.

And….as there were some flowers left over, I made this pretty bouquet with garden flowers and a few of the Cornish brodiaea and alstroemeria.

Finally, I would like to show you this fantastic harvest of apricots which we have grown in our garden. We have eaten some straight off the tree (delicious) and Mike has made a good batch of apricot jam. It’s like living in the Mediterranean!