Friday, 18 December 2020

Classy green Christmas wreath


Happy Christmas everyone. Tomorrow is the Saturday before Christmas and usually I would be running a wreath workshop on this day. Alas, no workshops this year. Instead, I set myself the task of making a foliage wreath only out of the plants and trees growing in our garden. I was not planning to use a bought wire base, nor any moss or straw, nor any bling or dried materials. I wanted a classy, green wreath. It was something of a learning process and I am going to set out the stages I followed so you can do it yourself if you wish. The only item, other than foliage, which is essential is reel wire (see below for details). Beginning with the raw materials:
First of all I cut some branches for making the base - willow or vine is generally recommended, but neither of these grow in our garden, The branches need to be reasonably long (about 2-3 feet) and pliable. I decided to try three different possibilities - cotoneaster, lemon verbena and fuchsia. Then I needed some evergreen foliage - I chose rosemary (gorgeous smell), choisya, ivy, box and a spruce-like shrub we have growing (a bit out of control now!). It needed far more of everything than I thought. You will see the quantities as I go through the process below. I started by stripping the foliage off the branches:
I then bent the branches into a circle, wrapping the branches around each other and roughly weaving them together. The fuchsia was useless - it didn`t have enough bend in it and just snapped. The cotoneaster was by far the best - pliable and robust at the same time. The lemon verbena smelled wonderful, but its branches were a bit brittle. I managed to incorporate some of it, just for the fragrance. I aimed to make (and managed it!) a base of about 12 inches diameter. It needed at least 12 branches - here it is:
The next stage is to make lots of bunches of mixed foliage. Each bunch needs to be about the same length and have roughly the same amount of material in it. I used 2-3 pieces of ivy, 2-3 pieces of rosemary, 2-3 pieces of spruce, one piece of choisya and one short piece of box. I made the bunches so that there were two short pieces on the left side which would be the inner part of the wreath. I wasn`t quite sure how many bunches I would need, so I made about 6 and then decided how many more I would need once I had attached these. In the end I used 12 bunches. I like to tie my bunches together with a soft florist's wire which is wrapped in a kind of raffia. Here is an example of a bunch - you can see the shorter pieces of spruce and box on the inside left:
The next stage is to attach the reel wire to the base. You can buy reel wire from Sarah Raven, Amazon or any florist wholesaler. If you live in Sheffield, I will give you some.
Next you lay your first bunch on the base and wrap the wire around the neck of the bunch and the base 2-3 times, keeping those short stems on the inside of the wreath. You need to pull the wire quite tightly to hold the bunch in place. Like this:
You can now lay the next bunch on top of the first, making sure you cover the binding point with the following bunch. Keep on adding bunches.
Just keep on adding bunches, turning the wreath as it builds. Try to keep the bunches evenly spread.
Once the wreath is complete you could just tie a piece of string or ribbon to it and hang it from a nail on your door. My method is to put a piece of ribbon around the wreath and then attach it to the top of a door. I also decided to add a bow. So....... first I got the hanging ribbon in place and then I attached a strong piece of wire to the bow and pushed it right through to the back of the base. Here is the result:
I am very pleased with this. It cost absolutely nothing! It is made out of organic material which needs to be cut back at this time of year anyway and it is about as ecologically friendly as it could possibly be. I also think it looks great - cool, green, classy, perfect. It also has a lovely fragrance as you walk into our front porch. Why not have a go yourself?

Saturday, 21 November 2020

The last of the summer flowers's getting darker and the garden flowers are coming to their end. Our garden does pretty well in the late summer/early autumn with cosmos, dahlias, japanese anemones, roses and scabious lasting well into November. Using these late flowers I put the same bouquet in three different vases to show an October bride the impact that vases can have on the look that is created:

The autumn has delivered a wonderful crop of late tomatoes, cotoneaster berries and chile peppers - a fantastic hit of red.

Even this week (late November) we have ammi visnaga, cosmos, scabious and dahlias still hanging on, even if they are beginning to get a bit ragged around the edges.

And here is an abundant vase full of these late autumn beauties.
This week I bought a few buckets of flowers and foliage from my wholesaler in Cornwall. It was so lovely to get my hands on a great range of flowers again so late in the year. It is March since I last ran a workshop and had a delivery of Cornish flowers. I have been working with them over the last couple of days, and taking photos of them....I am hoping to get a couple of images that will work for Christmas cards. Here is a taster:

My thoughts are turning to Christmas flowers as we approach December. I find that flowers can raise my spirits during these difficult, dark lockdown days. If you are feeling a bit low, why not buy yourself a lovely bunch of flowers whilst you are out doing your shopping? Keep safe and well everyone.


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.