Only a few years ago, had you told me I would one day be running workshops as part of my new life as a freelance florist, I would literally have laughed in your face! Yet, here I am citing teaching as one of the best bits of my job. I’m still shy and I’m still nervous but the pleasure I derive from seeing people interacting as they sit at my workshops and taking home a creation they can scarcely believe they have made far outweighs the initial discomfort I feel and I too get to take home something – happy memories and another new experience under my belt.
As well as the workshops I run from various venues around Sidmouth and beyond (always listed on my website and updated on a regular basis), I attend various Hospicecare centres and other charitable institutions where I teach informal mini workshops for the carers where those who attend also have plenty of time to talk and relax as well as creating something floral to take home with them.
I am always happy to teach individuals, small or larger groups of people from my home – the first one of these happened just this year - a wonderful Mothering Sunday/Hen Party affair where beautiful dried hydrangea willow hearts were created for the bride-to-be’s wedding later this year.
Ladies groups, such as the Women’s Institute, often ask me to hold workshops for them and I am always happy to oblige, although I will not agree to doing flower arranging demonstrations – definitely not my thing – and not how I work as a florist.
I am currently in the process of organising some snugly Festive Workshops from my home and have enlisted the help of my daughter in laying fires, preparing lunches and teas, stirring mulled wine and generally setting the scene for Christmas wreath and garland making.
Click on the link to learn about the wonderful Winnie Cameron and a workshop I held in July of this year.
After four months in the planning, on 4th April 2019 my first self-styled shoot was photographed in Sidmouth’s Willow Studios by the very talented Lydia Baker. Lydia’s ability to portray any object in its best possible light means budding businesses benefit hugely from her creative photography when developing marketing materials from business cards through websites to event publicity (flyers, advertising boards and banners, etc). Professional, high quality photographs are simply the best possible introduction to any business.
The concept behind the La Vie en Rose was to help promote the business of a new friend of mine, Sabine Orchard, and her sublime macarons with which she fashions the most beautiful towers, fabulous for any kind of event but I chose to use a vintage wedding theme.
With a stunning original dress from Days of Grace, a treasured friend who modelled it, a fabulous hairdresser I had met at the Bickleigh Castle Shoot, some props supplied by Keeping it Vintage to bring some pizzazz to my garden table and chair which I had spray painted and, naturally, an abundant and fragrant choice of roses, Sabine’s macaron tower was given the star treatment. Even Alfie, our family pooch, stole a scene or two!
At the last moment, my original plans to use pink tones of florals were scuppered by a Brexit-related strike and the roses’ colours had to be re-chosen subject to their now limited availability – Sabine complemented the new colour palette with her culinary flair and the resultant wedding confectionery was a triumph.
Well worth considering as an alternative (or in addition) to conventional weddings cakes, macaron towers are easily individually dismantled into pretty presentation boxes as favours or for guests unable to attend.
My floral layers work well with this and every kind of cake – including cheese ones where I normally use edible flowers amongst Devon grown herbs. Since the foliage and flowers used are in a water source, the layers are long-lasting and can re-invented following the Day of days.
A very lovely friend suggested to me a few months ago that I add a page to my website filled with images of some of the crowns I have made over the years.
So, I started to plan, recalling that my very first flower crown was made from garden hydrangeas in a multitude of colours for a wedding shoot (again, my first) at Kennaway House in Sidmouth. Although terribly nervous, the ambience evoked by the models, photographer, make-up and hairstyle artist and the bubbly up and coming event planner who had arranged the shoot, together with the supportive presence of my 16 year old daughter soon put me in exactly the right creative mind to work on this colourful structure.
This first crown and most of the subsequent ones, from necessity, had to be created on or near site because of their fragility and lack of longevity. They are transient beauties, perfect for a photoshoot or wedding ceremony but will only last a few hours. More versatile and long lived flower crowns are possible but these need to be made from long lived flowers and foliage – gypsophilia, eucalyptus, roses, etc.
Not long after I had started to compile the photos, a dim recollection had me digging out and rifling through a small mountain of ancient slide carousels. In a former life, I was the wife of the son of a Puerto Rican singer and a Mallorcean artist. Eddie was multi-talented – himself a budding artist and a wonderful guitar player – and at that time was trying to start his own photography business with me by his side. One day, disparaged by all the images of my very self-conscious self in various poses holding cards with f16, 5 seconds, etc written on them (whilst Eddie got to grips with lighting systems, new cameras, etc.) I pleaded with him to try and capture a flattering photo of me. There ensued a memorable, fairly sozzled and rather giggly evening. I gathered some of the gorgeous flowers from the tropical trees and shrubs around us and fashioned something resembling a flower crown. I then knocked back a little dutch courage in the shape of a few Cuba Libres. I think Eddie may have had one or two himself and, as a result, he got the exposure wrong but the resultant photos were fab! I had no floristry knowledge at all when I was 24 but I wish I had those beautiful flowers to hand now to recreate a similar crown. Technically, that was the first crown I had ever made – it was to be several decades before the Kennaway House Crown followed.
So, this blog is to introduce my new page and it seemed only fitting to include a photo of myself drunk, very young and wearing a skill free crown. I will add to the gallery of photos as I create more crowns – I have no idea where it will end – flower crowns are a huge passion for me and each one a unique and very fantastic journey.
Here it is at last – the perfect marriage of plant and pot! A Devon-grown poinsettia in a myriad of colour varieties ensconced in a bespoke, handcrafted rope pot by Jessica Geach of Ruby Cubes. Jessica has designed this pot exclusively for her collaboration with Floralities and Devon grown plants and it is only available to purchase as a duo with the poinsettia.
Pre-order before Sunday, 18th November to take advantage of our special early bird price.
More details and photographs on my Christmas Shop page.
It appears I was ill-advised by my research and googlings. Kevin advised me on Friday that I need to bring my poinsettia out of its incarceration and leave her in a warm bright room so that her coloured leaves come through – at the moment, they are tinged pink, sparse and very small.
I know Kevin is right because his poinsettias were ablaze with colour when I collected my first batch of them before the weekend. They destined for Exeter Cathedral’s Winter Fair next Tuesday evening and Wednesday daytime to be put on display above my stall. My stall has been taking slow and pretty sexy shape in my spare room for weeks now and consists of six apple crates, each containing an element of Floralities various wares featuring paper, wood, glass, metal, fabric and concrete. In and around in every conceivable nook and cranny will be Devon grown plants.
This year’s poinsettias, yet again, are stunners – with a newbie or two to spice things up, including my absolute favourite – Candy Mint. One of these beauties has my name on it and will make a lovely contrast with my Hot Pink guinea pig poinsettia once she is fully clothed!
Attached are some dated photos of the truly amazing display of plants in their Devon greenhouse – you can see how quickly they have moved on over the weeks – it has been a joy to visit and a privilege to be allowed to photograph their progress.
The only thing that remains now is for the unveiling of Ruby Cubes’ contribution and details of how to purchase our collaborative gift for collection or local delivery.
If I can offer any tip at all it would be to order a plant as soon as you can and enjoy it in your home during the quiet weeks before Christmas when your house is bare of glitz and twinkle. Then, during the mayhem, place her in a quiet cool room for private occasional visits, putting her out on display only when room allows and “showing her off” is in order. When peace reigns again in the New Year, your poinsettia can once more take pride of place as, with the minimum of care, this plant will reward you for many months to come – years, if you follow my gleaned and tweaked instructions – with a nugget or two from Kevin!
A few hours ago, I received a message to say that the article and photos from the Bickleigh Castle shoot had just “gone live” on Bride Magazine Online. The next thing I knew Instagram and my Facebook page were pinging away with excited messages and links to the article. I am not sure I have ever been as ecstatic or so perplexed as I have been today thanks to my technological shortcomings, and I have needed a fair amount of help, but I think I now know what I am doing.
Hopefully, this is the link to the article – and it is a marvellous, illustrated read!
It means we are all now free to use the wonderful photography from the shoot – the models, the professionals who attended the shoot as well as the venue itself. I intend to open a new page on my website entitled photoshoots as I believe, since they tell a story, visitors may enjoy being able to make a coffee, take a break and just watch the slideshows depicting the crème de la crème of each one.
For the time being though I’d just love to post one shot – of the wild card crown on the lovely, smiley face of my friend Solo. It was she who put my name forward as the florist for this shoot. I’d also like to voice a massive thank you to the very talented Natasha who trusted Solo’s judgement and without whom the shoot would not have taken place, the models would not have looked so utterly gorgeous and the whole glorious day could not have featured in such a prestigious magazine.
Styling and make-up artist: Turquoise Bay Beauty, www.turquoisebaybeauty.co.uk
Photography: James A Photography, www.jamesaphotography.co.uk
Dresses: Abide Maids, www.abidemaids.co.uk
Floristry: Floralities, www.floralities.co.uk
Hair Devon Wedding Hair, www.devonweddinghair.co.uk
Venue: Bickleigh Castle, www.bickleighcastle.com
Big thanks also to the two lovely ladies, Jenny and Zanna respectively, who own the following businesses and allowed me to wander through their beautiful flower fields and pick some absolutely stunning flowers and foliage….utterly inspirational.
Last week’s meeting with textile artist, Jessica Geach of www.rubycubes.co.uk was awesome. We bounced ideas off each other and now all is in place. I first met Jessica and fell in love with her craft at the 2017 Exeter Cathedral’s Winter Fair. She was similarly impressed with my floristry and craft and we have kept in touch ever since. One of her unique pieces has pride of place in my much loved bathroom - my absolutely-best-ever-birthday-present-to-myself gift last year. When I suggested to her making something bespoke for my poinsettias, she was very enthusiastic and last week we had our first brain storming session. Something wonderful this way comes, uniting three homespun businesses, a family-owned one of almost a century growing plants and two freelance, self-employed artisans. But I am not going to let three cats out of their respective bags just yet …..
And about the two poinsettias taken under my and my friend’s wings last Christmas?
Well, my friend enjoyed her beauty – a white version – for more than seven months without losing a single leaf. A four day holiday away with her daughter during the worst of London’s heatwave, leaving her husband and son in charge of her poinsettia under strict orders saw its demise and no amount of coaxing and tlc has resurrected it.
I have followed a set of self-gathered rules and at one stage found myself hacking my Venus Hot Pink plant down. She has been nurtured ever since with careful watering during our Mediterranean summer and is currently going through a growth spurt and looking very healthy. I am now trying to decide whether to make a special “dark box” for my plant as all my googlings have dictated. I would need to keep her in this box for 14 hours a day in a couple of weeks’ time until December. Or, should I take a tip from Devon poinsettia-grower Kevin and just keep her in an unused room where my plant will never be exposed to artificial light after the Autumn equinox? Decisions, decisions …..
A part of Floralities which has always been important to me is creating planted designs as well as floral ones. One summer, a few years ago now, Ellie, Alfie and I visited various plant growers in a fairly small radius from Sidmouth to find the best sources of Devon grown plants. I now mainly buy from two of them, herbs, garden plants and, since last Christmas, the most fabulous Devon-grown poinsettias.
Last winter, I made the decision to learn as much as I could about poinsettias and to see if I could then persuade my customers away from the supermarkets’ imported plants in favour of these magnificent locally grown ones, available in 10, yes TEN, different colour varieties – and only two of them red!!
I was privileged to be shown a vast greenhouse where all the poinsettias, colour coded were being nurtured – it literally took my breath away and when manager, Kevin, saw a tear of wonderment rolling down my face I think he realised our mutual passion for a plant which is much maligned for its weakness but which he assured me had been raised in Devon to be robust and long lasting.
So, in early November I took possession of a set of mahoosive poinsettias which took up residence in my daughter’s now empty (she being at Uni in halls) rather large attic bedroom. Following Kevin’s instructions, I cared for the plants, trundling them off to various events and markets for sale or pre-order for Christmas and proudly displayed all ten varieties as a floral work of art in my apple crate table display at Kennaway House where they were auctioned off at the end of their Arts & Craft Christmas Fair.
By Christmas Eve, having completed my floristry orders, I had only two plants left - one from the original ten had a missing limb so became my “guinea pig” – the other I had saved as a gift for a friend in London who I would be visiting for a few days after Christmas.
In my next blog, I will tell you about the fate of those two plants. I also hope to be spilling the beans on my meeting with Jessica, owner of Ruby Cubes (all to be revealed), this coming Monday and the joint poinsettia-related-adventure we will be working on together over the next few months ………………. so exciting .
It was three years ago that I first visited Bickleigh Castle for a short break with my daughter, Ellie, and our family dog, Alfie Freckes, ostensibly to study - Ellie for her AS exams and I for my City & Guilds Floristry course, art and design unit.. Last week, Alfie and I returned, my car chock-full of foliage and flowers in every hue. The last few years have been an exciting period of my life; full of fabulous floral experiences, thanks to my floristry diploma, but this was to be my most magical to date.
I arrived, pinched myself, took a deep breath and was greeted warmly by a member of the Castle's staff and the team I would be working alongside for the duration. Whisked up to the Great Hall with vast bucketfuls of blooms, I glanced around at the minstrels’ gallery, the tapestries, the grand piano, the giant fireplace and the gloriously stunning vistas, framed masterfully by ancient leaded light windows, and I settled down to work.
I had been asked to design three flower crowns to complement the pastel ice cream colours of the exquisite dresses, hanging on a nearby rail and gently swaying in the hot summer breezes..
My fingers were itching to get started.......
With their hair coiffed, make up applied and flower crowns skillfully placed, three sylph-like models were being lead by their entourage through the Castle and out into the wondrous gardens below whilst I was left behind to work quietly, strains of their laughter and obvious camaraderie wafting up through the windows. Alone with my scented roses, vibrant dahlias and bevy of wild flowers, fruits, berries and foliage gathered during a foray, floristry scissors at the ready, through two flower fields and my own garden the previous day.
I had brought along the framework of a larger flower crown which had become affectionately nick-named my wild card crown over the morning and left to one side to be worked on later, time permitting.
Until the wedding magazines have seen the photographs of what followed, we are, none of us, allowed to show the results of our toil – so, for now, only this little “teaser” is permitted.
Watch this space for a beautiful, photographic journey through a very special, soporific day at Devon’s tiny but awe-inspiring Bickleigh Castle.