What’s in season when

Spring brings so many treasures. There are acidic green euphorbia, many-hued tulips, anemones, clematis, hyacinths, narcissus, honesty, peonies, lilac, primula, ranunculus, forsythia, viburnum opulus, forget-me-nots, solomon’s seal and cherry blossom. From the hedgerows there’s cow parsley and briar roses and in the late spring branches of hornbeam look wonderful in large arrangements.

Summer offers us an abundance of beautiful blooms. Rubbing shoulders in the borders are nicotiana, bishop’s flower, delphiniums, foxgloves, roses, snapdragons, sweet peas, lilies, stocks, hollyhocks, honeysuckle, larkspur, marigolds, cornflowers, sweet william, love-in-a-mist and lavender. There’s lots of lovely foliage too like lady’s mantle and bells of Ireland, and the fields and hedgerows yield grasses and seed heads.

Autumn may be the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness but the country florist also has the pick of many beautiful flowers including hydrangeas, cosmos, dahlias, sunflowers, roses, michaelmass daisies, astilbe, penstemon and rudbeckia. Branches of autumn-tinted leaves give height and structure to large arrangements and from the hedgerows there are blackberries, elderberries, rosehips and wild apples.

Winter seems unpromising but there are plenty of wonderful flowers to choose from, many of them beautifully scented. There are amaryllis, anemones, hyacinths, camellia, crocuses, snowdrops, grape hyacinths, cyclamen, narcissus, ranunculus, skimmia and viburnum as well as fantastic berries, seed heads and evergreen foliage such as winterberry, rosemary, old man’s beard, ivy, mistletoe and spruce as well pussy willow.


Starting a cutting garden

Now’s the perfect time to make a start on your first cutting garden. All you need are a few packs of annual seeds, a well-prepared patch of garden and a couple of hours. There’s a little bit of hard work involved now but come the summer you’ll love coming back into the house with buckets full of real flowers ready for arranging. All of these annuals can be sown where they are to flower right now:
Calendula officinalis (English Marigold)
Cerinthe major purpurascens honeywort
Sunflowers (try Vanilla Ice or Velvet Queen)

For foliage try growing Bupleurum Rotundifolium Griffithi and visit the garden centre for pots of nepeta (catmint). They clump up quickly to form large plants and in the early summer I like to cut their pretty blue flowers and soft blue-grey foliage. You could also cheat and buy some alchemilla mollis plants as their bright green flowers are pretty much indispensable in cottage garden arrangements. It’s also not too late to order sweetpea plants from specialist growers on the internet.

When you’re deciding what to grow consider the colours of your flowers as you’ll want them to look pretty when arranged together. Also think about flowering periods so that your extend the time when you can cut from your patch. Annuals like cornflower and nigella will flower a couple of months after sowing, while cornflowers and cosmos won’t get into their stride until later in the summer and will carry on until the first frosts – as long as you keep picking.

When you’re preparing your patch of ground make sure you create a fine tilth to give your seeds the best possible chance. Then mark out straight lines that will be your guides for where to sow. Leave enough space in-between the line – 25 to 30cm – so that’s there is room for big, healthy plants to grow. Once sown water well with a watering can with a fine rose and keep watering if there’ a spell of dry weather.

Once the seeds are up and have two or three sets of leaves you’ll need to thin them out. It always seems so heartless but there needs to be a 25 to 30cm space between each plant (50cm for sunflowers). Some varieties will need pinching out to encourage bushy growth for example, pinch out the growing tip of sunflowers once they are 50cm tall.

Be eagle-eyed for slugs for they are your mortal enemy. I leave beer traps to try to control them, which seem to work well as long as I remember to refill them every couple of weeks. My chickens are very naughty too and will pick my young plants to pieces if they can. As your flowers grow you’ll need to provide support either with individual canes or square netting tied horizontally over the plants ready for them to grow through.

Finally, some advice on cutting your flowers: Don’t pick when the sun is hot, first thing in the morning and at dusk are best. Carry a bucket of water with you when you cut so that you can put the flowers straight into water (don’t forget to strip the foliage off the bottom of the stems). Invest in some proper floristry scissors as they really are the best things to cut flowers with and, finally, keep cutting to encourage your plants to keep flowering.

Next year, once you’ve been bitten by the cutting garden bug, you can add half-hardy annuals, bulbs and tubers to your cutting garden repertoire.

Happy gardening.


January blues


It’s an unpromising time of the year for seasonal flowers – or is it? In fact, January has lots to offer brides, mostly in the form of flowering bulbs or corms.
Top of my list of favourites is Paperwhite narcissus. They have a delicate purity, as well as a heady scent, that means they can hold their own in single flower bouquets (like these bridesmaid bouquets) as well as when used in mixed flower designs.
My other scented favourite is the wonderful hyacinth – I always have a bowl or two of these bulbs at various stages of growth around the house in January. As a cut flower they have amazing lasting powers, so amazing that the individual pips can be carefully cut off and used threaded on to wires to make delicate and scented napkins rings, crowns or bracelets. Hyacinths are available in pretty blue, lilac, pink and white as well as pale yellow.
If you’re looking for lots of colour choice, the amazing tulip is your flower. They’re the starlet of the January flower market, dazzling in their many hues – yellow, purple, white, pink, red, frilled, double, it can be hard to choose. Make sure your florist conditions them properly though. Tulips continue to grow after they are cut, and unless they’re prepared carefully, their stems will twist and bend.
I love wonderful anemones with their sooty black centres and pretty green leafy fringe beneath the flowers. They come in simple white (there’s a variety with a green not black centre that’s so pretty) but also rich, velvety dark blue, purple, red and cerise.
The most romantic of this little group of January lovelies, is the delicate-looking ranunculus. With it’s many, many petals and cupped shape, they look a little bit like tiny garden roses and, after peonies and roses, this is the flower most brides ask for when they come for their consultation. Book your wedding for the winter and spring months if you have your heart set on having them in your bouquet!


Old man’s beard

Foxgloves and Roses

Old Man’s Beard, or Clematis Vitalba, is a wild clematis that scrambles profusely over many of the trees and hedgerows in this area. Apparently its presence indicates chalky soil, which must be why there’s so much of it growing on the Downs.

In the summer Old Man’s Beard produces many small creamy white flowers. At this time of the year the seed heads have become fluffy and white – like an old man’s beard – but earlier in the winter, when they are still green, they have a wonderful starry shape. Both look fabulous in winter flower arrangements. The fluffier and riper the seed heads become the more delicate they are and the more easily the fluff gets blown away. A quick squirt with hair spray keeps them in place and stops your flower arrangements from disappearing on to the floor (try to use one without a smell).

I have used them in several ways: Cut short in bouquets and table centres; long and trailing in large arrangements; and lots of lengths of the woody stems twisted into a circle to make a wintery wreath, with paperwhite narcissus pushed in around the circle (of course other flowers would look pretty too, hellebores for instance, but they wouldn’t last long out of water and you’d need to used orchid vials hidden behind the wreath to keep them fresh).

Old Man’s Beard’s other country name is Traveller’s Joy. In France it is known as ‘Herbe aux Gueux’ which means beggar’s or rascal’s herb as beggars were said to rub its acrid sap onto their skin to irritate it and make it look red and ulcerated. Good for business apparently but I think I’ll stick to using it for less painful purposes.


End of the season

end of season


Well the wedding season for 2015 is officially over – bar any last minute winter weddings that may pop up. Phew! It’s been a hectic seven months with lots of wonderful weddings, wonderful people and wonderful times. It’s hard to pick a favourite as every wedding is a wonderful creative journey, from the first consultation to delivering the bouquets (I never get tired of the smell of hair spray and the excited ooohs as the bride and hens see their flowers for the first time).
This year Foxgloves and Roses also became an recommend supplier to both the amazing Blenheim Palace and gorgeous Ardington House near Wantage. I’m really excited about lots more weddings at both venues next year. But, for now, it’s time to start thinking about Christmas!


Yellow is the colour

I was delighted to be asked by Wedding Flowers magazine to take part in their photo shoot again. I was given the colour yellow to work with and asked to provide a bouquet, buttonhole, table centre and one other piece. Yellow is not a colour that many brides choose so it was a great chance for me to play around a bit with this happy colour – called by Vincent van Gogh, the colour of hope and friendship.
As yellow is a colour intrinsically linked to spring, I decided to use all the beautiful flowers bursting into bloom in the garden at the time of the April shoot as inspiration for my designs, along with one of my favourite novels of all time, ‘An Enchanted April’ by Elizabeth von Armin.

Although yellow had to be the predominant colour, I was able to use others, so I decided to add pink and white to my palette complimented by fresh aquamarine in the form of the ribbon trims and a Ball Mason jar.
It’s always hard to choose flowers for a shoot because it’s the time when I can go wild and choose exactly what I like – I feel like a child in a sweet shop staring wide-eyed at all the brightly coloured jars. In the end, I chose ranunculus, paperwhites, daffodils, spray roses, lisianthus, celosia, marguerites and olive leaf.  I also raided the garden for cherry blossom, apple blossom, forsythia, ribes sanguineum (the flowering currant) and bergenia. Who would’ve thought this was such a star – out of water it lasts for hours. I also cut a few budding hawthorn twigs from a nearby hedgerow too.

In keeping with the abundant feeling of April gardens, I decided to create an over-sized bouquet with tightly packed flowers in the centre and long stems of forsythia, hawthorn, ribes and olive, creating a kind of spindly halo around them. I trimmed it with long, trailing ribbon because it seemed to suit such an extravagant creation.

The images of my designs will be appearing in the July/August edition of Wedding Flowers & Accessories magazine. Hopefully they’ll inspire lots of brides to consider yellow as a colour for their wedding flowers.