It’s mid-September, our house has been battered by East Anglian, River Colne winds and we’re preparing for autumn. Still our dahlia’s thrive – how’s that for a bit of Monday motivation?Dr B has planted loads of different varieties of this fabulous flower in various shades of pink, red and orange so even as we move out of summer, the garden is a real riot of colour.
As well as their impressive, vibrant hues and voluptuous shape, these blooms are so wonderful as you can keep cutting them to display and it just makes the plant even more abundant. Every week we get a fresh homegrown floral display that brightens up our rooms – I hope it’s brightened your Monday.
This time of year is just a gift for me as I celebrate my love for hellebores.
I have a confession to make though. Until we had our garden I had never heard of these blooms. Yes I know – I’m rubbish. I have Dr B to thank for this new love of mine.
When we moved from our London flat to a house with a garden, Dr B unleashed his inner Monty Don (no bad thing) and began his plan for ‘all year planting’. Hellebores, he told me, were a classic winter flower that pop up in Feb and I was assured that every February I would see lovely blossoms that would delight. Dr B didn’t disappoint.
Now every year I look forward to the arrival of these beautiful flowers. I’m told they benefit from a little prune so I’m forever dipping into our garden to snip some flower heads to display indoors.
This also gives me a chance to use up my glass globe mini vase (a gift from my sister) and upcycle some charity shop finds. I’ve used my Posca pens to draw on some tealight holders for some floating water displays and spray painted a really rather ugly small vintage vase for a more traditional arrangement.
This time of year is so precious. Spring is coming and cheap posies of daffodils are in the shops. When these blooms are in abundance I buy two bunches every week for an instant hit of natural colour in my home. Unless I cut something from my garden, my floral displays are never usually that cheap.
By the way, the vase was given to me by my mum and dad who found these vintage Horlicks jars at an antique auction. It’s one of my favourite vases for displaying blooms.
At the moment I’m continually snipping flower heads in my garden to promote new growth so I’m exploring pressing flowers to make full use of them. Here’s my very rough guide for beginner’s.
I like to think my home has always embraced the Danish concept of ‘hygge’ the idea of enjoying life’s simple pleasures – that’s what I try to show on this blog. I believe something like flower pressing reflects this concept as all I’m really trying to do is preserve some of the enjoyment Dr B and I get from spending time tending to our garden.
I haven’t bought any fancy equipment for my pressing (maybe I’ll live to regret this), instead I’m being strictly old school on this and applying a method me and my mum used to use when I was a kid.
I’m using one of my handmade coptic bound books to contain these blooms. I like these books as you can open the pages fully without having to worry about the gutter or breaking the spine.
As I say I haven’t got a fancy contraption for pressing the flowers. I’ve simply got my big heavy art books and a very heavy marble block pressing on top of them. I’ll show you how it turns out in a month or two.
One of the easiest and cheapest way to give your rooms a splash of quick colour is by adding some flowers to a table or mantelpiece. It’s amazing the instant impact that even the most simple of displays can produce.
Over the past month I’ve made a record of my displays every week and now I’m sharing them with you. I’ve tried to keep my budget limited with a £40 maximum and £5 min.
My luxury purple and pink display costs around £40. The mixed peonies in light pink and deep plum were from Value Flora where you can get six stems delivered from £19.99. The vibrant, frilly carnations from my local florist were a snip at 70p each and the roses were £3 for three. I got the wilder bits of foliage from the garden.
Because these blooms aren’t especially structural I wanted the arrangement to be informal. So I opted for a fairly loose dome. I did this by following the same method I use when making a hand-tied posy.
You do this by creating a layering the stems in a spiral formation, starting with one flower in the centre and simply circling blooms around this central one and continuing until you make a dome. Then I give it a bit of a shake before I put into the blooms the vase – I do this to loosen the posy up a bit so it doesn’t look so rigid. I used one of my favourite pieces of pottery to place these blooms in – I just wish I’d made a note of who made it as we’ve had this vase for 10 years and it brings us both joy everyday. The side table was a charity shop bargain; £5 from Cancer Research.
Although this looks quite grand, this rather formal set up is so easy to recreate. I sprayed an old charity shop pub branded vase with bronze paint. Once dry I taped a small block of florists foam soaked in water onto the container. I then arranged the stems into the foam, making sure I walked around the vase and looked onto so that not a bit of the green soaky stuff was exposed. I kept the colours to a minimum for this one, using mainly white, cream and green tones with little splashes of red and pink. I placed the shells by the bottom of the vase to be arch.
I won’t lie, this one below is actually from my mum as the ‘rents came to see us this weekend. The yellow flowers from her and my dad’s garden smell divine; you get a whiff of a little puff of sherbet as you walk by. They look delightful with such vivid hues and open up into the most perfect shapes.
My mum puts me to shame when it comes to her eye. Three simple, but bright ,stems, one of a contrasting colour, placed at different heights into a vintage old glass bottle that they bought as a job lot at an auction (Mr and Mrs J go to a lot of auctions).
Crucially my mum removed the foliage that was below the water line; not only does this look better but it eliminates the bacteria that would thrive on those leaves. It also keeps the water in the vase cleaner and adds to the shelf life of the blooms.
My final display was for a dinner party and consequently I didn’t want to spend loads of money on flowers as I’d already blown the budget on wine (#sorrynotsorry).
The table flowers to be low (people need to look at each-other over the table). I also wanted them to be fun as we were having a good time.
I’ve gathered quite a lot of swan vases from various charity shops over the years. None of them in their original state are particularly artful or beautiful so they’ve all been given the spray paint treatment on more than one occasion. I wanted them to twinkle amongst the candle-light on the table so I’ve painted them in a shiney metallic.
Alstroemeria is ideal for when you want to create a floral statement but you haven’t got loads of money. A stem of alstroemeria has lots of blooms on it so you get a lot for your money and the flowers look very effective when grouped together in one colour. I teamed the red ones with little spray roses and some foliage from the garden, these were placed in water and arranged in the vase. I placed a block of florist foam in the white one, having two large lily heads as my main attraction while filling in the gaps with alstroemeria.
Here is my finished magnolia illustration – my plant of the fortnight.
A magnolia tree heralds in warmer, sunnier days. The elegant blooms and glossy, simply shaped leaves are often featured in floral pattern designs. It’s not difficult to see why, as the above shows.
This watercolour and ink drawing was a pleasure to create, the regular shape and ornate petals are beautifully decorative yet the entire structure of the plant gives every flower balance and harmony.
Look out for my sweetpea sketches in a fortnights’ time.
I love using fresh flowers to brighten up my spaces. Even when I was a poor student and lived in the worst house in England* I would buy some daffs and irises for a pound a bunch and display them in mugs and tin cans (this gaff did not have vases – in fact I would be being kind if I said the place was basic at best).
My love of fresh flowers grew way after I graduated and I went on a Paula Pryke training course (amazing) and even worked as a Saturday girl in, in my opinion, one of the best florists in London; Rebel Rebel – two kinder, sassier and stylish women you will never meet, they were wonderful to me and I learnt so much from them in terms of floristry but also kindness and generosity.
Every time I arrange blooms for my home I remember my PP training and time spent with RR. The things that have stuck with me is the PP team’s celebration of colour and form. RR taught me to be brave, to enjoy design and look out for classic blooms and unusual receptacles ( I once spent an entire day sticking red glitter to shoes for table centres – it was brilliant).
Below are just a few ideas to spruce up your floral displays – I’ve deliberately kept the arrangements themselves quite easy that don’t take any skill, after-all this is simply to brighten up your spaces not to create something formal.
Go wild with vintage vases
Myself and the good Dr B quite like a ceramic and over the years we’ve amassed lots of vases, jugs and decorative bowls in various styles, all of which are great for displaying flowers. I like to cluster pieces from around the same period when I’m putting flowers in them to great a mini still-life.
This collection of shop-bought irises and home-grown daffodils and rosemary has been very loosely cut to size (always cut stems at an angle as they have greater surface area to drink the water) and very informally placed in some beautiful mid-century jugs. This arrangement now lives on my (very hardworking, aka scruffy) dining room table.
Be bold and punk up charity shop finds
Wherever I am one of my favourite things to do is to spend a day scouring local charity shops. In the mid nineties it used to be for clothes (I may well do a post on my nineties style but then again maybe not) now it’s for homewares that I can either display with pride or customise and up-cycle. When I found this swan vase it was very twee, achingly so and not even in a good way. Initially I sprayed the vase in a beautiful neutral blue and white paint for a Homemaker Magazine project that you can see here.
This time I wanted something brighter and more edgy. So I got this fab Rust-oleum neon spray paint in pink and yellow and went to town on punking this bad boy up! I also wanted it to be rough and ready so I like the little bits of dust that have gathered (if you like it sleek you can avoid this by thoroughly cleaning and dusting your object beforehand). I used the spray in a well ventilated area and you should too.
I didn’t want a big, tight pom-pom style arrangement as I did with the Homemaker one, as I say the brief I set myself was quick and informal. So I simply filled the vase with water and filled with stems of white spray chrysanthemums. These blooms are usually used to fill out a bouquet and I normally avoid at all costs, however their spiky petals look rather apt here.
Embrace easy charm with clear jam jars
One of the first things Dr B did when we moved into this house was to plant hellebores as he wanted something beautiful in the garden in the first few months of the year. I must say he made the right choice. We have beautiful light and dark versions all over our patch in Feb and March and they really are lovely. Because we have so many I’m always snipping a few buds off to display indoors!
I like to show off these garden cuttings in clear glass jam jars to celebrate each individual stem. There’s a good reason why jam jar displats have been so popular in wedding tables, bars and restaurants – they don’t disrupt your eye-line but are elegant and stylish while being super practical. Honestly if I could get away will filling my house with flowers in jam jars I would.
Create a chic up-cycled arrangement
This is inspired by my time with Rebel Rebel. On my first day I helped out on a wedding doing the tables (which were long and thin). I was really worried as I thought this was going to be really complicated but the arrangement was beautifully simple and very effective. We lined the table with clear and cut glass receptacles at various heights (bottles, vases, jars, bowls, tea-light holders etc), filled them with water and placed blooms in shades of burgundy and crimson. It looked stunning. We then illuminated the glass with tea lights all down the table. Class, pure class.
Since then I am always on the look out for bottles and jars with interesting shapes and indentations that I can use for flower display. I admit these Italian fruit juice bottles are a bit fancy (the drink was nice too) but I’ve put flowers in milk and cola bottles before now. The trick is to have more than one and keep to the same colour bloom so they look like a display.
This post was longer than I anticipated and I hope it’s useful to you. It’s actually been really nice to share some of my memories with you from my floristry days.
(*Re the worst house in England. A bit of an exaggeration, but it was a horrible place to live. A monument to all things beige, it had layers of dirt built up over decades and to be honest me and my two flatmates only added to it. The mould made me ill and then the house had a major infestation of mice, then ants. Still, you know, student times.)