Spring 2020: The Year We Made the Garden Better, to Make Ourselves Feel Better Too

I say it every year. April is where it starts. The most beautiful month. When I look back on Aprils gone by, they’ve all been ‘enchanted’ in their own way - The Little Flower School (where it all began); the one with British Flowers and Bronte Tales; the one where we saw the most magical garden at Allt-y-Bela and last April spent soaking up sunshine and snipping Epimediums in the (best ever) garden at Cambo. Each year there have been tulips, which is how I best remember them, from the hundreds of photos I’ve taken as a ‘record’. This year there has been something more. The fritilaria. A whole batch of rare varieties planted by me and Jill Shaddock...

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Foam-Free Flowers in the Fig House

I usually say the year really starts in April. This year was a little different. We got going in March, with a large class to celebrate spring flowers and natural design techniques that don’t use floral foam. Two weeks later, the world stopped - a brief pause in life to tackle a deadly virus that none of us could ever have imagined. What follows is a story from less troubled times, when all we cared about was flowers and what to do with them.  It started with a phone call from my pal Kirsty (or Kirsty the Wilde as I call her). “They’re going foam free at Middleton Lodge” she announced one Monday night in October just as...

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2019 Part 5 – A Year in Words and Many Photographs: Winter

November There are still flowers in the garden to use in the early part of the month, and I find myself doing a few bowls to try and forget something quite upsetting that has recently happened. I say the words "trust your gut" every day in classes, and I wish I occasionally listened to myself. The world gets even madder from this point in time and every day I wonder if I’m the one who is out of kilter. A lot of tea is drunk. Our last class of flowers and photography lifts my spirits. Seeing how much Karen and Jo have learned this year and watching them effortlessly make the most beautiful bouquets and eagerly photograph them in just the...

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2019 Part 4 – A Year in Words and Many Photographs: Autumn

September We do Cambo a bit differently this year, with a small group so we can spend more time teaching and taking more inspiration from the garden. I often say it’s a magical place and this year I’m thrilled that everyone agrees, and some say it changes them. But, before the garden there’s ice cream and a walk around historic St Andrews with a chance "hello" from Bill Murray, who happens to be in town for a celebrity golf thing. I find the little Rudbeckia I spotted last month, now fully grown, and use it to start me off on a bouquet. (Photo by Helen Warner) Rachael brings her prized Floret Violas with her and combines them with...

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2019 Part 3 – A Year in Words and Many Photographs: Summer

July As another hot English summer begins we run away to sea for a few days. The dog likes the beaches of Norfolk nearly as much as the ones in Fife. I spend a blissful day with Jo Flowers at her new studio in the heart of Settle Norfolk and it provides enough inspiration to get me through the rest of the summer. We chat about her upcoming wedding and how hard it is to find the right underwear and she shows me the invitations and her perfect colour palettes, as well as Cabin Number 1, which will be the bridal suite. Her attention to detail is something else and I can see that she’s creating a very special place there. Mid-July sees...

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2019 Part 2 – A Year in Words and Many Photographs: Spring

April At long last, the first consignment of British flowers arrives, packed perfectly in brown paper and string by Suzie of Flowers By Season. Our pal Kirsty comes for a chat and I persuade her to do a bowl of flowers so that I can test out a new photography area for light. It’s good. Roger mentions charging me rent for the woodshed but agrees that payment in flowers is most acceptable. Those cool girls from Wolves Lane Flower Co spend a few days in Yorkshire and bring Brian along to do bouquets and urns. From the steps of the barn Brian delivers an Easter message urging us all ‘not to follow the crowd’ - we know just...

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2019 Part 1 – A Year in Words and Many Photographs: Winter.

Where does time go? Barely have I finished buying seeds for 2019 than it’s time to plan for a new year - a new decade in fact. One of the advantages of taking so many photos is that at least there is a visual record, a story of sorts, of a whirlwind year. January This could actually be my favourite month. There are very few flowers, no classes, no weddings, and it’s a time to be quiet and rest up, and read all of the books that never got read on a beach in summer. Sometimes I like to go on a class and learn something new too, and this year it was basic upholstery. I’m chuffed to bits with a large footstool made at a class with the...

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British Flowers, Bronte Tales and the Long Hot Summer of 2018

What a scorcher......screamed every newspaper. I don’t mind telling you, there were plenty of times when you could hear me scream too - when huge boxes of Margaret Merrill roses had to be thrown away on delivery because they just couldn’t stand the heat, or when, at 11pm, I was still watering the garden and everyone I spoke to mentioned an imminent hose pipe ban. Oh yes, whilst for some last Summer was the best for many a year, for the humble grower/florist it was, let’s say, quite a challenge. But, we live in Yorkshire, we’ve weathered floods, we are more than up to most challenges. And, now I’m further away, in the cool of spring, planning for the...

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So, you think you want to be a florist?…

I wanted to be a florist ever since I started working as a criminal lawyer at the age of 23. I didn’t just fall into this on a whim. Each afternoon, once we’d dissected the cases won and lost that day in court, there’d be tea, always made by the day’s loser, and a discussion on our dreams. For Neil it was to be a writer - his crime fiction books are now all over Waterstones; Eddie’s Plaice mobile fish and chips is still to take the North by storm; and my flower shop, well, it’s a small workshop in a corner of Yorkshire and not actually a tasteful community hub where folk can drink coffee whilst thinking about what flowers to buy. Flowers got...

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Simply Snug…

Snug is one of my favourite words. It sounds just like what it means..... is that onomatopoeia? It also rhymes with trug. We all know I love a trug. No surprise then that one of the best establishments to visit in our little town of Hebden Bridge is Snug Gallery - a place where the most tasteful of contemporary objects are displayed in perfect warm light and where the owner Ed Chadwick brings trugs (not just any old trug but the kind made of steam-bent ash, walnut and cherry wood no less) full of flowers from his allotment every week to bring life and scent to this oasis of calm. I try and call in every week, often just to chat and gaze around at the...

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