In the darker days just before spring emerged fully, bringing a riot of green and an explosion of soft colour, we got together the team we work with regularly for a day of much needed inspiration.
The hellebores this year in our garden were good but not quite as good as in previous years, and I know we weren’t alone – other local growers reported the same. The long wet winter did them no favours at all and I’ll be honest and say we didn’t feel it was appropriate to hold one of the classes we had advertised because there just weren’t enough high quality hellebores to use. And so we cancelled a class, and I felt rather down-hearted at having to do that. But, our philosophy has always been to provide our customers with the very best of flowers and food and it didn’t feel right not being able to let them use the double hellebores, the speckled hellebores and the apricot and black ones that I had imagined them using when I put out our advert. We only had enough for guests at two of our smaller workshops and it was a huge disappointment as I had wanted to introduce these winter beauties to our workshop guests, who I know appreciate using flowers that they can see growing outside in their gardens but might never have thought of bringing into their homes.
I discovered I wasn’t alone in those gloomy days of early March. Everyone I spoke to made reference to needing more energy, more sun, less rain. And so we did what we do best and invited the team for lunch, Mrs B style. Platters of super foods and bejewelled salads, melt-in-the-mouth quiche, a wild mushroom and prosciutto tart with the most delicate and crisp puff pastry topped with a mountain of wilted rocket and Mrs B’s freshly-baked tomato focaccia bread. We sat around the dining table, drinking red wine, gazing at beautiful baby Alice (lips just like her mum!) and discussing the plans we had for the rest of the year. One thing on the horizon for all of us was a photoshoot at a nearby area of outstanding natural beauty and we needed to all be comfortable working in the rugged outdoor Yorkshire environment; we needed to understand the stone walls with their depth and dark tones, the moss, the greens, rusts, mustards that are there if you look closely and, of course, the afternoon light that can change in seconds, just like the weather.
After the cherry frangipane tart (which still makes Lisa’s eyes light up at the mention of it) we created beauty, really out of nothing more than what was there. Mandy passed baby Alice to Mrs B, I decamped to the workshop for an hour to make a bouquet out of a consignment of hellebores and ranunculus that had been left over from a previous class, Mandy agreed to model (she’s really a very talented hairdresser but is also a complete natural in front of the camera) and Lisa took care of those eyes and lips. Toni went outside to ‘scout out’ suitable locations.
I hope you’ll agree the results show that you can create beauty even on the dullest of days. Take inspiration from your area, the weather, the season, your mood and anything you have that is beautiful. In this case we had Mandy, a great berry-coloured lipstick, and some heartbreakingly good (if not as many as we’d have liked) hellebores. All photographs by Toni Darcy who sees things others don’t. The food helped a lot too!
Our team that day included: Amanda of Hair By Amanda Jane (hair and model), Lisa Emmett (make up) , Toni Darcy ( photographer- www.tonidarcy.co.uk) and us (Simply By Arrangement). We are also grateful to Elizabeth Jackson (Flowers From The Garden, Harrogate) for providing the stunning double hellebores.