Thursday, 10 November 2011

November Flowering

The lovely mild weather in East Anglia has meant that we have enjoyed fantastic autumn colour and there are still some gorgeous flowers in our gardens. The September or Michaelmas daisy was over-used in floristry when I first started my career and like Gypsophilia it is taking a long time to shift its bad PR. However in the garden it is delightful to see such vibrant colours so late in the year.  Roger Harvey of introduced me to a carmine pink Aster-novae-angliae 'Anderken an Alma Potscheke'. This looks fabulous with Purple Aconitum and Nerines.

Nerines are originally from South Africa where they thrive in well draining soil. They often do well near south facing walls where it easier to replicate the kind of conditions they naturally adore. Like Chocolate Cosmos they have a faint fragrance of chocolate which is very pleasant. This is particularlynoticeable when you open a box of English grown Nerines.

This pink variety is pretty much available all the year but in November there is still lots of white and red available to purchase as a cut flower. We grow some Nerines locally in the UK but The Netherlands is the principal supplier of this flower for the cut flower trade. They have an almost iridescent quality. Red Nerines almost sparkle as if they have been sprinkled with fairy dust.


 Elegant flowers on long stems. They look great in drifts in the garden but almost better observed individually in a vase. Nerine bowdenii is the most common in the UK. It's common name is Cape Flower as it is originally from South Africa. It is also known as Japanese Spider Lily as it had been previously thought for many years that it originated in Japan. It was also called the Guernsey Lily as it appeared to be native to the  tiny British Island South West of the mainland. It is widely thought that it became  a native plant of Guernsey after a ship was wrecked off the cost full of plants and bulbs collected by British plant hunters. The mild climate of the Channel Islands would have suited these bulbs.

Just five stems look elegant in a vase these flowers last for at least ten days

Nerines on a south facing wall at the edge of a gravel drive. The best place for the bulbs to thrive. If you are planting some bulbs, use some grit in the planting as this makes the soil as free-draining as possible and plant in Spring. Placing a layer of mulch on the top of the bulbs for the winter of the first year is a good idea but once established you can dispense with such luxuries! Established bulbs produce there leaves during spring and need as much sun in the summer as possible to make the flowers thrive. Having dormant leaves in winter makes this species tolerate lower temperatures than others in it genus. Like Alliums, by the time you get the flower in full bloom the leaves have faded. Nerines planted from bulbs don't normally flower in the first year. Once established they should flower annually and bloom best when crowded as you can see above.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Country Roses

The wonderful sunny autumn we have had has extended the season of our English roses. We have a wonderful garden roses supplier that has been sending us stunning fragrant roses  from the Stour Valley in Essex to our workshop in London for many years. Usually we have our first roses around June and they start to take off in early October. This year, the early Spring meant that some were ready to cut in April and they are still going strong now.

A few weeks back I had the pleasure of doing a demonstration at Walton on the Naze in Essex and so called into Country Roses on my way to the demonstration. Danae Brooks who runs Country Roses is passionate about these flowers and is a real expert. I was lucky enough to be given some to take home and below are my simple arrangements. They last easily five days and some varieties are even stronger. It is so lovely to enjoy something home grown and so we try to support our local growers whenever we can!

You can't beat a jug for an arrangement at home

5 heads on one stem - sublime

Roses suit vintage pots

Some of the longer stemmed roses and larger headed varieties

Picked and packed in bunches of 10

Massed together they look wonderful

Some of the reds and pink last better. I adore this pink rose rosette shaped rose 'Gertrude Jekyll'. It was voted the nations favourite rose by Country Life readers so I am not alone!

My husband bought me this Victorian Celery Vase from Camden Market
over twenty years ago and it is perfect for tulips and garden roses

Going strong after 6 days!

A Wedding inspired by a Rose

This pretty pink wedding took its inspiration from one single rose which appeared on all the stationery. After a Church service guests made their way to a huge double-decker Marquee set in a paddock on a Racing Stud. It had a wonderful pink upstairs bar and disco which was revealed later to the guests and one of the only events I have had the pleasure of decorating that had a 'Bride-only' loo and powder room!

Pew end of Roses, Lisianthus and Astilbe

The Rose that inspired the theme

Candy Bianca, Faith and Barbie roses

Candelabras in the church

Bay trees flank the entrance

Formal arrangements at the entrance to the bar

Topiary trees in drifts of pink aggregate

Patterned votives and petals from Serax

Crystals on the top table

These single votives filled with a rose have pink skeletonised leaves on them

Birch poles were used in the mechanics of the trees

1 metre tall ikon vases filled with cellophane and petals. Mirror is great for creating reflective lighting effects with lots of votives.

Often with large white spaces it is good to have flowers at different heights

Concentric circles of roses for the top table as well as a long arrangement at the front

The view from the top table

Paula's Tip
Lighting candles at events can take an enormous amount of time. Over the years I have purchased thousands of lighters, tapers and matches to do this job. Many of the new style barbecue lighters are great but don't seem to be very good at refilling and so are poor value in the long run.
Recently I have been using the Cricket Deco and it is brilliant. It comes with an extra refill which is easy to use. It has a flexible neck which means it is great for getting down inside votives. Look out for them in supermarkets I buy mine from Tesco's and they cost £4.20 with the refill. No more singed fingers!

Paula's Tip Two
You can buy mirror cut to size from any glass supplier. Recently I have discovered mirror candle plates in my local Tesco's which are perfect for using on mantles and tables. £1.50 each

Summer Pool Party

This gorgeous event used the beautiful garden roses from
Country Roses in Essex. One of our favourite flower growers.

Summer Luncheon

Garden roses from Country Roses

MInt and Alchemilla are perfect with roses

Petals cover the foam in the straight sided glass  bowl

Lavender was used in this  bowl

Every lunch would have white embrodiered linen napkins in my imaginary world

You can mix any colours together but I advise taking out the white and cream as the eye gets drawn to the light colour

Votives are from Pols Potten; one of our favourite Dutch wholesalers of vases and decorative items

A few sprigs of summery Saponica made it into the flower displays. I love this old fashioned pink flower and it is British grown!

These roses speak for themselves!

Flowering mint is so perfect for lunch

One of two Zinnias made it into these table designs. An underrated flower in my book

Floating flowers in the pool - You need to turn off the filter so you don't do any damage and also the power will blow all the heads to one end of the pool

Flat flowers float best and here I have included some white Pyrethrum daisies - another underrated flower I feel

Dahlias, daisies and blue Scabious

Petals have to be left on the table right at the start of the party or your end up with Pot Pourri!

Paula's tip

I often collect linen on shopping trips abroad. For beautiful embroidered linen in the UK, see the selection

October Flowers

Often I am rather sceptical about the promises made on bouquets and flowers for sale in Supermarkets. One thing that helps to make sure you are buying fresh flowers is to check for the display date which works the same as with perishable food.  These Tesco 'Finest' lilies were £10 to buy for six stems but they lasted ten days so overall that makes them very good value. Only a £1 per day to have a great looking vase and a wonderful scent.

£10 for six stems of Oriental lilies. Available in a range of colours. They can be pink, lemon or spotted as well as white so study the bud carefully.
This lemon variety was actually mis-labelled white!

I have to admit that I am not at all keen on Gladioli! I don't grow them in my own garden and I would not usually specify them unless I wanted to use 1 metre tall flowers for a large Pedestal and there were no Delphiniums or I wanted tall flowers for a contract vase.
Then I would chose green, deep purple or dark red and mass with a collar of Hydrangea to make them look more edgy.

However if it comes to October and you want to add some seasonal colour to your home and you want to BUY BRITISH then, Gladioli is your flower and it is really INEXPENSIVE!

In fact when I went on a search for British grown Gladioli in my local Supermarkets I found the way the stores were marketing them very interesting and confusing. They were all from Lincolnshire and the cheapest available were grown by Andrew Ellis in Lincolnshire for Marks and Spencer. At this store you can buy 6 in a bunch and get a further 3 free making them effectively half price at 20p per stem.

Asda are selling five stems reduced from £3 to £2 making them 40p a stem and Waitrose are offering 33% free and getting eight stems for the price of 6 which works out just over 37p a stem. 

I think the real value is around 40p a stem and so if the Supermarkets are offering deals it will hopefully be because the last flush of sun has brought them all on-together and the price has dropped.

Whatever you pay for them, they are great value. All supermarkets claim they will last five days which they will easily. Some claim seven days and I think if you use my tips for conditioning them you will get at least that amount of time out of them and maybe more.

Take off the additional leaves, nip out the top three buds of the stem and cut about 2 cms of the bottom in a diagonal cut. Use the flower food provided and top up the vase with lots of water. After five days, remove the spent flowers and re-cut the stems and change the water, giving the vase a quick clean with a few drops of bleach to kill any bacteria that may have formed. If you have flower food, then please add. Two or three days later repeat and enjoy the final top blooms for a further few days.

Asda - 5 Gladioli reduced from £3 to £2 (british grown)

5 stems is lovely but 10 stems makes far more impact so here
for £4 we have a mass of colour. Pick the strongest colour or white.
Avoid pastels unless it is the perfect match for your room. 

To make all the blooms open you need to pinch out the top three buds! Gladioli open from the bottom to the top! Just pinch out the top three buds when you first arrange the flowers with your fingers. 

 As time goes by, you need to take the lower flowers off as they have bloomed and faded. Remove spent flowers to help the flower flourish.

Make sure when you select you Gladioli that the greenery is clean
and a lively colour and there are no brown marks around the buds. 
Browning may mean the flowers have been cut and have been cool stored
for a few days.

This Lilac Gladioli is 'pale and interesting!' In the UK we are quite keen on lilac flowers but this colour is a lot less popular in Continental Europe which is intriguing!

I adore the deep and bright colours but there are some pastels I am drawn too!

Pure white Gladioli. White is always the safest colour to give as a gift

Magenta Gladioli opening.

We all love to see the stamens on the lilies but they mark furniture and clothes and generally are best removed. Sometimes they stain the faces of the flowers and so I recommend pinching them out with your fingers when they are open.

I don't wear gloves but surgical gloves are good for this as it keeps you skin from staining

Autumnal Bouquet

Vase of the Week;
House Bouquet arranged in Ceramic vase £65