Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Adventures in Floristry

Ingredients for a bouquet
Back in the summer I went on a floristry course to Green and Gorgeous in Oxfordshire. Historically, I have not been at all keen on formal floristry. It seemed rigid and stuffy, coming up with arrangements that had names like ‘Orchid and Sphagnum on a Tortured Twig’. But at G&G they laid my demons to rest with an intensive day learning how to make fashionable naturalistic bouquets.

Since then I have had little need to use these dark arts, but as the autumn colours intensified the floristry bug intensified too. Venturing out with the secateurs I acquired Pyracantha berries, bronze and gold forsythia leaves, soft grey goldenrod seedheads (cunningly stabilised with a blast of extreme-hold hairspray to stop the seeds dropping off), and some Sedum flowers. I bought some Physalis and cellophane from Lulu Flowers round the corner – where they also gave me a quick refresher in wrapping them for travel.

So, with much garden wire and raffia, I assembled my hand-tied bouquet, with the sedums as a collar and a few off-white asters to naturalise it. Nicely wrapped and finished with some green and bronze ribbons, it is not too shabby, methinks.

One of my issues with flower arrangements is that I find them difficult to photograph well - but for your delectation here are some before and after shots anyway.

A floral - or leafy and seedy - extravaganza
On the ‘to do’ list is to find something nice to wear for the forthcoming Garden Media Guild Awards – the industry Oscars is the claim. Anyway, posh frock required. Something flattering and decorously foxy, preferably. I was looking into Steam Punk as a rather cool genre – the idea is to mix Victoriana liberally into what one wears. Plenty of vintage and Jack the Ripper boots – with the top hat and monocle option for boys.

While looking down the back of the internet I came across this site selling Steam Punk clothes, with entire back-stories for their outfits. One can be ‘Tara Foster, Treasure Seeker’, ‘Percival Westbury, Egyptologist’ and, my personal favourite, ‘Narcissa Von Trapp, Beguiling Horticulturalist’ (sic). Now that is a job description to aspire to, ‘Quite lovely to look at, and loquacious on the topic of plant life’, apparently (and a dab hand with poisons too). When I grow up I, too, wish to be a Beguiling Horticulturist.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

A Series of Doors

The Woodshed, still not as accessible as it might be!
 Actually managed to do a spot of gardening yesterday – it has suffered because of a major veg-planting extravaganza in Wales in aid of my forthcoming series in Kitchen Garden magazine. Starts in January. Look out for it. (And my adventure at the National Gardening Show in the December issue of Period Homes and Interiors). Anyway, I cut back a few perennials to stop them strangling some other stuff, liberated the door of the woodshed from encroaching evergreens (so at least we can tell if there is something nasty in it, if we want to*), and started to lay waste to some really cheeky brambles. All very therapeutic.

The picture above is of the woodshed after I had done most of the cutting back. I fear my work is not yet done.

When I was about six I had a protracted argument with my Grandmother about favourite colours. I liked red and black. She said that she liked brown best. I said that black was sharp and striking and clean and that brown was a boring, squishy, non-colour, devoid of attitude. She said black was nasty and harsh and that brown was wonderful and warm and soft. We never did agree on it.

When I re-designed and planted her front garden some 30 years later, I found myself in garden centres thinking of this and actively picking plants that were not to my taste as I knew she would like them. I prefer Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’ or ‘Silver Lode’ on slightly less gothic days. She liked H. ‘Creme Brulee’ and ‘Georgia Peach’. She liked variegated plants. Frequently wishy-washy and underfed-looking to my mind – but I bought them anyway. She hated daffodils because they get knocked down at the sides of roads. I told her she was getting some for her own good and put Tete-a-Tete at the front of the border, supporting the tall ones in mixed planting at the back. We agreed Hamamelis was a good idea and I indulged her in Choisia ‘Sundance’.

The following year, when I was about seven, she took offence to my singing Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’ which was in the charts at the time. She was firmly of the opinion that we did need an education, and, indeed, not needing no education was terrible grammar. No amount of discussion of the broader context of the song would sway her; it was a Bad Thing.

She was extraordinarily decisive in such matters. John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ was the most appalling blasphemy. Yet ABBA was marvellous regardless of voulez-vous-ing and gimme-gimme-ing of men after midnight. She quite liked Wham! And Chas and Dave.

By and large we got on well. We both liked gardening, clothes and concentric rings of almonds on Dundee cakes. I did stuff, she lived vicariously, happy that stuff was being done.

As of the other day, she is not here anymore, either to indulge or to bicker with. If one, like Janus, looks both forward and backward in time there is a great sense of a door closing on the past. The first-hand memories and experiences of growing up in the 1920s and '30s are one generation less accessible. Recent history is suddenly a lot less recent.

Listening to: Nickelback ‘How You Remind Me’. Coincidentally.

Would Grandma have liked it? Not impossibly. Derivative Canadian Rock I hear you say (or possibly in the interests of accuracy (see blogs passim) contemporary rock with a hefty dash of post-grunge). Whatever.

Are we having fun yet?

*Like in Cold Comfort Farm. Naturally.