Wedding Flowers – Part 2


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As promised I am sitting down tonight to post a few more pictures from last weeks wedding preparations. The brief for this wedding was all about sunflowers – the beautiful young bride had loved sunflowers since she was a little girl and she wanted the flowers at her wedding to reflect that love. It was important to her that all the flowers came from a garden or hedgerow and that they added a slightly wild and vintage feel to the church and reception.

Our preparations started back in February when the brides mother and I sat down to prepare a list of flowers that we could grow which would fit in with the theme and to plan our sowing times in the hope that we would have as many flowers as possible.

In the build up to the wedding there were a few moments of doubt about how our growing would go (and back up plans to buy in flowers were made!), but any worries about having enough flowers were quashed as we started to cut two days before the wedding – in no time at all my coach house was full and overflowing with sunflowers, dahlias and foliage in beautiful autumnal shades.

Autumn-Wedding-Flowers Autumn-Wedding-Flowers Autumn-Wedding-Flowers

On Thursday last week the small flower ‘team’ cut and prepped all of these lovely flowers, leaving them soaking in cool water overnight in the coach house ready for our work on Friday. They then went down to the church to put the little glass bottles in place along the pews – instead of traditional pew ends we had decided to hang groups of 3 bottles over the pews tied with raffia and filled with flowers. These little bottles could then be moved to the reception after the wedding, where they would be hung from shepherds crooks around the garden.

Whilst all this work was going on I hid away in my greenhouse preparing as many flower bases as possible.


Above is one of the ivy flower globes that would hang by the entrance gates. The flowers would be added on the morning of the wedding to ensure that the Cosmos Bright Lights would be fresh enough to last the day.


Plenty of berried hawthorn bushes were cut for the window displays.


A large bowl of elderberries proved very useful.


Buckets of amaranthus came in from the Cutting Garden.


And I finished the apple wreaths that I showed you earlier this week.

Apples-and-Elderberries Greenhouse-Preparations

At the end of the day as much advance preparation as possible had been done and we said our goodnights knowing that we would be back for an early start on Friday.

The next morning I was up at dawn and back at work – however well you prepare in advance the last day before an event like this is always going to be a long one!


The early morning mist lent a very autumnal feel to my preparations. My first job was to finish the trays of dahlias that would be lining the stone benches in the entrance porch at the church.


Then it was onto making the window arrangements for the 5 long window ledges in the church.

Wedding Arrangements

After that I gathered my tools and our wedding preparations moved to the church.


The urns were put in place on the window ledges.


Two vases of sunflowers and grasses were arranged and placed inside the apple wreaths for display at the entrance to the church.


The doorway was decorated with an evergreen swag filled out with the fading heads of hydrangea Annabelle and fresh sunflowers.


The font was filled with sunflowers, grasses and amaranthus.

As the evening light drew in we closed the door on the church knowing that only the final adjustments were left to be made on the morning of the wedding. The brief was complete – everything used both inside and outside the church was homegrown and there were sunflowers galore for the bride to enjoy!

Tomorrow I hope to share with you the photos I took of all the finished arrangements on the morning of the wedding!


In A Vase On Monday – A Bowl of Inspiration


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Welcome to ‘In A Vase On Monday’ when I am linking up with Cathy at Rambling In The Garden to share a vase of flowers picked from my garden every Monday.

This week I needed a quick and simple vase – I have been so busy recently and arranged so many flowers over the last few days that I am ready for a little floral downtime! I am starting to plan my Cutting Garden for next year, so thought a small bowl of Cutting Garden flowers in the kitchen would inspire me to get on with this important job.


After cutting so much last week for the wedding I had expected the Cutting Garden to look quite bare. The beauty of growing cut and come again flowers, however, is that it is very hard to strip the garden. There was plenty left untouched by the wedding and the many buds on the flowers we did use last week are all bursting into flower again this week – the Cutting Garden has been barely affected by the demands of a wedding.

In the photo above you can see the tops of my Antirrhinum ‘Giant White’. These half hardy annuals have been in flower since June. Although the flower length has got shorter as the season progressed, they are still a stunning addition to a bouquet and on my list for growing next year. I also grew a red variety for the first time this year, but have not used these as much for flower arranging so will leave them off my list for next year. Although antirrhinums are a half hardy annual they grow well from an autumn sowing in the greenhouse.  I will start some of these lovely plants off in the next week or two and with another batch sown in March next year I should have plenty of flowers to pick from.


My second sowing of annual cornflowers has recently started to flower and they are looking beautiful – such a fresh clear blue. These are certainly on my list for next year – I will be sowing seeds directly in the garden next week and also growing a few trays of plug plants to be kept in the cold frame for the winter as an insurance policy.


Next on my list will certainly be this annual clary – Salvia viridis ‘Blue’. One sowing of this vigorous annual will keep you in flowers all season. I cut my plants back hard when the first flush of flowers started to fade and they are all flowering again. As well as growing it in the Cutting Garden, I use this easy to grow annual as a filler for any gaps at the front of my perennial borders. Like cornflowers this annual grows well from a September sowing, but I always do a tray of plugs for the cold frame just in case the winter is very harsh.


New to me this year is this lovely half hardy annual called Didiscus ‘Blue Lace’. It has been flowering since July and is still looking lovely in the garden. Just like cosmos the more you pick the more it flowers and these flowers have proved a very useful filler for lots of vases. Started off in March and planted out in June they have been in flower since July and are on my list for next year.


My sweet peas have been fantastic this season – in flower in June they are still flowering prolifically, although on a shorter stem now. My early problems with the little black pollen beetles disappeared towards the end of July and I can happily bring in lovely scented posies again. I will be starting off some plants to grow and flower in the greenhouse soon and will sow my outdoor sweet peas again in February as that worked so well this year.


My asters have been another star of the season and I will be growing a wider variety next season. Asters are half hardy so should not be sown until next spring. I am, however, going to try and grow some plugs in the greenhouse as an experiment, in the hope of getting an early crop of this lovely flower next year.

This weeks flowers were all placed in separate little milk bottles, which I then stood inside the metal bowl. I bought a few of these metal bowls to plant bulbs in, but for the time being I am making the most of them as simple flower containers.

I hope you have enjoyed my little bowl of inspiration and thank you once again to Cathy for hosting this lovely meme – I am glad to be back this week and hope you will pop over to her blog to see what she and the others have made. I will be back later this week with photos of the wedding flowers from the weekend, which I am looking forward to sharing with you!


Wedding Flowers – Part 1



Shh – don’t tell the bride but I am sharing a few photos with you taken today in my greenhouse as I played with ideas for the wedding that I am helping with this weekend.

Today was all about gathering my props and equipment into one place and using a few snippets of flowers to see how my ideas would work in practice. When working with seasonal flowers (in this case home grown) it is hard to make detailed plans for arrangements until close to the event date as you can never be certain what flowers you will have to work with. For todays play I used pinks and purples, but the theme for the weekend wedding is much more vibrant.

As my week will be dominated by wedding preparations I thought you might like to see  the preparations as they progress. After gathering all my equipment in one place today, we will be cutting and prepping the flowers and foliage tomorrow and leaving the flowers in a cool shed overnight to have a long drink. Friday will be arranging day and most of the finished arrangements will be put in place in the church. On Saturday morning I will pop back to the church to check that everything is looking fresh and to put the outside arrangements in place.

Flower arranging on a large scale starts with a good set of kit. I keep mine in a toolbox that my son bought me for Christmas about 5 years ago – at the grand age of 10 he came up with the idea to store my bits and pieces in this toolbox instead of the assortment of plastic bags that I was using and it has worked well ever since. In here I keep my wires, tapes, scissors and knives as well as a few decorative ribbons and accessories. It is good to know that everything is to hand when I need it.


I have had this set of 5 small stone urns with imitation moss rings for a couple of years now and they have proved to be a great investment. I have used them for a few friends events and often have one or two in use at home. My notebook is essential – I make a plan of all the arrangements I need to make, together with the props I will need for each and a plan of the flowers and foliage I would like to use. Writing everything down in advance helps me to work quickly on the day.


The first arrangement on my list is two flower globes to mark the Entrance Gate to the church. It was difficult to see a way to attach anything to the stone walls, so we decided to use shepherds crooks to support the globes.


I have been collecting bits and pieces for this wedding for a few months now – I am hoping these galvanised zinc pots and hessian ribbon will come in handy.


I have two of these metal urns, which will form the base for the pedestal arrangements outside the door to the church. They look quite stark when empty, but I am sure they will look lovely filled with flowers and foliage.


The window ledges in the church are long, narrow and very high. I need to make arrangements that will fill the space and have plenty of interest when viewed from below. I tried out my plans on a shelf in the greenhouse. The finished arrangement will be much fuller than this and in different colours, but I like the way the hawthorn branches are filling the space in this demo.


For the pedestal arrangements at the entrance to the church I will be using a selection of tall flowers and grasses. I have been considering how to add some drama to the metal urns and finally hit upon the idea of decorating a floral ring with apples, ivy and sedum to add a base to the taller flowers.


I have cut the apples in half and used 2 tooth picks per apple half to secure them to the floral foam.


I left the greenhouse tonight feeling very upbeat now that my plans are in a more final form – I am looking forward to starting to pick the material early tomorrow morning!


I am hoping to take more photos to share with you over the next two days, including some final shots of all the flowers in the church.

Life has been very busy for the last couple of weeks. I have had my trip to France, a lovely couple of days with Libby from An Eye For Detail last week and a house full of guests all this week, so my normal blogging routines have fallen apart. Hopefully life will return to normal next week when I will be back to making my usual and much missed Vase On Monday!



A Wander Around Old Amsterdam


Tonight is a whirlwind of activity as I have decided at the last minute to take a long weekend trip with my husband to France. This will be the final finale of the summer break this year!

We are heading to the French Alps where we ski in the winter, so as I know I will have no internet connection whilst I am away I thought, as promised, that I would take you on a quick wander around the old streets of Amsterdam before I leave.

Travelling to Amsterdam last week could not have been easier. We flew from London City Airport – a short flight (under an hour) and we had landed at Schiphol airport. A quick train journey took us to Amsterdam Central and a taxi to our hotel. We unpacked quickly and hit the streets in search of a late lunch. Just around the corner from our hotel we found the restaurant/winebar Dante, which was just what we needed. A lovely salad, delicious soup, a few fries and a glass of crisp white wine started our holiday off in style!

Restaurant-Dante-Amsterdam Restaurant-Dante-Amsterdam

We then took to the streets for a stroll to get our bearings. Although I knew that Amsterdam was very old I was still amazed to see that many of the canal houses were dated in the 1600’s.


We quickly learnt that bikes rule the roads in Amsterdam – cars and pedestrians must proceed with great care in the narrow cobbled areas around the canals.


The canals were lined with boats and the streets with parked bicycles.We were amazed that the cars parked right up to the canals without any form of safety barrier – no room for any driver misjudgements here.


Many of the boats on the canals are houseboats – often with gardens on top.


The cobbled streets were home to many small individual shops and eateries.


After getting our bearings we headed back to our hotel in search of a pot of a tea. We were staying at the Hotel Ambassade, which is situated on the beautiful canal called The Herengracht. Imagine how delighted we were to be shown to this beautiful salon to enjoy our tea  – an afternoon ritual was immediately established for our break!

Hotel-Ambassade-Amsterdam Hotel-Ambassade-Amsterdam Hotel-Ambassade-Amsterdam

The next morning we up bright and early for a delicious breakfast and then out to find the Rijk’s Musuem. On our way we encountered this quaint button shop:


And noticed some of the more unusual road signage:


We went to the museum via the floating flower market which I showed you on Sunday. Our first stop when we arrived at the Rijk’s Museum was the excellent cafe, which served lovely food and fresh mint tea – London museums could learn a lot from this cafe! What looks like a little egg in the photo is actually a macaroon.


The museum was very busy so I only took a few photos – hopefully this gives you a flavour of the newly refurbished building.

Rijk's Museum Amsterdam Rijk's-Museum-Amsterdam Rijk's-Museum-Amsterdam Rijk's-Museum-Amsterdam

After many hours enjoying the exhibits we had another wander around the streets and then went back to the hotel for our afternoon tea followed by dinner at an excellent local Italian restaurant.


On our third and final day we got up extra early to eat breakfast and join the queue for the Anne Frank museum. I would advise anyone planning a visit to pre book tickets as there was a very long wait time. I have read Anne Frank’s Diary and visited Auschwitz, so I knew what to expect. The reality, however, of being inside the building where that family went into hiding and subsequently were discovered and sent to their deaths in the concentration camps was very hard. We left the museum in a somber mood. After a visit to the Tulip Museum across the road our moods had lightened and we spent our last afternoon enjoying the historic streets once more.

Amsterdam Amsterdam



Dinner that night was the food highlight of the week. We ate at a very trendy venue called Envy, indulging in the chef’s delicious tasting menu and sampling a variety of gins.

Restaurant-Envy-Amsterdam Restaurant-Envy-Amsterdam Restaurant-Envy-Amsterdam

The weather had cleared as we walked back to our hotel, so we enjoyed the night time charm of the streets before returning for our last time to our hotel.

Amsterdam Amsterdam Amsterdam Amsterdam

Despite the cool temperatures and frequent showers Amsterdam was a joy. I am already planning a return trip to see the tulips at the Keukenhof gardens in the spring.

Sadly I will have to miss my usual Flowers On Sunday and In A Vase On Monday posts,  but I should be back to a normal routine after that. Hopefully I will find some lovely flowers in the Alps to share with you next week!



In A Vase On Monday – Cafe Au Lait


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Welcome to ‘In A Vase On Monday’ when I am linking up with Cathy at Rambling In The Garden to share a vase of flowers picked from my garden every Monday.

Today has been a truly awful day for picking flowers! As torrential rain was predicted for the whole day I have been on a shopping trip to Cambridge with my son to ‘refresh his wardrobe’ before he starts at his new college next week. The dogs and I just made it to the Cutting Garden this morning before the rain became more than a shower and I grabbed a handful of flowers which I left drying in the kitchen whilst we were out.

I had intended to make a hand tied bouquet out of these blooms for tonight’s post but, feeling jaded from the shopping, I have decided that they look fine as they are! At this time of the year the flowers do their own talking!


My bunch today includes my very first flower from dahlia Cafe Au Lait. Cafe Au Lait is to dahlias what Kate Moss is to the catwalk. She must be the most talked about, desired and photographed dahlia of the summer – a star of many a wedding bouquet. This is the first time I have tried to grow Cafe Au Lait and, as I had read that she is shy to flower, I have not been concerned by her late appearance. I generally find that the first flower on a dahlia tends to be quite small so I expect she will get bigger and more blowsy as she gets into her stride. I am so proud to have my very own Cafe Au Lait that I had to show her off immediately!


Along with Cafe Au Lait I have picked a few blooms of the David Austin rose Gentle Hermione, quite a few blooms of my current favourite aster the pale peach Tower Chamois, cosmos Purity and a few white snapdragons.


Gentle Hermione is a new rose to me, planted in the Cutting Garden early in the spring. Despite this being her first year she has flowered well repeatedly throughout the summer. The blooms seem to be quite weather resistant which is always a plus in a cutting garden rose.


Above is the lovely dahlia Cafe Au Lait again. This pale coffee colour is very unusual – although the asters are peach coloured they appear slightly pink against Cafe Au Lait.


My cosmos is really getting going now. I grow both single and double whites and the zingy orange ‘Bright Lights’. I plant cosmos anywhere in the garden where I see a gap, as it seems to thrive in all kinds of conditions and can be relied upon to fill a space with its light airy stems from August until the first frosts.


Finally a close up of the pale peach aster Tower Chamois. Annual asters do not seem to feature in the flower wish list very often but I love them. They can be grown in all shades and with these incurved petals they look so much like a chrysanthemum. They are the flowers most often commented upon when I use them in a bouquet. These have come from a late sowing in May, but seed started under cover in February will be in flower in June and they repeat well as long as you dead head regularly.

On this, the last Monday of the summer holidays, my thoughts are now turning to September with the promise of a new gardening year to plan for. With a sharpened pencil and a new notebook the first job on my list is to finalise my bulb plans and get the order placed. I will start planting narcissi and bulbs for indoor pots in the second half of September. Next on the list is to order some early flowering sweet pea seeds and to review my stock of annual seeds and fill any gaps. I will be sowing hardy annuals direct in the Cutting Garden and in the greenhouse later in September and sowing sweet peas to grow in the greenhouse in October. I also have lots of biennials sown in June which are ready to plant out as space becomes available.

My aim is to try and have flowers to cut for as many months of the year as possible. At the moment the Cutting garden is producing buckets of blooms and this should continue until well into October. I will be bringing my chrysanthemum cuttings into the greenhouse soon and hope to have these in flower for October and November. If I plan my bulb planting correctly the first batch of Paperwhites should be flowering in December to follow on from the last chrysanthemums. I am also busy drying hydrangea heads and collecting poppy seed heads and alliums to store for winter vases.

Before you head off to make lists of all the jobs needed in your gardens I hope you will find the time to pop over to Cathy’s blog and see what she and the others have produced this week.



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