Last week saw the second in the series of seasonal Gather & Grow workshops that I am running in my garden in collaboration with Brigitte from Moss & Stone. Brigitte is a beautiful artisan florist who likes to incorporate all that is available from the garden, hedgerow and forest into her whimsical arrangements. As you all know, I am a gardener who is in love with flowers – both growing them and bringing them into my home. Brigitte and I came up with the idea of the Gather & Grow workshops as a way to bring to introduce other floral enthusiasts into our world – sharing the methods and inspirations that inspire us to gather and grow beautiful materials to incorporate into our summer arrangements.
This year has been a summer with a capital S! After last years incredibly wet and cold May and June, this year the weather has been warm and very dry since early spring. Everything in my garden has flourished, but has also been very early. The day before the workshop brought the hottest day of the year so far and Brigitte and I melted in the heat as we tried to get everything organised for the next day. We started to cut the flowers and foliage in the morning, but had to stop as they were wilting before our eyes even though we were cutting straight into buckets of water. We were also wilting and in the end we retreated indoors and instead cut late into the cool of the evening to make sure the flowers were at their best.
The day of the workshop dawned thankfully slightly cooler and overcast. With renewed energy levels I rose early and started to put the finishing touches to the lunch – we had planned to eat outside but rain was forecast so we left setting the table until the last minute. Our lovely attendees started to arrive at 9.30 and after handing out tea, coffee and much needed cold drinks we headed out to the summer house to get to know each other.
As ever in my house the dogs accompanied our every move!
Shortly after taking our seats outside the first rolls of distant thunder could be heard and a few drops of rain warned of an impending deluge. Within minutes the storm was overhead and we beat a hasty retreat into the shelter of the summer house as the heavens opened and the intensity of thunder & lightening increased. After the largest crack of thunder I have heard for many years Hardy leapt into the safety of the lap of Kate from Green Farm Flowers and stayed there until the storm had passed! Due to the heavy rain we spent rather longer than I had planned in there, finishing our drinks, eating Brigitte’s delicious homemade cookies and discussing the cutting garden essentials – improving the soil, compost and leaf mulch and our choice of things to grow.
Outside the garden was breathing a sigh of relief as the rain freshened and cooled the parched ground.
As the skies cleared we moved outside to continue our exploration of cutting garden essentials. The greenhouse has been a focal point of both the Gather & Grow workshops – although there is not as much going on inside at this time of year as in spring when the staging was overflowing with seedlings. My aim is to produce 12 months of flowers from my greenhouse and below you can see me talking about growing chrysanthemums – in the absence of a polytunnel I can only grow a small number of these large plants, but they are vital for providing a few focal flowers in November and December – months when flowers are almost non existent in my garden.
After the greenhouse we moved into the Cutting Garden. Here you can see Brigitte picking out one of the ‘little beauties’ that would make a perfect ingredient in her summer bowl arrangement.
The heat of the recent weeks has brought all the flowers on at a fast pace – the roses have been flowering for weeks and are on the cusp of entering their quiet period whilst they regroup for a second flowering later in the summer – fortunately there were plenty available in these overflowing beds to use for our workshop. We spent a long time discussing the best ways to grow roses, the benefits of mixed plantings of roses, dahlias, perennials, biennials and annuals over growing farmer style in rows and how to recognise the time saving self seeders when weeding in late winter and early spring.
I grow this nepeta throughout the Cutting Garden as it is a magnet for insects.
My Cutting Garden is full of self seeders this year – they are mingling in with planned plantings and giving the garden a beautiful soft, airy and natural flow.
My beds are full of larkspur – very little of which was started from seed. The seeds that were sown in February and planted out in March are still developing, so they should provide a second wave of larkspur flowers when these self sown beauties have gone over.
I try to keep as many seed heads as possible in my garden as they provide such lovely architectural matter for arrangements.
The focus of the morning was on the roses as these are the focal flower of early and mid summer. They will soon be overtaken by the dahlias which are on the cusp of bursting into flower, but for now the roses are my flower of choice. After last years drowning which lead to the flowers balling and browning before flowering, this year my bushes are stronger and more full of buds and flowers than ever. I am still adding to my collection annually – trying to build up a variety of shades and shapes to enhance both my borders and my arrangements. We discussed planting, pruning and feeding as we walked around the garden – really I could have spent a whole day talking about growing roses, but I had to keep my eye on the clock as we have a lot to fit in on these workshops.
As the attendees and I finished our discussions about the growing side of summer arrangements, Brigitte was hastily setting the table for lunch and getting the food ready. The rain had passed over, leaving a slightly overcast and breezy day perfect for lunch outside. Roses and herbs decorated the table and we sat down to a feast of homemade soup and bread followed by quiche and a variety of salads and finished with a bowl of strawberries from my garden and a rather nice lime cheesecake dessert from my latest Mary Berry cook book. Flowery discussions abounded as the participants got to know each other better and we looked forward to an afternoon of flower arranging with Brigitte in the Coach House, where buckets of home grown flowers and foliage awaited us.
I will cover the afternoon arrangements in a second post as I have plenty more to share with you. All the photos for this post were taken by my friend and photographer Sarah George, which allowed Brigitte and I to concentrate on our workshop attendees – a big thank you is owed to Sarah for giving up her day to take these photos! My son Harry is now back in California filming BMX at Woodward West, so was not around to make another flowery film. If you missed the one he made of Gather & Grow for Spring you can find it here.
If you would like to take a look at the beautiful Instagram accounts of the course participants here are their links: Rachel @owlhouseflowers, Kate@greenfarmflowers, Lindsay@lindsaygarden1 and Lucy@lucytheflowerhunter. Lucy was only with us for the afternoon so is not in these photos and Adrian was only able to join us until after lunch. Adrian is planning to start farming flowers in Essex, so watch out for a new grower in this area – he is just setting up on Instagram after hearing us all raving about its benefits particularly as a way to access the floral community.
I will be back very soon with photos of the lovely flowery afternoon that was spent with Brigitte.