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Before Christmas I ran some wreath making workshops and one of the things that came up in discussion was just how much time it takes to make the designs for a wedding. We spent over two hours making a door wreath but when you have multiple designs to make for a wedding you might not be able to take that much time A lot of people might think that wedding flowers are just done on the day or day before but in fact the process takes many months. A lot of this work is not visible and so when people talk about how expensive wedding flowers are they might not realise all the stages that go on before the bride holds onto her bouquet on the day.
Some brides are super organised and will come to me two years ahead of their date with a pinterest board full of ideas and a list of exactly what they want and others leave it to the week before their wedding date and have never really thought about flowers other than what they see in the supermarket. I like to have a consultation with each couple, whether in person, via email or over the phone, to get a good idea of all the details of the wedding, their general style and themes and their personalities. This helps me design their arrangements and pick out the right blooms that will perfectly fit the wedding and the season.
Having had a consultation I will go away and spend a long time thinking about the designs, researching what will be in season, what colours will go well together, what elements might suit the couple's personalities and the look of the wedding as a whole. Sometimes this will mean talking to growers or my wholesaler at the market, sometimes I'll visit the venue, sometimes I will put together moodboards and lists of ingredients. Each couple is different in what they need and how much they want to be involved in the process so before you have paid your deposit a lot of creative energy will go into your designs. Throughout the days, weeks, months (and sometimes years) leading up to the wedding date I will continue adding to my mood boards and notes for each wedding when I come across ideas and ingredients that would be perfect for that look.
Coming up to the wedding date itself I will have another consultation with the couple either in person, via phone or email to go over all the details and make sure nothing has changed - often it has! Once these details have been ironed out I'll order the flowers - whether from a local grower or from Holland and start preparing the non perishable parts of the order, the vases, boxes and a beautiful wedding card which explains the ingredients of your wedding flowers and their history and folklore.
Ordering the flowers itself takes a long time (several hours usually!) and involves a lot of "Flower Maths". If I'm buying from Holland flowers and foliage come in bundles or wraps of anything from 10 -50 stems and I need to work out how many stems I need for each design, allowing for breakages etc, and how many wraps that will translate to. All of this is made more complicated by the shifting price of flowers at auction and I need to be careful to buy materials to the budget agreed with the couple.
The flowers arrive:
Different flowers will open at different speeds and need differing amounts of tlc and coaxing to get them ready for your wedding so I will collect the flowers from the grower or market (often these are in different cities altogether) and then condition them, give them a good drink and make them happy so that when it comes to your big day they are all at their most beautiful and full. Sometimes in winter it is hard to coax them out to play, but in summer it can be too hot and they are ready to party far too early! If the flowers are from Holland or further a field they will need a good long drink after their journey across continents and will need to be gentle roused form the suspended animation they have been put in to travel.
Making the designs
Now the flowers are ready to work with I will go ahead and start making up the designs in the order that they will last best. This means that things like wired shower bouquets and flower crowns will be done right at the last moment as close to the wedding as possible so that they will last longer. Once a flower is out of water and has been wired up it is on something of a countdown to wilting so I have to bear this in mind when scheduling what designs to make up first.
The big day
On the morning of the wedding I will get up at a somewhat unholy hour to continue making designs. Sometimes I can hear owls from my studio and once I spent the early morning and dawn in the company of a young sparrow hawk who watched me through the window as I put the finishing touches to the bridal bouquet. I love this time, tired as I am, there is a certain stillness and beauty to the world before everyone else has woken up and the hustle and bustle of the world around me has begun.
If I'm lucky I will wolf down a breakfast en route and load up the van before delivering flowers. Often this involves multiple drop off points trying to beat rush hour traffic and the Scottish weather to make sure that each party going to the wedding gets their flowers when they need them. At the venue I'll set up the flowers for the ceremony and reception and make sure everything is perfect before I go. If this includes floral arches and pedestals or hanging designs this is more involved and I may spend several hours at the venue before anyone else arrives making the designs that cannot be pre-made in the workshop or easily transported. When everything is in place and I'm happy I will pack up and slip away before the guests arrive and only the flowers remain, waiting to welcome the couple in all their beauty.
Summer (of sorts) has finally arrived and with the warmer weather my annual battle with hordes of clothes moths has resumed. On the whole I don’t like killing bugs and spiders, but when a moth looms near my knitwear collection or wool stash there is no other option. One of the “cures” often touted against moths is lavender, so I’m using this as a good excuse to make a wreath of dried lavender to hang in the house and ward off the evil blighters.
Lavender comes from the Latin ‘lavare’ meaning to wash and its fragrant flowers are used extensively in herbal medicine and beauty products. From Roman times to the current day lavender has been added to baths, burnt for its smell and the Victorians even used to sew small sachets of it into their clothing to act as deodorant.
Sources differ about what its meaning is from mistrust to love or devotion depending on what text you consult. The idea of ‘mistrust’ stems from when the plant original only grew in hot climates and it was thought that the asp used to often be found living under the shrubs.
For me, lavender reminds me of my childhood, of sitting in the little blue and white courtyard garden that was my mother’s haven and smelling the scent of the flowers and the garden roses that climbed the walls.
Hopefully the clothes moths will have none of these positive associations and will flee once I hang up my new wreath. They are easy to make all you need is dried lavender, reel wire and a wreath frame, but if that sounds like hard work you can order one to size from me, and I also offer a wheat version or mixed lavender and wheat wreath (I’m not sure what the effect on the moths is of wheat but it looks nice!)
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Before Christmas I was approached by the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland with a commission to create a floral crown for a photoshoot they were organising to publicise their March performance of King Lear. In the play, Lear is driven mad by the cruelty of his children and wanders the countryside wearing a crown of weeds.
It was a really interesting piece to create because I wanted to use dried or dying materials to mirror Lear’s mental decline. The idea being that what was on top of his head (wild and decaying materials) would represent what was going on inside his head. I love using foraged items in my work, but it was novel to be using dying materials rather than the lush blousy blooms of retro flower crowns, or pretty blossoms of circlets that I’m used to.
In doing a little research into the symbolism of the crown in Lear, I came across a blog by Jennifer Hamilton where she says: “It is usually considered an indicator of Lear’s madness or the chaos in the kingdom. But I think the weedy crown represents the promise of an alternative political order. Taken out of its dramatic context, I think a weedy crown can be worn by anyone (of the 99%!) to represent an alternative way of imaging and living in the world.” This is particularly interesting given that the RCS production of the play will take the unusual step of featuring an all-female cast.
Last weekend I did my first Wedding Show, which was fun and exhausting in equal parts! One of the interesting things that came out of speaking to all the lovely brides was a feeling of environmental awareness in relation to flowers. Many people didn’t feel comfortable ordering flowers that would only be used for one day and then thrown away. I am very interested in this side of floristry and want to try to minimise my footprint by using seasonal blooms, environmentally friendly or traditional practices and, where possible, British flowers. However it has also occurred to me that some of the designs I’ve been working on recently such as terrariums and living wreaths might also make great table centres and decorations at weddings, which will then keep on living.
Terrariums originated from a period when plant hunters transported living specimens thousands of miles home from their exotic adventures overseas. The plants were placed in glass containers that provided a self-sustaining mini-environment in which moisture created by the plants collected on the inside surfaces of the glass and dripped down to rehydrate them. Wardian cases became a fashionable way for wealthy Victorians to display indoor plants. This was especially key in Victorian cities where pollution made gardening a no-no.
In recent years they have taken the North American and Australian interiors scene by storm, however in Britain they are still relatively unusual. I loved the idea of making these little self-contained worlds and have been working on a variety of designs in interesting containers to sell at a Vintage market I will be at this weekend.
Other designs I’ve worked on include two series of “living wreaths”. The first is made using the amazing Tillandsia or “air plants” which originate from the jungle and so take all their nutrients from the air. These fascinating plants can live just about anywhere and require very little care from you, just occasional misting with water. I love the lines they create; they look out of this world!
Finally I am also working on some living wreaths and letters using succulents, ivy or seasonal plants such as the pansies I’ve put in these letters. They are a great way of including a quirky monogrammed feature in your home or at a wedding, or could equally be used at a grave to last much longer than a traditional oasis wreath.
Looking after any of these designs is so easy even the least green-fingered person could manage it, I really hope people love these ideas as much as I do, house plants don’t have to be boring!
One of the things that I miss most about living in the country is the green spaces. In Glasgow I am very lucky to be so close to a lot of beautiful parks and countryside but I do miss being able to step out of my door into a wilder space. Recently the trees have been turning glorious colours and on walks I’ve seen the bushes littered with bright berries, conkers and beechnuts.
I couldn’t resist making something with these lovely colours and textures so last weekend I took my scissors for a walk around my parents’ garden and did some foraging. I wanted to make a beautiful boho flower crown in my own style after having done so many for college which had to fit a certain style. These sorts of crowns seem to be everywhere in wedding magazines these days.
I had bought some flowers for the occasion but I hardly touched them having found such a bounty of brilliant material outside my own front door. These pictures show the fruits of my labours. It probably took me around two hours, and I was completely absorbed in the making process. This is one of things I love about floristry; that my mind is entirely in the moment and everything else disappears.
I’ve now developed a number a workshops that I can run for hen dos, birthday parties or any special occasion, and this flower crown is one of the activities on offer. So if you like the look of it and are planning an event or would like someone to lead an activity get in touch! firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ll soon be announcing some exciting news about Christmas Workshops in Glasgow and Stirling so watch this space! And for anyone who doesn’t already know , Briar Rose Design now has a facebook page so pop over and have a look if you want to take a gander at some of my recent designs.
It’s the first of September and with it comes the scent of autumn in the air. I was out foraging near Haddington at the weekend and although the sun warmed my back I could see the leaves tinged with splashes of autumn colours. Everywhere the warm oranges, reds and golden colours of autumn have begun to appear and with the turn of season I am reminded of how quickly time passes. Two years ago today I fell ill and would never have guessed how profoundly my life would change. In some ways that day seems like a lifetime ago but in other ways I can't believe how quickly time has gone.
A year has gone by since my last blog post, however I have not been entirely idle. I’m not fully better yet but my health is progressing and since I last wrote I have completed a college course in floristry while working in a local flower shop earning my stripes and trained with the lovely Tallulah Rose Flower School. I wrote previously about my dream to run my own floristry business and this month I have made the decision to go for it and become my own boss!
And so Briar Rose Design is born… I will offer bespoke floristry designs tailored to your needs whether it be a wedding, dinner, celebration or commiseration. It’s a scary, exciting, whirlwind adventure I’m starting out on and I’m sure there will be many times I question my sanity but I can’t wait to get started.
It’s still very early days but I’ve set up a Facebook page where I’ll post pictures of some of my designs and let you know all the latest news from Briar Rose Design. Feel free to get in touch on email@example.com and spread the word! My head is buzzing with ideas so watch this space…