Sunday, 20 December 2009

Happy Christmas

Happy Christmas. It has been an interesting year, lots to think about now a thinking space is hoving into view ( a whole ten days off over Christmas before getting stuck back into a book project and planning next year's flowers!).

I've just walked the dogs through a fabulous frosty morning, could not help but feel elated, possibly particularly because there is no mud in evidence. No we didn't get quite all our bulbs in, No I didn't get organised to do any of the wonderful Christmas fairs on offer, No I haven't started doing any preparation for our own Christmas yet as I still have flower orders to do this week, No I didn't get the grass cut or the place tidied up as I should have done before winter really set in. But I'm sure most things will happen as they need to because that is the nature of things. (I hope)

I'd like to thank everybody who has supported us this year, every customer whether you have bought a small bunch of flowers from a market stall or filled a church and marquee for a wedding. There are too many lovely brides and grooms to mention, weddings have ranged from fairly formal to fairly freehand and special thanks have to go to Claire for asking for crowns and allowing me to make an asparagus headdress for her husband! Catherine and Jamie's wedding stands out as the one with the smiliest photographs, Sarah must have been the most relaxed bride ever and of course we'll remember Jess and Neil's cowparsley and wildflower wedding for ever because it was a family affair. The strangest request of the year must have been the 12 edible bouquets, and the company have never paid me for the extra delivery charges despite about ten reminders. Very bad form. Ditto the frightfully pleasant lady who bought flowers for her daughters' weddings and whose cheques have bounced and bounced and bounced. Definitely not on. But they are a tiny tiny minority among all the very appreciative customers.

Thanks to businesses who have taken a punt on us particularly the Jigsaw clothing company who took us on at a particularly difficult time of year when their 45 shops were hot and bright providing a rough environment for real flowers. Thanks for your business and it was interesting solving a last minute christmas request for you!

Meg has been utterly brilliant all year and is still here and taking on more of a Head Gardener role when we get going in February with a new helper. Thanks Meg, I am very very lucky to have you working with me and putting up with every day's new plan and my mad chaotic expansionism. And thanks to everyone else who has helped here over the year, with special thanks to my husband David who built me a wonderful flower studio this year and has to put up with my growing obsession while setting the world on fire!

We have all sorts of exciting ideas for the coming year, and quite a few national magazines and newspapers have promised publicity, starting I believe with a small feature in Wedding Flowers magazine in February and continuing from there. One of the most exciting ventures will be at the beginning of July. Gardens Illustrated have kindly asked if we'd like to exhibit in their Pavilion at the RHS Flower Show at Hampton Court Palace, and they have an article about us the same month. I've never thought about doing a big show before and am already terrifically excited and dreaming about what the stand is going to look like and what's going to be on it! (Yes I know, it's quite a long way away and people who do these kind of stands all the time would think I'm crazy but it's a big deal for me and I am genuinely excited!). But there's a lot to do before then as we're almost doubling the size of the growing area again now the first bits are beginning to get established. And that probably means more than doubling the amount of weeds as well as hopefully doubling the amount of orders. It's going to be busy.

So thanks everyone for your support, have a wonderful christmas holiday and come back and visit next year. The website will be revamped over the next few weeks and we start sending out flowers at the end of March, but there should first be beautiful dynamic decorated dogwood hearts for Valentine's day.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Wiltshire Winter Wedding

What a lovely one to finish the year - bride and groom wanted all natural, just home grown and hedgerow so we went to town dressing the main beam with ivies, spindle, honesty, eryngium and allium heads, mistletoe, jewel-like bryony berries.... there was a huge basket of different dogwoods and magnificent seedheads by the registrar's table and dogwood decorated hoops. Then the long tables were full of ivies and seedheads, and other beams were garlanded with greenery and seedheads. Buttonholes were (rather spiky) eryngiums, bouquets were from the hedgerows and a few hellebores and late late stocks. Every place name on the tables was attached with a silk thread to seedheads of poppies, scabious, eryngiums, nigella that I had supplied weeks before.

Camera had a fit as too often but I am promised a whole set of photos later which will go up here or on my new revamped website when I get round to revamping it as son as possible.

But the star of the decorations was nothing to do with me, it was the cake - the groom is an artist with a fascination for pillboxes so he had made an industrial style metal cake holder and the bride's mother had made cakes decorated with dark grey and white icing, the whole surrounded with pillbox-style undergrowth that rather matched the tone of all the other decorations. I thought it was fantastic!

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

and finally...

Thanks Meg and Steve and to David for pitching in today. Tulips are finally in the ground so we can get on with other things. It was very claggy but not actually raining so I decided we'd go for it today as it's been hanging over my head for a while. And now it's on to preparations for the final wedding of the year on Saturday, and then only a week of mailing out christmas arrangements and a couple of markets (I know I wasn't going to do them but people do really appreciate it when I do turn up and I have had a lot of requests so felt it would be very churlish to dig my heels in) and then it's christmas and then as far as I know there are no events until a wedding in mid January. Phew, it does tend to feel quite busy round here!

Monday, 7 December 2009

Big day in the packing shed

A late order came in on Thursday afternoon for over 2000 ilex stems and 45 Christmas arrangements. I don't have the required quantities but found a Uk supplier to provide all the ilex, and we used eryngium, seed heads, hazel, eucalyptus and other bits and pieces in the arrangements. So it was one of those 4am starts as everything has to be made, packed and sent out on the same day to arrive tomorrow. As it's the season for flu and general busy-ness I couldn't get my usual help but thanks so much to totally wonderful Val for stepping in and being generally brilliant. Other help was very well-meaning but I concentrated on packing the arrangements and general sorting and sadly the berries did not get well packed as I took my eye off what was going on, and by the time I got back to them most had been packed without appropriate wrapping so I'm afraid there will be considerable berry fall on their journey from here to store.

It's sometimes hard to accommodate every request however much I want to, and I do feel a bit fed up that everything wasn't as perfect as I would have liked, but the reality is that there are only so many hours in the day and sometimes late requests are hard to fit in - this would have been fine if my usual help had been available and I definitely did the best I could to get everything out, but it is a bit frustrating when everything isn't perfect. I never thought of myself as a control freak before but I realise I can get a bit scary when I'm on a mission to get through a big job!

Sorry no photos, I would love to have taken some as there's little more impressive than a lovely bulk order of flowers going out, but there was scarcely time to breathe let alone heft a camera. Once again, I make a mental note to do better.....

Saturday, 5 December 2009

hooping it up

There's a new gallery in town, and at the last minute they were let down by someone who was going to add decorative touches so they asked me if I could pop some christmas bits and pieces in to add a different tone. I scratched my head for an hour or two and came up with some rather funky (I think) dogwood and hedgerow hoops. They were great fun to do so I am now doing some for Christmas for other customers too and they seem to be going down rather well. But it is astonishing how much material it takes to make a few, I thought I had picked enough dogwoods for dozens but was scurrying back with my snips after only three or four.... I combined the dogwood with lots of spindle and hedgerow finds and I think they will look rather splendid in a really urban setting - by a stroke of luck I sent some (other) images to a business customer and they are interested in having them next year.... I hope my sea of dogwoods recover from their severe haircuts and flourish all the better!

I did a lovely local Christmas market today, very jolly and very festive, so it feels like Christmas is coming. I elected to do very few christmas events this year as I am busy with other orders and a wedding next weekend but I do appreciate that I am missing some good selling opportunities. But sometimes it feels wiser to say no, and I can't easily organise to do christmas markets and send out flowers to private customers and fulfil business orders without bringing in lots more help so I decided to concentrate on keeping regulars and mail order supplied. As it is we have got a rush order for next Monday that I want to fulfil but it is quite hard to juggle everything that is already going on to fit in arranging and packing an extra 50 boxes and sending out bought in British stems in another 50.... But it is fantastic that we do get requests, thanks so much to all our customers.

A piece of exciting news that is nothing to do with the business is the fact that we won the Hay Winter Festival annual quiz last night. Hoorah! I confess I inveigled myself months ago onto a fiercely brilliant team of three highly intelligent men with vast swathes of knowledge between them, who happened to have a spare place as one of their usual team members couldn't attend. So I didn't really have to contribute as much as I should have done.... Oh and they have won three of the past four events! I got rather overexcited, drank far too much mulled wine and whooped and punched the air in a very un-British manner, it was a hoot - thanks guys!

garlands and wreaths

I realise that frustration with the lack of functioning camera means that I haven't thanked everyone who braved the wet wet wet to plodge through the clarts and get stuck in to making christmas decorations last weekend. It was very cheery, we all had a good time and everyone made fabulous garlands and decs, leaving me feeling you could all do it a lot better than me! Seedheads were definitely favourites, and hops and the different tree and trailing ivies looked fabulous in their thick beds of moss, I'm sure hollies would have featured but as we have no berried holly left at all - birds descended about a week ago and ate all the berries, what does this signify? - we left it out.
Thanks to all who came and enjoyed the day, and left realising they can do anything....