Monday, 2 December 2013

August's here again

I just got some pictures from an early August wedding. Katey you look utterly exquisite... Thank you so much for letting me loose on your flowers!  (There are lots of the tables and other decor too but I'm rushing now and just had to post a few first).

Friday, 29 November 2013

Getting ready

Am I getting ready for Christmas or am I getting ready for spring? I am certainly getting excited about the latter - thought I agree that few people could be so excited by this as I am:

You have to look closely but it is the first of the hellebore buds! As I have added another 120 plants to the stock I'm hoping for great things. 75 new roses were supposed to be arriving today but haven't done so, but I hope they won't be too delayed, I may have all their homes dug by the time they appear.
And yesterday it was the first of the Christmas fairs. The picture's blurry, the event was huge - Symondsbury's opening hoorah at the newly done up courtyard tithe barn, cafe, etc etc. A huge project, incredibly smartly executed, a far cry from the former rustic farmstead!

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Christmas Fair

I don't usually do Christmas events but this year am full on for Symondsbury this Thursday. If you're in the area do come and enjoy it. Apparently there are about 85 stalls in the newly renovated Tithe barn. I'll be there with lots of greenery and some flowers, sweet chestnut plant tags, herb and flower cheeses, green wreaths and garlands...............

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

happy clearing

Last winter I cleared several beds here and found nothing I wanted to keep - thousands of geranium plants were removed and most went to a good home to cover a bank, but also many hundreds of other unwanted uncuttable bit and pieces. In preparation for an influx of hellebores I've been clearing madly and today, underneath mounds of alchemilla, ferns, bergenia, vinca, weeds, I found a mass of still healthy lily of the valley - big hurrah - and a couple of dozen healthy looking eremurus. I certainly can't remember ever seeing either of these here in the past 30 years so they've been hiding very efficiently. Here's hoping they will now flourish. Trouble is, I needed their space for hellebores.

And 75 new roses are arriving in a couple of weeks. And there are perennials to split and more bulbs to plant..... where does time and space go to? I sometimes wish I could stop having new plans and stick to what I've got! But the hellebore plan is to replace tulips as I can't really grow them here, too heavy and wet, and i wanted something else lovely early in the year. Hellebores aren't the easiest cut flowers, but I reckon I'll perfect the art of picking and packing them to keep. I sure hope so.

I was meant to be going to Portland Oregon next week to work with the legendary florist Francoise Weeks, sadly my travelling companion and colleague got serious concussion after a window fell on her head a few weeks ago and can't fly and I felt too much of a heel to go on my own, so we'll go another time. Instead we're going to do some visiting in the UK as I had booked some time out and can't bear to let it pass. And because I'd booked house and dog sitter and certainly can't bear to let that opportunity pass!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

A puff..... Thanks.

My last mail order wedding flowers of the season went out on October 25th after a horribly wet cold windy week when what was left in the gardens had to be very resolute to stand up to the battering. The bride, Caroline,  had originally asked me for a selection of flowers that just definitely were not in season, so I had suggested several times that she perhaps ought to find someone else as I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to provide what she wanted, and it would be just awful to send something that was completely off the mark. Happily Caroline persisted, but I was a little worried come the day, and the week of weather as I hate having to send anything out that may be a little damp. But it seems I need not have worried as I received this lovely email today. I'm not sure I deserved it, but it was very pleasing......

Hi Charlie,

Now I am returned from honeymoon, I want to say a very huge Thank You to you for your amazing flowers for my wedding.
The surprise element of my bouquet, the girls posies and the table flowers was one thing I was really looking forward to on the day, and I wasn't disappointed. The flowers were incredible!

They were just what I wanted; incredibly natural looking, beautiful colours and quality, and created so thoughtfully. I couldn't have asked for more.

I would like to send you some photos from the wedding (with the flowers in obviously) when I finally have them, so you can see just how perfect they were in situ.

Thank you so much Charlie for your time, your craftsmanship, your amazing flowers, and overall your patience with me.

I will not hesitate to recommend you to any friend or even passing stranger who is planning a wedding or any other celebration. Your flowers are gorgeous.

All the best, a very happy newlywed,

 Actually, thank YOU Caroline! 

A nice way to end the wedding flower year and I now don't have another wedding until New Years' Eve (challenging) then a Dorset do in mid January. I'm much looking forward to that one as the ceremony is at the divinely beautiful Abbotsbury church, and the reception at Moonfleet Manor which is a wonderful mixture of colonial, baronial and modern, right on the Fleet at the end of Chesil Beach. 

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Autumn winter spring summer autumn winter spring summer

It is very definitely autumn turning towards winter here now, and as my season ends and the hecticness of sending out flowers daily is on hold for a while, I can get down to some of the tasks I need to do outside and in. And as the pace of the year changes I have found myself reflecting whether gardening should not ideally be an occupation for the young and wondering whether we should move into the cities without green demands and enjoy a hedonistic or sybaritic lifestyle when we are older? I’ve been thinking about this lately not because of laziness but because gardening is all about the future, it is about patience, waiting, planning and planting for another year, another decade, even another generation, it is the ultimate delayed gratification where all is about waiting. Waiting in awe admittedly, waiting with joy and hope and delight in what we hope will happen next. But waiting nonetheless. And as we get older how long should we wait? Should we not live in the day, the hour, the moment?

Every Maytime there is a delicious moment when everything in a garden is poised waiting to break out and shoot forward into full growth and leaf and blossom and fecundity. The greens in the garden then are both pale and bright, light, myriad, subtle many toned, buds are forming and breaking, leaves are unfurling, branches untwining and shooting outwards and upwards to clutch at the sky. Life is rushing onwards energetically, joyfully, noisily, exuberantly, rushing to its peak and rushing to its death. There is so much expectation of fruition to come. But the moment is just a moment, a perfect moment. Pause and look around for a glance too long and existential angst sets in. If you’re not careful the very joy of that perfect moment full of expectation is a sadness in its passing.

Yesterday I planted peonies for an hour in the rain, before I was forced inside completely sodden despite layers of waterproof clothing. As I planted I was thinking how glorious they should all look in 5 years time, and thinking also of all the weeding they would require while they grew large enough to cope with whatever else grows up around them. Definitely delayed gratification. Then it was too wet to spend time clearing outside so I set to planning, deciding which trees to buy for a new orchard. I may never see these trees come to maturity but it doesn’t stop the pleasure in planning or the joy of imagining what they will look like. But, and I have only recently realized this but, gardening in some ways makes life pass even faster -  I am always looking at pleasure that will come in some way in the future by imagining what will come next, by thinking that if all doesn’t work this year that’s Ok because there is always next year and the one after and so on (I hope). And by looking always into the future I feel life careening past at a swifter pace than I might now wish because I am always looking forward to something in years to come rather than fully enjoying the moment.

I do enjoy the moment too, of course. But when I’m always looking forward I do sometimes feel I’m rushing too fast towards older age!

But I’m sure I’ll be back on track in a day or two, maybe once I’ve got some of those bulbs planted that are sitting in trays in the shed waiting. Or when I’ve moved the compost heap to get rid of the bed breakfast and evening meals and snacks I’m providing for the incoming rat population. Or when I’ve sorted out the building of the new shed. Or written the article with the threatening deadline. Or the chapter of the book I have promised. Or painted a bedroom. Or dug some new beds. Or weeded the field beds where I need to move perennials. Or cleared undergrowth and mulched for all those hellebores I’ve ordered. Or cleared the wildflower patch. Or cleared the floor of the orchard or managed to pick some of the tons of apples that are currently homeless. Or re-done the website. Or sorted out photos. Or made a wood shelter. Or a thousand and one other things………………..

Monday, 28 October 2013

Still here!

No I haven't tripped and fallen off the planet, but the last couple of months have rather passed in a blur of activity, weddings, funerals, parties, 3 trips to Kent in a month with a van full of flowers, finishing the season, starting autumn clearing up, making new paths, digging new beds, endless picking fruit and making jam jelly chutney cheese membrillo juice......
But over the next week or two I should come down to earth. Perhaps with a resounding bump. And right now I need to go and clear up after a rather windy night as many branches seem have left their trees of origin and congregated in different areas of the garden. But I needed to post something just to flag that yes I am still here.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

August passes

Where has this month gone? Most years August has been reasonably relaxed. This year it has been utterly hectic - in a thoroughly good way. The weather has been so kind to me, given this is a new garden and there has been a lot of toing and froing, but on August 13th I finally left the Herefordshire gardens for good and have hardly had time to think since then. Every flower I have grown here seems to have been put to good use, and the gardens are looking a little short now but should see out the next few weeks happily and I'm really looking forward to the next tranche of planting. I had a fairly full on few days, starting with early preparation for a party today followed by a wedding in Kent on Sunday then back to a full on couple of days for the party here - many metres of garlands in cages and globes always takes as long as it takes! The Kent wedding was at a fantastic venue, Preston Court near Canterbury. A gorgeous house and grounds with barns, old wagons, ancient rusting trains and carriages, a fairground carousel, fairground organs, peacocks, an island in a little lake..... getting there was a trifle traumatic as it completely poured with rain on Saturday night and I set off from Dorset rather later than planned, at about 8.30 on Saturday evening, having booked somewhere to stay in Canterbury. I arrived there at something after 2.30am as it rained so hard I could scarcely see the vehicle in front when I reached the M25, then missed an important sign and had to backtrack for about 30 miles, not a brilliant plan! But happily Sunday dawned brighter and set for a lovely day. I was completely knocked out by the venue, definitely one of the most interesting I have worked at, and I had a completely lovely bride who definitely knew what she wanted, vintage style,  and I hope I gave her that - in fact I know I did as she incredibly kindly emailed me today telling me how happy she was with everything, I just can't wait to see her photos as part of the bridal flowers were headdresses for herself and her four gorgeous bridesmaids and I do so love doing headgear! I'll have to wait for those photos (which will I'm sure be terrific as Katey-Ellen heads a team at a very up there photographic studios in North london) but took a few snaps as a memory.
Then it was straight into getting garlands and globes together for a big party locally, a fabulous place with barns to die for and all terrifically organised and easy - they even have the best step ladder in the world so you can hang a globe 20 feet up and feel stable! (or as stable as I ever feel). It was a very pink party so I now have almost nothing pink left in the gardens after 40 jars full as well as everything else..... I made the large globe in two hanging baskets, and the smaller one in the largest oasis form you can get, theya re a bit of a fiddle but I think they always look very impressive and are an excuse to use huge skeins of clematis and honeysuckle (or trailing roses in season) so a joy for garden flowers.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

coming and going

Busy, bright weddings, pale weddings, wild flowers, less wild flowers, bouquets to go, bouquets to stay, and on Tuesday the new owners take possession of my former Herefordshire home and all the land. It's hard leaving my gardens. And hard packing up all those last bits and pieces. And the tunnel has been a mission and a half but happily that is going to new owners locally as it is too big for here. I have resorted to a skip as it has all become a bit impossible in the timescale....

Hard to believe I will no longer be making those trips up and down the motorway and over the bridge and into Wales and back onto the edge of those beautiful Black Mountains. But there is enough other driving to do, Bank Holiday weekend is a wedding in Kent (not very local from here but irresistible), and curiously another wedding in Kent in September, and another in Glos.... lately I feel my bum has become welded to the vanseat!

Wildflowers are having fun in the field. Very cheering.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

nigella love

 Who can resist at any stage?

Monday, 29 July 2013

A big lass

Meet Belvedere. She's quite a big girl as you can see from her size and a glimpse of trees in the orchard beyond. Once upon a time she grew through a laurel tree. She long ago engulfed the laurel and stands on her own completely dripping with palest pink turning white clusters of roses. Sadly they don't have that wonderful old fashioned rose scent, but they are so perfect for garlands, arches, hanging decorations, or just queening it at the bottom of the garden.

Monday, 22 July 2013

sunny days

The sun shines, everyone smiles, life is glorious. The fact that many of my plants are going a little crispy is minor collateral damage, in fact not even damage because it shows me what happens where in what is a new garden for me. So I have to say it's all good. And what a year to move near the sea, I feel so spoilt, able to get up really early to do whatever watering and picking needs doing and other morning tasks, then by 10.30 I can be down at the beach for a dip and a dry off on the baking pebbles, and home for lunch in time for the afternoon jobs.
Friends were here this weekend and we decided the world and his oyster would be at the beach so we went a little inland, to Mapperton gardens. A truly magical spot, one of my favourite gardens in Britain if not my favourite (and I have seen a fair few in the course of previous work) as it is both extremely designed and extremely simple, it fits in the landscape to perfection, combines formality with wildness, has majestic trees, stunning climbers, a good selection of herbaceous..... and on Sunday there was almost no one there apart from us enjoying the serenity and beauty. Sometimes there is a day that just feels so perfect you wonder if you will ever have another quite like it, a happy mix of all the right circumstances at the right time, in the right order, or something. We came back and had other friends for supper and played skittles on the croquet lawn in the dark. I lost.
And on Saturday there was a wedding in another magical spot, one of the little settled nestling Somerset villages where time stands still and visitors never discover. I just provided loose flowers for the family to enjoy arranging then took over bouquets and buttonholes on the wedding morning. I was quietly pleased when one of the family, who had worked as a florist, said they were the most beautiful buttonholes she had ever seen (a mixture of colours of rosebuds with phlomis italica, nigella hispanica, scabious, savory......) And the delightfully engaging bride wrote me such a sweet note this morning 'Charlie, thank you so much for all your truly wonderful flowers. The marquee looked incredible as did the marquee and I just ADORED my beautiful bouquet. You are a legend!!' Very kind! Followed in the inbox by a note from the week before's bride 'Apologies for how long this has taken but I just wanted to say a huge thank you for such beautiful flowers last week. We were so pleased with all of them and they were perfectly chosen in terms if style and colour. We have seen lots of photos taken by our friends and the flowers look amazing so I can't wait to see them in the professional shots! I'll be sure to send you some.'.....Also very kind, and I do feel a little chagrin when someone apologises for taking such a long time when it is only a week. Metaphorical slap on the wrist to myself as admin is not getting a lot swifter here I fear.
A rose by any other name and all that is not true. The rose my daughter and son in law gave me when they married is blooming away happily, but I'm afraid it smells rather tricky to my nose, musky yes but notes of something else that doesn't really beckon you to bury your face in its blooms. I can't remember which David Austin rose it is......

Thursday, 18 July 2013

My lovely churns at the River Cottage relaunch!

I'm quite amused to see that the main picture of the River Cottage HQ relaunch was my milk churns full of wildish and edible flowers.....

And it won't just be my churns but me too at the River Cottage Autumn Fair in September!

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

busy buzzy

I seem to have been too busy to get to the computer and add to the blog. It’s been all go – in a good way. In the garden roses have been magnificent but many are resting now before a second major showing, though all my newer cutting roses are happily keeping flowering away – deadheading is a major preoccupation every day.
It was fun doing flowers for a wedding two weekends ago at River Cottage and a beautiful local church, there are squillions of flowers at the moment thanks to the weather though they’re blooming and finishing faster than we can keep up with the deadheading! Cornflowers are particularly massed this year, and ammi is just loving the weather and blooms are floating everywhere in the main cutting patch and in the beds. The big yellow heads of dill are also rather magnificent in massed splendour. As it’s a newly planted garden it’s interesting to see what is doing best where, this year anything with a bit of shade is very happy, but if it had been a year like last they probably would scarcely have shown their faces. Paper tissue headed little multi layered poppies are glorious, I know they are ephemeral but they are so beautiful they sometimes almost make me weep.  And they are lovely for a few days picked, just such a delicate contrast to anything else. Maybe best of everything is that they are alive with bees, hoverflies, all manner of happy little buzzing insects. There's quite a cacophony!
I provided some large partly edible arrangements in churns for the River Cottage barn relaunch last week, flowering rocket with dill, daylilies,  lots of annuals, gorgeous scabious in dark reds, pinks, purples, blues…… Perhaps my favourite this week are the nigella hispanica, their blues so intense and their stamens so pronounced and curious.
And this weekend there was a wedding in Somerset at a rather wonderful venue, Maunsell House. Peacocks and fading splendour and a wonderful garden. The roads were so busy that I turned off the main drag on the way back and drove slowly through the Somerset levels which was just heavenly on a hot summer’s day – attractive hamlets and villages, houses covered in roses, gardeners out enjoying it all with hats and wheelbarrows much in evidence, church towers peering through a gentle heat haze in the middle of a view that goes on for miles and miles without interruption. It was a real treat to be meandering through it all rather than my usual rush. I felt very fortunate.
Then back to an increasingly crisping garden, I am uneasy about watering much but sometimes it just has to be done. Even the phlox have been burning off but on the plus side the agapanthus are overjoyed by their prolonged exposure to the sun. I’m fretting slightly about the new trees in the field as they are exposed and sunburnt but I hope they’ll be Ok, I’m giving them all a couple of buckets of water once or twice a week and hope they’ll survive and eventually flourish.
I have had some lovely communications from satisfied customers over the past few weeks, it is so thoughtful when people get in touch just to say how they have loved a bouquet they have received. On the less positive side I have been getting a bit frustrated with lack of progress towards the sale of the house and gardens near Hay but it finally looks as though we're nearly there. I am certainly very positive about the lack of necessity for shopping at this time of year – it is the right way round when there is little in the fridge but loads in the garden!

Monday, 1 July 2013

bees bees bees and other wildlife

The garden is alive with bees. Everywhere. And today I went up the ladder to chop back the R banksia lutea that is coming in through the bedroom windows and appearing out of the tiles on the roof (not good) to find there is a swarm in the roof. The descent of the ladder was swift.

Last week I discovered it was an adder not a grass snake in the workshop. And little adders.

And I spent last Monday clearing out where mr and mrs rat had made their home near the oil tank.

Squirrels are dancing on the big lawn at night.

Moles are trying to burrow through the heavy clay and only succeeding in making runnels.

Deer are eyeing up the new trees.

Dogs are at least keeping rabbits at bay at the moment.

And int he gardens there are roses roses roses and more roses. Honeysuckles. Pinks. All manner of scrumptious scents. Plus campanula of all sorts doing really well here, peonies have been spectacular but are now sadly all but over, poppies are appearing everywhere, the little picotee ones that I so like as fillers. Cornflowers are flowering so fast to be unpickable, ammi is overflowing the box beds, dill floating above phlox and astrantia, ranunculus are blinging it, the only serious failure has been delphiniums which are worse than disappointing....

One day I will have time and inclination to take some pictures.

Meanwhile wish me luck rehoming the bees.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

In an English country ga-a-rden

Despite best efforts I haven't been on the blog for too long, apologies. It has been quite busy! In fact I have little idea what I've been up to for the past two weeks but there have been weddings, events, bouquets... and a lot of gardening. It's very exciting having a new garden as everything is both expected and totally unexpected, things are too slow and too fast. Existential angst is the order of the day, every stage is so perfect I don't want it to pass but at the same time I look forward to the next stage. Is this age? Or gardening?
In the garden it's all about roses and peonies at the moment. Greatest delight is discovering a magic rose. I have no idea which climber/rambler/scrambler she is but a beautiful and delightfully scented little yellow rose  is not just scrambling through an old apple tree but has also rooted into the cambium of the tree so the tree is now both apple and rose. She is actually growing in and from the tree, in many places. How magic is that?
How I wish I had listened when I had been told which rose here was which. But too late for regrets, everything is blooming like mad. All the roses I moved are healthy as can be, joining at least 50 established shrub roses and other old fashioned numbers. The scents are unbelievable, and each one is individual. Oh to be a perfumier. (perhaps better than a flower grower right now as the last two days have been so heavy and damp and still that all the beautiful roses were unpickable, but they will all end up in the airing cupboard slowly drying for confetti. I love going in there, it smells like heaven).
Oh and apart from roses another favourite plant is blooming like mad. Phlomis Italica, the beautiful Italian sage, how often I tried to grow it from cuttings in my Herefordshire garden and never succeeded as it was just too cold, but here it is a mass of little pink heads and silky soft felty grey leaves, gorgeous, and a wonderful addition to bouquets. Although this weekends wedding is yellow. And most of my garden is pink and mauve. Hey ho. 
I spent a whole day weeding the new field patch from thistles. But it's interesting seeing what weeds come up as bosses here, they are a different variety from Herefordshire at least. But just as vicious! I just have dills, cornflowers, cosmos and calendula out there at the moment but am about to thin larkspurs and ammis and send them out. And I have planted tulip trees, birches, rowans, walnut, viburnums, magnolias and lilacs out there too.....
Today I had a load of bottles and jars delivered by a young chap whose life history I now know and worry about. In the time it took to unload a pallet I discovered he had come down from Lancaster with his girlfriend who was escaping domestic violence from an ex. Then she found he was friendly with a woman who became her ex's new paramour so she attacked him with a frying pan and knives. He then pushed her away and was done for Aggravated Bodily Harm. She left and went back to her ex. He is now living in a rented room for £60 a week including food (sounded very reasonable I thought!) and going out with a barmaid from the local hostelry, but he finds it difficult living in Dorset as parts remind him too much of home and he gets homesick although he didn't get on with his family so maybe he's going to go and work in Dubai with his father (his "real" father he said) though he's quite happy at the moment. So now you know too!
But normally it's all about the flowers. And I am enjoying every offering and making them up into treasures for customers. I am trying to get some wedding photos to appear. Soon!