Tin Cans & Step Ladders

As long as friends don't mind you painting their old wooden step ladders pink and you can cadge a few dozen cans from the recycling box - you are well on the way to a more relaxed style of flower arranging.

The marquee is being prepared for the local rugby club ball and a group of us gather to add a country garden touch to the decorations.

Pedestal arrangements take time and a lot of flowers to look good, where as we are more concerned about, a bit of effort, a minimum of cost and a lot of chat. And if we are lucky, bacon sandwiches as we work.

Gay brings a huge bucket of pittosporum from her garden, Val brings the ladders and trellising she has painstakingly painted, Jennifer brings bundles of alchemilla mollis, Jan brings boxes of ribbon, Michelle, luckily, brings her plasters and sense of humour (floristry scissors being particularly sharp) and Deanna brings a home made cake. What more could you want?

The Walled Garden

Just outside of the village of Tisbury, tucked away on a steep lane that winds between banks of wild garlic, is Pythouse Walled Garden. A few years ago this 18th century garden was a sad and neglected place but it has now been restored to a working organic kitchen garden, complete with a potting shed cafe.
Fragrant, pale-pink roses weave their way around the frame of the old Victorian greenhouse.
We call into the garden for lunch on our way to visit the nearby pick-your-own flower farm at Hatch. Sitting at a table in the shade of the orchard I watch a sprinkler lazily swishing to and fro over the rows of plants.
To our right is a bank of delphinium and campanula that line the edge of the vegetable plot.

Rows of onions are laid out to dry in the sun. These will soon find there way into the garden shop which sells the wide range of produce that is grown here. Later, as I am choosing some onions in the shop, the chef pops out from the kitchen and helps himself to some extras he needs for lunch.
The waitress who serves us our lunch under the trees, tells us that she cannot believe she has such a beautiful place to work. She also mentions that the potting shed cafe, which is a small brick building adjacent to the wall of the garden, can be hired for parties. Over lunch I day-dream of an evening party in the potting shed and orchard; tables filled with jugs of delphiniums and trees hung with lanterns .....
In my mind's eye I can see guests wandering, wine glass in hand, through the lines of soft fruit bushes as the sun goes down over the garden. www.pythouse-farm.co.uk

Paint Pots & Petals

As I mentioned in my last blog, I have been fortunate enough to spend some time with the nice people at Farrow & Ball. Together with their colour consultant, Joa Studholme, we went along to their Bath showroom to talk about how to make the most of the colours in your home; literally, Paint Pots & Petals. One of the colours in the Farrow & Ball palette is called Joa's White and I think how good it must be to have a colour named after you. Of course, my dream would be to have a Sally Page rose in my garden, hopefully one that is fragrant and pretty (but very probably rambling!).

Arranging a posy in a paint pot it was fun to show how the colours of both the flowers and paint change with light. As Farrow & Ball paint is packed with pigment rather than plastic the colours have great depth, so this background of Cinder Rose has a completely different look depending on the light conditions.

Joa spoke of how she gets inspiration from her clients' clothes, accessories and even cars when she is creating new interiors, whilst I am inundated with the stimulating colours and textures you find in a flower shop. At the end of the talk one lady came up to me and said how much she liked my photo of a hydrangea. She explained that she found it difficult to coordinate colours but she felt that she would be able to take some tips from the colours that are combined so beautifully in nature.

There were many points where I feel Joa and my worlds meet. She has a passion for using strong colour in small spaces (rather than painting them in pale, and potentially boring shades). I love to bring vibrant tones to to these spaces (rather than simply opting for creams and whites).
One of the flower shops I mention in my talk is a beautiful place called Wild Paeony in Shaftesbury (they use the old english spelling of the flower in their name). It is a relatively new shop and when owners, Vicky and Anna, decided to open it they painted it in colours such as Slipper Satin, Verre de Terre and (very appropriately) Lichen to set off the flowers and foliage.
I call in to the shop to see them and to tell them how the talk has gone. Anna is busy arranging the shop and preparing a bouquet for a customer who is bringing in her friend, who is Tricia Guild's assistant, to meet them. A bouquet has been ordered for her by her friend and is to include the heavenly scented, tuber rose.
As we are chatting, customer, Bronwyn, pops her head around the door to ask how we are. I insist she come in and stand by the lilies and peonies as her cerise t-shirt and white jacket are a perfect match!
After catching up on flower shop news, I wander further down the high street to see photographer, Bella West's, new portrait studio which she has just opened to the public. It is a wonderful airy space, again painted in Farrow & Ball colours (I promise you, they are not paying me for this!). On the counter set against fabulous Pelt painted woodwork is a good luck bunch sent to Bella from the girls at Wild Paeony. The photos on the walls are amazing and if you have a few minutes to spare take a sneak look yourself on her website http://www.bellawest.co.uk/

Blooming Roses

Few people have the pleasure of being able to walk into work and scoop up armfuls of flowers. You may not get rich as a florist, you may have to get up early, your back will ache and your hands will never seem clean - but there are compensations!
At Ted Martin Flowers the new delivery is piled up on the counter. This is the season of peonies and roses. Fat and blousy, the peonies are a perfect compliment to the bundles of creamy and pale mauve roses. And on the dresser there is a jug of sorbet coloured roses, which look good enough to eat.
I am in the shop collecting flowers that I shall need for a talk I am giving about flower colours and how these can be incorporated in your home to great effect. Farrow & Ball have invited me to join their international colour consultant, Joa Studholme, for the talk, so the two of us will be doing a double act in their showroom in Bath. I will let you know how it goes ...
Before I leave the shop Sarah pins a magenta rose into my old straw hat - I am on my way to collect my florist friend Jennifer (many of you may know Jennifer from my flower books) so we can drive throught the Wyle valley and visit some more of the artists on the Art Trail. We are lucky with the weather and head to the pub at Upton Lovell to sit by the river and enjoy the sunshine. It is the most idyllic spot and we chat away catching up on news, including the fact I have just heard that Kew Gardens have invited me to launch my new garden book there in the summer. If you had told me that would happen a few years ago I would have thought you had been drinking!


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