Making Friends in Farnham

Recently I was contacted by Hazel and Emma of Patricia Knowles Flowers in Farnham (Patricia, has sadly passed away, but the girls decided to keep the name when they took over the business). They wanted to know if I took commissions and if so, would I photograph their flower shop for their website. I had a much better idea; why didn't I come down and have a day with them and photograph the shop for my blog. I would find out about a new flower shop (nothing makes me happier) and they could keep the photographs. Perfect!
The flower shop is on Upper Church Lane, a narrow street of interesting looking shops and businesses which leads - as you would expect - up to the church and vicarage. As the girls are dressing the front of the shop, chat goes back and forward between the flower shop and the hairdressers, which is a few steps across the cobbled lane.
I discover that Hazel was trained by Debbie, a florist who also worked with my friend Becky (The Potting Shed florist in 'Flower Shops & Friends'). Becky, Debbie and I once spent a day together, just before Debbie retired and emigrated. I think it took Debbie less than a month to set up an English style flower shop in her new Canadian home - so much for retiring! Emma explains that she and Hazel work well together because of their different backgrounds, she was trained by Jane Packer who emphasizes the natural flow of flowers, whilst she says, Hazel's training was much more technical.
Whatever their training, I can tell that these are women who really love flowers. But it is not just flowers. They recall one lady who came into the shop to arrange funeral flowers for her husband. It was clear that the lady was tired, distressed and overwhelmed by all that she had to organise. Hazel asked if there were particular flowers her husband had liked, but the woman sighed and said, "He loved is garden, but it was the vegetables that he really enjoyed growing". 
Undaunted, the girls said they could help, and they created a funeral wreath made up of new potatoes, chilies, cherry tomatoes, carrot tops, asparagus tips and cabbages.
The only problem now is that when Emma goes into the greengrocers they look up and ask "Has somebody died?!"
The girls have not always been florists, but confess that whilst they have never worked so hard, or been so tired, that they have never been happier. And it seems to be catching, as Hazel's mum has also started coming into the shop to help them. The girls also sing the praises of their florist, Kelly, who they say they could not live without. Kelly is very reluctant to be photographed, but with that lovely face, wonderful colouring and a shop full of vibrant autumnal shades - I am not going to let her hide in the back!
Emma and Hazel have clearly read my books and know me well, as their is a plentiful supply of coffee and cake. Later over lunch Emma chats about how it can be tricky to juggle the business with having two small children. Something I know well. Although it doesn't sound like it will be long before six-year old Freya will be helping them as she already likes to play shop with Hazel.
Most of the flowers in the shop come from a local supplier and it was whilst she was at the flower market that Hazel found herself staring at one particular salesman. Eventually she approached him and started to explain that she had an odd question to ask him. Before she had finished the sentence he smiled and said "Yes, it is me in The Flower Shop book. If you like I can sign my picture!" 
Paul, who I did indeed photograph at market one cold and frosty morning, has obviously been asked this before.
The shops stretches back to shelves of enticing looking gifts, and of course I am delighted to see my (and Paul's) book amongst them. It is not long before we are planning another get-together and decide a Christmas book signing event would be a great excuse for another visit, and put November 25th in the diary.
And just before I leave, laden down with Pink Champagne and flowers (they do know me so well) I take one last photo. This is to remind me to stop saying I don't like carnations. How could you not fall in love with a vintage pink flower that looks like its petals have just been painted?
Dianthus: St Antigua

Following my own Advice

I am just back from talking about books and flowers to a gathering of independent book shop owners - I have given most of the flowers away, but have a few roses and a stem of lisianthus left. For once I decide to have some flowers just for me on my dressing table, so grab a jam jar and a handful of rosemary and mint. I am always telling people that when they are buying flower for the house not to forget to buy a little something just for themselves. For once I am following my own advice. As this doesn't happen very often I thought I would take a photo!

Popping into Ted's

I call into Ted Martin's to gather up some flowers for a talk I shall be giving this weekend. The girls are on a mad hunt for a particular coloured rose that has been ordered for buttonholes for a wedding. Once these have safely been put aside the kettle is switched on and we settle down to talk about weekend plans and to discuss what a lovely time we had at the Potting Shed.
The flowers in the shop reflect that lovely in-between stage when the summer is slipping into autumn; there are dusty pinks and greens, along side splashes of orange and swirls of burgundy.
Sarah has just finished a bouquet for a delivery and I ask her to come to the door so I can take a photo. She will not let me take a proper photo of her as she says her hair is frizzy. I let her off this time ...but I warn her I will be back!
The shelves are filled with an array of vases, some of which have been filled with small 'bits' posies. These are my favourite sort of posy, made up from the bits that get left over in the shop. No posy is ever the same so you never get tired of the ever changing combinations. 
There are bright, acidic orchids in cream coloured planters - which starts to give me some ideas for my talk on Sunday (I am presenting to small book shop owners - and I thought it might be nice to think of some flowers that will sit happily amongst the books).
As I am just about to leave I spot a flier for a Crayfish Fair that is to be held next weekend in the village of Hindon to raise money for the church fund. Three local pubs will be serving crayfish tails and there are to be stalls selling crafts (and I hope drink.) I love the idea that someone has come up with such an imaginative fundraising idea - I am sure the Vicar of Dibley would approve!

Celebrating in the Potting Shed

In my 'Walled Garden' blog in June I recorded stopping off at Pythouse near Tisbury for a wonderful lunch served in the orchard of their renovated kitchen garden. The Potting Shed - a low brick building running adjacent to the garden wall - had just started serving suppers on Thursday evenings and I was determined to go back and sample them. So I am delighted when the flower shop girls suggest it as the venue for a get together to say goodbye to Rosie - the best Saturday Girl in the world - since she is heading off to university. As it is also my birthday my daughters come along too and we make it a double celebration.
When I arrive at the garden the evening sun is just tipping off the low branches of the apple trees turning them a deep scarlet. I am very tempted to take a photograph, but everyone is gathered in the orchard for a glass of Champagne and so there are more important things to do!
We have all tried to think of things that Rosie might like for her room at uni; there is pretty bed-linen from Cath Kidston, a big wooden 'R' for decoration, a calculator that looks and smells like a chocolate bar (essential!), a vintage wooden box full of sewing things (a typically thoughtful Jennifer present ) and a survival kit compiled for her from Kate.
Those who have read my books will not have been introduced to Kate, Sarah and Claire who are new additions to Ted's team ....but give it time ...
The food is wonderful; there is balsamic chicken served with Pythouse kale and crushed Fir Apple potatoes, followed by; meringue nests filled with cream and plums. The plums are heavenly, and wonderfully fragrant from cloves and - we think - a touch of licorice.
Walking through the farm shop later on (someone has told me there are beautiful dahlias in the Ladies!) I hear an unmistakable laugh and pushing at the half-open kitchen door I find Fiona, who used to run a deli in Tisbury, who is helping cook this evening. I tell her how much I loved the plums and she explains it was a last minute choice as she saw them on the way to feed her pigs that morning and couldn't resist them.
And the jug of garden flowers in the shed, that is the Ladies, is a great vibrant autumnal mix in perfect keeping with the season.

Woman & Home Photoshoot

When I saw that Joanna Lumley was on the cover of the Woman & Home magazine that featured one of my flower workshops, I felt privileged to be in such good company. I have never met the woman, but as far as I am concerned she is a complete star.
My daughter Libby wrote to many celebrities to ask them about their view of the colour pink when she was researching her book, Love Pink. Joanna Lumley was one of the first to respond - with a sweet note of encouragement for Libby.
But I was not really surprised by this. A few years ago she freely gave her time to record the voice-over for a DVD Msaada produced of their work in Rwanda (Msaada is the charity I mentioned in my last blog). After this session (which funnily enough was full of the more mature male Msaada trustees!) she became a generous supporter of Msaada. Perhaps I should not really write about this, but when you come across such kindness you do want to tell people about it.
What I am certain I should not really write about (but I can't help myself because I was so star struck!) is that the photoshoot took place in the house of actor, Nathaniel Parker, of Inspector Lynley fame. As photographer, Indira, skillfully moved us this way and that, he wandered about in the background of his gorgeous kitchen chatting and laughing at us.
When I was not needed for a shot I found myself loitering casually by the sink, Oasis in hand, talking flowers with him (I do love a man who really enjoys sending flowers to his wife and daughters). It was a strange experience, in that his voice was so familiar, and yet I kept having to remind myself I was talking to a perfect stranger. But what a lovely stranger!

Indira not only captured the fun of the day but she was kind enough to forward me a shot of myself amongst the flowers. And what a good woman she is - I had just had an operation on my lip and so still had a horrible scar - which she has air brushed out!
Thank you Indira.
To see more of her photography visit http://www.indiraflack.com/


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