Everyone Needs a Friend like Jennifer

It is that time of year again. The annual rugby club ball is upon us and I have volunteered (or more correctly, I was skillfully cornered when I had had a couple of glasses of wine ...) to organise the flowers. The first person I call is my florist friend Jennifer (you may recognise Jennifer from my books.) Jennifer never lets me down. I will have a number of keen helpers on the day but it is great to know that I will also have Jennifer by my side.
With the English countryside basking in long afternoons of musky warmth with occasional lemony-light breezes, I decide to choose flowers reminiscent of a sun-drenched herbaceous border.
I half expect to see plump bumble bees buzzing around the tall urns of flowers.
On the tables we are having a mix of hand-tied posies in clear glass, flowerpot vases and taller wrought iron candle holders with a wreath of flowers around the top. Even our most nervous, inexperienced helper is pleased with what they can achieve, with some gorgeous flowers and just a bit of guidance.
I think it must help that we take the odd break for bacon butties, and then later on, coffee and cake. The only thing I forgot is the wine!
If you ever have to create a number of arrangements for an event there are two rules I would suggest you bare in mind. Firstly, use lots of contrasting foliage - at least 3 types - then before you even add the flowers it will be looking good. And Secondly, use containers that give you a limited space to arrange in. So much easier than looking at acres of oasis, wondering how on earth you can fill all that green foam!
Planning flowers for an event means strictly working out recipes and quantities before hand so that you are not over budget and you are confident everyone will have enough flowers to play with. Even then, it can sometimes be a bit hit and miss. I am pleased to say I get it just about right - the only flowers left over are a few blue delphiniums that didn't quite match.
Luckily they look just fine on my mantelpiece!

A Weekend Away

My friend Shelagh asked me to take some photos of the small apartment that she lets out to guests, situated in the garden just behind her house in Hindon. It was so cosy, with a beamed bedroom and wood burning stove that it made me think that this would be a wonderful place to stay for the weekend. So for those of you who would like to visit Ted Martin Flowers as well as some of the other places I write about in this beautiful part of the world, here goes!
Hindon is a great place to stay - not because it is so easy to find from the A303 or because it is a beautiful tree lined village - it is simply because is has two such very good pubs, The Lamb and The Angel!
And as if 2 good pubs weren't enough, further down the road towards Ted's shop in Tisbury is The Beckford Arms
For those of you who would prefer the privacy of your own place - which is spitting distance from the Hindon pubs, I can highly recommend Shelagh's apartment. As you can see from the bedroom and sitting room/kitchen pictures, it is small, but gorgeous.
For booking info email shelagh.boyd@virgin.net
(and send her my love)
As I am writing this I have decided you need to make a long weekend of it. Firstly if you want to visit flower shops, Saturday is always a bad day as they are running down the stock (and Ted's shuts at 1pm). So come down early on the Friday, or why not escape on Thursday night?
Ted Martin's flower shop is easy to find in the centre of Tisbury, only a few miles from Hindon. If you turn left by the old red phone box and post box in Fonthill Gifford (a small hamlet in between the two) you can then get a glimpse of a hidden walled garden and the Fonthill Lake on your way. Then just turn right when you get to the lake and left when you get to the Beckford Arms and you are back on the road.
After Ted's you can cut across country to Shaftesbury to visit Anna and Vicky in Wild Paeony which is situated in the High Street there. (But don't forget to take in Gold Hill which is just off the High Street - once you see it you will understand why) If you take the top road out of Tisbury via New Town to Shaftesbury you will soon see a turning for the road to Hatch Pick Your Own Flower Farm which is well worth a detour.
Once back on the road to Shaftesbury you will pass Pythouse Walled Garden. But I wouldn't drive past this, I would definitely call in for coffee or lunch. And if you do fancy a glass of wine with lunch I should tell you that they don't have a licence, but owner Mitch does not mind you bringing your own and doesn't charge corkage. If you are feeling the slightest bit frazzled there is no calmer place, in my opinion, than to be sitting in the orchard in this garden.
Where was I? ... it's happening, I am slowing down already ...
There is so much to see around this area. One place well worth visiting that is only about 15 minutes from Hindon further down the A303, is National Trust's Stourhead garden.
This picture doesn't really do it justice as it was taken in the winter but it gives you an idea.
And I love the people at Stouhead - Pat in the shop has my books and now the National Trust Flower Shop calendar for sale and Jane in the gallery sells my paintings!
For other ideas of where to visit, get yourself settled in a nice pub and ask to look at their copy of the Blackmore Vale Magazine. This is the strangest local paper I have ever come across. It is free from pubs and newsagents and it has headlines such as 'Champion Pig runs A Muck' - but everyone reads it and everyone advertises in it. So if you want to find a garden to visit this is the place to look.
We are now in the season of Open Gardens and Fetes - so you will have lots to choose from. Like Hatch House which was open this weekend for the British Heart Foundation.
There were a number of plant stalls, as well as ice creams and teas and cakes on sale.
There were gardens to explore and admire.
And a second hand clothes stall, which included hidden treasures such as an Armani suit and a brown velvet coat with purple lining by Biba.
And only in England would you find the dogs and the cats taking pride of place amongst it all!


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