Rome

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After the penultimate big wedding weekend of the year, I dropped off my account flowers early on Monday morning and we were at the airport by 10am. We arrived to Fuimicino early evening and took a cab all the way into the city from the coast. Our last trip to Italy was to Venice where after 9.30pm, everyone vanishes back to the mainland. Rome is completely different. The bars and restaurants were still bustling until late. Other observations -

The Spritz here is as good as the Venetian Spritz.

It is near impossible to have a bad meal.

Almost everyone with glasses wears good glasses.

There are a lot of women with great short hair.

Plants ruled.

The Romans (as with most of continental Europe) have a way with plants: Bengal Figs in huge planters, balconies heavy with trailers, sprawling agaves on doorsteps and green aeoniums spilling out of decrepit pots. Plants which we treat as house plants flourish outdoors in Rome.

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After many childhood holidays spent dragging my feet looking around churches I have made peace with it. Particularly in Rome where they contain a lot of beautiful marble, alabaster, terrazzo and gold which made me consider a new kitchen. It would be like the antithesis of Kinfolk. Think Cy Twombly and 1980s Versace. Paddy possibly wouldn’t be 100% on board with it.

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These days.

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I’ve been ready for Autumn to begin for a little while, but I could swear the air started to feel different on the first of September. Maybe I was just willing it to happen. Autumn is still a busy time but I always look forward to it since the work / life balance readjusts (in my favour) after summer. I also like that the change of season completely alters my output. Textures and colours change, it becomes less about bridal and more about flowers and plants for home. It‘s almost like a different job by Christmas.

Late summer weddings have been beautiful: full of cosmos, scented geranium, mint and dahlias. As I set up a wedding on Sunday morning, I lined the aisle with Northumbrian mint. Imagine that scent sticking in your memory forever.

Flower growing has had something of a renaissance and a few wonderful local growers (and some further south) have meant that all weddings now contain lots of British flowers. That said, I’m no purist and I still have a lot of love for the Dutch auction. Footage of sinister tall lily plants moving around greenhouses with no apparent human intervention has a Cronenbergian quality and appeals to the horror fan in me. In floral circles that’s probably akin to admitting you like Findus crispy pancakes or something. But there is beauty everywhere.

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Lately.

Lately and in no particular order.

I have been an uncommitted diary- keeper all my life. Some times are better documented than others. I used to love writing here but then I grew concerned that potential clients waiting for paperwork would be irritated that I had time for this and not for their proposal. The heart of the matter is that I am better at flowers when I also have a little time to think about other things (which are usually loosely flower related anyway).

Social media, lack of reading, lack of travel, lack of experiences beyond work. It’s a surefire way to make you want to throw a stick of dynamite backwards over your shoulder at your business as you walk out on a Friday night.

Ultimately I suppose this is what I love and hate about it all. That I have the control. Paddy has to continually remind me that I’m in charge so why don’t I change the the way that I do things. And learn to say no.

A lot has already changed over the last few months. The plant side of Wildflower has gathered momentum. My assertion that houseplants and nostalgia are inextricably linked has been proven completely true.

An early memory of mine is sitting with my brother and cousin in my aunt’s house. It’s the mid eighties. We are watching a VHS copy of Alien (we’re too young). My aunt has a knitting machine in the corner and there is a Swiss cheese plant in the room. Around the same time my mother had pots of geraniums and cacti in the sun porch of our home. I distinctly remember their scent and crushing the brown fallen leaves between my fingers.

A woman came in a few weeks ago. She’d had a dream the previous week about the cheese plant her mother owned and how the pet rabbit used to scale the plant and chew the leaves. Good associations you see. She bought one.

I am enjoying opening at the weekend. People come in and chat about plants,  gardens, music, where to eat, good places to stay in Cornwall, The Handmaid’s Tale, lots of interesting things. Sometimes people walk in and announce “JUST LOOKING. I’M NOT GOING TO BUY ANYTHING”. This really cracks me up. Shop life.

Squint skyward and listen

Last year I lost momentum. Not in terms of working with flowers but perhaps in terms of talking about it. Or writing about it. My enthusiasm hadn’t waned but maybe it was just social media fatigue which stopped me from sharing more. I still have those moments of wanting to throw my laptop and phone out of the window of a moving car. But not today.

So I scrolled through the last six months worth of photographs and was surprised to see so many personal pictures: visits to Cornwall, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the Hepworth Gallery, a weekend with friends in Sheffield, lots of sunsets and big skies interspersed with a few flower shots. It turns out flowers are infinitely more beautiful when you can step back and appreciate them from a different viewpoint. By that, I mean a viewpoint far away from the sink where I wash vases or from the hashtags I’ve come to use.

Spring (my favourite season in floral terms) is around the corner so my guess is that normal botanical overload will resume in the following post.


Madrugada Eterna

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In June we headed to the Greek island of Paxos for the marriage of our friends Steve and Sacha. Paddy and I, with four other friends, stayed in a remote villa, looking over the sea to mainland Greece. We sat in silence for long periods. I re-read The Bell Jar and Heartburn. We drank ouzo, cheap wine and listened to ambient music whilst watching the sea and sky (I’m completely serious). We agreed that it was like some kind of religious retreat.

Steve and Sacha married on the beach and then gave us some of the best wedding food ever. No plates were smashed.

How did we spend our days? Sometimes Paddy and I would walk through the woods to the beach and swim in saltwater for a change from the pool. Sometimes we would walk down to the town for supplies. Paddy and I had swimming races. We spent an afternoon watching a luxury yacht that moored in the cove below us. The inquiring minds of our group researched the provenance and cost of chartering the yacht as we examined it through binoculars and watched the staff prepare drinks and lunch on deck, as the guests snorkeled.

And you know what? It feels like it all happened years ago.

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A whole season has passed (again) and there you have it. I’ve reduced the last four months to eleven photographs and some stories about my holiday. Wedding season has been unrelenting as ever and it feels good to be coming up for air at last. Now, as far as I’m concerned, Autumn has begun and Winter is around the corner.

Next month I’ll be holding the Annual Bulb Sale. Karen of Widehaugh House will come to the studio with thousands of bulbs (all the best varieties) to choose from. Not only will she have tulips but also the most beautiful narcissi, fritillaries, alliums and more. She is a font of botanical knowledge so come and be educated.

I remember the first time I went to Amsterdam. I couldn’t believe my luck to find bulbs of black tulips, blue tulips, parrot tulips in every conceivable shade and more. Imagine my disappointment when stem after stem of straight red tulips emerged from the pots in Spring. I was well and truly had. I’m not even talking red parrot tulips. You won’t have to suffer the same fate if you come to Wildflower HQ on Saturday 8th October. Houseplants, berries and flowers also making an appearance.