RHS Malvern gets romantic

Weddings are preoccupying Jonathan Moseley when I call to chat about the Malvern spring festival. No particular wedding, you understand, but the whole paraphernalia surrounding them and in particular the flowers.

Forget traditional roses or lilies, the award-winning florist and judge on BBC’s Big Allotment Challenge believes brides should be choosing seasonal – and preferably British – flowers for the big day.

“There’s a whole host of things out there,” he says. “Every bride has got her own individual personality, so have flowers. Let’s marry those flowers to that bride’s quirky style.”

Malvern spring festival
Jonathan will be hosting floral workshops and demonstrations

It’s a message he will be promoting at this year’s RHS Malvern Spring Festival where he is part of a move to reinvigorate the cut flower element – “I hate flower shows with competitive entries that look like they’re in a museum”.

It follows success at the autumn show where Jonathan hosted floristry workshops and demonstrations alongside the floral art displays.

“It had a real buzz, a real energy to it.”

‘Grow Your Own Wedding’ will have talks and demonstrations from florists, floristry colleges and British flower growers with advice on raising your own cut flowers, or sourcing something individual for bouquets and buttonholes.

To make sure it’s at the heart of the four-day event, it will all take place in one of the show gardens, ‘The Garden of Romance’, which will become a floral theatre. Designed by award-winning Jason Hales, of Villaggio Verde, it is based on an rustic Italian cloister garden.

It’s an unusual use of a space that is normally off-limits to the public and one that Jonathan believes will be a “real treat” for visitors and a natural setting for the floristry industry.

“A garden is the inspiration for any florist who is worth their salt. Certainly, for anybody who’s a supporter and user of natural material, a garden is the starting point for it all.”

And it’s these garden flowers that he believes should be used more in weddings: “I’m a great believer in bringing back some of the wonderful perennials.”

malvern spring
Jonathan believes brides should be adventurous when it comes to flowers

These include larkspar, and peonies, which he describes as “absolutely adorable, the most amazing flowers”.

Roses are not off the list, just the usual tight buds. Instead, he suggests opting for blousy, old-fashioned English roses to add a touch of romance and nostalgia.

Annuals, such as scabious and cornflowers, are another often overlooked area.

“They have that just picked look that’s so fresh, so energising and just like a wedding should be.”

And we shouldn’t be worried about them lasting, says Jonathan, who points out that the transience of flowers is part of their charm.

“If a wedding bouquet looks absolutely stunning for that day, does it matter if it’s going to be dead the following day? It’s done its job.”

More important is choosing flowers that fit with the season; an October wedding, he suggests, should make full use of dahlias, autumn foliage, seedheads, grasses and berries.

Indeed, flowers are only one part of a successful display.

malvern spring
Flowers don’t have to be exotic to make a striking arrangement

“It’s like watching a production. Flowers are the divas, they’re the star performers but no production exists with the orchestra, the choreographer and the make-up artist. All those things, like the grasses, the seed heads and the foliage, they’re all the back-up cast but they’re absolutely vital because they allow those few special flowers to really stand out.”

Among the experts on hand at the Malvern spring festival to offer advice on everything from successional sowing to flower combinations will be Georgie Newbury, author of ‘Grow Your Own Wedding’, South Gloucestershire-based Organic Blooms from South Gloucestershire, Far Hill Flowers, near Chepstow, Great British Florist, who raise cut flowers in Herefordshire, and Flowers from the Farm, a network of farmers and smallholders who together promote locally grown cut flowers.

“When I first started in floristry I could go down to my local wholesale market and there would be a whole load of British-grown flowers there and I think we should get that back,” says Jonathan, whose passion for plants began with the present of a greenhouse for his eleventh birthday.

malvern spring
The Malvern Hills make a spectacular backdrop to the show

“There is still a British flower market out there. It’s in its infancy but we want to see that grow from strength-to-strength.

“I want to see British flowers back in supermarkets, back on street corners, outside your local village shop. It makes people connect with nature and realise that sweetpeas are in summer, cornflowers are in summer, daffodils are this time of year. It’s bringing that seasonality back into people’s lives.”

And if the idea of growing your own is a step too far, Jonathan suggests asking a grower to produce them for you: “It can become a really personal experience where you’ve got a real bond, a real connection to those flowers.”

With a wedding often the first time some people really think about flowers, he’s hoping it could signal the start of more than one life-long relationship.

“What we are trying to do at Malvern is to make people realise that flowers are important, that they’re there for anybody to enjoy any age, any gender and that there’s no point in your life when you can’t get excited about flowers and get in touch with flowers.”

RHS Malvern Spring Festival runs from May 5-8. For ticket details, visit http://www.threecounties.co.uk/rhsmalvern/

Jonathan will be taking questions about ‘Grow Your Own Wedding’ via Twitter @jpmoseley

Christmas turns copper

Innovative Gloucestershire florist Hans Haverkamp is predicting a move away from the traditional when it comes to Christmas colours this year.

While the familiar red and green will still be in evidence, Twyning-based Hans believes turquoise, copper and striking black-and-white will also be on display.

“There are a few trends coming along that are going to be popular in the UK,” he says.

Top of his list for 2015 is white and gold, although he stresses this is likely to be soft gold and champagne colours rather than anything brassy.

Christmas flowers
Copper is used as an accent colour this year

“I’ve already seen snowy white coloured trees with gold decorations, maybe some silver,” says Hans, who last month won Best in Show at the NAFAS national competition and has previously come top at Chelsea and the World Flower Arranging Show.

Copper is also likely to be a dominant colour, particularly in baubles.

“A very big trend statement this year will be the use of copper as a real accent colour.”

Pastels in the form of pinks, mint, turquoises and blues are likely to be another popular choice as is the ‘natural look’ with cones, acorns, bark and driftwood.

“Cones are a fairly big feature with oversized cone ornaments.”

A more niche trend is black and white: “It’s for those who want to make strong statement.”

Christmas flowers
Chunky candles are set in felt-wrapped holders

Hans, who trained as a Master Florist in Holland, is using some of these ideas in this season’s workshops, which will cover festive floral decorations including table decorations and door wreaths.

“I’m picking and mixing them a bit. I try to look at the trends and then try to work them into something that’s exciting but not scary.”

His ‘Twinned Candles’, an arrangement using chunky Scandinavian candles, will mix white, taupe, browns, cinnamon and chocolate tones and is wrapped in felt.

Door wreaths this year draw on the cone theme with natural and white-sprayed cones and twigs giving a textured finish.

His party arrangements will be in white and grey with the copper accent, while the table arrangements will feature white, natural wood, greys, champagne and natural tones.

Christmas flowers
Texture is an important element in Hans’ work

When it comes to flowers, he is planning to use white spray roses, copper carnations, nerines and kochia.

“It’s like a little, grey Christmas tree,” he explains.

Yet, he says despite these new trends there will always be a place for the traditional.

Hans Haverkamp
Hans Haverkamp

“You will always have reds and golds because that is the traditional colour. But slowly people are looking to make more of a personal statement with what they do. They are daring to leave the golds and the reds behind.”

Workshops, priced from £55, run from December 2 to 22 and are held in Twyning. To book and for more information, call 07818 040312 or visit www.hansflowers.co.uk

Hans proves a winner

Gloucestershire florist Hans Haverkamp has wowed the judges at a national flower arranging show.

His entry in the ‘Indulgence – festive table’ class not only came first, he also won Best in Show and an award for his use of foliage.

Hans Haverkamp
Hans’ winning arrangement combined foliage and baubles

Hans, who is based at Twyning, said: “I was so surprised to get first I didn’t hear I had won the show prize for Best Use of Foliage.”

The contest in Blackpool was organised by the National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies as part of a festive flower and food show.

Hans will be talking about Christmas flowers next month on The Chatty Gardener

Vintage style is blooming

Growing flowers for picking is nothing new and many gardeners have a small cutting patch or a wigwam of sweet peas providing blooms for the house. Yet few go to the lengths of Sally Oates who has turned her Cotswold garden into one big cutting border. 

The driving force behind her garden near Tetbury is not the appearance of the beds, creating plant collections or the amassing of rare blooms. Instead, she plans and plants to provide year-round material for her floristry business. 

Sally is part of a recent surge of interest in the British flower industry, born out of concerns about the environmental impact of importing flowers. The use of home-grown blooms was championed at this year’s Malvern Autumn Show and Flowers From the Farm is just one group campaigning for their increased use. 

“It’s a lot of like-minded people all over the country and they are probably making a difference,” says Sally, who describes herself as an ‘artistan’ rather than a traditional florist. 

“It’s looser and more relaxed,” she explains. “It’s all about respecting the flowers and the foliage for what they are and the season they are in.” 

Sally’s arrangements have a soft feel

When we met, she was testing an arrangement for an autumn wedding using russet leaves and the psychedelic orange and red fruit of the spindle berry, a natural mix that is typical of her work. 

Dillycot Flowers was started three years ago with sales at local markets, such as Nailsworth Farmers’ Market. Today, Sally does much of her business online, with commissions for celebrations, such as birthday parties, christenings and weddings, providing table decorations and flower crowns. 

“I’ve done 70, 80 and 90th birthday parties this year,” she says, with a smile. “They don’t want a large flowering statement; they want really nice garden flowers in a low arrangement.” 

She grows her blooms organically in half-an-acre of ground, divided between her own garden and an allotment on a nearby farm. The borders are packed with rows of perennials underplanted with bulbs and any gaps plugged by annuals. 

Bulbs are most important in spring and she grows masses of tulips, narcissi and hyacinths, in a vast range of colours. 

Low table arrangements are a popular request

“One of my favourites is ‘City of Bradford’ hyacinth, which is a very unusual pale blue.” 

She particular likes the hyacinth flowers that reappear in subsequent years, as they tend to be less compact: “They’ve got a slightly softer feel to the bloom. There’s more of a gentle elegance about them.” 

The summer offers rich pickings with annuals, including cornflowers in all shades of blue and pink, lots of iris, masses of peonies, roses, ranunculus and sunflowers before the autumn blooms of dahlias and chrysanthemums begin. 

Over the winter, evergreen shrubs form the backbone of her arrangements with viburnum and pittosporum particular favourites. Scented shrubs, such as Lonicera fragrans, bring an extra dimension to arrangements and she also uses dried seedheads, including nigella, poppy and achillea. If the weather is kind, there may even be late roses to add colour.

Achillea is used fresh and also dried for winter arrangements

 And that is the secret of her work: it is based upon what looks good at the time, rather than sticking to any pre-conceived plan, particularly as weather conditions can vastly alter flowering times. 

“It’s why I come from a colour direction rather than being flower specific,” she explains. 

Those flowers are displayed in vintage containers, sourced from antique shops and car boot sales, and include Art Deco and 1940s pieces, old ink bottles, silver, glass and brass. 

“For me it’s not pseudo vintage, it’s the real thing. I also grow older varieties of flowers. It evokes a past era.” 

It’s an era that appears to be making a comeback. 

For more information, visit www.dillycotflowers.co.uk and www.facebook.com/RosieOatesPhotography