Stuff I learnt in floristry class

Hello!

If you follow me on social media, you’ll know that I’ve been going to a beginner’s floristry class since January. I’m not very good at it, but I don’t even care because I really enjoy it. I’ve even made my peace with the fact that my nemesis is florists’ foam (also known as oasis, which does make me think of the Gallaghers.)

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I do, however, enjoy putting bunches of flowers together (although I think I’m not allowed to call them ‘bunches’ now that I’m *sort of* trained. I think I’m meant to refer to them as bouquets…) I’ve learnt some great tips about choosing flowers and putting them together, which I would have liked to have known before I started putting stuff together.

  1. Bleach your vases and change your water

28235344_10155296869792267_8276381645575148795_oEvery time you have an empty vase, fill it with water and put a few drops of bleach in it and leave it overnight (although I forget and sometimes leave it a few days…) Empty it and rinse it out. This will kill any bacteria and means that you’re starting with a clean, germ-free vase. It’ll mean that your flowers last longer from the get-go. In a similar vein, make sure you change your water every couple of days.

Some people swear blind that a drop of bleach in the water works to keep flowers looking fresh, although I would only do that for roses; for anything else I use a teaspoon of sugar or, if I have it, the packets of flower food you get with supermarket flowers.

2. There’s nothing wrong with supermarket flowers! 

27021216_10155227044562267_3429879072351896780_oI do love going to the florist, but it is expensive. There’s nowt wrong with supermarket flowers- I use them quite a bit for class, and a florist recently recommended I buy focal flowers (i.e. the main flowers in an arrangement) from a florist, the secondary flowers from a supermarket and the greenery from a garden. To be honest, it depends on time/money as to whether I have time to do all of that. But you can definitely gussy up a couple of bunches of Aldi’s finest- arrange them in a symmetrical pattern, twisting the stalks if you can, any foliage on the outside, and tying off with string. Chop the bottoms of the stalks off evenly- et voila! A tied bouquet! The only thing I would say is that supermarket flowers do not tend to last as long as florist bought flowers, but when they’re cheap as chips, who cares?

3. Don’t be afraid to experiment

IMG_20180214_083541_236I think one of the reasons I’m not terribly good at the lessons is that I’m not very keen on the formality of what we’re being shown. This is just my thing and no judgement on the teacher (who I love) or the whole world of floristry. It’s just me being an awkward sod. I tend to prefer smaller arrangements that suit a more vintage taste, which have a country garden look to them. This is what I will continue to make once I finish my course, and what I enjoy making. As one of Brighton’s top florists told me, ‘It’s not rocket science and there are no hard and fast rules.’ (He was quite dismissive of a lot of the formal structure of floristry- and seeing as he did my wedding bouquet, I tend to trust him!) One thing I would say: supermarket flowers tend not to smell much. If you want that, consider buying some broom or something like stocks from a florist- even one stem of these will lift your bunch of flowers into something a bit more special.

4. A few tweaks can make a bouquet look way more expensive

IMG_20180311_131728_492Around Valentines and Mother’s Day, flowers will be at their most expensive. If you wanted to make something flowery in the run up to those, I would heartily recommend you buy supermarket flowers for the bulk of it (especially if you want roses or tulips) and then go to a florist for a few finishing touches. The bouquet about was commissioned by Benn for his mum and I did go to a florist where I know I will get a good deal (and a discount for being a student, hurrah!) This is more my style- I love stuff that looks like I could just pluck it from my garden on a sunny June day and it’s nicely balanced, I think. Anyway, there are a few things I’ve noticed when you put together a bouquet:

  1. If you want roses, but not the expense, you could try lisianthus (the deep purple flowers above) or ranunculas, which are pretty in a similar way but often without such a steep price tag (although they will never be as cheap as daffodils or carnations!)
  2. Eucalyptus is having a moment. You can get the traditional varieties, with large silver leaves, or the smaller leafed variety, which is in the arrangement above. The good thing about eucalyptus, especially the bigger type, is that it will literally make any bunch of flowers look more expensive. Probably because it is quite expensive, but it would be a price I would consider paying for something special. To be honest, though, I’d just have vases full of it round the house I love it so much. If you want nice foliage, consider pistachio leaf, which is nice and half the price. Foliage is super important and I almost never have enough.
  3. If you want to make something look vintage, go with wax flowers. These tiny pink or white flowers are a bit of a discovery for me and also seem to be having a bit of a ‘moment’. Oh my god, I love them. They look like something from a Victorian wedding and they last an AGE. They aren’t hugely cheap, but they are cheerful and really add something to the flower arrangements I make. These would go in my vases with the eucalyptus.

5. Use Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration

I have a Pinterest board where I keep all things floristry- I love looking at flower combos, as well as different colours and presentation options. I’m also obsessed with the language of flowers and what different flowers meant in Victorian times. I then use this as a starting point for ideas. There are also some really great Instagram accounts run by florists, with different styles and specialities. Have a hunt around and find your style. Then, go and have a go. It’s really, honestly, not that hard. Seriously- look at some of the mistakes I’ve made!

If there’s anything you’d like to know, but I may have missed, let me know either in the comments or on Twitter. Enjoy your flowers!

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“It’s a bit ‘Triffid’, isn’t it?”- an adventure in houseplants

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have noticed that I’ve gone a bit plant-mad lately (and not just garden-plant-mad, as it’s still quite early for a lot of planting to happen.) This is mainly because of two reasons: 1) a new plant shop has opened in the North Laine and 2) D is a bit less grabby now that he’s 3.5 and I can have nicer things (occasionally).

I’ve never been massively into houseplants before, although I did buy Benn a yucca when we first started going out. He had nothing ‘alive’ in his flat, which was a sterile bachelor pad. The original yucca, known as Geraldine, has long gone, but I repotted a cutting from it last summer which has started to magically grow a new stalk:

For @spiderplantshop- the small 'stalk' started out looking like an air root, but has sort of turned into a support for the plant! Very weird and have no idea what's happened! #houseplant:

I’ve never heard of plants doing that, but apparently it is a ‘thing’- and a pretty cool one at that!

I’ve also had a jade plant and an aloe vera for about a year. Apparently, jade plants are known as ‘money plants’ because of a Chinese proverb that says you should treat your plants like your money-carefully- as both will reward you in the long term. My jade plant was given to me by a friend and I love it. Although, like with my money, I can sometimes be a bit forgetful and nonchalant!

Repotting #gardening #greenfingers #urbangardening #succulents:

That massive aloe vera plant cost me £1.50 as a teeny tiny plant at last year’s Seedy Sunday. It has been so happy on the kitchen windowsill, despite me breaking leaves off on a semi-regular basis to treat quesadilla-related burns, that it’s happily throwing out new baby plants. It is such a useful plant (sunburn, skin burns, I even have used it on eczema for relief) that I wouldn’t be without it now. Which is good, as those babies are appearing at the same rate as baby rabbits at Easter…

A teacup full of chamomile to grow next to my bed. I think it's rather sweet and watching it grow cheers me up no end. #gardening #urbangardening #sweetdreams:

I decided, on a bit of a whim, to see if chamomile would grow in a teacup (you can see my thinking there, right?) Happily, it does! Once it’s a bit more established, this will be going by my bedside. I don’t actually like chamomile tea, but I like the idea of this in my bedroom. It’s also really tactile and I love stroking it. It would also make a nice gift idea, if you can find pretty teacups in charity shops, and chamomile seeds are cheap.

Remember my little peperomia from @spiderplantshop? I repotted it into a candle holder, where it seems very happy! #houseplant #greenfingers:

This is my peperomia plant, which is actually tiny. I liked it because it’s green and pink (you’ll spot a theme) and was just, well, CUTE. I’m having a hard time finding pots I like, so this one is plonked in a tealight holder from Tesco. I just have to be super careful when I water it, but so far, it seems happy as it has grown like the clappers since I brought it home.

New houseplant #1- jewel orchid. Apparently much easier to care for than a normal orchid, I like that it looks a bit jungle-y #houseplant #home #orchid #flower #urbangardening:

In theory, I should HATE this jewel orchid- but it’s quite the opposite. Bonus points in its favour that it will apparently take quite a lot of neglect before it dies, so that’s nice. I think I like it because it’s quite elegant, in an alien way. D calls it the ‘dinosaur plant’ and I kind of get where he’s coming from. I do need to find a good pot for it, though.

Houseplant #2- a fittonia. I had to put a heavy filter on it to show how vividly pink the veins are! @spiderplantshop is bad for my bank balance but good for the general air quality in my home, ha! #houseplant #home #plant #urbangardening:

The fittonia is tiny and whenever I photograph it, I have to use a filter, as the colours just don’t come through properly; the pink is almost neon in tone is an amazing contrast to the dark green. There are loads of variants of fittonia- light green leaves with pink veins, pink leaves with green veins and so on. Apparently they can be a bit temperamental, so I need to keep an eye on it. But for now it makes me super happy to look at it!

I’m now on the look out for interesting pots- and a Christmas cactus. Benn is only mildly despairing.

 

Prepping for spring!

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I have spent most of the last few months mourning a winter that has never quite arrived in Sussex; I’m convinced that people were wearing hats, scarves and big coats out of force of habit rather than necessity. Now that there’s some sunshine, I’m feeling a bit more hopeful and happy that our extended autumn (it feels like folly to label it ‘winter’) is on its way out. The days are starting to feel slightly longer and I’m feeling cheerful- it’s time to plan my garden!

A couple of weeks ago, I went on my annual trip to Seedy Sunday, held in the Corn Exchange in Brighton. As you can see, I came home with a huge amount of seeds, as well as some interesting varieties of seed potatoes and a membership to the Sussex Wildlife Trust.

Despite saying that I wouldn’t focus entirely on veggies this year, I did end up buying a ton of vegetable seeds; I always buy from Pennard Plants, as they have special show offers, I’ve used them before and, yep, I love the packets! This year, D had asked me to grow a pumpkin for Hallowe’en and a beanstalk (although I’ve had to explain that you’re going to get beans, rather than a giant, on your beanstalk), hence the fairytale-type packets. As well as vegetable seeds (I’m trying again with a couple of failures from last year, most notably squashes and tomatillos), I came home with lots of flowers- all of which, inexplicably begin with S. I’m obviously creating a Sesame Street garden without realising it.

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As well as my usual sweet peas, I’ve been really lusting after snapdragons. They’re so pretty and cheerful- I’m thinking of putting them in an area by the backdoor- and I fell in love with them last summer. They remind me a bit of the talking flowers in Alice in Wonderland. I’d also like some phlox and am debating planting crocuses and snowdrops later in the year so that they can be enjoyed next spring.

I’m also thinking about layout- last year, the potatoes were by the back door and more tender plants, such as tomatoes and courgettes were further up the garden, which meant that the snails and slugs (grr) could get to them before I noticed in some instances. However, I do have some unusual potato varieties this year- purple and blue!- so I don’t want them to be too far away! I also need to replace the raspberries, which I put in a quite frankly RIDICULOUS place last year and that need to come forward in the garden. Ah well, you live and learn.

Lastly, I’ve realised that I can’t do everything I want to do, which simply boils down to money. I have to decide if I want new terracotta pots or border plants and I can’t do everything. But I’ve accepted that it will most likely take me years to get the garden the way I want it and I am OK with that. I’ll just enjoy the process until then.

 

Summer’s here!

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And so the end of another school year is here- and I am so pleased! I’m very tired and the prospect of six weeks at home with D is a welcome one. I have so many plans! But then, me and plans don’t always go well together… I kind of get sidetracked. In theory, though, I’d like to do the following:

-FINALLY PROPERLY LEARN TO SEW. I know, I know, I’ve threatened to do this every year for, like, the last four years. But I need new pyjama bottoms and I’m armed with a TON of dressmaking books and Tilly’s book and I’m good to go. I’ve even pre-washed the fabric.

-Work on the garden. Yeah, like this one surprised you. But I’m going to start thinking about next year, drawing plans and researching stuff to go in there. I’m definitely going to paraphrase William Morris- there’ll be nothing in my garden next year that I don’t consider useful or beautiful. And I’ll be waging war on SLUGS. Gits.

-Take D on more days out. Last week, I took him on the bus without the buggy for the first time- we went to Waterstones and he was so well behaved and we had such a good time. I’d like to do more things like that, pottering in town, meeting friends and so on. He’s starting nursery in September, so I’d like to give him lots of experiences before then. Oh- and we’re starting potty training. Which I am so looking forward to.

-Sleep. Seriously, I’ve been carrying a cold and a huge mouth ulcer recently. Probably not helped by my raging addiction to RuPaul’s Drag Race, which means I stay up watching episodes til late. Napping shall be the name of the game over the next few weeks.

First though, if the car is working (it’s been sputtering and being difficult lately), we’re off to visit family in Wales and Yorkshire. Let’s hope it’s a great summer!

Gardening is good for you (well, it is for me.)

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I’ve never been what you would consider ‘outdoorsy’. I don’t like horses, or camping, or sunburn. I don’t like sitting in sunshine (sunburn, again.) So why have I embraced spending endless hours outside in the garden?

Simply, it’s good for my mind.

I don’t know if it’s the fresh air, or the extra vitamin D, but I’m finding every opportunity to get out there are get my hands dirty. At the moment, I’m interested in growing vegetables. The picture above is of a pea plant. I’ve always had a soft spot for sweet peas- they were the first thing I ever grew successfully- and so I’m growing actual real peas this year. The variety I chose produces beautiful pink, white and purple flowers and dark purple pea pods- the peas themselves are incredibly sweet and it’s really hard to leave them on the plant:

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The garden has become a hive of activity- D has a sandpit out there and Toby Rabbit is being put to work keeping the small amount of grass down.

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The best bit, though, is eating the stuff I’ve produced (although the birds have got to the strawberries. Next year, I’m doing like Monty Don and getting a teeny polytunnel- if only to stop Bronte sitting on them.) I’ve even started a compost heap, which I’m embarrassingly excited about.

My favourite so far? My potatoes (which have been all over my Instagram like a RASH.) These Cheyenne potatoes were cooked up for a barbecue and tasted delicious.

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I think that’s why I like it so much. I have a reason to enjoy outside and I can have something focus to think about- I’m already planning next year. Also, D is very into the irritating fake northern charms of Mr Bloom, so he’s super eager to help out (which is not actually terribly helpful. I may or may not be directing my son to water a small patch of weeds, rather than proper veggies. Next year I may have to give him his own little growbag.)

I honestly think, with running and gardening, I’ve made a positive change that’s helping me keep my depression under control and making me healthy all round. That’s never a bad thing, is it?

Preparing for Seedy Sunday 2015

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I am SO EXCITED about this year’s Seedy Sunday– it’s the first year I’ve had a garden that’s mine and I have a rough idea about how the garden will eventually take shape. I’ll probably go into more detail about that in a future post though.

My short term aim is to get the stuff needed for fruit and veg in the garden. This will more than likely be grown  in pots and growbags this year, so I’m looking for small, compact plants; I’ve already ordered some blueberry and tomato plug plants and I’ve got my eye on some potatoes too.

Organising is VERY IMPORTANT

Organising is VERY IMPORTANT

My wishlist has some specifics (heirloom tomatoes, broad beans, peas and sweet peas) and some ‘maybes’ (aubergines, strawberries, raspberries) as well as some things I need to look into a bit more, like foxglove seeds. I’d also like to get some sunflowers for D. As you can see from the book above, I’m also interested in companion planting, so I expect some nasturtiums and marigolds will be among my purchases.

As well as planning for outside, I’ve begun growing ‘micro greens’ indoors. We spend a fortune on salad, so I’m doing what I can to alleviate that! So I might pick up some kale and other leafy greens to grow as cut and come again leaves. The batch I planted last week had already started to show by two days later, so I’m hoping for more success! I can pretend I’m sort of healthy then, can’t I?

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