It probably wasn’t the best of ideas to go to Cornwall for an October break two weeks before my book was due in but, in my defence, I had booked it when my original deadline was February 2015. The reason for my visit wasn’t to see the sea, although I did manage to squeeze that in, it was something altogether more flowery. Becca and Maz of The Garden Gate Flower Company had decided, back in June, to celebrate the end of the growing season with a get together of flower growers/florists who had come to know each other via Twitter. There’d be the chance to chat, pick flowers and arrange, how could I resist. At that point my book deadline was the middle of February so it wouldn’t be a problem, I could easily squeeze in a break away. Then I worked out I could get everything I needed for the book done much earlier and it was agreed to bring the deadline forward. Scroll forward to a Sunday night in the middle of October and a restaurant in a converted lifeboat station in a tiny Cornish fishing village. I’m so excited to be meeting a group of flowery friends for a pre-workshop dinner but quietly panicking about the long list of jobs still left to do.
It struck me, on this Sunday evening how Twittter has transformed how people come together. There were those of us who had already met several times and had become firm friends, then there were those who were meeting for the first time. We had come from Wales, Wiltshire, Berkshire, London, Oxfordshire and Cornwall. It’s quite strange to think that only five or six years ago these connections would have been difficult to forge, if not impossible. And, you know the night has been a good one when the restaurant staff are doing everything, bar switching off the lights, to get you to leave.
So to Monday and Becca and Maz’s flower farm. There was chat followed by guided tours of their flower fields, more chatting, then flower picking. For a bunch of people who had spent all year growing and picking flowers it was perhaps a little odd that we all got so excited about picking yet more. It reminded me of when you’re out for a meal and the food other people have ordered always looks more interesting than your own plate. That surely isn’t just me?!!
We spent the next few hours arranging and photographing our creations in one of the stunning barns. Initially, I felt like a bit of a fraud. Here I was surrounded by people who arrange flowers for a living, whereas my own flower growing and arranging has only ever been to satisfy my own taste. I found myself and my bucket of flowers on the same table as Lindsey from The White Horse Flower Company, who will have arranged for an epic 70+ weddings this year, and Thomas from Petersham Nurseries, who creates beautiful floral designs for the rich and famous in London. Eek!! But everyone was so friendly, it wasn’t long before I was so absorbed by the process that I forgot my nerves.
Becca and Maz specialise in growing and arranging for weddings. They had such a beautiful array of flowers in soft colours that it was a real treat and inspiration for me to get my hands on flower varieties I haven’t grown before. My mind is still buzzing with ideas for my next cut flower patch. I can’t say I had any great plan when I initially started picking. I had taken a real shine to a particular dahlia called ‘Peaches’ and my arrangement ended up being built around that. I also took inspiration from the autumn countryside around the farm. I love teasels which capture the fading glory that I love so much about this time of year; they also remind me of my favourite artist Angie Lewin. In the end, my arrangement included dahalis, teasels, the rusty coloured and faded flower spikes of dock, straw flowers, Rudbeckia ‘Cherry Brandy’ and some fantastically sculptural seed heads from a couple of hedgerow plants such as ribwort plantain.
Then came the photography. I’ve become a bit obsessed with this whole process in recent years. It has been fascinating to learn a little bit about the difference light and the right background can make to showing off flowers. What I’d give for Becca and Maz’s barn. As one person commented ‘You could photograph anything in here and it would look fabulous’. The quality of the light, the rustic doors, mossy bricks and stone walls added so much to the arrangements we had all created.
Since then it has been a crazy couple of weeks with late nights and being driven close to tears by Windows 8. It turns out I had inadvertently clicked on some tracking shortcut which it remembered each time I opened up the document, I couldn’t get rid of the damn thing. Fortunately Wellyman worked it out in the end. This final stage is so fraught with worry that you’ll click on the wrong button and something will disappear into the ether. There was a story, which did the rounds at university, about someone who had lost their dissertation only a few weeks before it was due, in a house fire. Whether this was an urban myth or not, it was enough then, and now, to make me overly cautious, with documents backed up several times to various places and emailed to myself. But even these can be a tad confusing when you’re on the umpteeenth draft.
I had the final photo shoot on Monday and I clicked on the send button this morning. The next month or so will consist of the publishers designing the book and then there’ll be the edit but I’m nearly there and I can’t wait to see it all come together. So, I’m really very glad that I managed to get down to Cornwall after all.
If you fancy learning about flower growing and arranging Becca and Maz run a series of courses throughout the year which are open to anyone who love flowers, you don’t have to have a background in floristry. Becca’s mum provides a delicious lunch and fantastic cake to keep you going through the day. They’re also perfectly located near Fowey to combine one of their courses with a holiday in Cornwall. For more details check out their website The Garden Gate Flower Company.