Bringing the outside in with Jane from Dove and Myrtle
Jane from Hove based flower studio – Dove and Myrtle – who would normally be planning for the wedding season right now, surrounded by full blooms in her flower studio – has been reconnecting with nature and shares her ideas on bringing the outside in by both foraging in the May hedgerows and supporting British growers.
Over to Jane
With spring well and truly upon us this would usually be the start of wedding season and I would be found surrounded by glorious blooms in the studio. Not having all the romantically wild bridal bouquets and aisle meadows I love so much to create was tough at first and then slowly I noticed something happening.
Quite unexpectedly I have rediscovered the simple joy of having flowers at home. Rather than the usual feeling of bringing work home, I’ve found myself reconnecting with the pleasure I had long before working in the industry, of bringing nature home to enjoy. I believe that flowers have so many positive benefits. They look beautiful and they never fail to boost my mood and make me smile.
Arranging flowers for the bedside or kitchen table is my meditation, my time to focus on all that is beautiful and positive in the natural world; the colours, the textures, the fragrances. Ever the dreamer, losing myself in this practice has been a welcome retreat from the more mundane aspects of daily life in lockdown.
Yes, I am a floral designer but just as you don’t need to be a trained chef to cook delicious meals at home, you absolutely don’t need to be a qualified florist to create gorgeous arrangements to enjoy at home either. Especially, if like me, you favour a touch of wild and natural over the formal and rigid when it comes to flowers. All you need is a pair of sharp scissors, a vessel or two (jug, vase, jam jar – anything goes) and a willingness to give it a go. But with most florist shops and markets closed, where can we find the flowers?
I have always preferred to be outside in nature, be that walking the Downs or braving the sea, yet it’s only since working with flowers every day that I’ve become better attuned to the seasons. My work is inspired by seasonality and right now there are treasures to be found everywhere; along roadsides, canal sides and, of course, the countryside.
Our May hedgerows are bursting with waist high frothy cow parsley, beautiful gathered by the armful to arrange simply in a large vase or pickle jar. The hawthorn is in full blossom and their boughs are heavy with pink and white clouds in abundance. Do try to cut with sharp secateurs rather than ripping if you can and as with all foraged blooms, save some for the bees.
On walks this week I’ve discovered honeywort, bluebells, clematis, honeysuckle, columbine, daisies, ferns and wild garlic. As I write the elder is just coming into flower and once you start to experiment with flowers and explore, the more you will begin to notice what’s growing around you.
I love to gather grasses, weeds, foliage, vines, fallen lichen covered twigs and branches – the wilder the better! I always include herbs in my designs so if you’re growing herbs at home try adding rosemary, mint or sage to your arrangements. The best time to harvest is first thing in the morning or early evening and always place stems in fresh clean water as soon as you feasibly can.
Some simple ideas for display
Of course, I understand this won’t be for everyone and if you’d prefer to buy your flowers I can’t recommend and encourage supporting British flowers and the growing number of passionate people behind them enough. You can find your nearest grower on Flowers from the Farm https://www.flowersfromthefarm.co.uk a multi-award winning, not-for-profit co-operative of British cut flower growers. They have over 700 members from Cornwall to Inverness so you may be surprised just how close you are to sustainable and beautifully natural seasonal flowers such as peonies, ranunculus, sweet peas, stocks, lupins and viburnum! Peony season is fleeting and to have a jug of these blousey blooms on a windowsill gives me so much pleasure.
Once you have your flowers, here are a few tips that will ensure your beautiful blooms stay that way for as long as possible. Clean your vessel thoroughly, I use a few drops of eucalyptus oil to kill bacteria and then fill with room temperature water. Remove any leaves that will sit below the water line and using a sharp pair of scissors or secateurs make a diagonal cut off the bottom of the stem before placing in the water. If the cut isn’t sharp you could damage the stem and restrict the flow of water. Flowers are thirsty so keep their water topped up and a fresh cut along with a change of water every few days will prolong vase life considerably.
My personal floral hero, the legendary Constance Spry, inspired many to shun the restrictive rules of flower arranging and urged her generation to embrace the simple beauty and romantic charm of nature’s most glorious creations including cow parsley & cabbages so if you need any further encouragement I will leave you with her words –
“Do whatever you please, follow your own star; be original if you want to be and don’t if you don’t want to be. Just be natural and gay and light-hearted and pretty and simple and overflowing and general and baroque and bare and austere and stylised and wild and daring and conservative, and learn and learn and learn. Open your mind to every form of beauty.”
I’d love to see any images of displays you’ve been creating at home and other wild flowers you love to forage.