In many ways it was a typical year, spring flowers sprung, summer blooms burst in the glorious sun, autumnal pumpkins fattened and holly berries ripened. The seasons did what they’d always done, but this was the year that people noticed them more than usual, stuck, as we all were, at home. This was the year in which a pandemic hit, and continues to hit, causing so much suffering. It was also the year of a new normal; with many people realising that they could break free from previous routines, reach out to others in new, novel ways. This was the year that saw me bring ‘Flowers to the People’.
Back at the beginning of Lockdown Part 1, we were encouraged to have an hour outside exercising each day. Unwittingly, this is where our Flower Projects from Home started. Of course, I had no idea last spring that this flower project would become a year-long series. Still, I like a challenge and back then I devised some strict golden rules for my projects from home, which were broadcast to the world via Instagram (ok, so really this was just to our @HybridFlowerCo followers, aka MY world, if not THE world). These were:
• To only use flowers which grew near home
• To only use tools which people could find at home or easily get hold of
• That we simply must divulge hitherto closely guarded “Professional Florist Secrets”
• To inspire people about nature, the seasons and, um… flowers
And happily, many people have commented that our ‘flower projects from home’ videos have entertained and, more importantly, inspired them to give this flower thing a try.
Our year in Flower projects from home
Project #1: Mothering Sunday
It all started at the beginning of lockdown when things were feeling rather out of anyone’s control. With two primary age children to occupy, a teacher friend suggested that us parents get together (virtually) and entertain our poor unsuspecting children by teaching them our individual specialisms. For me of course, that meant floral design. With Mothering Sunday on the horizon I decided to show them how to make a Mother’s Day bouquet (which went down very well with the other mums!).
With my usual suppliers unavailable, I was inspired to use only flowers grown locally to home. As a passionate florist with over 20 years in the industry, I thought I had seen it all, but those days in March 2020 were the first time I really, really appreciated how incredible flowers are when observed in their natural habitat; it was also the first time that I realised that I didn’t care what others thought, and stood in front of a camera, in my kitchen no less. My first demonstration was in how to create a Mother’s Day posy using hand-tied, perfectly scented camellia, viburnum and mahonia shrubs fresh from the garden, framed using baking paper, so cute.
Project #2: VE Day
The second project marked 75th anniversary of VE Day, an event which, as we experienced restrictions in movement and freedom ourselves during a national lockdown, meant we could empathise (an albeit tiny amount) with the suffering, sacrifice and strong community spirit found 75 years before.
For this display, we focussed on red, white and blue flowers: the most vivid red azalea with white camellia (which, as a commercial florist, I find too delicate to use, but actually stood up rather well -wrapped in blue-tak, our improvised florists’ tools!) and divine bluest of blue blue-bells (markedly different from the purple tones of many). These were proudly displayed using a hula-hoop and ribbons.
Project #3 & #4: An End, and a Beginning
Early summer, someone close to our hearts lost their mother. We desperately wanted to show them our support but were unable to visit so we decided to create something using our most treasured of all floral finds: stunning lupins which had just flowered for the first time in the garden. To do our favourite flowers justice, we online-ordered a florist ‘pin-holder’ tool to create a simple asymmetrical design.
Soon after, another friend gave birth 8 weeks early to an incredibly special baby girl. During this time, it happened to be British Flowers’ week, so positioned within the year when there is an abundance of British blooms. It celebrates flower growers from all over the country, seeking to promote the industry of locally grown blooms. And inspired by this I happened to discover a local flower farm that I had never taken the time in a previous life to discover. And I am so happy to report that some amazing floral chats ensued!
Upon my friend’s return home from hospital, we delivered the prettiest bouquet of British grown flowers full of peonies, astillbe, campanula, nigella and scabiosa, just glorious!
Project #5: A Plea
So far during lockdown, we had acquired our flowers by every means possible other than buying from shops or wholesalers however, we were desperately missing being able to create something flamboyant. Fighting the desire to go out ‘flower nicking’ in the dead of night, we had a brainwave! Why not ask our wonderful community if they had any surplus garden grown flowers that they could donate?
So, we wrote on our local community Facebook forum inviting gardeners who may have ‘too much to handle’ stock to contribute towards creating a ‘table-scape’ decoration with any surplus used in bouquets.
The response was awesome! Not only did we gain some amazing flowers, we also gained some new friends and fellow flower obsessives. Hydrangea, roses, foxglove, verbena and lavender made our creations beautiful.
Project #6: Thank you to our teachers
With primary school children able to return to school in July, our children were able to interact, learn and play again. To thank our teachers who had made this possible, we made them bouquets of flowers using the most exquisite height-of-summer flowers: sunflowers of every variety, dahlia of every shade and size and beautiful eucalyptus and rudbeckia from our neighbours and new friend, the flower farmer.
Project #7 & #8: Autumn Abundance
To celebrate the dazzling bounty of autumnal harvest type flowers, we made a freestyle floral design using garden flowers set out on tables at the front of some of the local houses! In a show of wonderful community spirit, local people were offering garden grown flowers and fruits in exchange for a donation to charity. We discovered the most vibrant and clashing of all blooms: Japanese anemone, dahlia, sunflowers, apples, tomatoes, chrysanthemums and hydrangeas combined to make the most exciting vase arrangements and floral pictures.
Project #9: Perfect Pumpkins
In October, the inevitable pumpkin project was looming! As the selection of British grown flowers dwindled, we needed to find a floral element that would work with pumpkins. A serendipitous find, in an overgrown flower patch, of stunning marigolds, zinnias, short-stemmed dahlia and stunning cornflowers did the job! We felt great joy at discovering these vibrant coloured flowers surviving in such bleak conditions at our local PYO pumpkin field. And in painting our pumpkins with rich chalk paint colours and gold leaf, our tough forgotten flowers were given a new lease of life!
Project #10: Winter Wonderland
Lockdown 2.0. in November got us a bit down. Without the sunshine and flowers there was little inspiration, so we started planning for Christmas. We were lucky enough to visit a stunning poinsettia nursery when restrictions lifted; there must be something about the sea of scarlet red that transformed our mood enough to inspire us to create a natural wintry festive design with lichen, Douglas fir, larch, holly and pine-cones.
Project #11: Good-bye to all that?
We completed our last Flower Project from Home in the midst of Lockdown 3.0. and yes it was a little tricky in the depths of winter. During our permitted hour long of exercise we are on the hunt for crocus, snowdrops and we waited for what seemed like FOREVER for our iris bulbs to bloom! January and February were perhaps the toughest months of the lot as we even missed the sunshine of the first Lockdown.
Like the rest of the Northern Hemisphere, we longed for the spring but we also discovered the joy of something which never fades in the winter months, fresh green moss! And with that we formulated a plan to make something fun, but somewhat messy and that was the Japanese plant wrapping technique known as ‘kokedama’ meaning ‘moss-balls’. We arranged spheres of compost and moss around the sweetest bulbs of snowdrop and crocus ‘borrowed’ from our neighbours (we really did put them back when we finished with them!) and our iris which did finally bloom in the middle of a freezing February.
And now it’s March again, a whole year since we started these projects and a whole year of a pandemic. We have started to notice the Mother’s Day flowers starting to bloom outside, reminding us of this time last year. We have been given a glimpse of hope as restrictions are going to be soon lifted. And with the sun starting to shine again and encouraging the flowers to carry on doing ‘their thing’ we hope that we too will be able to go back to doing ‘our thing’ in the not too distant future.
We have loved bringing ‘flowers to the people’ but we would also love to reach out to people in more natural ways again. And maybe then, I can go back to rejoicing in flowers not just at home, but from further afield! Stay tuned for the next series: Flower Projects from… Work!