My new favourite place in London: the Garden Museum in Lambeth

Back in early February I blogged about an exhibition I intended to visit at the Garden Museum, which was all about the history of cut flowers, and when I got back from holiday I finally got around to going with my Mum. On the day I was also lucky enough to receive an invite to the closing event, ‘Floralia’, which was a floristry competition for up and coming floral designers who were challenged to create an arrangement that explored the link between floristry and fine art. There are excellent photos of the entries over on Flowerona, a prominent flower-inspired blog.

Me at 'Floralia'

Me at ‘Floralia’

Both the exhibition and Floralia were fantastic and inspiring, and the Garden Museum is definitely now one of my new favourite spots in London! Set in the deconsecrated church of St Mary-at-Lambeth, which is home to the tomb of renowned royal gardener, traveller and plant-hunter John Tradescant and his family, the museum is beautifully done and a haven for gardening and flower enthusiasts. The old church makes for a striking setting and the museum has been designed in such a way as to highlight and retain the integrity of the original structure.

A beautiful Spring display at the entrance to the museum

A beautiful Spring display at the entrance to the museum

As well as a programme of informative exhibitions and events, the Garden Museum hosts a unique collection of around 10,000 objects spanning 400 years of gardening in Britain, each representing the history, culture and design of gardens in some way. There is also a shop and cafe, which leads out to a pretty ‘knot’ garden in the old churchyard. Designed as a memorial tribute to the Tradescants by the Dowager Marchioness of Salisbury, President of the Museum, in a style typical of their 17th Century times, it contains many of the species they introduced and many they grew in their own Lambeth home.

The Knot Garden at the Garden Museum

The Knot Garden

I didn’t realise at the time, but reading up on it, it transpires this garden was opened the year of my birth in 1978, by none other than Her Majesty, The Queen Mother! Strange, also, was that while I was away in Vietnam studiously revising for my upcoming plant I.D. test, one of the plants I had to learn was Tradescantia, which takes its name from John Tradescant himself! You can read all about the history of the knot garden and the museum here, but I highly recommend a visit too.

Just one of many species of Tradescantia, often used for pot plants, borders & containers

Just one of many species of Tradescantia, often used for pot plants, borders & containers

Spring’in to action!

Well, as previously mentioned I may have been a bit quiet on the blog front for the last few months, but I’ve not been idle, oh no! I’m happy to report that ‘the plan’ (yes, there is still some kind of ‘plan’!) has been progressing nicely and, as well as continuing the studies, I’ve also been ‘springing’ to action as the new season unfolds; getting a cafe job, going on holiday (does that count?!) and also, most importantly, giving the garden some well needed TLC in preparation for summer BBQs and fun!

As those (probably mostly my friends to be fair!) who have been reading this blog know, my long term dream is to maybe, one day open my own cafe-come-florist, and so in order not only to get back in to the ‘real’ world of work (after, let’s face it, eight months ‘off’!), but also to get some well needed experience of this type of job, I have recently started work at a fab little new cafe in Greenwich called the Plumtree Cafe. My thanks go to the owner, Lara, for giving me a chance, as I’d never done this type of job before, but I’m really enjoying it, especially as we’re home-baking all our own cakes, it’s also giving me a chance to brush up on my baking skills!

My first baking attempt (Victoria sponge, left) at the Plumtree Cafe

My first baking attempt (Victoria sponge, left) at the Plumtree Cafe

I’ve also been hard at work in the garden too, whenever I’ve had the chance (OK, that’s Mum and Dad there working, but I was helping, honest!), pruning, trimming, planting new grass seed and flowers, in the hope that it will soon return to its full glory and be BBQ-ready! Most of the plants have survived during my three years here and I’m steadily getting to know their rhythm and needs, but this year I’ve added in some flowers too, with the hope this will also give me some nice cuts for the house. I’ve got Asiatic lilies in a tub, plus dahlias, gladioli and anemone in the garden, so I’m crossing my green fingers that they all come up!

Working with Mum & Dad in the garden

Working with Mum & Dad in the garden

When I returned from Vietnam in late April I was mightily cheered to see new life poking through. I don’t mind winter, but by February/March I’ve really had enough, so I’m always happy to see the garden coming back to life. At the moment I have tons of grape hyacinths out back and some other pretty flowers (I’m not sure what they are?!) out front, so I took these along with a ‘bud casualty’ from the recent fence replacement to make a cheerful little display in jam jars from my in-store display task for my kitchen windowsill. What do you think?!

My kitchen windowsill display

My kitchen windowsill display

UPDATE: the bud casualty ( a peony we think!) is now out!

20130512-154130.jpg

Shop display assessments: sweet & innocent v dark & seductive

I may have somewhat neglected my little blog over the last couple of months, but I’ve been busy busy busy elsewhere! As my level 2 floristry course at Southwark college nears its end (only 8 weeks to go now!), there have been lots of assessments and assignments to hand in, plus I’ve been on a three week trip to Vietnam and started a part-time job in a new cafe, so I’m afraid my blog writing got a bit pushed aside for a while. However, the new season has also put some spring back in to my step so I’m back to report on what I’ve been up to during March and April.

In these last few months we’ve undertaken what I think we would all agree were the most enjoyable and creative assignments so far; designing both an in-store and window display. For these tasks we worked in pairs to come up with the initial idea based around a particular season or theme, then everything from initial sketches, scale drawings and materials requirements, promotional signage and a price list of stock, through to putting together the actual display, which of course was the most fun bit!

Our two displays could not have been more different in terms of concept and feel, but my team-mate Hannah and I were really pleased with both. Of course, as we’re still learning there were areas where both could be improved, and this was indeed part of the task too – a post-evaluation and modification suggestions, but I won’t bore you with those bits here!

For the first of the two, the in-store display, we decided on a seasonal theme of new spring/summer stock, and hit upon the idea of creating a summer-fete style ‘stall’ to showcase all the bright and cheery items that would be coming in. We then thought about what kind of things would be found on a stall, i.e. cakes/cake-stands, lemonade, sweets, a coconut shy, apple bobbing, and researched online to find further inspiration and ideas. Here is the final result below, which included a sweetie jar with coloured floral beads, jug and jars of ‘lemonade’ with straws and freesias, cake stands carrying a table centrepiece design and bulbs, and welly boots filled with delphiniums, gladioli and stock.

Summer fete style stall floral display

The second task, the window display, had a completely different feel from the sweet and pretty design above as we went with a seductive, love potion-inspired Valentines theme! The inspiration for this came from some test-tube style vases available at college, which made us come up with the idea of a display based on the creation of the perfect ‘love potion’, or ‘spell’, for Valentines. This included a central martini glass with ivy acting like potion ‘bubbling’ in to the tubes below, plus ‘knicker’ roses, heart chocolates, flowers suspended from willow in mini pointed glass vases, seductive tall dark callas and a cheeky and rather tongue-in-cheek addition of some handcuffs suspended from the top left!

Valentines 'Love Potion' window display

What do you think of our efforts and which one do you prefer? Sweet and innocent or dark and seductive?!

Vintage style finds on the high street

My nearest local shopping area in Lewisham may not quite be funky Portobello, or chic and trendy Spitalfields or Shoreditch, but you can still find some great vintage-style bargains in its cheap and cheerful high street stores.

As well as a huge TK Maxx, there is a large Tiger store, which I first came across years ago when I was living in Hammersmith. A bit like IKEA but for homeware instead of interiors, Tiger also hails from Scandinavia, where apparently it caused a ‘mini retail revolution’ according to its website. It’s great for practical, fun and funky items, and I think many have quite a retro or vintage feel too. Here I picked up this cute glass carafe which I think makes a lovely vase and a couple of pretty picture frames for literally a couple of pounds each.

Glass carafe from Tiger, £3

Glass carafe from Tiger, £3 (cat: blogger’s own)

Front two frames, £2 & £3 from Tiger

Front two frames, £2 & £3 from Tiger

There is also a massive ‘Primani‘ as my housemate likes to call it, which is great now I’m on a student budget again! I made a loose promise to myself that I would buy no clothes at all this year and I’ve really been doing quite well, but I just couldn’t resist having a quick peak as a range of cute dresses and blouses beckoned enticingly from the windows. As I have been wanting a cream lacey dress for literally years, I felt it would be rude not to buy this well-fitting one for £15, and the other stripey floral one for a tenner was just too bang on my style to pass up!

Dresses from Primark. Shoes from (left) Camden market and (right) Accessorize

Dresses from Primark. Shoes from (left) Camden market and (right) Accessorize

UPDATE: After another trip in to Lewisham today to print out my latest college project, I picked up another £2 bargain, the little tea-light holder below, from a literal treasure trove on Loampit Hill – ‘Aladdin’s Cave‘. Actually it looks more like a junk yard but there are bargains aplenty here for those who love a good old rumble through some jumble! From second hand furniture, to sinks, doors, mirrors, nik naks, and I even saw an old roll top bath, you’re bound to find something unique here.

Tea light holder, £2 from Aladdin's Cave Lewisham

Tea light holder, £2 from Aladdin’s Cave Lewisham

What do you think of my bargain finds? I could easily pass them off as being from a funky retro market stall don’t you think?

Love flowers? This Valentine’s visit the ‘Roses’ installation at the Garden Museum

If, like me, you love flowers and are looking for something a bit different to do this Valentine’s Day, head to the Garden Museum in Lambeth which has just kicked off its Floriculture: Flowers, Love & Money exhibition with a spectacular installation called ‘Roses’ by floral artist Rebecca Louise Law.

Roses by Rebecca Louise Law

‘Roses’ by Rebecca Louise Law. Photo by the Garden Museum.

A Fine Art trained floral artist whose love of flowers inspires her installations and commissions, Rebecca has created this latest work from more than 3,000 blooms, hand wired and suspended on copper in the nave of the Garden Museum’s historic building.

I intend to visit the exhibition next week, which explores the history of cut flowers as well as their inspiration to painters and the art of floristry, plus their symbolism in rites of passage such as marriage, funerals and memory. I think it will be a great complement to my studies and provide a fascinating insight in to the industry I hope to soon join. Plus hopefully I’ll get to see lots of pretty flowers too!

For more information on this exhibition, visit www.gardenmuseum.org.uk/page/upcoming-exhibitions

The language of flowers in poetry, music and art

I blogged of few months ago about a beautiful book I had read called The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh and how this language was one that had perhaps been slightly forgotten today. But it has long influenced poetry, music and art, as throughout history flowers have played an integral part in cultures across the world to communicate times and feelings of sadness, love, celebration and joy.

The fictional work by V Diffenbaugh has an accompanying, wonderfully produced flower dictionary by Mandy Kirkby, also called The Language of Flowers, which I luckily stumbled across in a cute shop in Belsize Park. But this vintage, hand-written and hand-illustrated book found for just 20p in a jumble sale by Jem of Beautiful Clutter beats it hands down!

Photo by Beautiful Clutter

Photo by Beautiful Clutter

Jem has some great photos of this over on her blog, and I have to agree with her that I love the foreword, which reads:

‘There is a language, ‘little known’,
Lovers claim it as their own.
It’s symbols smile upon the land,
Wrought by natures wondrous hand;
And in their silent beauty speak,
Of life and joy, to those who seek
For Love Divine and sunny hours
In the language of The Flowers.’

A beautiful bouquet of lilacs, which symbolise first emotions of love

A beautiful bouquet of lilacs, which symbolise first emotions of love

As we look forward to spring, we can look forward to the emergence of perhaps one of the prettiest flowers symbolising love – the lilac – which, in fitting with the season in which it blooms, means ‘first emotions of love’. In the dictionary I have, Mandy Kirky notes in reference to the lilac that there is no better depiction of its meaning than in John Everett Millais’s Spring. “A group of girls sit under apple trees in full bloom. They have come to pick the wild flowers in the orchard and have stopped to take a rest. One stands out from the others, as she is half standing, and it cannot escape anyone’s notice that she has a spray of lilac tucked into her hair. Its presence indicates that they are all awaiting, perhaps have even experienced, their first emotions of love.”

John Everett Millais's 'Spring'

John Everett Millais’s ‘Spring’

The book also calls out a graceful and very popular pianoforte duet produced in 1880 by the composer and conductor Frederic H. Cowen for the lilac in his series of short musical pieces called ‘The Language of the Flowers’. Its short epigraph reads:

“I dreamed that love
should steal upon the heart like summer dawn
on the awakening world, soft, gradual.”

What moving words and imagery, don’t you think? The wonderful thing about lilacs of course is that they also smell sweet too, so they make a fantastic spring bouquet for either the home or to give as a gift.

Do you have any favourite poems or pieces of music or art based on flowers? My favourite floral prints I have at home are two Van Gogh’s, Sunflowers and Irises, bought on a trip to Amsterdam with my Mum! ~ Sarah

Photo credits:

Lilac bouquet photo credit: http://kimsmithdesigns.wordpress.com/2011/05/29/the-most-highly-scented-lilacs/ via Pinterest.

Language of Flowers photo credit: Beautiful Clutter

John Everett Millais’s ‘Spring’: http://victorian.lang.nagoya-u.ac.jp/

Winter comford food; quick macaroni cheese with a twist

While pondering what to cook for a friend last night and browsing my housemate’s Nigella, I came across her quick and easy recipe for macaroni cheese and hit upon a great idea. Actually, I lie, I can’t claim the idea was totally mine, but the addition to her basic recipe was inspired a recent meal at the Living Rooms, where they had added the indulgent treat of truffle oil to the mix.

I don’t know what it is about truffles that makes them so damn good; I’ve been lucky enough to sample them in ravioli and a delicious ‘white’ pizza in Italy, and, even more indulgent, with steak here in London. Whatever you put them with, it seems to work, so it’s no surprise really that it gives a luxurious dimension to this otherwise humble dish. Toast some little croutons in a bit of oil and a splash of the stuff too, then sprinkle on top to add a bit of texture and crunch. Et voila; quick macaroni cheese with a twist!

Jan 13 iphone pics 121

The magic ingredient

Add to your mix, then stir well in the pan

Add to your mix, then stir well in the pan

Add your croutons on top, et voila!

Add your croutons on top, et voila!

RECIPE (adapted from Nigella Express)

INGREDIENTS

250g macaroni, 250g mature Cheddar or Red Leicester, or a mix of both, 350ml evaporated milk (Nigella’s recipe says 250ml but I did not find this enough), 2 eggs, a grating of fresh nutmeg, salt & pepper, AND… 1 1/2 tablespoons truffle oil, plus 2 slices of white or brown bread for the croutons

METHOD

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees C/gas mark 7. Cook the macaroni according to packet instructions, drain and pour back in to the hot pan
  2. While the pasta is cooking, put the cheese, evaporated milk, eggs and nutmeg in a processor and mix. Or grate the cheese and mix everything else by hand
  3. Add in your magic ingredient, the truffle oil, and stir well. Then pour the whole mixture over the macaroni, stir well again and season with salt and pepper to taste
  4. Tip in to a 25.5cm diameter dish, or a rectangular one roughly the same length, and bake in the hot oven for 10 minutes
  5. While this cooking, roughly chop the slices of bread in to little cubes, and fry in a shallow frying pan with a little olive oil and a splash more truffle oil
  6. Remove the macaroni cheese from the oven, scatter the croutons on top, and then bake for a further 5 minutes or until the croutons are going brown on top

ENJOY!

Mint Delight

Inspired by a tweet that directed me to the delightful mint collection on vintage fashion website, Modcloth.com, I thought I would use this as a base from which to try my hand at creating my first ever ‘set’ on Polyvore, which I blogged about a couple of weeks ago.

Polvore basically lets you play stylist by creating your very own outfits from bits and bobs you find on the web, along with on Polyvore itself. So below are some of my favourite pieces from the Modcloth collection, along with some fab floral jeans from TopShop and fierce suedette peep-toes from Boohoo.com.

The central dress really drew my eye as I felt it was bang on ‘Seaside Sweetheart’ style, with its dainty ship print fabric and nautical inpsired buttoned shoulders. I selected the triangular art-deco earrings and patterned shoes as I felt they added a bit of attitude to this ultra girly dress, but underneath its back to super sweet again with the lacy pant and bra duo!

I also loved this mint vintage-inspired sleeveless blouse with lace trim, and thought it would look great with these floral skinny cropped jeans from TopShop, again with some wilder shoes to add a bit of edge! Finally I can never resist a bit of floral jewellery, so the rose necklace was a must.

What do you think? ~ Sarah

 

Mint Delight

Carnations don’t have to look cheap

Following my week of work experience at Jam Jar Flowers, the lovely owner Melissa very kindly gave me some leftover stock to play around with, and below is the result of some initial trials with some pretty crystal vases along with clippings of viburnum from my front garden.

I had been wanting to do something with the viburnum for ages, as it’s just sitting out there, getting more unruly by the day, and begging to be used. So when I unpacked my freebie goodies and clapped eyes on these little beauties, I knew the time had come.

Although the local Tesco may not immediately spring to mind as a great spot for flowers, actually they don’t have a bad selection so while doing my weekly shop I scouted for flowers which may go nicely with my cuttings. As my viburnum has delicate pink and white flowers, I settled on some small white roses and pretty pink carnations.

I have discovered nowadays that carnations aren’t generally customers’ or brides’ first choice, due to their prolific supply they’re generally cheap and so are often also seen as such. And the peach carnation perhaps brings notions of overly chintzy and old fashioned designs. However, there are some really sweet varieties available and as I think my pictures show, they can still be very good for achieving a vintage look.

Following my most recent college assignment on colour, I think it would have been great to add some bright green hypericum to these designs too, but alas, dear Tesco could not oblige that, so I had to make do without.

What do you think? Yes / No – would you consider carnations for your home or wedding now too? ~ Sarah

Jan 13 iphone pics

Wedding work, level 2 floristry

The below gallery shows a selection of wired and glued wedding work, including a standard wired corsage and glued corsage, glued badge, Alice band, wrist corsage, basket in oasis, wired accessory and oasis-based handbag novelty, plus a wired loose open bridesmaid’s posy and a loose open posy in oasis.