IN THE STUDIO
Late August, and the seasonal barometer prevaricates daily between high summer and early-onset autumn. It has been a month of workshops at Aesme, with three wonderful groups of florists visiting from Seoul with Flower Workshop Korea, each for a three-day intensive class on garden-inspired floral design for weddings. These workshops are a luxurious and immersive deep-dive into arranging flowers in the most naturalistic and seasonal way possible - lots of dahlias, rudbeckia, scabiosa, tobacco flower, garden roses and phlox this month - with textural shrub-foliage, foraged clematis vines and grasses, and plenty of scented herbs, fruits and vegetables - apples, tomatoes on the vine, artichokes and beans. It is such a treat to really revel in these materials and experiment with them, coming up with a different colour palette for each class, pushing the boundaries of what we feel is familiar or safe. It’s a fantastic time of the year for this - the leaves beginning to turn and some of the rusty tones appearing - mouthwatering mingled in with the softer shades of summer - bronze with lime and peach, caramel with lilac, blush with gold.
Sharing our flowers, watching other people discovering and enjoying them, has to be the most enjoyable aspect of the job, particularly when we have grown the majority of them from seed, bulb or tuber, and nurtured the plants towards a fruitful harvest. Especially when many of the students are working with particular varieties for the first time. There’s a palpable sense of anticipation in the studio, which we love and find infectious, and it makes us want to push the boundaries with what we grow the following year.
I’m always struck by how much people love using weeds, vines, grasses, vegetables and fruit just as much as they enjoy the flowers themselves - its those textural elements that bring an arrangement alive and fill the studio with fluffy, frothy works of art - each one an architectural sculpture, and so detailed, so colourful. It definitely isn’t the easy option, growing and gleaning your own materials, especially alongside design work for events and running regular classes. I’d go so far as to say that it may be the hardest form of product sourcing. But that direct connection with the source itself - the soil, the plants that give us these treasures every week, the weather, is integral to what we do here at Aesme, and the special experiences we want to provide for our students and clients.
IN THE GARDEN
At the farm our cutting garden is in peak production mode. This is the time of plenty, of harvests and corn dolls and receiving, after all the months of tending and nurturing and encouragement. The time of the year when people are gifting and trading the fruits of their labours - tomatoes for courgettes and rosemary, a bowlful of butterhead lettuce, just cut. A friend gives me a precious bagful of macadamia nuts picked from the tree on the ranch where she grew up in California. This is the most pleasurable way of living and eating - practical, frugal and generous at the same time.
The roses have eased a little now between flushes but our main ‘cut and come again’ crops, which include dahlias, phlox, scabious, rudbeckia, cosmos, nicotiana, daucus carota, calendula, borage, amaranthus, zinnia, Californian poppies and everlastings, are flowering prolifically along with successional plantings of hardy annuals like agrostemma and sweet peas. The herb beds have been full and luscious, the perennial beds yielding achillea, echinacea, chocolate cosmos, gaura, fennel, verbascum, campanula and spires of dainty thalictrum flowers.
Around the garden the hedgerows are beginning to glimmer with blackberries, hawthorn and rosehips and the scratchy outlines of drying umbels. We pick raspberries and whitecurrants from their canes to eat while we are cutting and fill little pots with ripe tomatoes, their sharp scent filling the tunnel. The garden is full of butterflies and drunken bees and the occasional sound of seeds showering from brittle pods, a sure sign that summer will soon be drawing to a close. Waiting just around the corner are days of morning fog and mellow afternoons filled with drifting bonfire smoke, when the leaves spin from chartreuse to titian red as if licked by flames, and finally to a dry cinnamon brown, crisp underfoot. For now we hover on the bittersweet bridge between two seasons, looking ahead, and looking back.
IN THE ETHER
A few things we’ve been loving this month…
L I S T E N I N G T O - Miles Davis : Kind of Blue | Madeleine Peyroux : Dreamland