Mid October. I came back from Greece rested but suntan-less (aside from a little wind-burn), after a week of sheltering from a wild and tempestuous storm. It was my fourth visit to Hydra but I’ve only ever seen it bathed in golden Mediterranean sunshine, those pink dusks that settle over the mountains of the Peloponnese, the bars along the little harbour spilling with holiday-makers and weekending Athenians. We had one incandescently beautiful evening, climbing down the rocks to slip into the sea, the 13 hour journey sluiced away by the waves, the brief feeling of being weightless, the way you are only when floating upon a body of deep, dark water. Skin tingling with salt we drank an aperitif at the Hyrdronetta and watched the red sun sink below the horizon-line. Next day the wind blew up and we spent the remainder of the week clutching our way along the tiny cobbled streets, which were deserted because no-one could get on or off the island; we hid out in the warmth of the Pirate Bar drinking coffee, visited the painter Panyiotis Tetsis’ house and studio, and lit candles through the power cuts. The islanders were all in a fearfully bad temper, but no wonder because the storm did a fair amount of damage and annihilated the last of the season’s tourist trade. It wasn’t perhaps what we’d expected, but it was rather dramatic and atmospheric – more like Cornwall, though, than Greece. I hear that the weather here was fabulous all that week – but - c’est la vie! We drank a lot of gin and ate calamari and made the most of it, but I was very glad to get home to Mavis and my log-burning stove all the same.
Jess had been working away on the garden while I was gone, planting bulbs and clearing beds. While the season is winding down now, it is a period of active productivity, digging up the old to make room for the new. We relish it; I think we must have inherited this from our mother, who loves nothing more than having a good old clear-out. There is something so pleasing about a long, clean bed of raked soil, and knowing that the bulbs are all tucked up underneath, dormant for now, but how overjoyed we will be to see them come April.
Back in the studio we hosted ‘Season of Mists’, our last intensive design workshop of the year, stocked with spindle branches, hydrangea, dahlias, garden roses. It was such a lovely, creative couple of days, one of my favourite workshops so far. The best thing about this time of year is the amount of beautiful grasses and textural treasures around. It makes foraging such a pleasure because otherwise-overlooked weeds become coveted filler-pieces, and the architectural skeletons of dried grasses and umbels the perfect structures for building new shapes. I’m usually in a bit of a creative dirth by the end of the summer, but the gear-change into autumn, the drifting colours and fluctuating forms, helps me to adapt. I’ve never been good at moving towards winter, letting go of the light.
I think of autumn as the beginning of a new year; I guess post-grad studying, followed by working within a university and then a school and I’ve never really got out of the rhythm of that mindset. I associate the summer peak with the end of something, the way that others might feel about Christmas and the New Year. I guess it makes sense in a gardener’s world; in many ways this rhythm is the only connection to my old life, before flowers. I tend to be more motivated to take up new habits and adopt new routines now, rather than in January, when I just want to hibernate. I crave more exercise and fresh air, pushing against the encroaching equinox. I give up television and Instagram-browsing and sugar and too much butter; I subscribe to new podcasts and buy books and go to bed at a far more sensible hour than usual each night, which the exercise almost certainly helps with.
I’m very into my podcasts at the moment; they keep me company in the car / van; I seem to spend a lot of time driving each week. I thought I might start sharing some of the things I’ve enjoyed reading / listening to on the blog, because recommendations are the way I find most of the ones I love. So I’ve listed some of my favourite podcasts to start that off, with a little description from each of their websites. They are pretty much all food / plant / book related. Hope you can try some and enjoy listening if you do.
- Dispatch to a Friend. By Annabelle Hickson & Gillian Bell. It’s so good, so charming, so funny and somehow innocent and nostalgic too. If you like cake and flowers, I think you’ll love it.
“Annabelle Hickson and Gillian Bell are two Australian friends who share their correspondence and invite us into their lives. Their letters to each other reveal their love of books, gardening, cooking, travelling, and the ordinary pleasures, trials and tribulations of daily life. Annabelle lives on a pecan farm in the north west of New South Wales. She is a photographer, writer and flower lover. Gillian lives in urban Brisbane, Queensland, with a garden the size of a postage-stamp and a nearby allotment. She is a cake-maker and private cook who travels the world with her whisk to make wedding cakes that have a story of their very own.”
- Desert Island Dishes. By Margie Nomura. Margie’s voice is like a healing tonic after a long day. Her guests include Ruth Rogers, Thomasina Miers, Anna Jones and Nadine Levy Redzepi.
Desert Island Dishes is the weekly podcast where chef Margie Nomura talks to a special guest about the dishes that have shaped their lives. Here you will find conversations with a whole range of different people discussing their 7 Desert Island Dishes where Margie will uncover the food people love to eat. We will find out about their favourite childhood dishes, the dishes they eat the most often, and the dishes that mean the most to them. Of course we will also discover what their last dish would be before being cast off to the desert island. Margie talks to a whole host of different people who are all doing amazing things whether in the world of food or beyond. This podcast is a chance to talk about how they got to where they got to, to discuss some of things they've done and to get to know them through their favourite foods.
- Honey & Co. The Food Talks. By Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer. Jess took me to Honey & Co. recently for lunch and we had the most incredible food and they did the canapés for her wedding last month. Loved the one with Fabrizia Lanza, from Case Vecchie Cookery School in Sicily and Samin Nosrat, whose four-part documentary Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat based upon her book of the same name, published last year, is out now on Netflix and very enjoyable if you haven’t seen it.
Recorded at our food store Honey & Spice on Monday nights in front of a small crowd, we invite the people we most admire from the food world to come over – cooks, waiters, makers, writers, drinkers, thinkers; we have something to eat, a glass of wine and they tell us their story of making a life in food. The talks are then released as a podcast, a good thing to listen to while you’re cooking your dinner.
- Cultivating Place: Conversations on Natural History and the Human Impulse to Garden. By Jennifer Jewell.
Through thoughtful conversations with growers, gardeners, naturalists, scientists, artists and thinkers, Cultivating Place illustrates the many ways in which gardens and gardening are integral to our natural and cultural literacy. It celebrates how these interconnections support the places we cultivate, how they nourish our bodies and feed our spirits. Cultivating Place is based on two beliefs: The first, that horticulture (“the art of garden cultivation or management” according to the Oxford English Dictionary) is a foundational element of our cultural literacy — on par with art, music, architecture, history, geography, social studies and literature. The second, that gardens and gardening provide a unique, and uniquely beautiful, bridge connecting us to our larger environments — culturally and botanically. Weekly interviews explore the many different ways people come to and bring to life what garden and gardening mean. They celebrate how gardening encourages a direct relationship with the dynamic processes of the plants, animals, soils, seasons and climatic factors that come to bear on a garden.
- Slow Flowers. By Debra Prinzing.
Slow Flowers is about making a conscious, sustainable choice in how you choose flowers. The podcast introduces listeners to the leading voices in the Slow Flowers movement, from the field to the vase. Meet American flower farmers, eco-couture floral designers, innovative Do-It-Yourself designers and pioneering farmer-florists. Debra Prinzing, the leading advocate for American Grown flowers, hosts the conversation and encourages you to join the creative community.
- Lit Up. By Angela Ledgerwood.
Lit Up is a sanctuary for people crazy about books, stories and the literary life. Angela Ledgerwood, talks to the world's most provocative thinkers and writers about the power of stories, the importance of literature in 2018, and why they're compelled to create the work they do. Lit Up is also about pushing the boundaries and revealing the messy and complicated - rarely talked about - parts of what it means to be human. No topic is off the table and no conversation is too weird, too personal or too controversial. We go beyond the book and ask the writers and thinkers what they’re reading and what they are thinking, and the truth about who they really are.
Speaking of books, we were honoured to do the flowers for the UK launch of Anissa Helou’s ‘Feast: Food of the Islamic World’, published by Bloomsbury Cooks, at Kristin Perers’ studio in East London last week. Referencing Islamic gardens (thank you Monty Don for the inspiration via Paradise Gardens) we used highly scented, freshly cut roses from the garden, fragrant rosemary, glossy anthuriums, and tall, wispy grasses. Jess foraged a dead tree, with a tangle of beautiful bare roots and bleached, bare branches, which we hung over the central table to make a foam free installation using Clematis vitalba, long stems of leathery pink-leaved brambles and pepper berries.
We’ve flowered some truly lovely autumnal weddings over the last few weeks. I’m sharing just a few images here because I’m writing another article, which I’ll put up soon, on our 2018 wedding season; I want to write a longer piece about our process for weddings, how we plan and source for them and design each element, which I’ll be combining with all the beautiful photographic highlights from all our weddings spring to autumn.
Jessie and Jack had a church ceremony at St Mary’s in Battersea, a pretty white church right on the Thames, and a kitchen-garden themed reception at Pembroke Lodge in Richmond Park. Jessie wore a beautiful 1920s embroidered silk cape and carried a bouquet of garden roses, hydrangea paniculata, agrostemma, dahlias and chocolate cosmos from the garden.
And a week later, in mid September, Jess and Ben were married in Marylebone. We had a lovely long Italian lunch afterwards with friends and family and a walk through Hyde Park down to the Serps. It was a beautiful, mellow, perfect autumn afternoon. Later we had a party at the studio with lots of cocktails and Marvin Gaye and Honey & Co. food. More amazing pictures by the wonderful Naomi Goggin to follow next month.
Last weekend we were at the Savile Club in Mayfair for CeCe and Richard. The Savile Club is a exquisitely decorated private member’s club, founded in 1868, and formerly a gentleman’s club; members have included Sir Charles Darwin, Thomas Hardy, W.B. Yeats, A.A. Milne, Henry James, Rudyard Kipling and Sir Edward Elgar. For any flower arranger it is a dream-come-true to decorate - the ceremony was held on the sweepingly imperial lavender-carpeted staircase, which we flanked with autumnal foliage, garden roses and a profusion of grasses and the reception in the Louis XVI-style ballroom, pale blue and white gold, glittering with chandeliers and ornate mirrors. More on this soon…
We hope that you are all having a wonderful and productive autumn - or for those readers lucky enough to live in the southern hemisphere, spring!
Until next time.