These are the longest days of the year. Two more and, quite perfunctory, our hours of daylight will begin to reduce away toward autumn. The solstice is always a reminder to cherish these few perfect days of English summer, when the evenings are lingering and the peaches are ripe. There is a sort of silence to a hot summer's day that seems to enforce a stillness; the sultry hours are drawn out and rose-scented, and there are long shadows on the grass; it is the most reverent hour of the year, almost classical.
Speaking of roses; they are, this June, the most ravishing I have ever known them. Undoubtedly I am noticing them more because I am handling them every day, in every shade of every pink you can imagine, from flaming apricot to a distressingly beautiful shade of flamingo. There is almost too much alchemy to the scent of a garden rose; it leaves you punch drunk. I can't sleep. I am in love.
And, oh boy, have there been peonies. Suffocatingly frilly, high perfumed tarts of the flower world that they are, and we can't get enough of them; we cling on the leftovers in the studio until they are bronze at the edges.
Early morning, when it is cool and quiet, I am regularly to be found head-down in a hedgerow, foraging dog-rose and filling baskets with mock-orange. I am becoming rather an accomplished forager in that I have cast off the wearisome cloak of self-consciousness and do what I must. I have been stung by nettles, startled by sleeping hares, had my arms torn by thorns, climbed onto the roof of my poor little van, and contorted myself into quite torturous shapes, in order to get to the branch that I want, which always seems somehow just out of reach. They are clever things, plants; they make sure to position their finest exhibit at the very furthest point from any ground-based scavenger. Or zealous florist.
Last week we worked on a very glorious wedding.
We prepped on what was the hottest day of the year, and installed at, not the remotest, but in terms of location certainly the most inaccessible for a city venue it is possible to be, involving a very narrow, steep hill, a lock, several little bridges and then what seemed (when carrying boxes and buckets and other floral regalia) a rather long riverside walk on foot. Then up a flight of wooden stairs into a boathouse. With hindsight we should have arranged that boat. But, you live and learn.
Doing a wedding is all about planning ahead, and being able to think on your feet when you are dog-tired and you've got buttonholes to wire and you haven't eaten for seven hours and things are starting to go bit hay-wire.
I never used to be keen on weddings. They always seemed to me stress-charged and stiff, but perhaps I was frequenting the wrong weddings. I guess, ever since my own on a sun-dappled London afternoon last summer, my feelings about them have shifted.
There is nothing quite like being a bride. There is nothing like handing over a bouquet to a bride and watching her tilt her face towards the fragrance of sweet peas blurring its edges. And there is nothing like dancing under an oak tree in the bewitching early hours of a midsummer morning, drunk on champagne and some obscure kind of lemon vodka.
For Miranda we wanted to make a bouquet of intricacy and depth; ephemeral and charming. We used a lot of different ingredients to achieve this - I found some caramel roses that were plump and grown-up - not too girly; I knew the bride would not approve of that - and a few pale peonies, and I combined these with spiraea, for the tiny flowers that I think are the most romantic of all, and laced in some of the more delicate, filmy flowers - aquilegia, sweetpeas, honeysuckle - and finally layering scented herbs - rosemary, myrtle and rose-scented geranium leaves, tied off with a creamy velvet ribbon. It was my favourite bouquet I have ever made; misty and cobwebby and complicated.
I was rather relieved post-ceremony that the tradition for throwing the bouquet was flouted. What does one call this type of bouquet anyway - a thrower, a tosser? No, that doesn't seem quite right.
There is something so beguiling about working with flowers for an event - softening the mood, setting the tone of a room with a tablescape of gossamer petals and candlelight. You have to respond to each unique material in a way that you can't really plan - and feel it respond to you, to the vessel and the space. There is a tremendous energy to it. Flowers seem to quite naturally find their resting place and there they remain, marking time, marking a specific occasion, a specific memory. That sultry day, June 2015.