Just catching up after a few days away taking some much needed time out for windswept walks and a pilgrimage to one of my favourite gardens (saving that till the next post). While I was off-air the photographer's images of this Hertfordshire wedding in June landed in my inbox and after a five-hour drive home through the rain they were a joy to pore over, mementos of the colourful, balmy days of early summer. Some of them are included here, others are our usual back-of-house shots. It hasn't been true sandal weather for a few weeks now, unless you're a die-hard sandal-wearer, which I'm certainly not. Nothing worse than cold, wet feet! In the garden the Japanese maple is bent by the wind and we have stocked the log basket for evening fires on these grey, thundery nights. July gave us short shrift on the fine weather front. Fingers crossed for an Indian summer.
This wedding was very special for me. Because I liked the clients so much as a couple, and because the bride truly loved flowers and wanted us to do what we do best: natural, English, organic and garden-y. There was no conversion or persuasion needed about seasonality, and we agreed about wild dog rose within an hour of meeting, so there were extremely good vibes going on from the start. Sometimes you just know you are going to have the freedom to go wild in a way that sadly most people are skeptical about - and creating a windswept border using the ancient wooden rood screen of a church as a trellis won't seem like such a mad idea to them. My favourite clients are nearly always the true romantics, they look at the light and the weather and the flowers and see the possibilities. Last week I had a consultation meeting with a 2018 bride at the studio and at one point she said 'You know, I just really love weeds'. I could have hugged her.
I've loved spotting wild roses in the hedgerows ever since I can remember but this summer I have been crazy for them - every week I've been diving headlong into windbreaks and thickets and wrangling metres of arching briars into the van to take back to the studio. Half the time the flowers don't make it, and now of course they are over and turning to hips, which are also beautiful - the flowers in June are so delicate and fragile and drop at the slightest sign of trouble. But it is those great sinuous, curving arcs of hooked thorns and feathery leaves that I can't resist. Rosa canina to me is aesthetically brilliant - the leaves are not only the right size and shape (very elegant and small, but not too small to get lost in an arrangement or installation), they are also the perfect shade of green to work with regularly, a slightly grey, dusty green that doesn't impinge much on other colours. I probably wouldn't use it in a palette with yellow or lime but other than that it is a very easy green that goes with most things. Rose foliage in general is very beautiful - the fresh leaves copper, tinged with red, or mustard, or grey-mauve, like the exquisite Rosa glauca. Using rose foliage is extremely high maintenance, because of the thorn removal, because of the pain and the hours it takes to find, forage and condition each stem, but I think it's more than worth it. Wild rose has become a non-negotiable staple to us this summer.
Speaking of foliage, I seem to be getting very opinionated about green, which goes hand in hand with being increasingly particular about the flower varieties we grow and use, I guess. We don't use much foliage in our arrangements which are almost completely floral aside from trail-y bits or the odd vine tendril (we often strip most of the leaves from the flowers, too). If we do use leafage it is quite consistent throughout and we try to find unusual, nuanced shades, or grow interesting shrubs that we can cut the odd piece from - spiraea, or abelia, or Sambucus nigra 'black lace', which is a matt almost-black. So often designs are thrown by foliage, because after all green is a colour in its own right, often quite a heavy colour, and you might have the dreamiest overall palette, but sometimes if you add green, or don't have exactly the right green, it's all off. And to mix the wrong greens - an emerald colour foliage with the lime-y tones of wild clematis, say, or honeysuckle, or gillinia - well that's difficult too. I feel like a lot of greenery is a very 'now' thing - clients will often say 'I'd like mostly greenery with a few hints of colour' or 'I love a really green, wild look' but then they end up with precisely the opposite, because once they get into the flowers and all those delicious sorbet shades they can't stop themselves, and why would you? I think people think greenery is a safe bet, but its a common misconception. With autumn coming, hardly any of the wild foliage we use will be green for long, and this is the most exciting time of year, now till October, for foraging - everything is turning and speckling, to yellow, to rust, to rose pink or bronze. Oak, elder, beech. This is the time of the year that our native foliage is at its best, before the leaves fall and abandon the branches, naked until spring.
So back to the wedding. We created these whimsical summer borders for the church with cow parsley and delphinium and larkspur and campanula and garden roses. We kept it really light and frothy, and pale, to stand out against the gloriously shadowy darkness of the church floor tiles and polished wooden pews. This church has stood here since the 14th century. I can't even begin to get my head around that, all the amount of human intrigue and joy and rage and sorrow it must have held.
For the tables we made little bowls of massed garden roses, like scoops of icecream, drizzled with other summer flowers from the cutting garden - sweetpeas, poppies, marigolds, foxgloves, bearded iris and grasses. Earlier in the year we scattered a few packets of wild flower & grass seed around the perimeters of the cutting garden, and now we have all these amazing, pink, silvery grasses everywhere. The tiniest little forget-me-nots, too.
This marquee reminded me of a Bedouin tent I slept in once in the Negev desert in Israel - low and open on one side to the elements, so that I fell asleep watching the sand dunes glowing in the moonlight. The elements that day were the best you can hope for in England, the view of a long green meadow hung with string lights along the edge.
Kate wore an exquisite dress by Hermione de Paula, intricately embroidered with leaves and flowers. Perfectly suited to an English rose with the posture of a ballet dancer. Her bouquet was a luxurious armful of garden roses and soft colours - the palest lilac alliums, buttery Californian poppies, little frail grasses and wisps of gaura. Modelled below by the beautiful Camille, who is always on hand in a gorgeous ruffled blouse just when you need her.
While the readings were being read and vows being said, and before the bells rang out over the valley, we lay on the grass behind the church and had a brisk picnic in the sun, bread with cheese and little sour olives and sweet strawberries, looking down towards the village, with the River Ash meandering through it. When in June...