SPRING FEVER | JEJU ISLAND | KOREA
What a way to start the season, hosting a destination workshop on a little volcanic island off the coast of South Korea covered in pine trees and mandarin groves! Starting in Japan (we’ll be sharing a couple of the gardens we visited in Tokyo & Kyoto here soon) we flew to Seoul to spend a few days getting adjusted and preparing for the workshop before heading south to Jeju Island. The workshop was held at a wonderful cafe with views out over the blue waters of the Korea Strait. It was the perfect spot - modern, tastefully designed and with atmospheric music, delicious lunches and some of the best coffee we found on our trip.
All the flowers, foliage and plants were part-shipped, part-flown from Seoul where we had chosen them at the flower market early the preceding mornings. The choice of materials (from Korea, Japan and Holland) was exceptional - I’ve never seen so many flowers and branches in one place, the Seoul market is labyrinthine and just goes on and on… Our palette for the workshop was soft and feminine, with pops of yellow to reference the canola flowers that can be seen everywhere around the island, and mandarins, since Jeju is a tapestry of unending groves of these sweet, fragrant fruits. While travelling I was deep into reading all about citrus via Jess’ recommendation in our last post - it was surreal to be preoccupied with lemons in Italy while speeding through an Eastern landscape dominated by orange fruits.
For three days the sun shone and the sea sparkled and lapped against the dark, craggy rocks. We foraged dried grasses and silverberry from the coast-path and strange pitted black rock formations (they say there are three-hundred and sixty-five volcanoes on the island; one for every day of the year) for a setting-specific installation on the final afternoon. It was such a privilege to be working somewhere entirely new and unfamiliar and yet be made to feel so at home.
Thank you to Flower Workshop Korea for inviting us, arranging everything so beautifully and being the most generous and welcoming hosts, and to all the suppliers and assistants who helped make this workshop the magical few days it was. And to our students, for travelling the distance and being the most enthusiastic, giggly and talented band of flower-lovers we could ever hope to meet.
In the STUDIO
Back in the studio we unpacked our cases laden with Japanese kenzans, bamboo sticks, scissors and secateurs, as well as a new collection of beautiful Japanese and Korean tea bowls and ceramics in beautiful uneven, earthy glazes.
The rest of the April has been spent gearing up for the start of wedding season and holding the first of our spring classes. The evenings are lighter and longer now, the temperature rising almost imperceptibly but enough for the doors and windows to be open in the afternoons. The workbenches have been strewn with narcissus and tulips up from the garden - primrose yellow and rust and milky-white.
Last week we held our Spring Masterclass - a three day intensive course in flower arranging with a focus on seasonal, naturalistic and sustainable botanical design for weddings and events (with a difference - i.e. no flower foam, no traditional wiring, rule breaking encouraged etc). In these seasonal courses we focus on using the finest ‘produce’ or ingredients we can grow, source and forage, designing in a nature-led, garden-inspired style and taking inspiration from place, art, fashion and garden design.
The intention on our Flower School courses is to create at atmosphere of open-mindedness, collaboration and creativity; we are always inspired by our students’ enthusiasm and curiosity, and their willingness to think outside the box. Last week the group was made up of students from the UK, Hong Kong and Portugal; everyone was fairly new to flowers, one ran a dried flower business, one wanted to enjoy flower-arranging as a pastime, others were considering career changes. By Friday afternoon we were having such a lovely time we didn’t want it to end - we’d shared a wonderful few days of creation and brainstorming, made lots of beautiful arrangements together, discussed business and social media and colour theory, shared some lovely food and listened to a lot of French jazz. There is an alchemy to what happens in the studio on weeks like this and that evening as we were blowing out the last of the candles, I think we all felt very grateful that we are able to live and work in this way, and to meet other like-minded people who share in the things we love.
With a new workbench installed to give us a little more space in the studio, we have decided to open up two additional places on our Summer Masterclass | 5th - 7th June. These spots are first come first served and full details can be found on the website.
In the GARDEN
‘Naught you can do about the weather’ one of the landscapers said as we surveyed the rows of ageing tulips in one of the tunnels after our trip overseas. An unseasonably warm spell late March (while we wrapped up and drank hot chocolate in chilly Tokyo) saw many of our tunnel-grown bulbs flowering a few weeks earlier than expected this year. You win some, you lose some. The outdoor planted beds made up for it however, where we were trialling small quantities of a number of different varieties of tulips and narcissus. The ranunculus are flowering prolifically; hundreds of white, pink, plum and bronze, with excellent stem length and ruffly petals opening to those seductive opaque centres. Fritillaria - persica, uva vulpis and imperialis, have been filling the studio with their ‘cannabis’ scent, along with peonies, aquilegia and the last of the anemones, which are very leggy now, with tiny little faces.
So begins the summer - or what I think of as the summer, anyway - the half segment of the year that is measured by bi-weekly deliveries from the garden to the studio and the constantly evolving stock of new, delicious colours and textures that we take from their unprepossessing buckets and that result in branchy urns and beautiful spilly bowls.
In the Ether
A few things we’re loving at the moment…
R E A D I N G - Food for Free (the complete guide to help you safely identify edible species that grow around us, together with detailed artwork, photographs, field identification notes and recipes) by Richard Mabey
C O O K I N G - Steamed kale with capers, thyme, chilli flakes, garlic and creme fraiche and toasted breadcrumbs (inspired by Gill Meller). Melon, buffalo mozzarella and Parma ham salad (via The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater)
V I S I T I N G - Anthracite Coffee Roasters (a beautiful disused warehouse / overgrown ruin / coffee shop in Jeju Island). Chenies Manor in Buckinghamshire (for the displays of tulips and gorgeous walled vegetable and herb gardens)