Sunday, 22 July 2012

NEW blog page

If you're wondering what's happened to my regular BLOG posts, do pop across to my new website and you'll find all my blogs there - and do let me know what you think!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Favourite Flower for May: Lily-of-the-Valley

If you are one of those brides that long to have Lily-of-the-valley in your bridal bouquet, then take note that now is the best time to have your wedding day!  It is always a sure sign that summer is just around the corner when this simple but beautiful flower starts to bloom in the garden and its wonderful scent fills the evening air.

Thoughts on this lovely flower brought to you by Helen Jane Floristry!

The perfect little white bells of the Lily-of-the-valley plant are almost hidden beneath the relatively large glossy dark leaves

May’s flower – Lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis)

Lily-of-the-valley has a very short season, flowering throughout the month of May in my own garden, although it is possible to buy it from commercial growers over a slightly longer period.  If you can persuade it to grow in your garden count yourself lucky, although if it is particularly happy there it will soon spread and might need to be contained.

Here it is growing in my own garden – not for picking though!

It is not often that I see this beautiful flower at the flower wholesaler, but this week a few bunches were available.  Looks lovely en masse doesn’t it?

But why is Lily-of-the-valley so popular with brides?  Well, it is a beautifully delicate-looking flower which works so well in dainty bouquets and posies and looks particularly good where the brides’ gown and veil has lace detailing.  To see what I mean, check out this picture of Kate Middleton holding a bouquet containing Lily-of-the-valley when she married Prince William at the end of April last year.

The flowers also have a fantastic aroma, and I am often asked by brides to recommend scented flowers for their bridal bouquet – perhaps so they can conjure up their special day whenever the smell the same scent afterwards?

It is also a very traditional flower for weddings and its name and meaning are steeped in legend.  Amongst its common meaning are: ‘return of happiness’, ‘purity of heart’ and ‘sweetness’, all of which are very appropriate for a bride on her wedding day!  And legend has it that the flowers sprang from Eve’s tears when she and Adam were forced to leave the Garden of Eden (although in other versions the flowers sprang from the Virgin Mary’s tears when she witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, leading to one of the flower’s other names: ‘Mary’s Tears’.

Kate's bouquet - not one I made myself!  But to see examples of my own wedding floristry work, pop across to my website!

The sprays of tiny white bells mix well with other delicate flowers in white or pastel colours and you would not have to be concerned about your flowers overpowering your dress, however detailed.  The only real concerns about using this beautiful flower are its seasonality and its relatively high cost – so if this is a real must for you, pick your wedding date with care!

Monday, 30 April 2012

Favourite Flower for April: Tulip!

Well April has certainly taken us by surprise with a return to cold weather and endless days of rain – in fact, the weather has been so uninspiring I almost let April pass by without nominating a flower of the month!  But then I just had to think again, for who can fail to feel inspired by the beautiful simplicity of the tulip in its wide array of bright spring colours.......

A stand of fantastic red tulips brightens up the garden through April, despite being buffeted by the wind and rain!

April’s flower - Tulip

The tulip is a spring-flowering bulb with a beautifully simple shape, which is commonly seen in gardens as well as being readily available as a cut flower throughout spring.  However, despite the easily recognisable shape, tulip varieties vary widely in terms of colour, shape of petals (think of the fabulous frilly ‘parrot’ tulips) and distinctive markings.

Pinky-red tulip with delicate markings and shading

Fantastic coloured tulips on sale in Bruges market in March 2012

.....and one of the great things about tulips is that they are very economical to use in your flower designs while they are in seasons as they are available in such abundance!

I like nothing better than to place handfuls of tulips in a vase, with very little to accompany them – it just isn’t needed!  One thing to be aware of is that tulips continue to grow (at quite an incredible rate) after they are cut, so if they are placed in a vase or in floral foam with other fresh materials they will very soon outgrow their allotted space!  With their soft, flexible stems they will also head for the light as they grow, so do take this into account if you try to arrange them.  Really they are best left on their own to do their own thing and form a glorious mass of colour......

Orange tulips with strong markings form a fabulous splash of colour!

However, tulips can be used in wonderful spring designs if you are happy to take their habits into account and work with them.....

Beautiful and bright spring shower bouquet, featuring spring-flowering ranunculus and muscari as well as tulips

Contemporary minimalist bouquet which takes advantage of the tulips’ soft, flexible stems

......but don’t be put off using tulips in your designs – the fantastic range of colours is enough to inspire, just be prepared for them to have minds of their own!

Friday, 23 March 2012

Favourite Flower for March: Anemone

Spring begins in earnest in March and I feel the urge to move away from the frosty whites and muted tones of the winter and embrace the bright fresh colours of spring.  As bulbs begin to burst into flower there are plenty of colours to choose from, with bright yellow daffodils jostling for space alongside the blues, mauve and pinks of intoxicatingly scented hyacinths and drifts of blue muscari.

But for vivid colour and the stunning simplicity of its blooms with their dark ‘eye’ it is hard to beat the fabulous anemone.

Despite their strong colouring, the petals of the anemone are very delicate, almost translucent, and with visible veining.  The dark centre is very striking, particularly in the white varieties, which makes this quite a statement flower when used en masse.

March’s flower – Anemone coronaria (Windflower)

The beautiful anemone (whose name I always find difficult to pronounce!) grows from a corm rather than a bulb, and makes its appearance in our gardens during spring.  However, it can usually be obtained as a cut flower from the wholesaler throughout the winter months and so is a great addition to the range of flowers available for winter weddings and events, for those who want to introduce a stronger colour theme.

Just look at the fantastic colours of these blue and cerise anemones – don’t they just inspire you......

......or how about the more unusual pink/white shaded petals of this variety, which work so well with the pastel shades of other spring flowers

Anemones look fantastic mixed with other flowers in complementary tones.  Purple, blue and cerise anemones are seen here with mauve phlox and ‘Cool Water’ roses, purple lisianthus and blue clematis, with white hydrangeas lightening the effect and offsetting the stronger colours.

For a lighter effect, this hurricane lamp table arrangement uses paler shaded anemones as a strong feature amongst the white ‘Akito’ roses, lilac-coloured hyacinths and pink-tinged skimmia flowers.

And when you want to make an impact, what could be better than these fantastic flowers mixed with others in complementary colours?  Definitely flowers to add the WOW factor!

Monday, 27 February 2012

Flowers for your Reception

(What it takes to have Fabulous Wedding Flowers!
 - Part Three)

Do you want to decorate your reception venue with fabulous flower designs to create a great atmosphere and wow your wedding guests?  Most brides and grooms I meet certainly do, but they don’t always know quite where to start..........

I’m a florist specialising in providing floral designs for weddings and special occasions, and in earlier BLOGS I have given some tips on choosing flowers for the wedding party, as well as flower displays to decorate the church or other ceremony venue.

This time I will take a look at reception flowers........

All designs featured in my blogs have been created by Helen Jane Floristry


There are lots of ways you might consider adding flowers to your reception room to create atmosphere and enhance your wedding theme.  Here are a few of them:

Table centres
First a note about your table designs – make sure they are either low enough for guests to see over the top of them, or tall enough that the flowers sit above the eye line of seated guests.  There is nothing worse for your guests than having to look around large table centres to speak to other guests and the chances are that your expensive flowers will end up getting moved out of the way.........or worse!

A lovely low table centre made up in flowers to match the bride’s cream and old gold colour scheme

Another table centre from the same wedding, made to decorate the centre of the long dining table

Tables decorated with low compact designs in the couple’s blue colour theme – this style of design is also easy to give away as a gift at the end of the wedding as they are made without containers

Eclectic mixes of vases and other pretty containers filled with a few flowers create a real vintage feel for your guest tables, and easy for your friends and family to join in with collecting and filling them

Gold fish bowls filled with calla lilies or tulips and grasses look very stylish and are a relatively inexpensive way to dress your tables – or a few choice blooms can be floated inside the bowls

Or tall candelabra arrangements create great impact in a high space, but sit high enough above the tables so that guests do not have a restricted view

Top tables
Don’t forget that the bride and groom will continue to be photographed during the wedding breakfast and speeches, so it is good to have a flower design across the front of the top table.  Or you might want to dress the table with a foliage or material swag (perhaps matching the chair sashes) and place tall flower displays near the top table instead.

The lovely traditional top table arrangement in this photo matches the smaller blue and cream compact table arrangements

The more compact style of this top table arrangement uses the same dusky colours as the other table centres to create a lovely vintage feel

Flower displays
Don’t keep your larger flower displays and pedestal arrangements just for the church or ceremony venue, where they will be on show for a relatively short time.  To give value your flowers need to be on show for as much of the day as possible.  There is no reason that larger arrangements cannot be made in such a way that they can be moved between venues – ask your florist how this can be done........

The flower tree in the foreground (one of a pair) started off framing the entrance to the church aisle...... was then moved to the gardens of the bride’s home to form a floral feature during the drinks reception..........and finally took up its place at the side of the top table

This style of arrangement can be used in place of a traditional pedestal design during the marriage ceremony, or placed at ground level in front of the altar – it can then be moved to a prominent place at your reception venue, either standing on the same plinth, or placed on a side table.  There are always offers of help from wedding guests, so just allocate the task of moving the arrangements to someone you can trust!

These two tall contemporary arrangements started off framing the church doorway, which meant they featured in lots of the photos – they were then moved to create a stunning entrance to the reception marquee

Cakes and other yummy things!
Anything can benefit from a few flowers......

Reception rooms come in all shapes and sizes and interior decor, and this may influence your choice of flower designs as well as other decorations.  I will show what I mean by looking at a couple of typical venues:

Marquee reception
The good thing about holding your reception in a marquee is that they normally have white/ ivory linings and so the choice of colour for your theme will be entirely down to you.  However, the height of a marquee and the plainness of the interior mean that you need to think about how to make an impact with your flower designs.  There are lots of different styles that will suit this sort of setting though........

In this very tall marquee the bride has chosen to place tall candelabra arrangements on half of the guest tables to give impact, and the vintage colours have been mirrored in collections of lower table arrangements as well as the table dressings and chair sashes

By way of contrast, this couple decided on contemporary style arrangements using burnt orange calla lilies with stylish foliage to decorate their tables – equally striking and again the height of the arrangements gave the plain interior of the marquee the wow factor it needed

Hotel reception room
If your reception is being held in a hotel venue you will want to think about how your colours will work with the interior decor of the room.  Luckily many hotels these days opt for a fairly neutral colour scheme which will make things easier, but do look out for strongly patterned wall papers and carpets, which can make your flowers lose their impact, and take into consideration the colours of walls and table coverings so that you don’t end up with a colour clash.  It is usually better to go for contrasting colours if you want your flowers to stand out and paler colours can look good against strongly coloured backgrounds.

Simple white flowers look stunning in this historic dining room and stand out despite the relatively dark interior – they also do not clash with the ornate wall coverings

Simple white walls make for an easier choice, but it can be good to work with the features of the room, such as this living foliage arch

Lots of food for thought – happy planning...........

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Favourite Flower for February: Ranunculus

This pretty flower has to be my favourite!  It is available through the coldest months of winter, but always makes me feel that spring is just around the corner.  The white variety is a beautiful flower to use in wedding work, but the range of colours doesn’t end there and there are varieties in colours to suit every taste, from soft pastels to strong, bright hues.

Ranunculus in stunning colours for sale at the market in Lorgues, South of France.

February’s flower – Ranunculus

Ranunculus blooms are made up of masses of delicate petals, which are tightly packed together when the flower is in bud.  As the flower opens, the soft, tissue-thin petals open out to give a lovely rounded bloom which lasts and lasts.  The flowers mix well with others for arrangements, but look beautiful used en masse.

White Ranunculus are a great choice for a classic white and green wedding theme.  The pretty green buds can be used too to give a natural effect.

This beautifully simple yet stylish bouquet is made with a mix of white Ranunculus and ‘Akito’ roses.

White Ranunculus mix well with other soft coloured flowers used to make this stunning candelabra table centre.

And here the flowers and buds have been used in these pretty cup cake novelty designs

If you’re not tempted by the cup cakes above, then these Ranunculus in sorbet shades certainly look good enough to eat!  If you’re a girl who loves pink, what could be better than a mass of these pale pink delights made into a hand tied bouquet?

The two pictures above taken at the flower market in Nice, South of France, show varieties of Ranunculus with shaded, or even two-tone, petals which look stunning as the flowers open.

..............and if you love bright colours, who could fail to be cheered up by the sunshine colours of these Ranunculus bouquets, photographed at the flower market in Nice?

For something a little more subtle you can’t go wrong white Ranunculus – they look beautiful with everything!

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Flowers for your Wedding Ceremony

(What it takes to have Fabulous Wedding Flowers!
 - Part Two)

Well, you might have thought that sorting the flowers for your wedding would be one of the easy certainly is one of the most pleasurable, as it gives you the chance to show your creative side, but there is quite a bit to think about and to sort out with your wedding florist.

I’m a florist specialising in providing floral designs for weddings and special occasions, and in my last BLOG I explained the approach I take when consulting with clients about the flowers for the wedding party – bouquets, posies, buttonholes etc.  This time I’m going to look at the basics of deciding what floral designs you would like at the place where your actual marriage ceremony takes place.

There is no doubt that flowers can be a great way to create a special atmosphere and show your sense of style, and there are lots of ways in which they can be used in wonderful displays throughout your day.  But where do you start...................

What ‘look’ are you hoping to achieve for your wedding day?


Before you get too carried away with thoughts of all the gorgeous flower displays that could surround you during the ceremony, do make sure you have some idea in your head of what you can actually afford!  If you have limited resources (and let’s face it, most of us do!) it is best to spend your money wisely – I always advise couples to concentrate on areas where flowers will have the most impact and where they will be on view for a reasonable amount of time.  After all you will have other things on your mind.............

Large flower displays at the entrance to your venue create impact as guests arrive and set the scene for the whole day - this style could easily be used for a civil ceremony too

A Church Wedding
Consider the colour of flowers you use inside a church and remember that older buildings tend to be quite dark inside – whatever the colour scheme you have chosen for the day, try to use light colours for your church flowers as they have greater luminosity

There is a good reason why it is a tradition to have pedestal arrangements in churches and that is because their size and height help to create impact in a large space where low or smaller arrangements tend to be lost.  However, pedestal arrangements do not have to be made in a traditional style and there are lots of other ways you can decorate a church too, as the following photos show................

Create a great first impression by attaching a flower garland around a church archway or lynch gate - make a lovely framework for photos too!

Arrangements placed just inside the entrance can set the scene as guests enter the church, and can then easily be moved to the reception venue!  Just make sure they are placed on something tall.

Pew ends are lovely and can be made to match your colour scheme, but they are best on pews with some height so that they will be seen as guests take their places

Pedestal arrangements placed at the front of the church are on view throughout the service and they can still be given a fresh and pretty feel

An alternative is an arrangement placed centrally in front of the altar, particularly where this is raised as it will give good visibility

Flower garlands around old stone pillars look fantastic and this bride has chosen to have flower trees at the entrance to the aisle, which would then be moved to the reception venues.  Money was not such a problem here as this was my daughter’s wedding!

Another consideration for church flowers is whether some of the designs could be moved to the reception venue after the service to give greater value.  Ask your florist to help you select suitable designs so that this can be done, but do check if the church has any requirement for flowers to be left behind..........some do!

A Civil Ceremony
Many couples arrange their civil ceremony to take place at the same venue as their reception, which gives another opportunity for decorating the room with flowers and creating a special atmosphere.  Colour will be less of an issue than in a church if the venue is well lit, but take care that your flower colours will show up against the internal decoration at the venue and that they will not clash.

Some of the larger designs shown above are equally suitable to create a focal point in the ceremony room, such as the pedestals and flower trees.  However, it is worth considering how easily these can be moved if the ceremony and reception are taking place in different rooms – for example, the flower trees can be moved quite easily, but instead of a traditional pedestal design it would probably be better to make large arrangements in a large vase placed on top of a plinth for ease of lifting.

At this civil wedding the flower tree seen in the top right corner provided a focal point at the front of the room during the ceremony, and was then on show during the wedding breakfast

 At civil ceremonies it can also be a good idea to have small arrangements placed on the registrar’s table, which can then become table centres or other display designs, but check that there will be sufficient space for this.

Two designs in the bride’s aubergine colour scheme were placed on the registrar’s table at this wedding and were later placed at either end of the long top table

This happy couple also moved their floral designs from the marriage table to the dining table, which is pictured above

At either a church or civil ceremony you might also want to consider where your photographs will be taken and whether you want flowers to feature in your pictures.  Decorating entrance ways is a good way to achieve this, as in some of the photographs above, or placing large arrangements to frame an area if pictures are being taken inside your venue.

Of course if you are able to take your photographs outside nature will do the work for you!

Follow my BLOG and next time I will give some tips on fabulous flowers for your reception............