Tell us about your design for British Flowers Week
“Each season, I do a window at Haar Architects on the High street in Portobello in Edinburgh. To prepare for the British Flowers Week window display, I phoned Paula Baxter of Mill Pond Flower Farm to find out what she had in the field. Normally , I have an idea but everything is behind this year. I explained I wanted to make something quite delicate and meadow-like with some long and climbing stems to wind up the driftwood branches. We made up a cutting list on the phone and Paula appeared with it on the Wednesday.
I usually speak to Paula a week before delivery about the nature of the job and the colours. This way of working relies both on the expertise of the flower farmer and the willingness of the florist to be flexible. I will have a colour palette in mind and an overall idea of the structure or the intention, but you are better taking the advice of the grower on what’s looking good rather than pushing for something specific. It is a different way of working, and it throws up lovely surprises, such as the little blue forget-me-nots, which are perfect because they set off the design.”
In Rachael’s window design, the meadow of poppies, woad, broom, seeded hellebores, forget-me-nots, geum grasses, and aquilegia leads up the driftwood branches through wild rose foliage, and jasmine to pink rhododendron flowers, stripped back and tied on with moss.
Rachael’s work is foam free and she is trying to be plastic free too, so there are no cable ties. Instead she used paper wire to secure the big branches and wet moss to bind higher in the branches, attaching behind so you can’t see it. The flowers and foliage are all in water – Rachael uses ceramic troughs.
“Floral foam is a very strange concept and horrible stuff and not good for us or the environment or for the flowers. You can achieve a stable, structured design so easily without floral foam that I don’t understand why people still use it. Once you teach people how to do without the foam, they wonder why they ever used it at all!”
How did you become a florist?
“It’s always been there. As a child, I ‘helped’ – a loose term! – the ladies in the church. Then I forgot about it, developed a career as an architect but when friends started getting married, I offered to help out and this grew into an event floristry business.
I see quite a crossover between architecture and floristry. As an architectural tutor now, I teach colour theory and how you use colour in a special way in buildings, and this is entirely applicable to flowers. Once we’re out of lockdown, I’d like to get architecture students using flowers because it’s a really great way to see how colours work together.
After having our son, Rowan, I stopped practising and concentrated on the flowers. The event floristry business allowed me the flexibility to spend more time with him, and I’d realised that I was enjoying that more than sitting in an office. I was outside and working with my hands in a much more practical way.”
Why do you buy British flowers?
“I buy 90% British and my intention is to be 100% British. There are quite a few reasons why I choose to use British flowers. Firstly, I am very aware of the environmental impact of flowers grown across the world and shoved full of chemicals. Buying from the UK mitigates that.
Beyond that, British flowers simply are better: they look better, smell better, have more variety, and nicer to work with. Poker straight flowers have no movement and no flow to them. It’s really good to work seasonally as well as the materials are much more interesting and beautiful to work with. Seasonal flowers simply look right together. I was advised early in my floristry career, that you put images out that you want to make again. If they are made with British flowers then people will want them. It is improving: people are more aware of locally-grown cut flowers.”
Why are you a member of Flowers from the Farm?
“As a florist, it’s important to support the growers and by being a member you raise awareness of Flowers from the Farm, what it stands for and what it exists to do. You mention Flowers from the Farm on your website and link to it for people to find the organisation. Sometimes people go to the website and find you. I found Paula of Mill Pond Flower Farm through Flowers from the Farm and we have worked together ever since. And it gives you incredible opportunities, such as to work on the Flowers from the Farm exhibit in 2018 at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.”
Visit their website here: www.hedgerowflorist.com