Floral Design

Chelsea Blues


Meconopsis Lingholm – Kevock Garden Plants

I spent a wonderful Patsy Smiles kind of day at RHS Chelsea flower Show last week. I went with the flow and missed most of the Show Gardens and avoided pretentious conversation. If the concept behind a garden design needs to be explained then it just doesn’t work for me. Nevertheless I came home full of inspiration. It’s the little details that caught my eye rather than the big picture. 

My favourite Chelsea blooms this year were the azure blue of Meconopsis Lingholm on the Kevock Garden plant stand. I’ve never seen a blue poppy before so was fascinated by these beauties. Turquoise blue is a bit like marmite as it is such a vibrant, zingy colour. I love the colour and chose to use it in my branding. For me turquoise represents the sea and happy sunny holidays. I spent some time on the Kevock stand admiring the gorgeous colour palette. I realised that there had been some very deliberate planting of colour combinations. I chose to use turquoise blue, lime green and coral in my branding.

The coral of the Primula japonica Apple Blossom made the blue more noticeable as blue and orange are complementary colours.

Complementary Colours are colours that are opposite to each other on the colour wheel. When used together they stand out and create contrast. For example orange and blue, yellow and violet, red and green.

Colour Wheel

In part of the display I spotted a Triadic Colour Scheme with the blue Meconopsis, coral Primula japonica Apple blossom and yellow Trollius.  By adding yellow into the mix and combining with the blue and coral  Kevock created a visually appealing Triadic Colour Scheme. This scheme is made up of 3 colours evenly spaced around the colour wheel. The best way to create this colour harmony is to choose one colour to dominate with less of a second and a touch of the third or a mix of tints, tones and shades.

The Alpine Garden Society also had a fantastic display of Meconopsis and launched a new lavishly illustrated book at RHS Chelsea. `Meconopsis for Gardeners. The lure of the Blue Poppy.’

I opted for a couple of books which I will find more useful. Having chatted to the friendly exhibitors on the Kevock stand I realised that meconopsis will not grow well in our garden. Much more useful for me to buy a couple of wildflower Field Guides.  The Harrap’s guide has good photographs and the other book will be invalauble for Mediterranean holidays.

Other than the poppies I was rather taken with a plant called Anchusa azurea Lodden Royalist. It is rather similar to the wildflower bugloss I have spotted in the countryside, but with a bit more drama. A lot of designers chose to use this plant to create a wild, natural effect.

I saw quite a few examples of Anchusa used as a backdrop to make orange flowers stand out,  as can be seen here with the orange of the Oenothera versicolor ‘Sunset Boulevard’ against the blue.

I made a note of these little gems too. Omphalodes cappadocica ‘cherry ingram’ reminds me of tiny Speedwell wildflowers I have seen recently. I thought the blue flowers looked very pretty in a shady, woodland spot

I was attracted to the lemon yellow and blue colour combinations in this display. I might not be able to grow Meconopsis in our garden as they are quite tricky to grow. However I come home full of inspiration to incorporate the colour blue in future garden projects.


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Victorian Florist-Gardeners

Victorian Epergne

The Victorian Era turned away from the elegance of the Georgian Era and brought houses jam-packed full of clutter. From simplicity and elegance we moved to richness and opulence. At no other time had flowers and foliage been used in such abundance.

Victorian Gardens

The Victorian’s love of order and control influenced a more formal style of gardening. Bedding schemes with plants laid out in rows and colour patterns were seen as the height of style in the mid 19th century. Mid Victorians liked brilliant-hued flowers and strong colour contrasts rather than harmonious colour schemes. Garden design was brash and bold. With the rise of the middle classes and their neat suburban villas, this ‘bedding boom’ reached even the small suburban garden with brash displays in island beds placed right in the middle of lawns.

Waddesdon Victorian Bedding

The removal of tax on glass in 1845 meant that there was an increase in the building of glasshouses and conservatories which coincided with growing and collecting of exotic, tender plants.

Plant hunters and the Wardian Case

The entire 19th century was a period of great enthusiasm for flowers, plants and gardening.  People became avid collectors of certain plants, specializing in popular plants such as geraniums, fuchsias and camellias. A whole range of plants which had never been seen before were introduced. These included South African Gladiolus,  Mexican dahlias, nasturtiums, azaleas, camellias, tree peonies, roses from China, chrysanthemums and fuchsia.  It was the Era of ferns and houseplants.

Victorian Interior

The Wardian case was an early type of sealed protective container for plants invented by botanist, Dr. Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward.  It found great use in the 19th century in protecting foreign plants imported to Europe from overseas.  Wardian cases soon became features of stylish drawing rooms. In the polluted air of Victorian cities the craze for growing ferns and orchids owed much to the new Wardian cases.

Wardian Case
Victorian Plants

Primrose in Wardian Case 1858 Greenock Advertiser

1858 Greenock Advertiser

In grand houses the Head Gardener had the important task of arranging large quantities of flowers for the house with flowers from the cutting garden. The Head Gardener often had a Flower Room amongst a group of buildings in the walled garden attached to the glasshouses. The room contained a table close to a window, a sink with a water tap and large cupboards with broad shelves for vases. Sounds like my ideal room for all my flower arranging paraphernalia! This is the first time we saw specific cutting gardens where flowers were grown for pleasure and not just medicinal purposes. In smaller houses the mistress and daughter would arrange the flowers.

Flowers in a Glass Epergne by E. H. Stannard, 1889

Eloise Harriet Stannard, A Still Life of Flowers in a Glass Epergne on a Marble Ledge with Gloves, Wicker Basket and Scissors, oil on canvas, 1889.

George Spice

My great, grandfather George Spice was a gardener. When he married in 1878 George was a gardener living in Sittingbourne, Kent.

1878 George Spice & Maria Coom

In 1881 George had a young family and was gardener at Hempstead House in Bapchild village, near Sittingbourne, Kent. In 1891 he was still a domestic gardener at Hempstead, living in one of the cottages attached to the house.

1891 census George Spice

Bapchild Map

Hempstead House
Hemstead Cottages

During the 19th century rural cottage gardens didn’t really change. I imagine that George would have had a cottage garden at Hempstead where he grew a mixture of flowers and vegetables.

At the latter end of the Victorian Era George moved with his family to Lower Clapton, Hackney in London. It is likely that George started work at the Pond Lane Nursery on Millfields Road.

1868 Lower Clapton

Lower Clapton 1868

Charles Booth Poverty Map 1898

Pond Lane Nursery 1898

The Pond Lane Nursery was sold in 1898.

The First Florists

Until the second half of the 19th century the majority of land close to cities was in use by market gardeners. Nurserymen grew outdoor flowers for market or specialised in growing and selling exotic, greenhouse plants.

Clapton Nursery. London Evening Standard 19 May 1898

  London Evening Standard 19 May 1898

The Early Florists were working men like my Great, Grandfather George Spice.


The newspaper article lists greenhouses in Springfields, Clapton which were growing vines, orchids, palms, acacias, gardenias and ferns. Looking at the photo George may have even worked at Springfield Park.

Gardener Springfields, Clapton Canterbury Journal, Kentish Times and Farmers' Gazette 14 Dec 1895

 Canterbury Journal, Kentish Times and Farmers’ Gazette 14 Dec 1895

Springfield Park Upper Clapton

Springfield House

At the latter end of the 19th century large areas of land which had been market gardens for fruit and vegetables became housing. It was the newly well off middle classes who bought villa type houses in these suburbs. A lot of the growers moved further out. However some nurserymen who didn’t need large amounts of land on which to grow remained. Pond Lane Nursery is an example of a business that was sold to make room for new housing. Interestingly George Spice moved to the area and is at Rushmore Road in the 1911 census. My Grandma was brought up nearby in Elmcroft Street by George’s daughter Ethel and went to school in Millfields Road. The house she grew up in was built on the Pond Lane Nursery land.

George and Maria Spice


28 Elmcroft Street, Clapton 1915
28 Elmcroft Street, Clapton 1915
Millfields Road Infant School, Clapton, London
Millfields Road Infant School, Clapton, London
Big Bows in the hair were fashionable
Bus Horses 1920
Playing bus-horses at Millfields Road School 1920

1911 George Spice

George found new work with the florist and garden contractor Owen Charles Greenwood of 27 Upper Clapton Road, Hackney, London. The householders of the new suburban villas would have been good customers purchasing bedding plants, pot plants and flowers. These suburban nurseries often sold from a bench in an outbuilding, but some nurseries had a shop. Owen C. Greenwood had a shop from which he sold flowers to theatres in London.  Florist Shops would sell seed, plants and a few cut flowers. There would have been more pot plants than cut flowers on display as evidenced by this advertisement. Pot plants were hired out.

Owen C. Greenwood


My Grandma remembered the Greenwood’s florist shop where she used to visit her Grandad George at work.  She described `a large shop with an enormous fountain in the middle’ which she thought was amazing.

Nursery Hackney

Owen C Greenwood gardeners Essex Newsman 14 April 1923

Owen C Greenwood

Owen’s son Stanley Fielder Greenwood took over the business and was still listed as a Nurseryman and Florist in 1939. George Spice always took pride in his appearance and even when retired wore a flower in his buttonhole.

It’s likely that George exhibited some of his employer’s prize blooms at various Flower Shows. Messrs Low from Clapton Nursery had exhibited at the Crystal Palace Flower Show in 1860 showing their recently introduced, exotic plants.

Crystal Palace Flower Show 1860

Crystal Palace Flower Show 1860 p2

George may even have entered the Borough of Hackney’s Chrysanthemum Society Competition himself.

Hackney Chrysanthemum Society. Shoreditch Observer - Saturday 12 April 1879

 Shoreditch Observer – Saturday 12 April 1879

George Spice

Apart from nurserymen florists the Victorian Era is famous for the Covent Garden Flower girls, epitomised by Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady.

My Fair Lady

Flower girls

By 1851 there were 400 basket women or flower girls on the London streets. Before they set out to sell their flowers, the flower girls sat on the steps of St Paul’s church at Covent Garden and divided the bunches of flowers from the flower market in to small posies. They also made up buttonholes.

5 June 1885 Flower Sellers Pall Mall Gazette

Pall Mall Gazette – 5th June 1885

1891 Patrick Costello attempted murder

Western Daily PressTuesday 30 June 1891

31st July 1891 Hard labour

1904 Hackney Station

Flower sellers worked outside Hackney Railway Station

I like to think that George passed a love of roses onto his daughter Ethel whilst arranging flowers for the lady of the house at Hempstead.

Ethel Spice

Ethel Spice

Flowers in a Glass Epergne by E. H. Stannard, 1889





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Coral Sunset

Peony Coral Sunset Timeline

Over the last fortnight I have watched my beautiful Coral Sunset Peony bloom and fade. The plant only had one bloom this year,  however it was worth the wait. I first saw this wonderful flower at Chelsea Flower Show on the Kelways stand a couple of years ago and was hooked.




When I was working on my brand identity for Patsy Smiles Flowers with Becky Lord Design coral peonies inspired my vision. I was looking to create a brand which was cheerful, full of vibrant Spring colours and reflected my love of vintage treasures.

Coral Sunset and Coral Charm peonies provided the springboard.They both have very feminine and pretty flowers and the coral colour is very striking. I love vibrant, warm, cheerful colours.

PS Floral Asset (Full)

Coral Charm


Patsy Smiles Floral 2


Coral Charm

Coral Charm

Arcade Flowers

Patsy Smiles Floral 3

The other flower I absolutely adore is the rose. I have 20 different varieties in my garden and I know most of them by name. The specific hues found in a coral peony inspired my brand identity colours. The rose inspired my logo in the sense that I wanted an identity which was pretty, feminine and floral.

Strawberry Hill

Strawberry Hill

Tea Clipper

Patsy Smiles Greens 2

I was very clear about the Spring colours I wanted in my Logo and lime green was a definate favourite.


Alchemilla mollis
Euphorbia Green

I love working with zingy lime green foliage whether it be Euphorbia, Bupleurum, Thlasbi or frothy Alchemilla mollis. There is something about the colour lime which works well in lots of colour schemes from simple white to pale pinks and deep purples. Whilst training with the Sussex Flower School I was known for my love of bright, lime green foliage. No sophisticated, muted colours for me!

Coral Charm

Alchemilla Mollis Bouquet

Coral Charm


PS Floral Asset (Full)

My third brand colour was inspired by the coast. I do love to be beside the seaside! It seemed only natural to include a bright turquoise colour in my branding to represent  relaxed seaside holidays. I knew that turquoise blue would provide a wonderful contrast to the coral I’d already chosen as they are complementary colours found opposite on the colour wheel.

Twelve Colour Wheel

Brand Palette

I have enjoyed using blue Nigella and Delphiniums with coral coloured flowers.


Coral Charm

Flowers used in designs by Arcade Flowers

Coral Charm

My Urn design on the 3 Weddings in 3 Days Course with Sabine Darrell Flower School.

Flapper Head-band
1920s style Bouquet Picture by Jim Holden
1920s bride

In order to reflect my love of all things vintage Becky Lord created an image which I felt represented a pretty 1920s flapper head-dress. I provided a quick watercolour sketch and the design was worked into a usable Logo.

Patsy Smiles Flowers Prototype


Patsy Smiles Flowers Brand

Patsy Smiles Flowers Brand

I absolutely love my branding as I feel it represents who I am. – cheerful and optimistic, passionate about flowers and a lover of pretty vintage treasures. I am so pleased that I chose to include Coral Sunset as the main focal flower. What a beautiful bloom.




Coral Sunset Peony




Coral Charm





Peony Coral Sunset





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May Posy

May Posy

When I started to look for the ingredients for this month’s posy I thought the garden looked a bit bare! The month of May is a transition period in our garden, marking the end of tulip season and the beginning of the roses. At times I looked out and all I could see was greenery. However I did deliberately plant ferns last year to enjoy the texture and green colour. I’ve written a whole Blog Post about the use of ferns in Floral Design so decided I ought to plant some!


Fern tablecentre

Another new addition was Solomon’s Seal. I loved using this beautiful arching perennial last year in a fabulous table runner on a course with Sabine Darrall so thought it would work wonderfully with the ferns in the garden. I was right. However my new stems were too precious to cut for this month’s posy!

May Garden

Solomon Seal

One of my followers has asked to see more images of the whole of our garden and not just the detail. This meant I did have a jolly good go at the weeding and tidying up this month! When I moved into our present house I introduced Mr Smiles to flowers. He was familiar with dandelions, tomatoes, rhubarb and swiss chard but that was about it.

Virginia Way-2
Virginia Way-3

Over the next 6 years I dug borders and planted whatever caught my eye when I had finished digging and whenever I went on an outing to a garden centre. I’ve learnt a lot in the process. I didn’t make a plan. I just started digging. This means that there has not been much thought to a seasonal plan and there isn’t really a grand garden design with little cosy corners as I would like. When we move I shall have more of a long term garden plan.

May Garden
May GardenMay Garden
May Garden
May Garden

May Blooms Small-129

I roped in my father in law to build me a trellis as I wanted to grow climbing roses, clematis and honeysuckle. The good thing about the trellis is it hides the bins. However the flowers do tend to put on the best show on the opposite side by the bins as they obviously like to sunbathe! I used some clematis in this month’s posy.

I’m really pleased that we have great tits nesting in the blue birdbox again this month. I provided a choice of homes. However the middle blue residence seems to be the property of the month.

Bird Hut
May Blooms

Last weekend we spent a lovely afternoon trying to capture the great tits going back and forth feeding their young. My photography skills with moving birds need a bit more practise as the images are a bit too dark for my liking.

Feeding Time

Ready to fly

Feeding time

It’s actually been quite a month for wildlife. I spotted quite a few white and greenfly on my roses which I wasn’t amused with. However there are also ladybirds about. Hopefully they will attack the aphids. That’s when they’ve finished mating!

LadybirdLady Love

We have had quite a few of my cottage garden favourite blooms out this month including Aquilegia and Love-in-a-mist.

I chose to use these flowers in my posy as they seemed to be representative of the month.

May Blooms
May Blooms


Purple AquilegiaAqilegia

Pink Aquilegia
Pink Aquilegia


NigellaPersian Jewel

Centaurea montana is a great plant as it just keeps flowering. Not very showy, but a very useful filler.

Centaurea montana

One of my favourite flowers is Dicentra , now re-named as Lamprocapnos spectabilis. The arching stems have pink flowers which resemble pretty pink hearts. This is another shrub which I deemed too precious to be picked this month!  My peony with just one fantastic bloom was also a no go area for picking!

Pink Hearts

May Blooms

Coral Peony

Our front garden has undergone a similar transformation as the back. In fact the front garden really comes into it’s own next month when the roses get going. Again there were no flowers. I dug a small border and also planted a seaside area. Under our bay window we have stones. The area is quite damp in the Winter, but dry in the Summer. I’ve gradually been planting coastal loving plants. This is planting in the loosest terms. I’ve literally just shoved plants in among the stones and told them to get on with it. I have collected shells and drift wood from trips to the coast and added them in.

Virginia Way-5

Virginia Way-1

This was the border five years ago. Now I think I might need to make the border bigger…! I am so chuffed with my oriental poppy. In this image there is only one flower. This month I have poppy flowers galore!

Oriental Poppy

Oriental Poppy

May Blooms

As I had lots of poppy flowers I decided I could spare one for my May Posy to be star of the show.

May Posy


In addition to the poppy the front garden has a lot of allium flowers in shades of white, pink and purple. I planted the front up after the back so there is more of a deliberate plan. I have chosen to use a colour palette of soft pinks, whites and lilacs.


Nectaroscordum siculum


Allium roseum

As I have quite a few of the pretty blush coloured Allium roseum I was happy to pick some for my creation.

May Posy

The other flowers I am very fond of are my stately foxgloves as they remind me of walks in the countryside.





By the front door we still have little viola in pots. I managed to include a couple of these in my posy as I love their cheerful little faces.



So there we have it this month’s posy is a bit of this and a bit of that, which represents our garden rather well!

May PosyMay PosyMay PosyMay Posy


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April Posy

April Posy

`From Sultans of the Ottoman Empire and Dutch Merchants of the Golden Age, to gardeners today, the tulip has captivated people around the world for centuries. This fascinating flower has inspired artists and brought great wealth and even economic ruin to people who have fallen under its spell.’ The Tulip Museum, Amsterdam.

There are at least 16 different divisions of tulips. My favourite are the more flamboyant, frilly double ones and those that are bi-coloured, rather than the simple single tulips. However single tulips do look great when planted in groups. I had several sumptuous red tulips in bloom in April and they inspired the creation of my Posy of the Month.

Double Late Red Tulip

Red Tulip


Double Late Tulip

Single Early Tulips

Single Early Tulips bloom early in the season (compared to other tulips). They are known for having very strong stems. This means that they will stand up extremely well to wind and rain, unlike some other types of tulips (for example, Parrot Tulips).

April tulips

April tulips

April tulips

Apricot Beauty – Single Early Tulip


Viridiflora Tulips

I have both `Groenland’ and `Spring Green’ Viridiflora tulip varieties. The term Viridiflora is derived from two Latin words: viridis meaning green and flos meaning flower.  All Viridiflora Tulips have a streak of green somewhere on each petal. This contrasts dramatically with the basic flower colour (white, pink, gold, etc.). In addition to this beautiful colour contrast, Viridiflora Tulips are also known for their exceptionally long flowering capability. Some of mine have been known to flower in June!

April tulips

April tulips

Tulipa `Groenland’

April tulips
April tulipTulipa `Spring Green’


Fringed Tulips

Other tulip divisions include the Fringed Tulips. These tulips have petals which are topped with fringes that look like the frayed edge of a piece of satin fabric.

Fringed Tulip
Lily Flowered Tulip
Lily-flowered Tulips

Then there are Lily-Flowered Tulips. These tulips have long single flowers with pointed petals, often curving out at the tips. They flower in late spring.


One of my favourite colour schemes this April has been these jolly orange tulips against the blue of Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ and the bluebells.

April orange tulips

April tulips


Double Late Tulips

I have had quite a few double varieties in bloom this year. The blooms of Double Late Tulips have so many petals that they are also known as Peony-flowered Tulips. They flower in late spring.  The blossoms are extremely large; when fully open they can be as much as 4 inches (10 cm) across. The large showy flowers, resemble peonies. They often have weak stems which will not support the large flowers in wind and rain.

April Tulip

Lilac Perfection Tulip

Double Tulip

Double Tulip

Double Late Tulip

Parrot Tulips

Parrot tulips have large, often bi-colored, flowers with frilled and/or twisted petals. They flower in mid and late spring. Their stems are often too weak to support the large flowers so staking is sometimes necessary.

April Posy

April tulip

Rembrandt Tulips

Another variety are Rembrandt Tulips. These tulips are named after the famous Dutch painter Rembrandt  (1606 – 1669), who lived and worked in Holland at about the same time that tulips first became enormously popular. Actually Rembrandt himself is not known for painting flowers! Many other Dutch Masters of the time did include tulips in their paintings.

Jacob Marrel 1640

Jacob Marrel Tulips 1640

Jacob Marrel was a German still life painter active in Utrecht during the Dutch Golden Age. Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

During this time, tulips became all the rage in Holland, particularly the ones with streaks and stripes of colour. These types of tulips were bought for huge sums during the so-called Tulip mania that occurred between 1593 and 1637.

We now know that these unusual markings were actually caused by a virus, which eventually caused damage to the tulip bulbs. Because of this, the original Rembrandt Tulips are no longer sold commercially. However, there are quite a few modern, virus-free, Rembrandt “look-alike” tulips available.

 History of the Tulip

Tulips are often considered a Dutch flower. However the tulip was originally a wild flower growing in Central Asia. They were first cultivated in the Ottoman Empire (Turkey). The botanical name for tulip is tulipa and is derived from the Turkish word tulbend or turban which the flower resembles. Tulips abound in the design of Iznik ceramics. The elegant tulips of Iznik tiles are far removed from bulbous modern-day tulips.  They most resemble contemporary lily form varieties.

Iznik Tulips
Iznik Tiles


The tulip was introduced to Holland in 1593 by a botanist Carolus Clusius, who bought it from Constantinople. He planted a small garden with the aim of researching the plant for medicinal purposes. His neighbours broke into the garden and stole the tulips to make some quick money. This started the Dutch Bulb Trade. Tulip Mania followed. People bought up bulbs to the extent that they became so prized and expensive that the bulbs themselves were used as money until the market finally crashed. As the Dutch Golden Age grew tulips became popular in paintings and festivals. When I visited art galleries in Amsterdam I saw lots of tulips in paintings by the Dutch Masters.

Ambrosio Bosschaert GLASS WITH FOUR TULIPS c.1615 19 x 13 cm. Bredius Museum, The Hague
Ambrosio Bosschaert GLASS WITH FOUR TULIPS c.1615 19 x 13 cm. Bredius Museum, The Hague
Ambrosio Bosschaert – Tulips in a Wan-Li Vase c. 1619
Ambrosio Bosschaert – Tulips in a Wan-Li Vase c. 1619
Jan van den Hecke – Flowers in a Vase 1652
Jan van den Hecke – Flowers in a Vase 1652
Ambrosius Bosschaert Tulips
Ambrosius Bosschaert – Still Life with a Bouquet of Tulips

Ambrosius Bosschaert – Still Life with a Bouquet of Tulips

Beyond the Dutch Golden Age tulips remained a popular design motif in the Art Nouveau Period.

Art Nouveau Tulips

Nouveau Tulips

William Morris also included a lot of tulips in his wall hangings in the Arts and Crafts Movement.

William Morris Tulips
William Morris Tulips
William Morris Tulip Design
April Posy

My April Posy was inspired by looking at the work of the Dutch Masters. I don’t normally take photographs which are low-key as I prefer lighter high-key images. However I’m pleased with my images. I felt that a darker backdrop would show off my vibrant red tulips well. I have arranged them in two different vintage jugs. One is a traditional copper Guernsey milk can. The other was a jug which my Grandmother inherited. I don’t know it’s date or history. However I do know my Gran referred to it as `The Never Forgive Jug’. She felt it had some value and had been given to her grandfather by the lady of a big house where he was a gardener in Kent. It was called this name as no-one would be forgiven if it was ever broken! 

April Posy

April Posy


April PosyApril Posy

April Posy


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Flower Shows and Village Fetes

Spring Show 2016

I spent a wonderful time recently exhibiting at the Abingdon Horticultural Society Spring Show. The Abingdon Horticultural Society is a friendly club for gardeners, cooking enthusiasts and handicraft lovers. It holds two shows a year where flowers, fruit and vegetables, preserves, baking and handicrafts are all exhibited and judged.  Exhibiting brought back so many memories. In the 1980’s Mum and I used to enter the Harnham Flower Show in Wiltshire. I even won the Children’s Cup twice!

1980 Cup Winner
1980 Cup Winner


It really is my cup of tea – baking, jam making and growing flowers, fruit and vegetables!  I was keen to enter the floral arrangement class as I was a proven winner even in the 1980s!


1982 Harnham Flower Show

Harnham Flower Show 1982

Abingdon Horticultural Society Spring Show 2016

Spring Show 2016

The Spring Show celebrates the arrival of Spring with flowers and Easter Cakes in abundance.

In Section A – Flowers and Plants there are 25 classes to enter and 10 of them are for Narcissus including trumpet daffodils, miniature narcissi and double narcissi. There is a strict clause that for the trumpet daffodils the trumpet must be longer than the outer petals. I was keen to enter the blooms from my garden this year. However I discovered there is quite a skill in getting your daffodils in peak condition for show day. I knew I would have some in flower, but hadn’t got a clue as to whether my daffs would have big enough trumpets and whether they would be more than 7.5cm across.  I just knew they always look cheerful! I can see that this is serious stuff. How do you get your trumpet to grow bigger I ask myself?! I entered a class for multi-bloom narcissi naively thinking this was just a vase of 5 stems of one or more varieties. At the last minute I realised it actually meant narcissi with more than one bloom to a stem. I swiftly changed my entry and entered 1 stem more than 7.5cm across.

Spring Show 2016 - Trumpet Daffodils
1. Vase of Trumpet Daffodils

The trumpet must be longer than the outer petals.

5 stems – one or more varieties

Spring Show 2016 Minature Narcissi
Spring Show 2016 - vase of minature narcissi2. Vase of Miniature Narcissi

5 stems – one or more varieties with flowers less than 5cm across

I loved the frilly Rip Van Winkle Narcissi. The judge gave first prize to the Tete a Tete miniature daffs.

Spring Show 2016 - bicoloured narcissiSpring Show 2016 - bicoloured narcissi
5. Vase of Narcissi

5 stems- any one bi-coloured variety with flowers more than 5.5cm across

Spring Show 2016 - multi-bloom narcissi
7. Vase of multi-bloom Narcissi

5 stems – one or more varieties

I have some beautiful multi-bloom narcissi planted in my garden called Bridal Crown and Winston Churchill. However they are slightly later blooming and failed to make an appearance in time for the show.  

Multi-bloom Narcissi
Multi-bloom Narcissi


9. Narcissus 1 stem – flower more than 7.5cm across

I entered one Narcissus bloom in Class 9. However I agreed that my dainty Pheasant’s Eye variety didn’t really meet the grade compared to the others. I did pick up a nifty tip though. If you put moss round the stem you can support the bloom so it stands up and can be more easily seen by the judge. I was a bit forceful and ended up with moss floating in the water and not supporting the bloom! I’ll know for next time.

Pheasant's Eye


There were only 2 classes for tulips. One being a single tulip and the other being a vase of 3 tulips of one or more varieties. This surprised me at first. A couple of years ago there was a fabulous display of tulips at the Spring Show. However in early April tulips are only just starting to bloom so it’s always a bit of a gamble.

 Abingdon Spring Show tulips 2014

Tulips at Spring Show 2014


Tulips at Spring Show 2014
Spring Show 2014

I didn’t have much choice in the garden. There were a few small pink tulips, but some had been nibbled by garden predators. My best tulips were rather nondescript white varieties. However the size was more of a competitive standard I felt. I learnt that the hall where the show takes place gets quite warm on show day. It’s best to choose a well formed, but in tight bud bloom. My tulips started out in bud and were wide open within an hour of setting up. You can be in danger of dropping the petals before the judging!

Spring Show 2016 - 1 tulip
10. Tulip

1 stem

I received a Third Prize for my pink tulip. Janet Moreton I felt deserved the First Prize with her red and gold tulip.

Spring Show 2016 - single tulip

Spring Show 2016 - 3 tulipsSpring Show 2016 - Vase of Tulips 3 stemsSpring Show 2016 - vase of tulips 3 stems
11. Vase of Tulips

3 stems – one or more varieties

I was awarded a second prize for my white tulips which I was chuffed with. Particularly as I thought they were a bit boring and had wanted to exhibit more flamboyant, frilly blooms. The red tulips won the First Class Award. I find it interesting that red tulips seem to do well. In 2014 my favourite tulip was the deep pinky, purple tulip in a matching stone grey pink vase. However the judges favoured the yellow and red tulips giving the first prize to them. I guess it all comes down to personal taste if the blooms are perfect. However I might grow more red tulips next year as a tactical move.  

12. Vase of Hellebores

My Narcissi had let me down as I only had a few blooms in the garden. However I had plenty of Hellebore flowers to choose from. Hellebores can be tricky to arrange in water as they flop easily. There are a few handy tricks.

Cut the flowers directly into a bucket of water. Take them inside to condition them. Strip the leaves from below the likely water line. Sear the hellebores as soon as you can by lowering the stem ends (about 2cms) into boiling water for 30 seconds. The flowers should then be placed in clean, cold water.

I was pleased that having followed this procedure my flowers still looked perky in the afternoon of the Show. Flowers which have set seed are also easier to use and less likely to flop. I decided to try to exhibit blooms at several stages of development.

Spring Show 2016 - Vase of Hellebores

Spring Show 2016 - Vase of Hellebores

I received a Third Prize for  my efforts.

Other floral exhibits included wallflowers, auriculas and primulas.

Spring Show 2016 - primula

Spring Show 2016 - blossom or shrub flowers
16. Vase with up to 3 stems

Blossom or shrub flowers

I must admit I was disappointed to find I had no shrubs in flower in the garden and have now rectified this for next year! I do think some of the exhibits were lacking in flowers though.

Spring Show 2016 - Spring FlowersSpring Show 2016 - Spring FlowersSpring Show 2016 - 5 stems of Spring FlowersSpring Show 2016 - 5 stems of Spring Flowers
17. Vase of 5 stems of Spring flowers

One or more varieties not included elsewhere in the Schedule (no shrub flowers)

I exhibited the Snakeshead Fritillary and pink Ranunculus. My Fritillary flowers were awarded a Third Prize, however my Ranunculus failed to win any prizes. I thought they were rather marvellous! However maybe the judges thought they were bought for the event. They weren’t! They have been giving me much joy in pots in front of our front door for weeks. There was a lovely selection and I rather liked the cowslips in a turquoise vase.Ranunculus

There were also categories for various pottted flowering plants and vases of Spring flowers not included elsewhere in the Schedule.


18. Container of Hyacinths

Spring Show 2016 - container of hyacinths

19. Hippeastrum (Amaryllis)

Spring Show 2016



Spring Show 2016

23. 1 pot, cactus or succulent

Spring Show 2016 - cactus


24. 1 pot for the patio

Spring Show 2016 - pot for the patio

25. Spring flower arrangement in a vase.

May include purchased flowers or foliage. NO ACCESSORIES.To be staged in a niche 60cm wide and 76cm high.

Spring Show 2016 - Spring flower arrangement in a vase
Spring Show 2016 - Spring flower arrangement in a vase
Spring Show 2016 - Spring flower arrangement in a vase

This was the one class I really enjoyed entering and went to town on the Spring theme. I wasn’t quite sure how big to go and how to construct my entry. I was therefore found with a car boot full of flowers and foliage in the car park constructing and arranging my flower arrangement to great amusement from other entrants.

Spring Show 2016
Spring Show 2016
Spring Show 2016
Spring Show 2016

Spring Show 2016 - Spring flower arrangement in a vase


I was awarded a Third Prize. There was no indication as to what the judge was looking for and why the First and Second Prizes were awarded. I am sure that I was marked down for the size of my exhibit as my pussy willow was escaping from the designated niche! I had a good look at the others and saw that they had been constructed in advance with floral foam. One of them had placed the floral foam in a dish on top of the vase. Strictly speaking I feel that this was against the criteria as it was stated that the flower arrangement was to be in a vase. Not that I’m a sore loser! I can see that the other arrangements fulfilled sound design principles and mine was much wilder and ecologically friendly with the use of water and no foam.

I enjoyed the challenge and have loved having the house full of Spring flowers. I was amazed at the yellow tulips I purchased from Fabulous Flowers. They lasted a whole week and became more beautiful as they opened out.

Sunshine Flowers

Sunshine Flowers

Sunshine Flowers


Section D was the Photography Section. 

A Photograph on a Spring theme (Taken in 2016) mounted on white card.

Spring Show 2016 - Spring themed photograph

I had so many photographs to choose from I didn’t know where to start! In the end I selected a couple of images of Spring garden flowers which I felt were the most technically proficient. I did have some cheery daffodil images I could have used, but felt my focus wasn’t pin sharp. I opted for primroses and Anemone blanda. I was disappointed not to be recognised with any award as I really did feel my images were well photographed and it was a photography competition! Personally I felt some of the other images were over exposed and out of focus. However in this case maybe the judge was looking for an image which conveyed `a sense of Spring’, rather than technical expertise. This was in contrast to the judging for the Spring Flower Arrangement where the judge seemed to favour technical proficiency rather than my arrangement which was designed to convey a sense of exuberant Spring.

Section B was the Cooking Section with a wonderful display of preserves, decorated Easter Cakes, Hot Cross Buns and tea bread made to a given recipe.

Spring Show 2016 - Spring Cake

Spring Show 2016 - Spring Cake

The Spring Cakes were judged purely for creative decoration and not on the taste of the cake. The Fruit and Marzipan Teabread  was made to a specific given recipe.

33. Fruit and Marzipan Teabread

It proved quite a challenge to make. I made three attempts. One sunk in the middle, one didn’t rise much and the other was rather stodgy! I settled for the slightly sunken one as it looked the right colour and hadn’t got any cracks. Although the Judge felt my teabread had `a good texture’ I didn’t win any prizes for my efforts. Maureen Cook was awarded a well deserved First Prize as her teabread looked appetizing and hadn’t sunk in the middle.

Spring Show 2016 - Fruit and Marzipan Teabread
Spring Show 2016 - Fruit and Marzipan Teabread

I had done better as a child as my rockcakes were `just the right size and shape’ and came First in 1982.

1982 First Prize Rock Cakes
1982 Rock Cakes



32. Spiced Fruit Buns

Spring Show 2016 - Spiced Fruit Buns

I was pleased to see that it wasn’t just women who won prizes in the Domestic Classes. David Bingley was awarded a First for his spiced fruit buns made with a yeast recipe.

There was a fine display of marmalades, lemon curd and chutney.
In the schedule there was a useful instruction for exhibiting preserves. `Use either wax disks and cellophane tops, or new screw lids without wax disks. Labels on preservatives must include the day, month and year they were made.’

Spring Show 2016- Marmalade

30. Lemon Curd.  Home Made 2016. One 8 – 16 oz jar.

Spring Show 2016 - Lemon Curd

I entered a jar of Lemon Curd which won no awards, but was noted to be a `good flavour’ by the judge. We enjoyed a dollop with yoghurt and fruit for dessert.

 Harnham Flower Show 1980

1980 Harnham Show-1


I regularly exhibited at the Harnham Flower Show Spring and Summer Shows during the 1980s, together with my mum. The Summer Show was a grand affair held on the fields near The Old Mill with big marquees to show the exhibits. The event was officially opened by the Mayor and the Wilton British Legion Band was there to entertain everyone. I remember these Shows as real community events with tombolas and games in addition to the actual judged exhibits. Home-Made Teas were organised by the Women’s Institute.

1980 was a good year for me as I won the Children’s Silver Cup and even got my picture in the paper! I won 1st Prize for my `Animal Made out of Vegetables’ which was the Loch Ness Monster with a cucumber body and a jaunty tartan hat.

1980 Cup Winner

I chose to use a crab shell for the Flower Arrangement in a Shell. Some of the flowers I had grown myself in my little patch in the garden.

We always had a photo of our Prize Winning Entries when we got home.

1980 Exhibits
1981 Exhibits

I failed to keep the Children’s Cup in 1981, hence the frown on my face! However it looks like a good effort was made. Mum made a quiche, red wine, biscuits, cakes and marmalade. I remember cycling off to Britford Lock for the afternoon and her painting the picture of the Lock in watercolour.

I got 3rd Prize for my rock cakes, 2nd Prize for my Minature Garden, a 1st for 6 Fancy Cakes and a 1st for Mr Rubbish which I am holding up for the camera.

Harnham Flower Show 1982

1982 Flower Arrangement

1982 Flower Arrangement in a Basket
1982 Third Prize Flower Arrangement

Ah back on form and won the Children’s Cup again! I got my picture in the paper with my Flower Arrangement in a Basket. The judge commented that I should have made the handle visible so the basket could be picked up. I remembered this when I constructed my Posy of the Month recently!

The judge noted that my four Rock Cakes were just the right size and shape and awarded me a 1st Prize. An improvement on the year before when I only got a 3rd Prize! Mum had a very good year winning 1st Prize for both her sweet white wine and her dry red wine. She also won 1st for a Machine-Made garment, which was a pair of green knickerbockers made for me. I HATED them! I really had my eye on a new pair of pedal pushers in Dorothy Perkins and these were not the same. I had to wear them to a birthday party and felt very self-conscious. In the picture I am modelling a new Rah-rah skirt which I loved!

1982 Harnham Flower Show Exhibits

The Dorset County Show

The Dorset County Show is run on similar lines to the Harnham and Abingdon Shows, but on a much grander scale with animals. I regularly enjoyed a day out at the Dorset Show with my Uncle as a birthday treat. As this is a large County Show farmers also exhibit their Prize animals and there are sheep shearing competitions and rural crafts.

Dorset County Show-9
Dorset County Show-7
Dorset County Show-1
Dorset County Show-6
Dorset County Show-2

I love Flower Shows and Village Fetes. They have been going on for generations and connect us to our heritage. I found some interesting articles showing my ancestors competed in very similar events. William Jackson, my 3rd Great Grandfather, farmed 31 acres in Throrpe Salvin, Yorkshire. Farming was a way of life for him as he came from a long line of farmers. In 1881 William entered the Kiveton Park Flower Show Agricultural Produce Section. He won 1st prize for his potatoes, red wheat and barley. I’ve got a lot to live up to with my potatoes then!

Kiveton Park Flower Show

Kiveton Park Flower Show 1881

W Jackson 1881I also found another interesting article. My 5th Great Grandfather Robert Hills was awarded a prize at the Northallerton Cattle Show in 1844 for `the Labourer in Husbandry who brought up the greatest number of children without seeking parochial relief.’ Well done Robert!

Newcastle Journal Sat 25 Sep 1841 - Robert Hills

Robert Hills, Northallerton Cattle Show 1844

I hope you have enjoyed my jottings about Flower Shows and Village Fetes. I loved the moment in Downton Abbey where Mr Molesley’s roses finally were awarded Best in Show on merit rather than the Dowager Countess’s blooms.

Downton Abbey Flower Show 2

In keeping with family tradition my entries were duly photographed for posterity when we got home after a wonderful day at the Show.

1980 Cup Winner
Spring Show 2016


Spring Show 2016 - Vase of tulips 3 stems


Spring Show 2016

Abingdon Spring Show 2016 Exhibits

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The Colour Yellow

Natural Yellow Hues

Yellow is a marmite colour – you either love it or hate it and I love it! Yellow is my favourite colour as I feel it represents Spring sunshine and happiness. There are two seasons with an abundance of yellow flowers –  Early Spring with delicate creamy yellow primroses and bold lemon yellow daffodils and Late Summer with rich golden sunflowers and Rudbeckia blooms. Spring colours tend to be light, bright, warm and clear whilst Autumnal colours are warmer, intense and muted.  I personally prefer the more delicate pastel shades of yellow and am not so keen on rich, intense colours.   As I observed drifts of brightly coloured yellow daffodils recently I began to ponder why yellow can often be perceived as difficult to work with in a colour scheme.

Drayton Blooms

Yellow Flower-1 - Copy

The Twelve Colour Wheel

Twelve Colour Wheel

As an artist and  flower photographer I am absolutely passionate about colour and how different hues can be combined together to create beautiful colour palettes. A  Colour Wheel is a simple tool to work out how to combine different hues. It is an invaluable aid as an artist and can be used when planning colour schemes for interior design, for weddings and when planning a new border in the garden.

A Colour Wheel is created with the 3 Primary Colours  – Red, Blue and Yellow – equally spaced. The primary colours cannot be made by mixing other colours. The Secondary Colours of purple, green and orange are created by mixing the primaries together. Tertiary Colours are made by mixing primary and secondaries together. Tertiary colours are the neutrals.


Tints, shades and tones. 

Colours can be classified even further with tints, shades, and tones. These are key because when you are creating a colour scheme, you may want to use a family of hues not just one. I found an invaluable Blog Post by Sara of Burnett’s Boards which explains Colour Theory wonderfully and is a really useful resource when planning colour schemes.

Primrose Tints Tones and Shades

Daffodil Tints Tones and Shades

Crocus Tints Tones and Shades


Tints are acquired by adding white to a hue. Another name for a tint is a pastel colour. For example, lemon and cream are tints of yellow.

March Colours
Yellow Tint


Tones and Shades

Shades are acquired by adding black. Khaki and gold can be considered as shades of yellow and mustard is a yellow tone. Tones are created by adding greys or neutrals.

Yellow -13 - Copy - Copy
Crocus Yellows


Monochromatic Colour Schemes 

Monochromatic Colour Scheme


Mono means `one’ so a monochomatic colour scheme is a one colour harmony in which tints, tones and shades are taken from one segment of the colour wheel. A monochromatic yellow colour scheme incorporates a variety of different yellows together. In flower arranging green is considered a `neutral’ colour. I find using lime-green flowers such as Alchemilla mollis and Viburnum opulus always creates a fresh Spring colour scheme. Other neutrals that work well with yellow are white, grey, beige and navy.


Viburnum opulus

I love this fresh Maytime bouquet by Kathryn Hurst of Shelsley Herbs & Flowers   which incorporates various tints of yellow with neutral greens and whites. Katherine uses seasonal, locally grown flowers and herbs from the beautiful Teme Valley in Worcestershire.  The wonderfully scented bouquet contained cowslips, tulips, heuchara, snowflakes, primula, buttercups, alchemilla, viburnam, syringa, sweet cicely & clematis.

Shelsley Herbs & Flowers

Primrose HuesPrimrose Hues

yellow & white wreath - Copy - Copy

Photos by Michelle Morris Photography.

Kathryn also grew and designed this beautiful September wreath where the lemon yellow dahlias were offset by frilly white blooms and an abundance of scented herbs and foliage grown on her plot. The wreath included heather, fennel flowers, old man’s beard, variegated sage, Bells of Ireland and cyperus in addition to the dahlias. Kathryn is a member of Flowers from the Farm and prides herself on using scented flowers and herbs.

I was delighted to be able to use these photos showing how vibrant daffodil yellow can be used to great effect. Neil from Neil Pollock Photography has captured Emily‘s yellow daffodil themed Spring wedding beautifully. The flowers were by Rachel of The Rose Shed.

Emily & Tom Small-331

Emily & Tom Small-309

Emily & Tom small-19

Emily & Tom Small-101

Emily & Tom Small-99

On closer inspection I can see that daffodil leaves are a grey-green colour. I am always amazed by how beautiful nature’s colour schemes are. If you take inspiration from the colours found in nature you won’t go far wrong. I find the bright yellow colour found in daffodils difficult to work with as it is such a vibrant, strong hue. However I’ve learnt from Rachel’s floral designs at Emily’s wedding that it’s best to allow this intense, bright yellow to shine out as nature intended and choose neutral greys, greens and whites as a backdrop.

Drayton Blooms Small-4 - Copy - Copy

Daffodil Hues - Copy - Copy

Emily & Tom Small-331



March Colours

Daffodil Wedding Green

Daffodil Wedding Grey

Analogous Colour Schemes

This colour harmony is made up of three or four colours adjacent to each other on the colour wheel and not including more than one primary.

Analogous Colours

Commercial Floristry: Designs and Techniques by Sandra Adcock

My wedding bouquet included yellow, peach and cream roses.  The table decorations also incorporated yellow forsythia and orange hypericum berries in an analagous scheme of yellow, yellow-orange and orange hues.

Analogous Colours

Spring Sunshine Bouquet

Just Picked

Anakogous Colour Scheme

Suzanne from Beamsley Blooms  has chosen to include pale yellow narcissi in her Spring arrangement. Peach, Orange and Yellow are hues found adjacent on the colour wheel and are therefore considered analogous. The green of the hellebores provides nature’s neutrals. The common ingredient in all of the colours is yellow.




Complementary Colour Schemes

Complementary Colours

A more dynamic way of using yellow is to introduce it’s complementary colour of purple. Complementary colours are opposite to each other on the colour wheel and when used together these hues stand out and create beautiful contrasts. A complementary colour scheme includes any tints, shades and tones that appear directly opposite on the colour wheel.  It’s best to avoid using equal amounts of the two colours and also one flower of a different colour will be too dominant.

Clarey Wrightson has provided me with some wonderful examples of yellow used in complementary colour schemes.  The designs use flowers and foliage cultivated by her husband Barney in their cutting garden at Manor Garden, near Darlington.

Barney is obviously a talented chap as he also took the photo of this dreamy bouquet full of lilac flowers including scabious and sweetpeas which provide a wonderful contrast to the yellow roses.

File 10-03-2016, 09 05 21

Purples and Yellows

Clarey has combined bright yellow narcissi with purple flowers in this rustic button-hole to contrast with the purple ties worn by the groomsmen. Such a different look to the previous grey and yellow colour scheme, but equally beautiful..

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Chris Parkinson Photography at http://www.beneaththepines.com

I met Sally Oates, Artisan Grower and Florist at a National Garden Scheme Open Day last year when I had the opportunity of a guided tour of her cutting garden, Dillycot.

‘Colour is my starting point, I love working with many different combinations, pretty white, cream and green, or pastel shades, charming harmonising mid tones, or exciting rich full colours. Of course mixed colours look fabulous too’.

These photos were taken in the Autumn when Sally ran a market stall with a yellow and lilac theme.

Dillycot Flowers

File 10-03-2016, 09 07 25

File 10-03-2016, 09 07 41

Lisa Carey of Most Curious Rose included small accents of purple in her arrangement of British Blooms which really make the yellows sing.

Most Curious Rose Yellows

Contrasting Color Schemes 

Contrasting Colour Scheme


This colour harmony is obtained from the colour wheel by using a colour with another four segments away. E.g. Yellow and Blue or Yellow and Red. If bold, vibrant colours are used this scheme can be quite harsh so it’s best to use a tint or tone of one of the hues if the other is at full spectrum strength.

Rachel Slater of Owl House Flowers has worked this contrasting colour scheme wonderfully with her choice of yellow and blue flowers. The delicate blue highlights of the forget-me-not flowers really complement the creamy yellow tulips.

Contrasting Colour Scheme


Rachel Slater Yellow and Blue Wreath

Rachel Slater Yellows

I love the pop of blue highlighting the golden tulips too. If bold, vibrant colours are used this scheme can be harsh, so it’s best to use a tint or tone of one of the hues if the other is at full spectrum strength. That’s why Rachel’s paler blue forget me not flowers complement the full blown yellow tulips. The pale blue brings the yellow alive.

Yellow and Blue

March Posy

Yellow and Blue

Blue and Yellow Hues - Copy - Copy

I must admit I thought my deep blue vintage poison bottles and Booths Real Old Willow china would make a pleasing contrast with bright yellow daffodils. I don’t like the effect. The yellow and blue are both dominant colours and for me the images are very stark and clashy. My eyes don’t know whether to look at the blue or the yellow. I find that using more than one full strength primary colour isn’t very restful on the eye.  I also experimented with pale yellow primroses and a deep shade of blue and gold tea-set. I much prefer the softer yellow against the deep blue. Now my eyes are drawn to the primroses and the navy-blue saucer has become an effective neutral backdrop.

A Cup of Primroses

Another effective Contrasting Colour Scheme is the use of pink with yellow. Pink is a tint of red so is more pleasing on the eye than bold, saturated red.

Contrasting Colour Scheme


Contrasting Colour Scheme


Pink and Yellow Church Flowers

Pink and Yellow Church Flowers

I have chosen to use my favourite lime green foliage. The yellow-green colour of Bupleurum, Kermit Chrysanthemum and Alchemilla enhances the yellow of the Craspedia globosa.

Triadic Colour Scheme

Triadic Colour Scheme


By adding blue into the mix and combining with the yellow and pink I created a Triadic Colour Scheme. This scheme is made up of 3 colours evenly spaced around the colour wheel. The best way to create this colour harmony is to choose one colour to dominate with less of a second and a touch of the third or a mix of tints, tones and shades.

Triadic Colour Scheme


Miss Piggy Rose Wedding

I hope I’ve shown that there are so many ways to include yellow in a colour scheme. Thank you so much to everybody that has shared these beautiful images with me.

Rachel Slater Yellows
Emily & Tom Small-331
File 10-03-2016, 09 05 21
yellow & white wreath - Copy - Copy
Most Curious Rose Yellows
P&D (245)
P&D (190)
P&D (170)


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March Posy

March Posy Small-14

For this month’s Posy I wanted to create an image that represented the start of Spring and Easter.

March’s flowers in our garden have been a beautiful Spring colour palette of yellow, violet and fresh Spring Greens.

Spring Hues


I have chosen to grow a lot of native wild flowers. This month we have had a good show of native primroses – primula vulgaris. These are a beautiful pale cream yellow. Primroses always symbolise to me that Spring is on it’s way. My Uncle picked a small bunch of primroses from the woods for my mum when she was born in March. Now whenever I see primroses I think of mum!

Church House, Pitton near Salisbury


Primrose Hues

March Small-39

I have another variety of primrose in bloom in the garden called `Emily’ which is a slightly darker yellow colour. There are also creamy primula flowers.

Primula vulgaris



As a child I dreamt of creamy yellow primroses in a posy as a wedding bouquet.  I am a very romantic soul!  I imagined myself picking woodland flowers and flouncing about in a Jane Austin inspired Regency Wedding dress. I hadn’t even read any Jane Austin aged 8! When we walked in Grovelly Woods to see the primroses as a child I remember a derelict cottage I dreamt of renovating and restoring. That’s where I would have flounced off to the church in my Empire Line Dress with my Spring bouquet of primroses and violets!

I did enjoy the grounds of The Baytree Hotel in my Empire Line Dress on my wedding day. In reality primroses were too small for my bouquet so I opted for yellow roses instead. The idea of something picked straight out of the garden arranged in an informal way stayed with me. I opted for informal jugs of Spring flowers on the tables including Spring Green Viburnum opulus and yellow Forsithia.

Spring Sunshine Bouquet
P&D (055)
Just Picked

Our March garden has also had a good display of vibrant yellow daffodils with dainty, minature Tete-a-Tete being my favourite.

Tete a Tete

The other flowers in bloom have been violet, mauve and blue in colour. We have clumps of the native woodland violet. The front garden has a beautiful carpet of Anemone blanda in shades of violet-blue and white and in the back we have purple crocus blooms and blue muscari.

Anemone blanda
Anemone blanda
Purple Crocus
Drayton Blooms

Anemone blanda

Purple Crocus

March Primula
March Primula

I’m also rather proud of my pink ranunculus flower. However this bloom was too precious to cut for my Posy of the month project.


March Posy

March PosyMarch Posy Small-14

The vintage buttercup design fluted cup and saucer was manufactured by Henry M Williamson & Sons, based at the Bridge Pottery Works, Heathcote Road in Longton, Stoke on Trent. Williamson traded from 1879 – 1947. The name was changed to Heathcote China in 1928. H M Williamson & Sons

March PosyEaster Biscuits

I  enjoyed making Easter biscuits to photograph my Easter posy and they seemed to be enjoyed by my running club after a recent cross country run.

Spiced Easter Biscuits

Originating from the West Country, these lightly spiced biscuits were traditionally given as a gift on Easter Day. My mum always used to make them at Easter time.

300g plain flour

50g icing sugar

1 tsp mixed spice

175g cold butter, diced

1 medium egg, beaten with 1 tbsp cold water

125g currants

1 egg white

Caster sugar for dredging

Mix the flour, icing sugar, spice and butter together until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Gradually add the beaten egg until the mixture clumps together.

Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead in the currants. Flatten the dough into a disc and wrap in clingfilm. Chill for 30 minutes until it is firm.

Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan oven), gas mark 4.

LIghtly flour the worksurface again and roll out the dough until it is 4mm thick. Stamp out circles with a 6 – 7 cm fluted citter and arrange spaced apart on lightly greased baking sheets.

Whisk the egg whit e until frothy and brush over the biscuits. Sprinkle with the caster sugar.

Bake for 12 minutes until lightly golden. Cool on a wired rack.

They will keep for up to a week in an airtight tin.

March Posy

Easter Posy

For some reason primroses are the blooms I think of when I think of an Easter Posy. I always remember being read the Alison Uttley stories as a child and have never forgotten the second tale in which sensible Little Grey Rabbit makes primrose wine to cure Hare’s cold.

Little Grey Rabbit

March Posy

A Cup of Primroses

I tried another Spring arrangement of primroses in my H & R Daniel Etruscan shape teacup and saucer for a completely different effect. I thought the creamy primroses went well with the gilt details and the navy and lemon pattern. (Pattern 3860). Henry and Richard Daniel were manufacturers of high-grade decorative porcelain and earthenwares at Stoke and Shelton from c.1822-46. All Daniel porcelains are of very fine quality but are seldom stamped with a maker’s mark.

March would not be complete without an arrangement of cheerful Spring daffodils.

March Flower Arrangement

Do let me know which is your favourite – zingy yellow daffodils or softer creamy primroses?  I can’t decide!


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Downton Abbey Style Wedding Flowers

1925 Lady EdithI am a big fan of the period drama Downton Abbey and was delighted that Edith Crawley finally found happiness with her marriage to Bertie Pelham.

1925 Lady Edith

As I have been researching social history and 1920s wedding flowers I was particularly interested in Edith’s bouquet and wedding attire. The overall effect was charming. However I am not convinced that the flowers were typically 1920s in style. Edith is carrying a shower bouquet and newspaper articles from the 1920s do refer to `Shower Bouquets’ of roses, lilies and carnations. However over time fashions have produced numerous variations on the traditional shower bouquet.  I feel Edith is carrying a bouquet which is more typical of a late 1980s style shower bouquet, wired into a floral foam plastic holder, than a 1920s Shower Bouquet.

Shower bouquet
1992 Wedding Mandy Homer

Cascading bouquets were originally referred to as shower bouquets in the Edwardian period and replaced the fashion of neat Victorian posies.

1900 Robert & Sarah - Uncle Harry -bridesmaid -Groom Austin & Bride Rosina - bridesmaid & brides parents Mr & Mrs Robinson
Edwardian Wedding Group 5

Victorian Style Posies

Edwardian Shower Bouquets

This style became exaggerated by 1920, with much larger bouquets, so large they almost concealed the bride. They reached their peak from 1920 – 1930’s until WWII.

1929 Wedding of John Asquith and Doris Harrison

1929 Wedding of William Hathaway Jerrett and Theresa Shurrock

1926 Wedding of Edith Amelia Polglass and Charles Arthur Furley

1920s Shower Bouquets

In shape a wired shower bouquet is softly roundish at the top but pointy at the bottom and is designed to spill over the brides hands in a cascade. The shower bouquet also became known as the Princess in honour of the late Princess Diana and her impressive 1980s bridal bouquet.

1981 Lady Di Shower Bouquet

1980s Shower Bouquet

Lady Edith’s bouquet is much neater in shape than any of the shower bouquets I have seen in  original 1920s photographs. The wired shower bouquet was originally made on a moss ball. Sphagnum moss was made into a ball about the size of a golf ball and into this was poked a long hairpin-like wire. Every flower or piece of foliage was then mounted onto a suitable wire and the wires were then made into a handle. The shape was large and loose with trails of foliage.  The trails were bound together with binding wire. Some florists used green silk-covered wire. Gutta tape wasn’t used. Most of the photos I have seen show 1920s shower bouquets to be big, loose round shapes with cascading foliage.

1929 Wedding

1929 wedding of Minnie Ratcliff and Leslie East

1929 Wedding

1929 Leslie and Minnie East

1921 Wedding-1

1921 wedding of Dorothy Greaves and William Shaw

These two 1920’s shower bouquets are reminiscent of my Grandma’s wired 1930’s bouquet with white carnations and Asparagus setaceus fern trails. The whole effect is much more round in shape and sparse, being less tightly packed then Edith’s bouquet.

Asparagus setaceus

White Carnation wired shower bouquet

1920s fashion

Flowers and Foliage used in a 1920’s Bouquet

My research has shown me that the vast majority of 1920’s shower bouquets were made with either carnations or roses. The blooms were usually white or pale pink in colour and mixed blooms didn’t tend to be used in the same bouquet. I have found only one reference to red flowers and newspaper reports suggest that most bouquets were just one colour. I think it is very unlikely that a 1920’s bouquet would contain red, white and pink roses as depicted in Edith’s bouquet.  Apart from the ubiquitous carnations and roses I was surprised to be able to compile quite a long list of flowers mentioned in 1920s bridal bouquets – orange blossom, lily of the valley, white heather, pink tulips, white sweet peas, chrysanthemum, white lilac, orchids, gladiola, aster, belladonna delphinium together with both longiflorum and arum lilies.

1929 People's Home Journal


Bridal roses tended to be white or pink. From my research I was amazed at the number of references to named varieties of garden roses. When I got married I was advised that `garden roses shouldn’t be used in a bridal bouquet as they are not bred for the cut flower trade.’ I thought this was such a shame. Roses grown for bridal bouquets are now often bred on a large scale to maximise stem length and longevity, but they often lack the beautiful fragrance of garden blooms. Named varieties included Niphetos, a white `bridal rose’, pink Dorothy Perkins and Catherine Mermet.

Blush pink rosesNephetos RoseCatherine Mermet

1929 roses and fern1922 roses and smilax1920s rose bouquet

Grantham JournalSaturday 03 September 1927

1927 Ophelia Rose Bouquet

CornishmanWednesday 07 September 1927

1927 sheaf of white roses


Carnations have gone out of favour largely due to the wide availability in supermarkets at competitive prices. However they were viewed completely differently in the 1920s. Malmaison Carnations date back to the 1850s.  They were originally bred in France in 1857, and because of their quartered flowers looking similar to the bourbon rose, Souvenir de la Malmaison, they were named Malmaison Carnations. Malmaison Carnations (Dianthus) were richly clove scented and were prized for cutting. There were 40 cultivars in the carnation’s heyday and sadly now only five remain.

Carnation 1888Duchess of Westminster pre 1902

1929 carnations1920s carnation bouquet1921 carnations

Burnley ExpressSaturday 02 June 1928

1928 shower bouquet of pink carnations

Orange Blossom

In the 1920s orange blossom was used extensively. However at that time a lot of big gardens had an orangery and great care was taken in the care and cultivation of orange trees. Scented English orange blossom was therefore much more widely available.

Orange Blossom
1922 Orange Blossom Corsage1922 Orange Blossom1924 Orange Blossom
Dundee Evening TelegraphFriday 08 July 1927

1927 sprigs of orange blossom

White Heather

White Heather
Western TimesFriday 19 September 1924

1924 shower bouquet of lilies and white roses


Sweet Peas
1920 sweet pea bouquet
Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish AdvertiserFriday 22 July 1927

1927 sweet pea bouquets


1929 Chrysanthemum bouquet1927 Chrysanthemum Bouquet1920 chrysanthemum bouquet
Western Morning NewsMonday 10 December 1928

1928 shower bouquet of white chrysanthemum


Gloucester JournalSaturday 19 September 1925

1925 Asters and Gladioli

Lily of the Valley

Lily of the ValleyLily of the Valley Vintage Print
1920s Lily of the Valley
Bath Chronicle and Weekly GazetteSaturday 07 August 1926

1926 pink roses and lilies of the valley shower bouquet



1925 lilac and orchid bouquet



Pink Tulips


1923 Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon

1928 Tulip bouquet, pink dress


1922 Delphinium Sheaves1920 delphinium overarm bouquet
Sheffield IndependentThursday 20 June 1929

1929 bridesmaid bouquets of delphiniums



Western Morning NewsThursday 11 August 1927

1927 sheaves of gladioli

Orchid PrintOrchid PrintOrchid
1922 Edwina Ashley and Lord Louis Mountbatten1922 Orchid Sheaf Bouquet
Dundee Evening TelegraphFriday 08 July 1927

1927 American style bouquet of orchids

Compact 1920s bridal bouquets were more often seen in the USA.  In the UK  a 1920s shower bouquet tended to be larger with masses of foliage, yet relatively few flowers. British bouquets looked more disorganised and had long trails of green foliage compared to those seen in photos from the USA. American bridal bouquets had some greenery, but were more likely to be bulked up with an abundance of trailing ribbons, bows and attached sprays of flowers.

Longiflorum Lily

Lily longiflorumLily longiflorumLily longiflorum
1922 lily sheath bouquet21922 lily sheath bouquet1920s Arum Lily bouquet

Dundee CourierTuesday 05 January 1926

1926 sheaf of longiflorum lilies


Madonna Lily

Fragrant, trumpet-shaped pure white flowers 6-8cm in length. Flowers in the Summer.

Not to be confused with the Easter lily (Lilium longiflorum), the Madonna lily (Lilium candidum) is believed to be the flower given to Mary, the mother of Jesus, by the Angel Gabriel when Mary found out she was pregnant. Paintings from the time of the Middle Ages often feature the flower in depictions of the encounter.

Lilium candidumMadonna LilyThe Annunciation


1925 sheaf of Madonna lilies

Exeter and Plymouth GazetteTuesday 25 August 1925
 Lily Auratum

1929 lily sheaf bouquet

1920s sheaf bouquets

This old variety is white with a gold band in the centre of the petals, with brown speckles.

Calla lily

Arum lily
1920s Calla lily bouquet1924 Calla lily bouquet
Buckingham Advertiser and Free PressSaturday 25 May 1929

1929 Sheaf of arum lilies

In 1920s photographs I have seen several varieties of fern used as foliage including Asparagus setaceus, Asparagus asparagoides and maidenhair fern. Do check out my guide to ferns as there are a surprising number of different types. Myrtle was often used as an aromatic foliage.  It has became a royal tradition to carry a sprig of myrtle in the wedding bouquet. Kate Middleton’s bouquet contained a sprig of myrtle from Queen Victoria’s garden. In fact, every royal bride since Queen Victoria has incorporated myrtle into their bouquet. Edith’s bouquet does contain maidenhair fern. However I can’t decide if myrtle has been used or whether it is Eucalyptus foliage I can see. Either way I feel the foliage should have cascaded a bit more and we should have seen some trailing feathery plumes of Asparagus foliage.

Asparagus setaceusMaidenhair fern



Nottingham Evening PostThursday 22 April 1926

1926 myrtle


1920s Over Arm Sheaf Bouquets

1922 Double Wedding

The other style of bouquet that was popular in the 1920s was the arm sheaf bouquet. They first became popular in the early 1900’s under the name of Bernhardt bouquets; inspired by the presentation bouquets given to the actress of the day, Sarah Bernhardt. They were long stemmed flowers and foliages carried by the bride cradled in her arm. They could be single-ended, with stems showing at one end, or double-ended with no stems showing. Most typically they were made using longiflorum lilies, but any long stemmed flowers could be used. Popular floral choices for arm bouquets were calla lilies, gladiolus, orchids, long-stemmed roses, delphiniums, and larkspur.  Ribbons were sometimes woven into the design.

Dundee Evening TelegraphFriday 08 July 1927

1927 Huge sheaves of country flowers


1920s sheaf bouquets

Some of the photos I have seen show the bride carrying a different style bouquet compared to her bridesmaids.

Bath Chronicle and Weekly GazetteSaturday 11 September 1926

1926 sheaf of lilies and Victorian posies of roses

There were two important royal weddings in the 1920s – the marriage of King George V and Queen Mary’s daughter, Princess Mary in 1922 and that of their second son, Prince Albert, Duke of York to Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon in 1923. Elizabeth was also a bridesmaid at Princess Mary’s wedding.

1923 Royal Wedding

1923 Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon

1922 Wedding of Princess Mary

Lord Louis Mountbatten married The Hon. Edwina Ashley on 18th July 1922 at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster, London in a glittering social event, with all the Royal Family in attendance. The wedding was the social event of the decade and attended by a vast gathering of Royalty which included King George V.

1922 Mountbatten Wedding1922 Lord Louis Mountbatten

Edwina’s bouquet was a simple, elegant over-arm sheaf of orchids and her bridesmaids carried delphiniums. There is no foliage to be seen! Edwina’s bouquet is in stark contrast to the enormous fern filled bouquets I have seen in middle-class photographs.

What flowers do I think Edith would have chosen for her wedding in 1925? It was customary for the groom to provide the flowers. Constance Spry stated in 1934 `The bride’s flowers are the gift of the bridegroom – although, nowadays she often chooses them herself, and decides on the price. The old idea of the gift of flowers coming as a delightful surprise on the wedding morning unfortunately is dead. The bridesmaids flowers are also his gift.’

1926 Brown velvet wedding dress

As Edith Crawley mixed in High Society I presume she would have been influenced by the recent Royal Weddings and the Mountbatten wedding. When Edith was jilted at the altar earlier in the 1920s she was portrayed carrying a small pretty posy of roses. Edith’s sister Lady Mary opted for a much more elegant sheaf of calla lillies when she married Matthew in 1920. Edith’s earlier bridal bouquet also seems a bit modern to me. I haven’t found any images of simple hand-tied posies in the 1920s. Mary’s bouquet is similar in style to the 1922 Mountbatten wedding.

1920s Downton Abbey Weddings

Edith is portrayed in the costume drama as a modern 1920s woman who kept up to date with the latest trends and fashions. Mary tends to wear clothes which are elegantly cut and less girly than Edith. I personally think Edith would have included some foliage to soften her bouquet and a different style to her rival sister.

One high class florist warned that elegant, simple sheaves of lilies `connoted a dignity, an austerity even, which is a personal characteristic to begin with. Brides who have other charms but lack this, should leave Madonna lilies alone.’

I actually rather like the sound of the `golden bouquet’ described in this article for Edith as I think it would suit her colouring. I may well have a go at making my own `golden bouquet’ based on this description.

Hartlepool Northern Daily MailTuesday 26 April 1927

1927 Wedding Flower Guide

Yorkshire Post and Leeds IntelligencerFriday 12 November 1926 

1926 Bouquet Fashion

Lincolnshire EchoSaturday 08 August 1925

1925 fashion for sheaf bouquets replacing round bouquets

These last two articles seem to imply that a fashionable lady such as Edith Crawley with her social status would have had a sheaf of flowers rather than a rounder shower bouquet.

This my version of an Elegant 1920s inspired overarm bouquet which in the light of my research would have been a good choice for Edith even if I do say so myself!

1920s inspired Calla Lily bouquet

1920s style Bouquet Picture by Jim Holden



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Chaste Snowdrop, venturous harbinger of Spring! 


`LONE Flower, hemmed in with snows and white as they
But hardier far, once more I see thee bend
Thy forehead, as if fearful to offend,
Like an unbidden guest. Though day by day,
Storms, sallying from the mountain-tops, waylay
The rising sun, and on the plains descend;
Yet art thou welcome, welcome as a friend
Whose zeal outruns his promise! Blue-eyed May
Shall soon behold this border thickly set
With bright jonquils, their odours lavishing
On the soft west-wind and his frolic peers;

Nor will I then thy modest grace forget,
Chaste Snowdrop, venturous harbinger of Spring,
And pensive monitor of fleeting years! ‘

William Wordsworth 1819 

Today I had a pleasurable outing to Welford Park to see the drifts of snowdrops amongst the woodland. I haven’t got many snowdrops in the garden as the squirrels seem to think the bulbs are nuts and dig them up! However the few I have mark the beginning of a new gardening year. I love the phrase in Wordsworth’s poem `Chaste Snowdrop, venturous harbinger of Spring, and pensive monitor of fleeting years.’ The dainty white snowdrop foreshadows Spring and the heralding daffodils and marks the end of one gardening year and the start of another.

Welford Park Small-1

Welford Snowdrops

The common snowdrop Galanthus nivalis runs riot in the woods at Welford.

Welford SnowdropsWelford Snowdrops


Welford SnowdropsWelford Snowdrops

Welford SnowdropsFebruary Small-3

February Small-4

Double snowdrop
Double snowdrop
Double snowdrop

Inspired by my visit I bought some snowdrop plants and enjoyed photographing them in a vintage scent bottle which seemed to capture the purity of the white snowdrops. Silver and clear glass work well with white flowers. I chose a Wintery blue/grey background to create an image reminiscent of a cold February day.

February Small-2


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