It's been a crazy week and I'm behind in my blog posts, still catching up on posts relating to my friend's visit - she's been gone over a week! My friend from back home who stayed with me for two weeks (see previous post 'Route Marching Around Richmond Park) very kindly paid for the two of us to attend a Sarah Raven course with the charismatic and charming Juliet Glaves of Thoughtful Flowers. The course was at Sarah Raven's inspirational garden at Perch Hill in Sussex which is in the most glorious setting. For those of you who don't know Sarah Raven, she is a well-known gardener, writer and television presenter and she runs a garden and cookery school at Perch Hill.
Juliet Glaves had a pop-up florist in The Designers Guild during the Chelsea Flower Show week. You can see the beautiful displays of flowers and arrangements she had in the Designers Guild in my post 'Designer's Guild Embraces Chelsea Flower Show' dated 25 May.
It was wonderful to head out of London in the car on a glorious sunny day and head into the countryside. Everything is very green and lush at present so it's the perfect time of year to appreciate the English countryside. I don't get out of London enough but have made it a resolution this year to escape London more often. It's so good for the soul!
Perch Hill is off the beaten track down a long winding road. The entrance to it is stunning - the lichen covered gate and the purple and white wallflowers flanking one side of the driveway:
There were about 30 of us on the course, all women, and all passionate about flowers and flower arranging. Even as an experienced florist there was plenty to learn from Juliet Glaves, whose style of flower arranging is much less formal than the way I was taught. She and her husband grow all their own flowers as well as picking wild flowers from the hedgerows so all the flowers she used in the two arrangements she made were home-grown.
When you first enter the Perch Hill building, you walk through the small shop (full of lots of fabulous items to buy) to a large glasshouse/conservatory which has the most spectacular view of the countryside. Coffee and delicious cakes were served here while we soaked up the view.
Juliet began her first masterpiece in a large metal horse's trough. She uses chicken wire rather than oasis which she attaches with tape. Chicken wire is a lot more effective and versatile in large containers especially if using tall and/or heavy stems. Juliet chatted to us as she created her masterpiece and answered all of our questions. We all took copious notes! I've shown below the progress as she added more and more gorgeous flowers that she had grown. It was amazing to watch the way the arrangement transformed. Right at the end she decided to add a few red peonies and there were gasps from the floor as these pops of red suddenly transformed the whole arrangement and it took on another dimension.
Sarah supported Juliet's presentation by providing the botanical names of each flower and how they are best cultivated. They were a great double act!!
The second arrangement that Juliet created was much smaller but equally as stunning. She used a smallish glass vase and it's incredible the size of the arrangement that she put in it.
After a delicious lunch made from vegetables produced on the farm we had the chance to wander around Sarah's magnificent vegetable gardens and cutting gardens. They really are absolutely stunning. The vegetables and flowers are mainly used for the courses that Sarah runs. For some of the flower workshops you get to go and pick your own flowers from her gardens. Now that really would be a treat!! I've split the photos into the flower gardens followed by the vegetable gardens.
And here are some photos of the vegetable gardens. I love the way some of the vegetables have been interspersed with rows of flowers or beds of lavender.
After we left Perch Hill we decided to return to London via the village of Chiddingstone in Kent. This is where the movie, Room with a View, was filmed and it's one of my favourite villages in the South East. It was one of those limpid afternoons and the village was sleepy with hardly any cars passing. We parked up next to the church and sat on the wall of the church yard listening to the birds. I wandered through the gate that leads to Chiddingstone Castle into a wooded area thick with cow parsley. It was truly magical. What would have made it even better would have been a pint in the village pub but given I was driving that wasn't an option!
I hope you have enjoyed the feast of colour and texture from the photos above. Always remember that what works in nature also works in the home. Don't be afraid to use colour(s) in your rooms, be they pops of colour or painting/wallpapering whole rooms or walls in strong colours. Take another look at Juliet Glaves' arrangement above with those pops of red peony colour in that huge masterpiece of hers. I would never have thought to introduce red but then I always say "be brave, follow mother nature in your interiors and you can't go wrong".
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