A lesson in flower arranging at Perch Hill, Sussex

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".


If you’re working on your own home decorating project, need help with your outside space, home staging if you are about to put your home on the market or just some de-cluttering/organising techniques, please get in touch and see how I can help. I always offer an initial free consultation with no obligation so contact me to book this.

Route marching around Richmond Park with a friend

Apologies for not having posted anything for a couple of weeks; I've had my dear friend Jill Neame staying with me from my home town, Christchurch (NZ). She comes to stay each year for five years (this is year 2) to walk another section of the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route in Spain.  She needs to get some serious walking practice during her two week stay in London so it's a great opportunity to see London on foot and to get some more exercise.  I am always surprised how much more you see when you walk - I'm used to zipping around London on my 50cc Vespa moped or getting exercise by jogging around Tooting Common opposite my house!

I also had some painful surgery on my thumb nail on 29th May and have spent the last 10 days with a fat bandage on my thumb and my arm in a sling for the first four days to relieve the pressure so typing on my laptop has been nigh impossible! You don't realise how much you need/use your thumb until you can't use it.  I had to get Jill to wash my hair, attach my necklaces, chop vegetables ..... but I could unscrew the top of a wine bottle!!!  

Both Jill and I had wedding invites (hers last w/e and mine in July) so here we are modelling our new hats from Petersham Nurseries - these gorgeous Italian made hats made from 70% straw, are just perfect, not too formal and just enough flippancy to counter any formal attire!!

The first day of Jill's visit we decided to route march around Richmond Park. I'd visited the Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park a few weeks ago (Bedazzled by Colour) to see the spectacular azaleas and rhododendrons but I wasn't disappointed when we visited the Plantation again, despite the azaleas being well past their best; on the contrary I found their faded glory much more appealing.  You have to forgive me for yet another blog post on Richmond Park; it never ceases to inspire and enthral.  It's hard to believe you are actually just outside the centre of London and if the planes weren't on the flight part to Heathrow airport which crosses the edge of Richmond Park, you could be forgiven for thinking you were in the countryside. Entering from Roehampton Gate, the first thing you notice are the deer which is always such a wonderful sight of peace and tranquillity.  Sometimes a deer will saunter into the road and all the traffic has to stop while all the other deer decide to follow suit. They definitely have their right of way!!

After route marching around Richmond Park and the Isabella Plantation, we returned to Petersham Nurseries for a much-needed cup of tea and slice of cake

See subsequent posts for further route marching around London !!


If you’re working on your own home decorating project and looking for some inspiration, please get in touch and see how I can help.


Designer's Guild embraces Chelsea Flower Show

Every year during the Chelsea Flower Show I visit Designers Guild in the Kings Road, Chelsea as I love the way they embrace the Flower Show by having a florist pop-up shop in the internal courtyard.

This year the florist was Thoughtful Flowers  and I had the pleasure of meeting the owner Juliet Glaves in the shop. As you can see from the photos below, she creates natural and creative arrangements to enhance the beauty of the garden-grown flowers and some  harvested from hedgerows. I am actually doing a course on 3rd June Really Romantic Flowers at Perch Hill Farm with the wonderful duo Sarah Raven and Juliet Glaves. This should be a fantastic day and it includes lunch made with fresh produce from the garden at Perch Hill.

I love the way Juliet's flowers complement the beautiful surroundings of the Designers Guild showroom. The Designers Guild is  bit of a mecca for me as I always find inspiration especially on using colour and of course I usually end up buying one or two things! Below I've included a mix of images of Juliet's gorgeous flowers and Designers Guild items including fabric and wallpaper.  I hope the colours inspire you as much as they do me.

Seeking style inspiration?

If you’re working on your own home decorating project and looking for some inspiration, please get in touch and see how I can help. 

Spring slowly injects colour into my three square feet of outdoor space

Spring continues to slowly make its mark in my tiny outdoor space, all of three square feet outside the kitchen door and the steps leading down to the garden belonging to the flat downstairs.

It's been a pretty miserable May so far with a lot of rain and cold days. I've even had to use the central heating on a couple of occasions which is unheard of in May. Colour is so slow to appear in my outdoor space this year which is frustrating so I've resorted to buying some plants already in flower to inject some colour. 

I design and style my outdoor space in much the same way I do with interiors and usually apply similar principles - maximum of three colours per space, grouping colours, mixing up the textures to create interest, creating a focal point and I even use mirrors to reflect light and make the space seem larger. 

I am a huge fan of monochromatic garden schemes as they create such an impact but this year I've chosen to break the habit and have chosen pinks, blues and a splash of orange. And a random yellow poppy found its way into the scheme!! Blue flowers are superb for attracting bees and butterflies and my garden is no exception. 

I've even got a planter of rocket and fennel (the herb) which I've had for several years. The rocket is absolutely delicious and tastes so much better than the stuff you buy in supermarkets.  The fennel herb is very useful in fish dishes and many of Ottolenghi recipes.

I'd love to see photos of your own gardens and how you style them so do share your thoughts, comments and photos with me.

You might also like to read previous blog posts about my three square feet of outdoor space