Styling with flowers and plants - in and out

Gosh, I've just realised that it's two weeks since I did a blog post.  Really sorry. It's been a mad sort of two weeks and I don't know where the time has gone.

I did however get some time on Thursday to replace flowers in my house and buy a few flowering plants to replace some of those that have finished flowering.  It's been a pretty awful August with low temperatures, grey days and rain - what's new, that's a typical English summer after all !!  My plants haven't flourished as well as I would have liked from a flowers perspective, due to the lack of sunshine.

Anyway, as you all know, I'm an ex florist and I can't live without being surrounded by flowers and plants so every room in my two-bedroom home has either a vase of flowers or a flowering plant in it.  My budget has decreased dramatically since I took voluntary redundancy from my job in the financial services last July so I have to make the most of the flowers that I buy.  I even will them to live longer!!!!

Here are my top tips for buying and arranging flowers in the home:

- I buy most of my flowers in the supermarkets (mainly Waitrose as they have the best selection) as they are cheaper than florist prices. However if you want more interesting flowers and greenery find a good local florist as well as buying from the supermarket

- Don't just buy flowers randomly. You need to plan where you are going to put them in your home and what vase you will use

- Monotones create the biggest impact i.e. flowers of one colour.  Red & white flowers in the same vase is a big No-No (blood & bandages!!). Stick to tones and hues of the same colour.  Or you can have a couple of colours like pink and orange to create a real impact as I've done with the roses in my hall (see photo below)

- Cut all stems on a diagonal and any thick woody stems should also be cut vertically up the stem for a couple of centimetres e.g. sunflowers, stocks, chrysanthemums, hydrangeas. 

- I always add the flower food sachet that comes with the flowers to the water as well as a blob of bleach (it stops water marks on the vase).  Food and bleach don't seem to harm the flowers, on the contrary my flowers seem to last for days/weeks!

- Best vases are those that have a wider base than the neck.  Flowers display better and you don't need so many of them (budget, budget, budget!!)

- Clean the stems of the flowers to remove any leaves or thorns and off-shoots, just save a few at the top.  These need nutrition so the more you remove the more the flower has the best chance of survival.  I always remove anything that will sit below water level and even some above water level.  Off-shoots can be put in small bud vases or vintage bottles as you can see in the photos below.

- If you are lucky enough to have a garden (I don't!) pick some foliage to add to the vase of flowers. This adds, texture and bulks up the flowers so you don't need so many flowers

- Top up the water in the vases regularly (some flowers drink copious amounts of water so keep a sharp eye on the level of water - sunflowers for example drink loads!). Change the water regularly especially for flowers like stocks as the water can get really smelly. Just remember, you like to shower/bath regularly and flowers do also !!

So here's what's in my house currently and a few pics of my three square feet of outside space.


And here are the latest photos of my limited outside space - three square feet and the steps down to the garden belonging to the owners of the flat underneath mine. I have tried to keep to blues, mauves and pinks but I've also included a soft orange at the bottom of the steps.  Bees love blue and mauve flowers which is why I tend to go for this colour palette

I hope these photos have inspired you to create some gorgeous displays inside and outside.  I cannot live without being surrounded by flowers (you can't take the florist out of the gal, as I always say!).

I'd love to hear about how you use flowers to style your home and also about your outside space and if limited, how you maximise it.  Do let me know as I'm always keen to hear from my readers.  I'd also love to get some feedback from you as to what topics you'd like me to cover in my blog.

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A dull & drizzly summer's day in my three square feet of outdoor space

Hi All.  Apologies for the lack of blog posts in the last week or so.  My younger son, who lives in Sydney arrived back in London last week for a week's visit and it's been full-on since he arrived. It's wonderful to have him home though briefly and I'm pleased that up until today, the weather has been excellent. It's drizzly and dull today but certainly not cold (very muggy).  I am amazed how my three square feet of outdoor space can still create an impact today despite the lack of sunshine.  Also, some of the plants have finished flowering and some are yet to flower so you there is always something new to see.

London has been basking in high temperatures recently and the warmth and sunshine have certainly helped the gardens. However we have had little or no rain so the parks are expanses of dry grass and we have to water our gardens every day. No hosepipe ban threatened yet thank goodness. 

As those of you who have been following my blog, my flat is on the first floor and I have no share or access to the back garden, just the tiny space outside my back door and the steps leading down to the garden belonging to the flat below. However this limited space provides me with a lot of pleasure turning it into a bank of colour.  The plants on the steps obviously grow towards the light so I do lose a lot of the impact of them, especially the trailers, unless I go down to the garden and look up. But my neighbours downstairs can appreciate it so it serves both flats!!

When I work on my tiny outdoor space, I use the same design principles that I use indoors. It's important to create "rooms" or areas of interest in your outdoor space with focal points. I learnt when I studied floristry that monotones are more effective (or shades of the same colour).  I have picked a colour palette for my outdoor space of blue, purple, mauve and pink which are all very similar tones and this palette has quite an effect on my very limited outdoor space. I then introduced a gentle orange as a contrast but complementary colour.

I'm a huge fan of blue-based colours, in particular purple and its hues.  Years ago I had my colours done by one of those colour consultants and I'm a 'Summer' so should wear blue based colours i.e. cool tones. I remember the consultant took ages to decide between Spring or Summer as a lot of blondes are Spring.  It seems I've transferred my cool blue-based colours into my interior and exterior decoration, but certainly not deliberately.  In fact I really dislike yellow-based colours; they really jar with me. For example, I love blue-based red but not a tomato red; I love emerald green but not olive green.

Here is a selection of photos I took this morning in the drizzle.  It was a joy to see so much colour.

In my kitchen I also have a bay with two windows.  I've had lavender in the window boxes in the past and last year I grew basil which reached about three feet tall. I had so much basil I ended up freezing it and it lasted most of the winter.  This year I bought Cornflower and Nigella seeds from Petersham Nurseries thinking that they wouldn't grow too tall. Well, the photo below says it all. The cornflowers are nearly three feet tall and the Nigella, still to flower, is over a foot tall.  I am hoping the NIgella will produce its beautiful soft blue flowers while the Cornflowers are still in flower but I may be disappointed. 

I'd love to hear about your outside space and if limited, how you maximise it.  Are you a blue-based or yellow-based person?  What colour palette do you have in your garden?  Is it a reflection of what you have inside? Do let me know as I'm always keen to hear from my readers.  I'd also love to get some feedback from you as to what topics you'd like me to cover in my blog.


If you’re working on your own home decorating project, either internally or externally and looking for some inspiration and help, please get in touch; I offer an initial free consultation.  





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