They Do it With Flowers - A Spring Workshop in Hambleden
It's been a particularly long winter - or so it seems as the snow continued to fall through March, and the rain falls in early Apri - and whilst it's fair to say I think we've all seen enough of it now, it's also provided me the perfect opportunity to indulge in some quality time with all things Agatha (Christie and now Raisin, it turns out). Just a few weeks ago I spent a Sunday afternoon tucked up by the fire watching Murder at the Vicarage. (I'm an avid watcher of ITV3, to the point that there was once a fear I would soon be booking Viking River Cruises, paid for in special £5 commemorative coins). I soon realised that many of the location scenes were familiar, and when everyone filed out of Hambleden Village Hall following an Inquest, I knew for sure that it was new favourite village in the Chilterns. I had recently booked said hall for a flower class and I felt it was a good omen to see it featured in one of my favourite Christie dramatisations. Just a few days later, I spotted it on the cover of this month's Harpers Bazaar, with Lily James (of Downtown Abbey fame) sitting on a bicycle full of flowers. Inside was an article entitled "Best of British" featuring not only the wonderful Lily but also many residents of the village, including some Schnauzers. Over the years Hambleden has been the home to many film sets from Misomer Murders to Nanny McPhee, to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and 101 Dalmatians. The term "quintessentially English" is perhaps hackneyed and over used, and yet I can't think of a better one to employ on this occasion.
With the weather not yet allowing for full-blown British Flowers event, I ventured up to New Covent Garden two days before the class to purchase my selection. I knew I wanted to use Amaryllises, and in days of old I would have bought them more than two days in advance, but a recent incident involving some amaryllises being locked in a room next to a radiator by my husband meant that I now know a very effective way of forcing them open from very tight shut in less than 48 hours. Arriving at the market two working days after Mother's Day was an eye opener, the place was practically deserted and whilst it was lovely to have the chance to chat to traders who were less busy than usual, I felt myself struggling to source everything I wanted. However, I finally left with my stash of amaryllises, cherry blossom, lilac, anemones, butterfly ranunculus, tulips, foliage, hellebores and fritillaries and headed home to prepare them all.
The following day, aided by Charles and Hilda, I packed everything up, loaded the car and unloaded at the other end, and set about making the hall look as flowery as I could. Soon people were arriving, the coffee hadn't been made, I wasn't at all sure about the croissants I'd collected in a hurry (neither was anyone else, as they went uneaten), but somehow we started more or less on time. After introductions and a demonstration by me, with the scary first ten minutes where no one says anything at all as they are concentrating intently, everyone quickly settled down and set about the task in hand. The majority of the attendees were experienced florists, some of whom had met each other before, and others who had chatted to each other on social media but were meeting in person for the first time.
There's not too much to add, except to show you images of everyone's work that day. It never fails to amaze me how everyone can start off with a similar vessel and have access to the same flowers as their fellow attendees and yet everyone produces somethings very different to the next person. All images are courtesy of the lovely Eva Nemeth, who attended in the capacity of fellow flower student, but couldn't resist taking some pictures. In this, we were jolly lucky.
And there it is. After the class, some had other commitments to go to, and a few of us sloped off round the corner for lunch at the wonderful Stag and Huntsman pub. Lots of chat about plans for the coming season and a few ideas bounced around. Charles was allowed to join us and Hilda sat quietly under the table -so quietly in fact that we forgot to share any of our lunch with her (bad luck, Hilda).Goodbyes and tail wagging followed lunch and soon we were heading home, reflecting that I felt as much as if I'd had a lovely day with friends as I did that I'd had a very busy few days prepping, transporting and demonstrating with flowers. We enjoyed it so much, we are doing it again in late June, having passed our trial run and gained the approval of the Hamblden Parish Council. I'm so looking forward to summer, balmy days in (effectively) St Mary Mead, and roses and meeting more flowery friends, with Eva documenting it all for everyone's portfolios. Details to follow very soon.