My heart still skips a little beat when I see the image above. There was time when a small, hand held bouquet was my nemesis but I have been working hard on this to some effect. However, when I went down to meet Susanne of The Blue Carrot on the Rosehead Peninsula, I didn't expect I would or could produce something like this. It is also now my most liked picture on Instagram, which is surprising as the tiny brown Schnauzer is nowhere to be seen, and Planoly tells me that her presence in an image can increase audience appreciation by up to 40%.
I ventured down to Cornwall without my Head of Marketing for my long awaited date with Susanne in mid September. Aware of just how many floral designers had gone ahead of me, I was full of trepidation as to whether or not I would be able to come to close to matching their creations. Yes, I know that comparison is the thief of joy, because Sara of Wedding Sparrow told us so. However, when you know that florists including the likes of Kirstie from Ruby and The Wolf, Sarah of Simply by Arrangement, Jenn of Jennifer Pinder Flowers, Vic of Foxgloves and Glory and Lucy The Flower Hunter have all gone ahead of you, and that Brigitte of Moss and Stone is not far behind, it does make for a certain amount of pressure.
If anxiety was a strong emotion at the outset, it was quickly overtaken by excitement. Susanne's garden is full of the most beautiful flowers you can imagine, and her workbenches were lined up with cuttings of the most gorgeous palette I have ever seen. If my lesson in colour psychology taught me that green has many positive attributes, Susanne showed me just how many shades of green there are, and I quickly understood which greens I wanted (the sort of limey ones that are going yellowy brown). My beloved corals were all lined up with the palest of pinks, café au last dahlias, darker dahlias, dogwood roses, chocolate cosmos, spindleberries and, my new favourite thing, hops. So many hops! Lovey crisp, gristly, low hanging, lime green hops.
Given my hopes to soon be growing my own flowers, I was keen to know how Susanne achieved so much loveliness on her plot. She doesn't use pesticides, apart from the odd organic slug pellet. I asked her if she ever buys in any flowers. She told me that she does - she sees herself as an artist (rightly so) and thinks that to deny herself a flower just because it is not available in her garden is like a painter denying himself a particular shade of pigment that he needs to complete his picture. This is an interesting point, and one that I need to give more thought to in my quest for a sustainable floral design company. If I ever get to anywhere near the level of sufficiency I have witnessed in this little paradise, I think I can feel pretty pleased with myself.
By the end of the morning, having first photographed Susanne's demo bouquet just in case I wasn't prepared to publish my own (!), I had actually created something I was really very proud of. With the best array of flowers and foliage available anywhere in the UK, and Susanne's tips on shape, it would have been difficult not to. We headed off to The Hidden Hut for lunch. A big beach clean up was in operation at Portscatho that day, with marine biologists taking all sorts of readings for good measure. Many of Susanne's friends were out there and a few stopped to chat. I explained to them - as they amazingly seemed not to know - that coming to see The Blue Carrot is a rite of passage for most floral designers. Everyone looked suitably impressed except for Susanne, who was not familiar with the term. I don't know how much of this down to Susanne's innate modesty, and how much to speaking German as a first language, but if Alanis Morissette were to reissue a version of "Ironic" for the 2010s, I would demand a line of the refrain was adapted to include Susanne's unawareness of the rite of passage. It definitely wouldn't rhyme and I don't think it would scan either, but it is right up there with rain on wedding days and free rides that have been paid in advance, and as such demands inclusion.
We spent the afternoon working on arrangements, much more delicate and smaller in scale than my usual creations and the realisation that I can make a big impact with about 20% of the flowers I sometimes use was a very helpful revelation indeed. We sang along to the radio and Susanne introduced me to the amazing Gregory Porter (what a voice!). It was one of the happiest days I have had in a very long time. Which isn't to say that I lead a sad and miserable life - far from it - just that this was a particularly happy one.
A rite of passage is defined as a ritual or ceremony signifying an event in a person's life indicative of a transition from one stage to another, as from adolescence to adulthood. My day with Susanne was so relaxed that I don't think I could describe it was something as formal as either a ritual or a ceremony, but certainly a process took place that day which took me further on my journey in floral design, a step closer to knowing where I wanted to be and how best to achieve it. I am so excited that Autumn is here and, thanks to my trip to Portscatho, I have new knowledge with which to enjoy it even more. Thank you, Susanne, for sharing your garden, your talents and your sense of humour with me on that wonderful September day.