I look forward to my birthday because it’s a great excuse for treating myself. I often think we don’t treat ourselves enough but I certainly made up for that recently when I booked a full day workshop with Sarah from Simply by Arrangement, the famous florist from Yorkshire. If you love flowers then surrounding yourself with them for a full, or even a half day, workshop is a luxurious treat.

botanical art

Sarah’s work

Sarah’s work is floral art. It resembles a still life painting by an Old master from 17th century Holland. I just love those opulent pictures which I first saw in Amsterdam when I was studying Art History. In fact it was when I discovered some modern day florists were almost recreating this botanical art that I fell in love with floristry.

Stepping into Sarah’s flower studio the selection of flowers and foliage did not disappoint. The material came from a local flower grower and Sarah’s garden and cutting patch. You’ll know that I am passionate about growing your own flowers, if you possibly can. It’s the easiest way to bring the beauty of nature that is growing in your garden into your home for everyone to enjoy. You can imagine how delighted I was to see some varieties that were on my ‘to grow’ wish list and to have some new ones to add. I loved using Phlox crème brullee with it’s cluster of small flowers together with Calendula bronze beauty. The colours were harmonious and the Calendula’s curving stems where tricky but a delight to play with. The deep velvety chocolate cosmos gave a note of richness and luxury which I adored.

rose phlox and calendula

curving stems of Calendula

cosmos and rudbeckia

chocolate Cosmos adds a touch of velvet

As you can imagine Sarah gave a master class in flower arranging. Watching her work was like floral ballet. Her lightness of touch was a sight to behold.

no floral foam

Floral magic at work

The no floral foam method of using folded chicken wire means the early stages where the shape of the arrangement is defined by foliage is tricky. The foliage often has a centre of gravity that you might not like so it becomes more like a game of kerplunk when you rest the stems in the wide holes of the chicken wire and pray they will stay in position long enough to build around them.

flower arranging

add flowers after the foliage has formed the structure

There is no recipe for an arrangement. Each piece is picked up and looked at from all angles; assessing whether the colour and form is right. Turning the display, stepping back for a longer view or looking away is part of the process.

flower class

Each stem is carefully placed

Sarah explains that deciding when to stop is one of the hardest things to learn. It can so easily be over worked.


Nearly finished...

Leaving space for items to breathe and including varying heights so the individual bloom can be enjoyed is essential.

floral workshop

Et voila!

Towards the end you are looking for that perfect finishing touch, something that can give a playful and airy quality.

mantlepiece arrangement

A single stem can make all the difference

As a tutor myself I appreciated how Sarah held back when it was time for me to make my arrangement. She was quietly supportive but there to give her opinion if asked and overall made me feel I could take full credit for the arrangement.

After a delicious homecooked 3 course lunch the afternoon’s bridal bouquets demonstration and practise began. Watching the master at work Sarah made it look effortless. She built up the bouquet in 3 phases and made it in her hand which was a new method to me.

bridal bouquet

Sarah builds the bouquet in 3 phases

I saw where the gaps emerged and watched whether she filled them or not. When she repeated a flower it became a thread that guided your eye into and through the display.

bouquet for bride

We chatted again about which flower to choose and each time it sparked a conversation about seasonality.

bridal flowers

If a bride choses British grown flowers they reflect more than a season they reflect a specific time of year. Each bouquet becomes a snapshot of the growing calender, capturing that fleeting moment when those particular flowers are in perfect bloom. Truly unique.

flowers for the bride

British grown flowers are specific to each month

It was a wonderful day and I am most grateful to Sarah for her expert tuition. Lesson learn’t – treat myself more often not just for Christmas and birthdays.