Have I mentioned I’ve retired. Just once or twice I’m sure. The joy of being retired means I am able to do different things. Able to indulge. Whether it is gardening or travelling. Meeting people I have been engaged with ( rather than to ) on social media over the years. One of my biggest joys has been the opportunity to spend time at Common Farm Flowers with Georgie Newbery. The flower farmer of British grown flowers. Grown not flown. It’s well known I’m a huge fan. I buy flowers. Have attended workshops. Wandered the garden.
Over the last 18 months Georgie has allowed me to be part of the team at Common Farm Flowers to assist on busy days whether it be for Mothering Sunday,Easter, Christmas or one of my favourites – big wedding days. My friend Lorraine Pullen and I roped in as part of what Georgie calls ‘the dream team’ working alongside Georgie and Sharon in the flower studio. Who would have thought that 18 months ago I was pushing a pen around a bit of paper in Canary Wharf – not the actual Wharf but in a building on it – and now I’m occasionally pushing gorgeous British flowers into fantastic flowery arrangements. And loving it. Totally.
I was delighted to have been asked again last week to help out with a white wedding. So delighted I arranged my holidays around it.
The bride had asked for white. Previous weddings I had helped with were more colourful so I wasn’t sure about all white to be honest. But hey. What do I know. I’m just the work experience guy in this! Georgie had mentioned that the studio was full of around 4,000 stems. I’d seen the studio full before but boy. Was it full. And white. A small corner of colour for the bouquets going out that day. But predominately white. I love the studio but when it’s full of flowers, scent in the air it’s awesome.
The list was long. Brides bouquet. 4 bridesmaids. Button holes. Two large arrangements for pedestals for the church. A local Rural church in Cucklington whose records date back to 1291. One for the Norman font – a glorious arrangement warranted for such a historic structure. . Garlanding for the church entrance. Garlanding for the tipi in the field for the reception. Little arrangements for the gates of the church. All white. With green foliage. The list was endless. Where to start. How about a cuppa tea and a croissant. I came armed with goodies.
I’d called in the day before. right’ says Georgie cracking the whip ‘ ‘ early start tomorrow’ she reminds me . There’s a lot to get through. Say 8.30. Thanks. Did I mention I’m retired. 8.30! I work gentlemans hours – some say I always did. But for Georgie and the joy the day gives me I’d be there at 6. But don’t tell her that. Please.
My role for the day is to make a start on the 15 table arrangements – oh I forgot those in the list- oblong arrangements with a hurricane lamp and candle for the centre.
15. That’s not too bad I thought. That’s not what I thought hours later with an aching back and cross eyed from looking for gaps.
First job was to soak the oasis. Thanks Sharon – she had done it already. Team work that. I love Sharon. We work well together. She laughs at my jokes. She eats more cake than I do. Doesn’t mind my teasing her. And is brilliant at what she does. Sharon gets on with the garlanding. My job is easy compared to hers. That’s what I think. She just quietly gets on with it. In between answering the telephone. Life at the flower farm goes on. Despite 4,000 blooms sitting waiting to be arranged.
Make sure that the whole of the oasis is covered with green foliage says Georgie. Ok. That shouldn’t be difficult. I’ll be finished by lunchtime. Hmmm.
First I go cutting ivy. A wheelbarrow full ready to make a start. Which isn’t enough. I have to go cut more. Thankfully there is a lot. I can’t go wrong cutting Ivy.
Along with a whole host of other foliage. Including Rosemary – eucalyptus, camelia, lots of trachelium as greenery. Oh. And more ivy. More eucalyptus.
Sharon concentrates on getting the garlands made. These will be amazing at the end of the day. Great attention to detail. Worrying if she should add more. Or less. If less is more. If I’ll ever shut up up telling her she’s missed a bit. It’s really interesting how adding a different flower actually lifts the garlands. One minute you wonder – then with a small addition it lights up.
How hard is it I’d thought. 15 table arrangements to green up before the flowers go in. Can’t be that bad. Right. As soon as you think it’s done you look again and I can see a bit of oasis. If I can see it the boss lady will too. Eyes like a hawk. . Turn it around. There’s another. How much more foliage will it take. Let me tell you. Loads. And loads. And when you think your done. Loads more. I hear The boss say ‘ I don’t want to see any of that oasis’ – yes boss. Before we start adding white flowers. And then more white flowers.
Meanwhile Georgie is full on with bouquet and pedestal duty. Oh and in between some colourful bouquets for a 50th to be delivered later. Life isn’t only about tomorrow! There are orders to take. Other flowers to arrange. Kids to sort.
There is constant banter between us. We are missing Loraine who because of injury – not a flower arranging injury… but the banter continues. She always joins in. And gets us singing along to cheesy tunes. I miss Lorraine. She’s a diamond. Like me retired. A whole different life in the police behind her and it’s great to spend days like today as a team. That’s one thing I do miss in retirement. Team work. Common Farm works as a team. With Georgie at the helm.
I’d like to say that this is Sharon and I playing peek a boo over the flower tables. But it’s not. This is sharon checking for gaps. The garland will be high up and needs to be covered. I love this photo. Not only is it fun. It shows the attention to detail that Common Farm Flowers applies to the arrangements. Flowers. Friends. Fun. What more could I ask for. Other than another piece of cake. A cuppa tea. A sit down.
I was wrong about white. I like colour. But the white flowers were gorgeous. I’ll take a deep breath and try and remember what we used – Antirrhinums, sweet peas, feverfew, philadelphus, daisies, astrantia, limonium, jasmine, larkspur, delphinium, stocks, Ammi, roses, scabious, all looking awesome in the arrangements. Bears breeches to give height to the large arrangements for the altar. Ammi dancing and floating in the arrangements. The large floating heads dancing above the rest. Posh cow parsley someone said. Maybe. But I love it. I must actually look up pink cow parsley which I saw in the garden at Ardraich in Scotland. The stocks smell delicious. The small white roses look awesome. The larger more open roses fill the spaces. Will look even better tomorrow – I hope!
Or being sent out to cut the white roses to be used for the rose petal confetti. I love that. Being sent to the cutting garden on my own. That means I’ve been promoted. Trusted to cut on my own! Hurrah. I spend more time admiring the flower patches than I should. I’ll make up for it by making lunch. Which I do. Make shift pizzas. Alcoholic lollies.
The day is long. Tiring. I’m not used these days to hard work. Standing for hours. Bending. Having to constantly ask questions to Georgie. To Sharon. What should I do! Is this short enough? What flowers should be used next.? Told how many of each. For me the day ends at 7. The large arrangements have been delivered to the church. A bit of a panic over the altar cloth. Me ironing another. Did I say I was odd job.. too right. One thing my mother said I should be able to do was iron a shirt and sew a button on. Which I can. Oh. And bake a cake.
All that’s left is for the rest of the flowers to be delivered the following morning and put in place. I’m not there for that bit. But it doesn’t stop me worrying that all is well. That the flowers haven’t dropped in the night. That they like them. That I haven’t messed up in any way. That I won’t be asked back.
The following photos are courtesy of Georgie. To show the flowers in place. In the Church. In the tipi. At the gate. The sun came out and The flowers were fabulous. I’m sure the bride was fabulous too. A lovely day for a white wedding.
I declined from joining in the photo. I’d didn’t want to spoil the bouquet! Ian was already traumatised when I said I was seeing Georgie about wedding flowers. I didn’t want to give him a heart attack. He said we’d done it twice without flowers. No need for a third ceremony. Just for flowers.
Georgie wrote about using white in the tipi for wedding flowers. Top tips for the tipi! Go look at her Blog here for inspiration.
So what does a flower farmer do when he or she has finished. Take photos of what has been created.
The day after the wedding Georgie received a letter from the bridegrooms father. Saying how lovely the flowers were. That for me makes my aching back. My tired legs all worth while.
For my small contribution to the day.
For my part I’m hoping that I get asked back again to continue my valuable ‘work experience’ along with Lorraine who is my senior and with Georgie and Sharon. That is if If Sharon hasn’t asked that don’t return unless it’s without my camera. Especially without my camera and my ability to take some awful pictures of her. Taken unawares. But not for here! Plus my constant requests of ‘ can I turn the lights off please’ . I’ll go back with almost any conditions! Almost.
Information on Common Farm Flowers can be found here. Great place to order bouquets – I know – I have ordered a few in my time! Great workshops too. Oh. And wedding flowers.