Blooming May flowers inspire creative floral art

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After April showers come May flowers and this is the perfect month to have a go at one of the floristry workshops taking place in Northamptonshire, writes Ruth Supple...

An abundance of beautiful blooms in gardens at this time of year means there is never a better time to gain hands-on inspiration for arranging flowers to adorn your home, wedding or special occasion.

And at Bay Tree Cottage in Farthingstone, near Towcester, you’ll find plenty of floristy courses taking place this month to unleash your inner artist.

At the Vintage and Country Flowers half-day workshop, course tutor Katriona Collins shows us how to use an array of pretty teacups and all other manner of cute vases to fill them with a cornucopia of country and old-English flowers.

Katriona, who lives in Warwickshire, is a practice nurse by profession and runs floristry courses as a hobby.

She says: “I have always loved gardening and took a few courses in floristry. It was a hobby which has grown over the years.”

Green-fingered Katriona grows all her own flowers in a cuttings garden, which she then uses to create beautiful arrangements. But she explains to those of us on the course that you don’t have to use blooms from your own garden, but can create equally lovely displays with shop-bought arrangements.

She begins by asking us all about our experience with flowers and what we hope to take away from it (apart from our own hand-made efforts at the end). One of the group says she’s been given the course as a birthday present from her friend: “It’s my 70th birthday and this was a vintage birthday treat!”

There has been a massive interest in vintage over the past decade and it’s naturally spilt into the flower arranging world, with many people having retro-style teacups filled with flowers for centrepieces at their weddings.

Katriona says: “It’s very trendy to use old containers, like jam jars and milk bottles, to show off flowers and I show you how you can do so.”

She then shows us a variety of arrangements already made and explains how she has created each and how to choose which way to display your blooms and foliage, depending on the size and shape of your vase or container. There’s an ingenious way to use a ordinary household objects which I, for one, would never have considered displaying flowers on and in, like a striking green French cake stand, an old jelly mould and a vintage teacup and saucer.

“Flower arranging isn’t like a haircut,” she adds. “One side doesn’t have to match the other. I like a looser look sometimes. You need to stand back and say ‘that looks good’; it’s knowing when to stop fiddling with an arrangement so you don’t overdo it.”

Katriona talks us through various flowers and foliage we can use, showing us how to strip away leaves, any thorns and cut them to size, as well as using floristry wire, if necessary, to ensure heads don’t droop.

Then, after a tea break, it’s time for us to have a go with the bucket of flowers and foliage she has set aside for each of us, filled with seasonal blooms, a milk bottle container and a selection of ribbons and lace to add embellishments if we want.

I cut a piece of lace which I fix into place around my bottle, then add a hand-tied pretty blue patchwork fabric over the top, before filling my vase with water and then a selection of blue and white flowers and some gypsophila as decoration. It looks much prettier than anything I would normally create at home with the same amount of flowers.

We all have enough flowers left over for Katriona to show us how to make our own hand-tied arrangement, which I use to fill an large glass container I’ve never normally known what to do with before. Katriona tells us we should choose main foliage, then a main flower as the bride, then smaller flowers as the bridesmaid. Everyone’s results are stunning and I am thrilled with both displays.

The one thing I particularly enjoyed about this workshop compared to some other floristry ones I’ve been on is that you don’t need to mess around with fiddly bits of wire and pre-soaked oasis to achieve amazing results in a very short space of time.

Bay Tree Cottage has several floristry workshops taking place through summer and autumn.

Visit www.btcworkshops.co.uk for more information.