Feast Flowers

Posted in All posts, July, on

It was at first an odd sight to see the fields of Perch Hill become patched with the white of bell tents, instead of sheep! The 2015 Perch Hill Feast saw 21 white bell tents spring up, which meant 21 bunches of flowers for me to make! I arrived from London early Wednesday morning from the rush of Charing Cross to the tranquillity of Stonegate Station.

It had been almost a year since I last visited and the garden had changed as it does each year. The new rose garden, which really should be called the salvia garden, looked beautiful. Last year Josie (one of the gardeners) had planted the rectangular beds with a range of herbs and various annuals for that season, and the week before I left she was putting together a list of roses to be set during the winter. This summer the roses are blooming well, mixed with scented geraniums and salvias of many colourful varieties.  

In the vegetable garden Colin (another Perch Hill gardener) has planted cherry trees protected with a tall fruit cage, which I called the aviary!

The planning and picking of flowers for the feast began in earnest. I started picking early in the morning as the sun soon broke though; you don’t really want to be cutting flowers at full pelt at this time as they wilt almost as soon as you cut them.

A marquee was attached to the barn. I did a floral globe for its centre which Adam remarked looked like a lavish thing as if from a Borneo jungle!

To do a globe you wrap the oasis ball in a cage of chicken wire and hang it upon a rope. You always stuff the stems right into its heart and that way you get a rounded shape rather than a dreaded square! Tessa (the lovely lady who organises courses and events at Perch Hill) taught me the tricks of the trade in globe flower arranging last year when we did the flowers for a lavish wedding in West Sussex (you can find a quick guide here). A globe once finished can be surprisingly heavy, so I enlisted Colin to help hoist the whole rainforest palette world up to its proud platform in the marquees rooftop canopy once it was finished.

I used delphiniums and alstroemeria together with the small heads of artichokes. This was a bit of a risk as these buds are heavy and looking out into the marquee seeing them above the diners gave me visions of terror! But the artichokes stayed firmly in their globe and the whole thing looked good for the whole feast.

Jugs of foxgloves, scabious, sweet williams and teasels were placed on the centre of each table. Sarah and I did little bud vases for the metal candle stands using roses and penstemon.

In one Sarah picked Iceland poppies, which looked even more beautiful when backed with candlelight.

The dahlias are a little late to get going this summer, so they were largely absent from the arrangements, but in a way this made me use flowers that I may otherwise have overlooked.

Nasturtiums I used in small posies that filled red glass goblets – don’t just see them as companion plants as they look beautiful when picked too.

It was wonderful to see the farm come alive with people for the weekend, as I’m used to seeing it as a largely silent working farm. I was on pot-washing duties too, and I can recommend a long stint at it for those of us who garden without gloves as its brilliant hand exfoliator after a few hours!

I’m going to be returning to Perch Hill in October to help Sarah with her day courses, so perhaps I will see some of you there! For now don’t miss the boat with planting wallflowers and sweet williams – get them sown this weekend so that they have time to bulk up well before it gets chilly.

Thanks for reading,