Cottage garden blooms in jam jars
It is easy to create bouquets and party flowers that look as if they are fresh from a film set of the latest adaptation of a Jane Austen or Thomas Hardy novel; if like Sarah, you live in the country where hedgerows and fields abound, or like me you happen to be in an urban area, with lots of wasteland bursting with silver birch, wild grasses and flowers.
But what if you don't live in such a place of rural abundance or urban neglect? And on top of no wild bounty, you are without a cut-flower garden, full of the annuals and bulbs, flowering in the range of the eccentric colours and of clownish, brash blooming anatomy that many of us crave?
Can such lavish, home grown styled arrangements be accomplished from flowers, bought wholesale in markets and then arranged in a high end urban London florist, make the grade of a Pride and Prejudice bunch, worthy of something Keira Knightley would carry as if freshly harvested from a corn field edge?
Melissa Richardson, the founder and creator of the bespoke floristry business, JamJar Flowers - proved to me hands down that the flowers to be bought from places such as the Covent Garden flower market can achieve such a look in the heart of London, as she came this week to Perch Hill to do a day’s floristry course.
I had been intrigued by JamJar, after discovering them on Instagram. The photo among so much of their online flower porn that I adored the most, is one of a waterfall of roses and ranunculus cascading down from a church balcony, a topped by a perching stuffed hornbill, whom I disappointingly discovered was not a member of Jam Jars floristry prop collection but belonged to the in-question venue!
Melissa was not always a florist. She was once a high end modelling agent, travelling the world looking for human beauty and this is the key lifelong thing that attracted her to flowers, beauty.
As she told us all, during her comedic, biographical introduction of how the company came into existence, she revealed that her father was a keen gardener but not one really of cut flowers. He grew them for her mother to pick in his vegetable garden, while his flower borders where to be left uncut. Melissa chose her floristry’s name, JamJar due to her childhood memories of picking wild flowers and grasses during walks and then getting home and plonking them into you've guessed it, a jam jar!
She left the modelling world with a good, hard earned pedigree but surprisingly did not use her contacts from it in order to help Jam Jar to fledge.
She worked from scratch, aiming for contracts at London bankers’ parties and as she told me one of her very first contracts, was to do flowers for a wedding at one of my favourite haunts, London Zoo!
Stepping into the world of floristry, at the time of the recession and banking crisis, Melissa, says the flowers reflected the mood of the capital during this period of gloom. Namely the style was of canna lilies stuffed into goldfish bowls, of dyed colours, all controlled, imported and stiff. Her flare soon began to turn this tide and her individuality, got her noticed within the floral world.
Today Melissa and her team at JamJar are in great demand. Almost all trade comes via telephone calls and emails, not from the shop door located in the lavishly named Peacock Yard of cobbles and balcony doors. Indeed, the shop’s window looks like a potion merchant’s, with shelves spanning floor to ceiling, holding coloured glass vases.
It has taken time for Melissa to build relationships and respect with the flower market sellers, some of whom sell seeding meadow grass at £10 a bag but in the city with few lawns let alone unmown verges to cut from with a bucket in hand, such foliage is greatly needed and understandably commands such a price.
Melissa now has a royal list of flower sellers, supplying her the most cottage garden looking blooms she can commercially find. Some are from rare English growers, and while she does her best to work in season, that rose needed for a November party which looks as if it has been plucked from a David Austin catalogue may have been shipped in from Kenya, romance has to be combined with practicality and the needs of the client.
Melissa demonstrated her flower bunches which go into her famous jam jars, using flowers and foliage that we picked together from Sarah’s cutting garden that morning. We did so while laughing the whole time and discussing the great and the good.
Her jam jars come in 3 sizes but this is the tip of the iceberg in terms of what her team creates, from whole ceilings of trendy bars covered in hanging flowers to unicorns created from grasses and moss.
JamJar is an absolutely fabulous, serious, high end romp of floral profusion!
Thanks for reading!
Arthur works as the gardener and florist at the Emma Bridgewater factory in Stoke on Trent. He follows Sarah’s principles in growing cut flowers which are used in the factory shops, café and during events. Before this, he worked for Sarah for a summer after completing training at the Royal Botanical gardens of Kew. Arthur’s favourite plants are those which make fabulous cut flowers but that are also bursting with pollen and nectar for visiting pollinators. His first love are chickens and feels strongly that a garden is not complete without the presence of poultry.