episode 69 | show notes & advice
Today Sarah is thrilled to be talking to Willow Crossley on the podcast. Willow is renowned for her wild, yet completely beautiful and intricate floral creations, and her books that champion the art of living with nature. Sarah’s first experience of Willow’s flowers was seeing a cavalcade of joyful, triumphant single stem dahlias run along a table, in all sorts of colours and shapes.
Willow is coming to teach at Perch Hill in June and, on today’s podcast, Sarah asks her all about her seasonal and sustainable approach to flowers. Plus Willow shares her top tulip tips and the favourite varieties and combinations she loves to use for arrangements.
In this episode discover
- How Willow got into flowers via working in fashion and living on a vineyard in France
- The design process behind Willow’s collaborations that include vases, wallpaper and a clothing range with Brora
- Learn Willow’s special trick for arranging tulips
- The inspiration for her Sunday Instagram flower arranging tutorials
- Willow’s favourite dahlia varieties - stripy circus numbers like ‘Honka Fragile’ and ‘Bishop of Dover’
Episode 69 advice sheet
How Willow got into flowers
Willow started out in fashion after growing up in rural Wales. She wanted to be a fashion designer, attending the London School of Fashion, influenced by her mum who had worked in fashion magazines. She didn’t get very far in the fashion world but loved it for its creativity.
Fast tracking a bit, she moved to the South of France with her husband, living on a vineyard. She constantly collected treasures and fabrics from markets and brocantes, and began covering notebooks and baskets with her finds, while also writing her blog. Her creations sold well in local beach restaurants and her now agent Claire saw potential for the blog becoming a book.
Willow moved back to the UK and wrote The Art of Handmade Living: Crafting a beautiful home. Willow loves writing and the book did well, leading to more books. She was also doing fashion, interiors, personal shopping and feeling a bit overwhelmed.
Her eureka moment came with her third book: Inspire: The Art of Living with Nature. She wrote a whole chapter on flowers and loved it so much she decided to refocus her career. Her husband bought her a 5-day course at the Covent Garden Flower Academy, full of all the formal techniques and practises she doesn’t really use much now, but great for getting the basics and confirming flowers were her calling.
The step into events and weddings came when her great friend Hattie asked Willow and her mum to do her wedding flowers. They loved it and Willow has never looked back.
Willow’s design collaborations
These days Willow focuses more on teaching and design. She gets bored quickly and loves the diversity of her work. Her design projects range from floral installation to wallpaper ranges for Barneby Gates to a clothing line with Brora cashmere. Each collaboration is different and not all are flower related.
Willow’s Sunday Instagram tutorials
Sarah loves the weekly videos Willow posts every Sunday morning – demonstrating how to make simple, joyful floral arrangements. For Willow, it is so life enhancing having flowers in our lives and the messages and comments she gets from people really inspire her to keep going with these tutorials.
For both Sarah and Willow, nothing is more enriching or grounding than the process of going for a walk and harvesting, picking from the garden or hedgerows, then coming in and arranging flowers. It is Willow’s switch off decompression time and doesn’t need to be a huge grand thing or very time consuming.
Willow’s favourite season for flowers
Willow is completely obsessed with Solomon’s seal, so the 3 week window in May when it flowers with its tiny white bells on arching stems is her favourite. Her parents live in Wales where they have banks of Solomon’s seal, layered with ferns underneath. She loves arranging it with blossom, foxgloves and some chunky tulips.
A top tip for tulips
Sarah loves Willow’s tip for arranging tulips, shared on one of her first Instagram tutorials. It works best with cheap bunches of bell-shaped tulips. Click the petals outwards, bending them open, completely transforming the flower. The trick is to only do this to half of the bunch, creating different shapes.
Willow’s favourite dahlias
She is drawn to crazy striped dahlias and credits the Land Gardeners (listen to ep 13 for Sarah’s interview with them) for introducing her to many of her favourite varieties.
‘Bishop of Dover’
She loves to arrange dahlias with velvety, peppermint scented Pelargonium tomentosum leaves. Her colour palette is quite calm with a splash of orange or white to lift and she’s keen on strong vibrant ribena colours.
Willow’s top tulips
· ‘Estella Rinjveld’
· ‘Raspberry Ripple’
· ‘Flaming Club’
· ‘Spring Green’
· ‘Flaming Spring Green’
· ‘China Town’
· ‘Black Parrot’
· ‘Dolls Minuet’
Willow loves teaching small flower workshops, she does tulip days and dahlias days, where she demonstrates how she arranges and combinations she loves and after lunch, attendees get to make their own arrangements with Willow’s help. In June Willow is also coming to Perch Hill to teach with Sarah.