Tragic and Devastating Loss


A Message from Rachel

The reason why it is me writing this time and not Sally, is that on the 31st May 2014 Sally died tragically in a car accident along with her daughter Ella and her best friend Abi Hone. Her husband Shane was seriously injured but is recovering.

Sally was my closest friend and business partner for the last 6 years.

At present I am in Germany, taking a break and working out where to go from here in my life without my dearest friend.

It has taken me until now to bring myself to write this message. My heart goes out to the Summerfield, Rumble and Hone families. I have no words for how I feel.

I would like to pay homage to my friend, soulmate and artist in the only way I know: visually. I will continue to seek out the beauty we shared together that sustained us through life’s challenging times. Sally will continue to be a huge inspiration to me in this quest.

Dear friend,
Thank you for the gift of yourself that you gave me. You will always be by my side when I am gathering. Every wreath from now on will be a celebration of our friendship and the beauty we created together.

Rachel Thornton
June 2014

How To Gather – Our Top 10 Tips

Gathering Shot for About Us resizePhotographer Rebecca Bijl

How to gather?  I had never really considered that people would like to find out more about gathering and actually how to do it?  Just assumed gathering was commonsense , until a friend mentioned that she’d really love to know more about what to gather and didn’t really have the confidence to get started.

Why gather at all?  Why not just pop down to the wholesale florist or local grower?  That is a whole topic in itself, but in short … gathering is good on so many levels.

First.  Start collecting.  Objects and materials that catch your eye.


Flowers galore at The Boat House

IMG_6223Buckets of fresh flowers scattered on tables, tins of imposing grandiflora foliage standing tall on antique dressers and ceramic bowls filled with fresh limes and pineapples;  The Boat House at Balmoral has definitely got their styling right.  Perched on the edge of the water, this wooden cafe could almost double as a flower shop – perhaps it is …

The Rose Hip Girl

The Rosehip Girl copy resizeThe Rose Hip Girl Illustration by Rachel Thornton

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Rose Hip Wrapping Paper Design Carousel Flora Design

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Rose Hip Table Decoration created by Carousel Flora Design

My Sally Holmes and Margaret Merril roses have been flowering profusely since October but are now outnumbered by the vibrant display of ripening rose hips;  green through marigold orange to tomato red, some as plump as miniature pumpkins on stalks and others fine sprays of the tiniest hips.  Each rose variety produces slightly differing hip characteristics.

The once-humble rose hip takes centre stage in the wreath we created for an autumnal table display.  Massing one material once again produces the impact we wanted.

3 Botanical B&W Rosehips resize blog 650Rose Hip Illustration Rachel Thornton

Nine Liquid Incidents

IMG_6011I’ve just returned from a few days break in Sydney.

I felt desperately in need of some visual and sensory stimulation (must be all those orange road cones in Christchurch getting on top of me!) and I wasn’t disappointed.  Flowering scented Frangipani, lush tropical foliage, thundering birdsong … not to mention the food.  The food was so good. Consistently.

Favourite Italian A Tavola.  Best coffee Harry’s.  Best breakfast Bogey-Hole Cafe.

But perhaps the highlight of the trip for me was the  ‘You Imagine What You Desire’  exhibition at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art and specifically Roni Horn’s Liquid Incidents installation;  nine glass sculptures scattered on a concrete floor, each one creating the illusion of an endless, bottomless pool of water.  It was almost impossible not to touch the surfaces of the pale blue and grey coloured glass castings which were utterly mesmerising.  I felt like I was literally being drawn into the water.

How To Make Hand-Tied Table Decorations

photo 2Image 23Rachel’s sketchbook drawing illustrates how the design for this table arrangement began.  We had forty round tables to decorate and not much set up time at the venue, so we came up with the idea of a flat bouquet that could be laid on the table and taken away  afterwards to be hung on a wall.  No vases or water involved.

We wanted to echo the circular table form within our arrangements  so we encased each bouquet within a stem of curved flax and finished them off with an extravagant bunch of flowing coloured raffia.

First things first.  Materials.  You may not find the exact same materials we have used here but that’s kind of the idea – find materials that inspire you, bearing in mind texture and colour as you go. The materials that you choose need to last well and look good once dried and hanging.  Work out the size of bouquet you want in relation to your table dimensions and cut your materials to roughly the right length as you gather.

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You’ll need 2 stems of eucalyptus, 1 stem of red beech, 1 stem of gum nuts with full foliage, 2 stems of berried ivy (foliage removed), 1 stem of varigated flax plus raffia to hand tie.

1.  Prepare your materials.  Remove the lowest leaves from all stems.  Soften the flax gently using the back of a knife so that it becomes more pliable.

2.  Starting with a base of eucalyptus arrange all your materials (except the flax) into a flat bouquet.  Look carefully at the materials and work out which way they naturally arch and let their shape dictate the direction the bouquet will flow.

3.  In the absence of flowers we used gum nut sprays as our main focus,  so ensure they are clearly visible.

4.  Hold one end of the flax on top of the bouquet and take the other end and wrap right around the outside edge of the materials (this is best done flat on a table), drawing this other end back onto itself.

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3.  Secure all stems (including the flax) by tying together neatly with coloured raffia.  Keep the raffia lengths long as this will accentuate the flow of the design too and give a sense of glamour to the gathered materials. Tuck any wayward foliage stems into the flax structure so you retain the bouquet’s shape.  And voila!

A Misty Blue Wreath for a Baby

Mistry blue wreath resize blog 650Misty Blue (limonium)  wreath created by Carousel Flora celebrating a new baby’s arrival

I have to admit that I didn’t gather this beautiful limonium myself but discovered it displayed at a local growers’.  Thrilled to bits, I snapped up three huge bundles (extravagant I know!) and rushed home with the design for a wreath formulating as I was driving.

I already had a wreath base modelled from wisteria vine culled during earthquake renovations that would probably be perfect. This simple honey coloured base was something quite special even in its bare, undecorated form and I felt strangely attached to it.  But a baby had been born and I needed a large and elegant base to attach the limonium to.  So I swept my sentimentality aside and set to work.

Three bunches of limonium later and here it is.  Despite my original plan to retain one bunch and hang upside down in my bedroom it was not to be!  It’s often the way making a wreath.  You can never imagine quite how much material it will take!

I kept the long stems visible to accentuate the wreath’s flow and  I found this made the wreath look really contemporary and not reminiscent of something you’d find in your grandmother’s bathroom!