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

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!

Inspired by the Old Dutch Masters

photo 2Autumnal arrangement created by passionate forager Teena Shield


Teena is a true gatherer and loyal Carousel Flora advocate whose only rule when it comes to creating floral designs is ‘never get stuck on limiting the ingredients just because they’re not traditionally considered a ‘flower’.  Yay to that.

For this arrangement she has rescued Black Boy peaches and wild grapes (munching as she went!), crab apples thrown to the ground after recent strong winds and combined these with deep chocolate succulents, flowering akeake, dahlias and gum nuts from obliging neighbour’s gardens.

She told us she drew her inspiration from the wonderful ‘Old Dutch Masters’ still life paintings she so loves with their traditionally rich and contrasted colour palettes, but kept her ingredient list strictly to materials that were available and gathered.

The Crassula Girl

The Crassula Girl rev FinallThe Crassula Girl Illustration by Rachel Thornton

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Grapevine, Succulent & Wild Broom Wreath created by Carousel Flora Design

This dense and lush wreath was inspired by the wild succulents that cling precariously to the almost vertical slopes on hillsides close to where Rachel and I live.

We gathered different varieties whose colours harmonised and textures and forms contrasted, combining pearly-pink echeverias, spiky peach-coloured graptoverias with thick-leafed crassula and claw-like stems of flowing silver-grey senico.  The sculptural crassula are particular favourites of ours as they create impact and a sense of drama within floral arrangements, or in this case within the wreath design.  We’ve wired all the materials onto the grapevine base, as they are heavy and may fall out otherwise.

The addition of the curved wild broom shaped by the wind accentuates the wreath’s flow as well as adding a third dimension to the design making it appear grander and fuller.

When you’re gathering succulents keep in mind a number of things:

*  Keep stems as long as possible as they will be easier to wire.  We used about 2 buckets of succulents for this wreath.

*  Choose understated and subtle colour combinations that complement each other.

*  The size of the succulents that you want to gather will depend on the size of your wreath base.  Too small and they will look insignificant.  Take your wreath base with you when gathering so you can get a sense of the scale required.

Crassula Illustration resize blog 650Crassula & Crassula Girl illustrations by Rachel Thornton

Picking the last of the Dahlias

IMG_5494Alas my garden dahlias are almost over.  Not that I have many to start with which means that I can never quite bring myself to cut any, despite my longing to experiment with these dramatic blooms in grand pedestal-type arrangements.

I particularly love textured arrangements which combine lots of flowers exhibiting a similar (ish) but not precisely the same, colour palette.  Varieties of giant burnt-orange dahlias sitting with their paler peach companions, salmon-coloured David Austin roses and leaves with a hint of autumn at their edges, trailing virginia creeper and stems of spikey lime-green horse-chestnut shells.

The Little Flower School in Brooklyn do this kind of arrangement to perfection.  And they run classes sometimes in Australia – so check out their schedule in case they are headed over this way sometime soon.