Elderflower cordial

elderflower illustration for blog resizeElderflower Illustration Rachel Thornton

I am longing to be back in my kitchen and get festive culinary preparations underway after a 3 month spell camping out in my garden sleepout .  Yes thankfully earthquake repairs are now complete.

The first item on my to-do list is elderflower cordial and over the past few weeks I have been keeping an eye on friend’s and neighbour’s trees to make sure I’m not too late for the flowers.

I picked a couple of stems to observe how they would dry intending to string them onto a fine wire and hang as a garland.  Initially I was disappointed as the stem just seemed to wilt and go soggy, but looking at it now a week on I am happy to report that the delicate dried elderflowers will work well.

To make a garland pick the largest flower heads you can find as they will shrink,  and hang them upside down to dry thoroughly before threading individually onto a wire, adding stems at equal intervals along the length.  See our Hydrangea Garland Project back in May for more details.

The recipe for cordial which follows was given to me by a dear friend (thank you Karen) and will make about 3 litres of concentrated syrup (4 x 750ml bottles).  Once you’ve gathered the elderflower heads lay each out on baking paper so any bugs will fall onto the paper and then you can rinse them more easily.

30 Heads of Elderflower
3 Lemons
1.5kg Sugar
4 Tblsp Citric or Tartaric Acid
2 Litres Water

Boil 2 litres of water and add sugar and citric / tartaric acid.
Stir well to dissolve.
Pour over scrubbed and roughly chopped lemons and rinsed elderflowers.

Leave in a cool place for 3 days, stirring daily.
Using a muslin cloth and sieve, strain concentrate and put in bottles.  
Keep in fridge or alternatively freeze.

This cordial is so delicious mixed with ice cold water, tonic, gin or vodka.  1 part syrup to 6 parts water.

081Photographer Peter Bay

Simple styling with flowering echeveria

Coloured Echiveria wallpaper blog resizeEcheveria wrapping paper design Rachel Thornton

Flowering echeveria are prolific at the moment so if you’re stuck for a simple way to brighten up and style your home just gather a few long stems of this hardy succulent and arrange them in a vase.  With their extraordinary water-retaining properties echeveria last for ages but when you eventually tire of them and want to reclaim the vase,  simply re-cut each stem and plant back into the ground.  In my experience, replanting in this way seems to work well for most succulents.

Flowering Succulent & Pumice

The bright yellow echeveria flowers look stunning as a table arrangement when contrasted with deep plum-black tree aeonium and maroon-coloured akeake foliage so if you’ve got an old wreath base handy (and if not, now is the perfect time to weave one from ripe muhlenbeckia vine, keeping the circle as flat as possible) follow these simple steps ….

* You’ll need a vine base which is not too tightly woven.

* Gather 3 aeonium & 3 echeveria.  Keep stems as long as possible as you’ll be weaving them into the wreath base to secure.  Cut about 9 stems of akeake foliage and strip the bottom leaves away.

* Imagine that you are making three small bouquets which you will position evenly around the wreath circle;  each will look similar and use the same ingredients.

* Starting with the akeake foliage, weave a couple of stems into the vine base.  Then add a stem of flowering echeveria and an aeonium nestling them amongst the akeake stems.  If succulent stems are quite thick you might need to use some florist wire to secure them in place and camoflague the wire using more akeake foliage, but ideally wiring shouldn’t be necessary as this is a table arrangement and not to be hung.

* Always keep materials (stems) flowing in the same direction, clockwise.

* Repeat process making two more bouquets and place around the wreath circle equi-distance apart.

You could use the flowering echeveria on its own.  See how the long stems in this wreath emulate how they naturally twist and tangle amongst native scrub.

Flowering Succulent WreathSucculent Wreath created by Carousel Flora Design

Surrounding yourself with inspiring people

IMG_3107 photoFellow blogger Alex Fulton of Alex Fulton Design took this photo of me at Generator

Passion and success are contagious.  It’s official.

I’ve just returned from an incredibly inspiring and informative weekend course hosted by dynamic trio Kat, Shauna & Gala aka Blogcademy and held at Auckland’s very cool industrial space Generator;  a stylish venue for meetings, parties or events. Simply loved this wall and had to share it!

Despite initially feeling out of my comfort zone when faced with the prospect of wearing pink-sequined ears (unique headpieces courtesy of  Crown & Glory),  and challenged to create best tweet, audio or video clip about the course in return for prizes, I surprised myself and had an amazing 48 hours, sharing experiences and information with 30 other like-minded inspiring bloggers, all of whom had a unique voice and story to express via their blogs.

The weekend was a reminder to continually keep challenging myself, explore unfamiliar and challenging subjects and keep an open mind.  Having never previously been a fan of social media per se (perhaps on account of my reserved British upbringing and slight tendency towards laziness) I can honestly say after this weekend I  really get the value of these powerful networks in promoting what we do here at Carousel.

So watch this space.  Rachel and I are going to be compiling mood boards via Pinterest documenting what inspires us during each month which we hope you will find of interest too,  and will be dipping our toes into the wider world of social media in the very near future.

Time spent with fellow bloggers also made me reflect on the vast number of people who work alone from home and how hard it is to keep constantly inspired and motivated.    Having been a freelancer most of my adult life has meant that I’ve had to develop strategies and tools to structure an otherwise unstructured working week and remain sane, so I thought I would plan a series of blog posts over coming weeks that I hope will help other people working from home too.

If anyone else has any tips or ideas to share on this subject I would love to hear from you and will include in my postings.


The Carousel Christmas Tree from Culverden

Carousel Christmas TreeCarousel Flora Design Christmas Tree

We had such a wonderful response to the Carousel Christmas Tree at Culverden.  The basic structure was made from old fence wire with vine woven through it, and then we decorated with dark green camellia foliage and long-lasting orange leucospermum which have an amazing impact and look really festive.

If you feel like an alternative to the traditional tree this year we are currently taking orders for these,  but as with all Christmas wreaths, garlands or arrangements we need orders as soon as possible as December gets very busy with workshops.  Price for your tree will depend on its size and whether you want it decorated or not, but the cost of this wire structure for example minus flowers and foliage is $180.00.  Budget another $150 for us to supply materials and style it.  The wire structure can be used again and again each year, or decorated with seasonal materials for parties or events.

We’re also taking bookings now for our Christmas Wreath Workshops at Riccarton House, Deans Bush Christchurch.  See flyer below for details and contact us to secure a space.

Revised 2 Christmas Wreath Workshop Flyer for blog