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

Steve Carr’s Stretching Time Exhibition

IMG_5573Steve Carr Transpiration 2014 screen capture detail.  Courtesy of Steve Carr and Michael Lett

This floral image has been on my mind ever since I picked up the LOG20 booklet last week at my favourite city cafe C1 Espresso. I love the subtle combination of colours featured within these giant suspended dianthus so much that I am tempted to hop in my car and drive down to Dunedin to see for myself Steve Carr’s Stretching Time Exhibition at the Public Art Gallery.


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.

Vintage-inspired Flower Shop in Nelson

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A scattering of rose petals strewn on the pavement outside the front door drew Rachel into Imperial Rose Flowers, a charming vintage-inspired flower shop located in Nelson.

Owner Maree has a great eye for detail and has cleverly and artistically styled floral displays amongst an eclectic assortment of carved-stone urns, rustic tins, wrought iron furniture and other collectible oddities.  So inspiring to find other passionate florists doing something outside of the square.

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Gorgeous healthy cakes

Cake by Anna Worthington  (photographer Kate McCaskill

It never ceases to amaze me the number of clever and creative people here in Christchurch right now,  quietly working away developing innovative projects and launching unique businesses.

Anna Worthington is a good example of this.  I stumbled upon Anna’s beautiful cakes by chance recently at a dear friend’s birthday celebration.  Champagne combined with Garden City cake scattered with delicately violet-hued pansies.  Simply glorious!

Given my life-long passion for baking and love of anything floral, I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to discover Cakes By Anna. I just adore her mouth-watering website and the story behind her set up.  Fine Arts Graduate creating edible masterpieces from a tiny, unassuming location in Sydenham using seasonal local ingredients.  Ticks all the boxes.

Ordinarily I’d whip up a cake myself for Valentine’s Day but so impressed was I with Anna’s Garden City Cake that I ordered (feeling slightly guilty and indulgent)  a gluten free, refined sugar free raspberry, orange, almond and pistachio cake last week. The entire cake disappeared within minutes, enjoyed by three generations of cake lovers. And there I was imagining a piece for breakfast the next morning with my cup of tea!

As a devoted fan and follower of Nigella Lawson over the years (I think it’s safe to say I’ve baked every cake in ‘Domestic Goddess’), I find myself now in search of  healthier options to give my family.  Yes sugar is officially evil and addictive!  So instead I am now experimenting substituting dates (soaked overnight)  for sugar in cakes, almond meal for flour (which gives a really moist, longer-lasting cake) and sweetening chocolate brownies with golden kumara.  They taste great!  Truly!

Feel free to share any healthy cake recipes you might have.  Love to add them to my repotoire.

Driftwood constructions and a mantra for 2014

photo 1photo 2Driftwood sculptures along the coastline heading towards Farewell Spit

Rachel has photographed these amazing driftwood constructions whilst freedom camping along the north-eastern coastline of the South Island.

And I am finally finding the time to sit down at my computer and think about our blog after a wonderfully frenetic summer break spent traveling and entertaining.

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Inspired and challenged by a famous quote I re-read at the start of one of my favourite Isabel Allende books, I feel compelled to share it with you.

The final question in a poem written by American Pulitzer prize-winning poet Mary Oliver asks, ‘Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’.

It seems to me that this question would form a powerful and deeply thought-provoking mantra to recall regularly during 2014  ….