Winter Flowers Week at The Garden Museum
7-11 December 2023
Installation by Tattie Rose Studio
London’s Garden Museum is set to host the first ever Winter Flowers Week exhibition on 7-11 December, shining a rare spotlight on the beauty and variety of the flowers and foliages grown in this country even in the depths of winter.
This innovative event will feature floral installations by five leading designers and stars of past British Flowers Week exhibitions – Floribunda Rose, Shane Connolly, Hazel Gardiner, Carly Rogers and Tattie Rose.
The Garden Museum initiative is inspired in part by Shane Connolly, who has long been an advocate for Flowers from the Farm and sustainable floristry. In the naive of the former church, Shane will be creating a ‘Shrine of Nature’, “putting nature in a place of deep respect.” Shane explains: “Winter Flowers Week is about giving people the opportunity to see what winter looks like in nature and allowing us to show what we can do as designers. So much of our work as florists is organised by event planners. This is our chance to show what we can do. There won’t the usual cascades of flowers of summer abundance., but botanically it will be more interesting. We are looking at the brief in a different way. There will be wonderful scent from the winter flowering shrubs. Summer is so easy, but winter can be more satisfying.”
Flowers from the Farm members are embracing the concept of a Winter Flowers Week and the rare focus on winter flowers. Some will be supplying the designers with material, whilst Blooming Green and Leigh Chappell Flowers will be hosting workshops on Friday and Saturday and the über-talented Sarah Diligent of Floribunda Rose will be taking her place as one of the will 5 exhibitors.
Sarah will be sharing the inside story on Winter Flowers Week throughout the week on @flowersfromthefarm on Instagram. From collecting cut material from local flower farms and installing the sustainable floral mechanics of her design through to the Grand Opening, we will see the Plot to Installation process as it happens. We talked to Sarah about her design…
“I was delighted to be approached by The Garden Museum to create a design that celebrates Winter flowers for a few reasons…
Firstly, I love a challenge, I am absolutely passionate about using flowers and foliage sourced from our own shores and most importantly, I don’t think that winter flowers get the appreciation they deserve.
Whilst many growers may have put their flower farms to bed and have their sights set firmly on next year’s flowers, there are growers that keep us going year-round, producing superb flowers and give us the opportunity to share colour, texture, fragrance and beauty in the cooler, darker leaner months of winter.
The brief set by the Garden Museum was simple – Winter flowers (with a focus on sustainability and seasonality). A brief this broad can be both a blessing and a curse. Whilst the lack of constraints is exciting, what to do, when you could do anything at all, can feel a little overwhelming.
William and I began the design process by thinking about what we wanted to say with our design, how we wanted people to feel, and what we wanted visitors to remember.
We talked about and then mocked up several possibilities over the course of a few weeks looking at the pros and cons of each. Thinking first about what we wanted to create, and then whether it was possible.
The final design began its life as a birdcage pergola. The aim was to showcase British flowers and needed some kind of structure as a base. This could have taken many forms, but we really wanted people to be involved in the design; to be able to step inside.
We occasionally see lovely birdcage pergolas on our travels to gardens, and these inspired the structure for our design. But where to go from there? An “off the shelf” pergola would have been interesting to some degree, but it didn’t tie in well enough with the incredible backdrop of the Garden Museum or feel quite immersive enough, so we decided to design our own. We visited the garden museum to meet with one of the curators, Ollie, had a good discussion and documented the space – taking photographs and making notes. Following this we got to the drawing board, and, after many iterations came up with the design we thought best met the brief.
We commend the Garden Museum for asking that the designs should consider where the materials came from and were going to, prior to and following the exhibition – this played an important part in our design process. The plants we use have in part already been used in weddings we have flowered in past years, and any plants acquired for this display specifically will be used for weddings and events in the future. The flowers will be collected and once used will be broken down to form the compost which feeds next year’s growth, and the structural frame will be used to grow climbing plants up for future events.
We have named the design that we ultimately decided on ‘Winter’s Embrace’
and are hoping that’s the way that visitors will feel as they walk through, enveloped, closer to nature than when they walked in, and delighted by abundance of colour, texture, and beauty that can be found in the depths of winter.
The process of choosing which flowers we’ll use begins with our floral palette, and we’ve decided on reds, purples, and pinks with a little white to add lightness.
This year when choosing flowers for weddings, events, and classes at our flower school we’ve had a helpful tool available to us ‘British Cut Flowers arranged by colour’ it’s an ‘at a glance’ print which shows which British flowers are likely to be available in specific colours through the year – without having to trawl through many years’ worth of availability lists from multiple suppliers.
It has been a real labour of love to create and involved making the biggest spreadsheet I’ve ever seen in my life, speaking to growers large and small across the UK and looking back over the availability lists I’ve been saving over the last 10 years. It’s not a guarantee of flowers, but a helpful starting point, reminding me of flowers that didn’t immediately spring to mind. It’s so often the case that I’m choosing flowers for upcoming projects two or more seasons ahead and thinking of what might be in flower in pink for a wedding in March whilst I’m working with flowers in the height of summer in August can be a challenge.
We’ve worked with the printer that printed our book ‘A Guide to Floral Mechanics’; they’re industry leaders on sustainability, using fsc papers and are just a few miles away from our studio.
For the installation, our next considerations were longevity, what will last long enough to look fabulous for the duration of the installation? Thankfully winter flowers tend to have great vase life. We need to ensure they aren’t kept too warm, or allowed to get too cold, frozen flowers are not happy flowers. We’ll also be including plants in our design, which is something that we do with weddings and events too, as these can be used and reused, so long as they’re looked after well in between.
We are hoping to use flowers grown by fellow Flowers From the Farm members and have our sights set on narcissi, camellia, alstroemeria, rose lilies, daphne, heuchera, possibly some winter flowering clematis alongside trachelospernum and viburnum and have our ears to the ground about whether there might be some tulips, ranunculus, and hellebore available too. It’s a little nerve wracking not knowing exactly what we’ll have, but it’s exciting too – it’ll be a surprise for all of us!
We’ll be using a range of sustainable floral mechanics to create our installation, avoiding single use plastics entirely – methods will include meadow boxes which will supporting larger branches as well as flowers at the base of our design. The method for meadow box mechanics is outlined on page 54 of our book ‘A Guide to Floral Mechanics’ which has been fondly dubbed the sustainable florist’s bible.
One thing I know for sure is that my team and I can’t wait to create ‘Winter’s Embrace’ and celebrate the beautiful British flowers that our growers produce. We hope that you’ll join us there.”
Full details of Sarah’s classes, ‘British Cut Flowers arranged by colour’ print and her book ‘A Guide to Floral Mechanics’ can be found over at www.floribundarose.com
Tickets for Winter Flowers Week are on sale now at www.gardenmuseum.org.uk and the exhibition runs from 7-11 December 2023. Members can access an exclusive discount to through the Facebook forum.