I love autumn. I just can’t help myself. It’s the colours, the cosiness….all of it.
So on an early autumn day, I found myself heading to The Sussex Flower School in Laughton for the ‘Autumn Splendour’ course where I was promised a pumpkin. That is, a pumpkin to use as the basis for an autumnal floral arrangement.
Set up by florist Georgia Miles, the School itself is a purpose-built workshop in the grounds of Georgia’s own home, a picture-perfect cottage with its own cutting garden and interior touches straight off the pages of Country Living magazine.
Arriving for the course, I was told that the pumpkins had been sourced locally – the proud harvest of a schoolboy called Harry who I promised I would mention. Several pumpkins flanked the door of the workshop and inside there were plenty more so that everyone could choose one, ready to hollow out and fill with flowers.
There are two parts to this course. The first is the pumpkin floral arrangement and the second, which takes place in the afternoon teaches students how to make the perfect Autumnal hand tied bouquet.
But first things first, let’s get back to the pumpkins. Georgia demonstrated the technique we would need to employ to get our pumpkin ready. This required a sharp knife to lop off the top and then a big spoon to scoop out the flesh. I am not adept at using sharp tools so needed a bit of help with this!
Pumpkins hollowed, Georgia then taught us how to correctly use oasis – the green foam-like stuff that florists use to secure their creations. Once this has been soaked in water, it was sliced with a florist’s knife and inserted into the hollowed pumpkin.
Any gaps left by the Oasis are then topped up with moss; this has an evocative scent that made me think of walking through woodland in the rain (it wouldn’t be autumn without a few showers, would it?).
If you’re indecisive, the next part of the course would have you dithering for hours as it is time to choose your autumn-hued flowers, many of which come from Georgia’s cutting garden and include dahlias, sedum and gerberas.
I opted for orange gerberas to echo the shape and colour of my pumpkin, dark purple dahlias for a rich contrast of colour, lavender for fragrance and armfuls of greenery.
Like an artist starting with a blank sheet of paper, placing the first flowers can be a bit daunting but I decided to just go for it and found that you soon get into a rhythm and work almost instinctively, relaxing as you do.
For me, time flew by and it wasn’t long before I’d finished my arrangement – a small, textured creation, which I was really pleased with. What do you think?
After an intimate lunch with the rest of the group in Georgia’s house (the main course, a fittingly autumnal butternut squash tart and for dessert one of Georgia’s homemade cakes) we set to work on the hand tied bouquet.
It is quite fiddly to get the hang of, as you need to grip the flowers securely but not too tightly, a similar premise as getting the correct tension when knitting. Once again, we were given an enormous choice of autumn flowers and told to take our pick.
The beauty of the hand tied bouquet is that it can be achieved with almost any seasonal flowers and foliage once you’ve mastered the basics. I did need quite a lot of help getting the hang of this but as with most craft techniques, it’s all about practice and not getting too het up by mistakes.
Finally, we learned how to wrap our creations with coloured tissue and raffia. I know I’ll feel confident enough to give my own hand-tied bouquets as gifts now. Why don’t you get yourself a couple of pumpkins, some flowers you like and have a go yourself?
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