This month blogger and stylist Rachel O’Brien visited the newly opened Philippa Craddock Flower School in East Sussex and learnt how to create one of Philippa’s signature domed hand-tied bouquets.
Before I arrived at the Philippa Craddock Flower School for my half-day bouquet workshop, I had spent a long time admiring the beauty and elegance of her online portfolio.
As I flicked through the images of her work I had to ask myself whether it would really be possible for me, a complete floristry novice, to create an arrangement as beautiful as those I had seen on her website?
Philippa, who ‘fell into’ floristry just three years ago, creates bespoke arrangements for weddings and events, regularly styles flowers for leading magazines and has worked for top brands and individuals including Claridge’s, Westminster Cathedral, Temperley London and Jenny Packham.
On arriving at Philippa’s home, Pheasants Hatch in East Sussex, she warmly welcomed me into her bright and spacious studio where we would be learning how to create her trademark compact, domed bouquet.
At the front of the studio eight vases were brimming with bunches of fresh eucalyptus (cinerea and baby blue), avalanche and akito roses, lilac, lisianthus, phlox and gypsophila.
Courses at the flower school are designed for a maximum of eight people and are suitable for all abilities, from novices to those with some floristry know-how.
On this day there were just two of us booked on the course and when the other budding florist had arrived Philippa began by giving us tips on conditioning, sourcing and caring for flowers. She also described how she likes to combine flowers and colours and what inspires her.
“Our style is quintessentially fresh. I can be inspired by anything as long as it makes me and others feel good” Philippa explained. Designs are kept honest and natural with lots of texture and she prefers to use one main colour in her designs and then add a variety of shades from a similar palette. “I like the flowers to speak for themselves” she said.
Tea, coffee and sweet treats (including some of Philippa’s homemade chocolate truffles) were offered throughout the morning.
After grouping the flowers and foliage we began by removing any unwanted leaves. Taking the first flower or ‘leading lady’ (a term borrowed from the florist Vic Brotherson who she loves) in her left hand, we watched as Philippa added flowers and foliage alternately.
When building our arrangements Philippa explained that it is important to twist the stems around the first ‘leading lady’ and to keep adding them slightly lower each time to create the domed shape.
Then it was our turn. Taking an avalanche rose as my centre ‘leading lady’ I began to build my arrangement around it. The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly as we worked.
Philippa was on hand to give us one-to-one advice and tuition and after a few teething problems I soon relaxed into creating my design following her formula – twist, add foliage, twist, add a flower, twist, more foliage….
With Philippa’s help I tied the bouquet and trimmed the stems so that it would stand on its own inside the presentation bag – a sign of the perfect hand-tied bouquet.
Then it was time to turn our attention to learning wrapping techniques. Using sheets of cellophane and tissue paper we followed Philippa’s lead as she showed us how to expertly fold, pleat and then wrap it around the stems of our bouquets.
Just before we put our finished designs into our presentation bags we filled the cellophane with a small amount of water – aquapacking the bouquet – so the flowers would remain fresh until we arrived home.
Before we left there was plenty of time for more chat, a cup of tea and another slice of cake while we stood back and admired our creations. I was delighted with my first ever attempt at a hand-tied bouquet and couldn’t wait to show it off.
I would highly recommend the Philippa Craddock Flower School. After just a few hours in the studio I left with a professional looking bouquet, lots of expert tips and, unsurprisingly, a new found taste for floristry.
A few ideas to go with your beautiful flowers…
Above: Award-winning organic Orange Blossom Toning Spritz, £14.99 www.frombritainwithlove.com/organic-orange-blossom-toner-spritz
Log Loop steam bent oak log basket by Tom Raffield, £445 www.frombritainwithlove.com/log-loop
Mussels table mats (set of 4) from an original watercolour by National Portrait Gallery artist Nigel Turner, £29 www.frombritainwithlove.com/set-of-four-mussel-shell-circular-tablematemat
To find out more about floral courses at the Philppa Craddock Flower Schhol, visit www.philippacraddock.com/acatalog/school.html
Rachel O’Brien is a freelance writer and stylist. Find out more at http://iamrachelobrien.tumblr.com. All images courtesy Rachel O’Brien.
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