Flowers are often thought of as a highlight of spring and summer — daffodils blooming at every grassy verge and sunflowers staying true to their name. It may be that fewer flowers are in bloom in winter, but that’s no reason to compromise on filling your home with beautiful flora and fauna when the frost starts to set in. At Christmas time, sometimes just a touch of colour, a dash of jewel-like berries and the smell of fresh pine is enough to bring back memories of unwrapping presents by the fireside.
To find out more about how to create a wow-worthy winter floral arrangement, we spent the morning with Donna Willingham, Founder and Director of The Country Garden Florist. With hot mugs of tea in hand, Donna gave us a tour of her garden studio and the breath-taking flowers that make it so magical, with the help of her daughter Daisy and loyal companions, Fergus the dog and Tiddles the cat.
“You’ll find that there are actually quite a lot of lovely flowers about in winter, like hellebores, anemones, ranunculus and cosmos — at the moment I’m using chocolate cosmos, which really do smell like chocolate! As a florist, there are lots of varieties of flowers – including roses, clematis, carnations and chrysanthemums – available all year round, though I do like to keep things seasonal in my arrangements, so I always choose plants that have interest year-round when they are not flowering. Aside from flowers, berries and rosehips are also a fantastic thing to use that look especially beautiful in arrangements for autumn and winter.”
“I always like to use loads of eucalyptus — Eucalyptus Populus is particularly good at this time of year, and pine is great for around Christmas; it smells so good. I tend to pick bits and pieces of greenery from the garden too, and just collect a variety of different textures and shapes that take my fancy.”
“I tend to steer away from the classic red, white and gold colour palettes that you expect around Christmas. I always prefer to add a little pop of pastel colours — it just adds a natural, softer twist and has a kind of vintage charm to it.”
“With scent! I like to add in things that have a really nice smell to them like the eucalyptus, hellebores, roses and of course the pine. We really associate smells with times of the year, and you can make an arrangement instantly smell like Christmas with just a few little touches.”
“Always make sure you’re changing the water, keeping flowers hydrated and snipping the stems. Sometimes a few leaves will inevitably dry out but I actually like this look!”
“Use chicken wire rather than floral foam as it is much, much better for the environment. This is how florists used to make their arrangements, so we’re just going back to the old-fashioned way! Nothing wrong with that.”
“Adding a bit of flower food or just a little sugar will keep the flowers looking great for longer — or even a little lemonade!”
“If you’re using a plant that sheds a lot, such as pampas grass, a little hairspray can go a long way!”
1. Start off by choosing your container. Glass vases are traditional, but this shows the stems and can look untidy. Instead, try using an interesting vessel like a gravy boat or a vintage vessel — you can easily pick up things like this from charity and antique shops.
2. Cut a section of chicken wire and carefully shape it into a ball big enough to fit snugly into the container, then fill it with water.
3. If you are using a small vessel, start with your biggest, fullest flowers (for larger vessels, it will help to create your shape with foliage first). Arrange them around your container, making sure that each side is evenly covered — it’s best not to think of any part as the ‘front’ of the arrangement; it should look lovely whichever way you’re facing it, though naturally it will always have its best side!
4. Now add in some foliage, like your eucalyptus, pine and berries. Fill every gap, but try to have peaks and troughs (some deeper in the display, and others that ‘float’ over the top) to add depth to the arrangement. Try not to overcrowd the flowers to allow each bloom its own space to shine.
5. Finish off the arrangement with little delicate flowers and wispy branches to give it a mix of heights and textures. You don’t need to worry about creating groups or bunches of one type of flower — sometimes just one or two of something pretty scattered here and there creates a lovely natural effect.
6. Take a step back. The hardest part of flower arranging is knowing when to stop! Check that you’re happy with your arrangement and try not to add or tweak too much. Where the flowers naturally fall is often where they look best.
If you fancy trying your hand at creating some winter floral displays, Donna from The Country Garden Florist will be leading a number of wreath-making workshops at selected Joules stores across the UK. Be quick, places are booking up fast!