Flowers that look like things

I’m sure you’ve all played the game where you try to find shapes in clouds. Or maybe you revel in the moment when you spot a smiley face in a coffee cup. Well, I’m a sucker for such games. Especially when it comes to flowers that look like things. I love to take a little time out to gaze at flora and fauna and find comparisons with other weird and wonderful stuff. 

Open your eyes and open your mind and you’ll start spotting celebs, shower heads and cartoon characters in your weekly Freddie’s Flowers deliveries and beyond.

Continue reading “Flowers that look like things”

Flower of the week: Eucalyptus Viktoria

Eucalypt-us, eucalypt-you, eucalypt-me, eucalypt-who?

I absolutely love providing flora and fauna enthusiasts across the UK with postal flowers with a difference.

So here’s my newest addition: Eucalyptus Viktoria. Welcome to the Freddie’s Flowers box game, Viks!

Did you know that here are over 700 varieties of eucalyptus in the world? Continue reading “Flower of the week: Eucalyptus Viktoria”

Cocktails are so floral right now!

What could be better than flowers and cocktails? Have a read to see what floral cocktails are our hot picks for this sizzling Summer.

Floral mixes and Freddie’s best picks!

What could be better than flowers and cocktails? (Other than cut flowers brightening your home)? I simply cannot think of two better things. Strictly for research purposes only of course, I have been ‘researching’ some of the delicious cocktail trends in London. I can confirm, through my vigorous testing process, that cocktails have a very strong floral theme this summer. Visually identifiable by the cut flowers that decorate them.

floral cocktails
Summer in a glass – @elledecor

So Old Fashion’ed

Move over G’n’T. Sayonara voddy lime and soda, you’re old news now. Step up, flowers. Mixologists all over London have got the flower power and are inventing these wonderful creations that taste fantastic and are also very aesthetically pleasing.

And what better timing. Cut flowers are in people!

The only downside is that they sometimes look far too pretty to drink. My love of flowers has taken me to meet some of the botanically inspired mixologists behind the blossoming cocktail creation. They’ve shared their intoxicating knowledge with me.

cut flowers cocktail
A cocktail of ingredients

I learned it’s all about ‘’less juice and more infusions’’ according to one mixologist as I sipped on my aquavit, lavender, lime juice and rose extract cocktail called ‘The birds and the bees’. It’s all about floral liqueur, essence or syrup in cocktails these days for added depth and complexity. The classics are all rather old fashioned nowadays. Lavender, violet, hibiscus and elderflower are taking the place of tonic, soda and plain sugar syrup.

Here are some of my favourites for you to try:

The Lavender Martini. Take your inner mixologist out for a spin and try this at home, folks!

  • 1 oz. crème de violette
  • 1 oz. gin
  • 1 oz. vodka
  • 1/4 oz. Domaine de Canton
  • 1/4 oz. St. Germaine elderflower liqueur
  • 1 dash Scrappy’s Lavender Bitters
  • Lavender
Floral cocktails mixology
The Lady Rose

Or what about the Lady Rose?

  • 1/3 oz. rose syrup
  • 1/3 oz. pomegranate syrup
  • 1 1/3 oz. vodka
  • 1 oz. cranberry juice
  • 3 fresh strawberries
  • Red rose
Floral cocktail flowers
The Lotus Flower cocktail – Darbaar – Liverpool Street

Perfect picks

I recently stubbled upon a wonderful pop up square called Ecclestone Yards in Victoria where I thought I would try their lovely floral cocktails (for the research, for the research) and I highly recommend going there for a taste or two.

hibiscus cut flowers
Hibiscus flower

There was a Chelsea Flower Show inspired cocktail I tried when we went to the Show called the ”Chelsea Summer Blush”. Now people, I won’t lie to you. This nearly knocked my socks off but it was so tasty I might have had two. The Chelsea blush included sloe gin, crème de violette, lemon juice, egg white and a spritz of lavender essence. I wish I could tell you the measurements but like I said, I had two.

floral cocktails flowers
”Drink me” – Disney’s Alice in Wonderland
floral cocktail mixologist
”Mixologist of tipulars”

Mixolo-history

It has only been in the last 10 years that the cocktail renaissance has really taken off. Cocktails are now an art – they’re innovative and that’s all down to the genius of the mixologists. You might think the term ‘mixology’ is a rather fancy name, like calling a florist a ‘floristronaut’ but I think its a perfect name for them. And I may just adopt ‘floristronaut’.

The term ‘mixologist’ came about when a hotel guest wrote in the 1860s about an encounter he had with a man in a hotel. A drunk hotel guest accidentally wandered into his room late at night, and when confronted, the drunk guest explained that the ‘mixologist of tipulars’ (barman) had told him his room was that way. As annoyed the guest was about the drunk intruder he rather liked the phrase ‘mixologist of tipulars’ and wrote about it in an article. It caught on.

floral cocktails
La Vie en Rose – Cocktail at The Wright Brothers, Soho

Best flowers for cocktails?

The easiest and probably the best flowers to add a bit of razzle-dazzle to your drinks are:

Elder Flower – A British summer classic and never fails to work

Lavender – Very relaxing and will ease you into your cocktail mood

Hibiscus – Spicy and dramatic with a hint of citrus

Strawberry flower – Simply perfect for a lovely sweet drink

Drinkin’ about Town

London is thriving with pop ups and new cool dives for people to come and have a tipple after work or on their day off and with this wonderful weather we’ve been having, a floral cocktail seems to be the perfect sundowner. I highly recommend going out and giving them a try this weekend or when you get a chance. There’s absolutely hundreds out there.

Of course if you don’t choose the booze then take a look at our blog on ‘How do you drink your flowers? – Floral teas and tisanes”.

Why not sign up and have some Freddie’s Flowers delivered to your place? It’s only £24 a pop and I think you’ll be quite delighted.

Photo gallery: A June-full bunch of flower arranging

There’s something special about Freddie’s Flowers customers – they are great at flower arranging. And they have impeccable taste in flowers, might I add!

Here’s a gallery of some of the recent photos shared with us by Freddie’s Flower People – i.e. our lovely gang of customers. It was a month of peonies and roselilies. And what a tasteful June it was. Hats off to you!

We reckon your arrangement are works of art, so they deserve their own gallery. Share your own Freddie’s Flower pics with on FacebookTwitter or Instagram, or drop us an email at freddie@freddiesflowers.com – and perhaps you’ll feature in the next one!

Freddie's flowers in a bike
A beautiful looking bike by @tinegreenlondon

 

An unusual vase!
An unusual vase! By @lucyheaps

 

Flower garden by @dianasalamat
Flower garden by @dianasalamat

 

Peonies delivered by Freddie's Flowers
Peonies by @jannelford

 

Stocks and peonies by @jannelford
Stocks and peonies by @jannelford

 

The magnificent roselily was a bit of a hit

lilies delivered by Freddie's Flowers

A splendid collection of lilies by @mccormickcharlie

 

Roselilies delivered by Freddie's Flowers
The show stopping roseliliy by @julieelagrace

 

More peonies, anyone? More flower arranging?

Peonies, stocks and thlaspi
Peonies, stocks and thlaspi by @quiltwhileyourahead

 

A pot of peonies
A punchy pot of peonies by @sf_floral

 

A flowerful shelfie by @theycallitthediamondblog
A flowerful shelfie by @theycallitthediamondblog

 

More peonies!
More peonies! (and a pinecone) By @bricksandstitches

London’s Flowerful Drink Spots and Roof Tops

When I think of flower boxes in London, two variations come to mind.

First I think of Freddie’s Flowers boxes. Of course. What kind of man would I be if I didn’t?

And second I think of pubs. I repeat: ‘What kind of man would I be if I didn’t?’ Continue reading “London’s Flowerful Drink Spots and Roof Tops”

Flowerful highlights from Chelsea Flower Show

A humongous green teddy bear, a moroccan quarry and a bevvy of giraffes; the RHS Chelsea Flower Show was rammed full of flowerful discoveries this year. There were 28 show gardens in total, 157,000 visitors, approximately 30 million flowers (that’s an educated guess) and the tickets sold out 2 weeks in advance. Continue reading “Flowerful highlights from Chelsea Flower Show”

Who I’m following for Chelsea Flower Show

Flowers, eh? They look so lovely, don’t they? As I’m busy this week making sure the flowers in your weekly flower delivery are prize winners, I will be experiencing the Chelsea Flower Show through the visual medium of instagram.

Continue reading “Who I’m following for Chelsea Flower Show”

The seven most flowerful places in London

From resplendent pubs to secret gardens, here’s our flowerful guide to the capital…

One is never exactly short of things to do in the capital, but if flowers are your thing then step this way. Here’s a few of the most flowerful places in London… 

We all need to escape sometimes… but if you’re seeking a bit of peace and tranquility, you don’t need to leave the city. From London’s most resplendent pubs, to its secret – and not quite so secret – gardens, here are some of our favourite flowerful places. There are too many for one post, so this one limits itself to places north of the river…

 

1. The Churchill Arms, Kensington

One of the seven most flowerful places in London
Image credit

 

And so we begin with the first of our seven most flowerful places in London. This Chelsea Flower Show winner is also a pub! Famous for its glorious floral displays, and a regular winner of London in Bloom, the flower-festooned Churchill Arms is one of only a handful of public houses to have received such recognition from the greats of gardening.

Built in 1750, this historic pub was once frequented by Winston’s Churchill’s grandparents – hence the name – and is still visited by modern-day celebrities today. Now run by Fuller’s the Churchill Arms was also the first pub in London to feature Thai food on the menu. The Thai restaurant has been running for over 25 years and offers a range of authentic dishes, all served up in a flower-and-butterfly themed conservatory.

www.churchillarmskensington.co.uk

 

 

 2. Chelsea Physic Garden

© CHARLIE HOPKINSON
Image © Charlie Hopkinson

 

Often referred to as London’s ‘secret garden’, Chelsea Physic Garden is actually one of the oldest botanical gardens in the city. Established back in 1673, the garden houses a collection of around 5,000 plants, including edible, medicinal and endangered species. Its position by the Thames allowed the Apothecaries – forerunners to our modern day pharmacists – to transport plants from around the globe, and provided a unique microclimate, making it ideal for growing more tender examples from the Mediterranean and Canary Islands.

Attractions include the Garden of World Medicine, which houses the Catharanthus roseus (Madagascan Periwinkle), used in cancer drugs, and Filipendula ulmaria (Meadowsweet), used to help control heart rhythms. Not to mention the Grade II listed Pond Rockery – which features lava shipped over from Iceland, and carved stones from the Tower of London!

And when you’ve finished taking in the gardens, you could take a spot of lunch or afternoon tea al fresco style, at the award-winning Tangerine Dream Cafe, and peruse the book and gift shop.
Just what the doctor ordered!

chelseaphysicgarden.co.uk

 

 

3. The Dickens Inn, St Katharine Docks

 dickens
Image credit

 

The Dickens Inn is a beautiful reconstructed early 18th century inn and restaurant, situated in the picturesque St Katharine Docks. As well as offering great views of nearby Tower Bridge and the Shard, more importantly the Dickens boasts some stunning flower displays, with window boxes and hanging baskets galore spilling from its impressive three-storied balconies.

Originally a warehouse believed to have housed tea, the building has witnessed some other big changes in its history. In the 1820’s the timber frame was encased in brick to help it fit in with its neighbours in the Docks, under the remit of the great Thomas Telford – and later the entire inn was relocated, with its 120 tonne timber shell being moved to a new site just 70 metres away!

Nowadays the sawdust covered floors have been replaced by stripped wood – though we recommend the beer garden, which is perfect for taking in those gorgeous flowers. What the Dickens are you waiting for?

dickensinn.co.uk

 

 

4. The Roof Gardens, Kensington

the-roof-gardens-spanishgarden
Image credit.

 

Set 100ft above the city, The Roof Gardens in Kensington offer a beautiful and unexpected city oasis, with spectacular views of the London skyline. Covering 1.5 acres, they were first opened in 1938, with an entry fee of one shilling. Today the gardens are Grade II listed and have been designated a place of Specific Historical Interest.

The Spanish Garden has a Moorish influence, being based on the elaborate Alhambra palace in Granada, Spain. This colourful garden features a mixture of English flowers and Mediterranean trees. Meanwhile, the Tudor Garden consists of three period courtyards with characteristic red brick walls, Tudor arches and plants from the era of Henry VIII.

the-roof-gardens-flamingos
Image credit.

Finally, there’s the lovely Woodland Garden, which is a riot of colour in the spring when thousands of bulbs come into flower, including narcissus, crocus, grape hyacinth and bluebells, underneath the impressive 75-year-old trees. There’s even a pond featuring exotic birds including Mandarin ducks and some resident flamingos. And if you fancy a bite to eat while admiring the view, you can check out the Babylon Restaurant.

virginlimitededition.com/en/the-roof-gardens

 

 

 5. Osterley Park

 
Image credit

This Georgian estate is one of the largest open spaces in West London and offers a beautiful restored 18th century formal garden, sporting traditional herbaceous borders, roses and ornamental vegetable beds.

In spring you can enjoy a succession of colourful blooms in the gardens, from bright daffodils to  delicate cherry blossom, while fragrant primroses and magnolias adorn the Temple of Pan. As summer begins to appear, the spring blooms make way for magnificent roses.

Now owned by the National Trust, the neo-classical mansion was built in the 1570s by Sir Thomas Gresham, and boasts acres of parkland complete with a range of walks. And why not try out the Stables cafe, which features produce from the ornamental vegetable garden.

nationaltrust.org.uk/osterley-park-and-house

 

 

6. Clos Maggiore, Covent Garden

clos
Image credit.

 

We couldn’t contemplate our favourite flowerful places without giving a mention to Clos Maggiore  – that tourist-magnet in the heart of Covent Garden. Regularly voted the ‘world’s most romantic restaurant’, it’s famous for its beautiful intimate interiors  – including the eye-poppingly stunning cherry-blossom-covered conservatory.

Clos Maggiore also offers fine Provencal cuisine using local seasonal produce, and boasts a world-class wine cellar.

closmaggiore.com

 

 

7. Chiswick House Gardens

 chiswick
Image: Laura Nolte

 

Chiswick House and Gardens is an impressive neo-palladian estate. The house features an extensive collection of paintings by the Old Masters, while the restored 18th century gardens are a real delight.

The award-winning gardens include spectacular displays of flowers and shrubs, as well as hidden pathways, impressive vistas, temples and columns. In fact, Chiswick House Gardens were the birthplace of the English Landscape Movement, and provided inspiration for the famous gardens at Blenheim Palace and New York’s Central Park.

Moreover, in another claim to fame, the gardens boast a gigantic 302-foot Grade I listed conservatory which houses a beautiful collection of pink, red, white and striped camellias, dating back to 1828. The collection includes some of the earliest and rarest varieties, and is known to be the oldest collection of camellias in the Western world.

www.chgt.org.uk

 

That’s our lowdown on the most flowerful places in London (north of the Thames, anyway). But if we’ve missed your favourite why not let us know?

At Freddie’s we make your home naturally lovely with weekly flower boxes for £24 a pop (with free delivery in Bath!) Sign up here.

 

The seven most flowerful places in Bath

There’s plenty for the flower-lover in this beautiful city. Here’s our floral guide to Bath…

Welcome to one of the most flowerful places around: Bath. Easily up there with the most beautiful cities in the world, let alone Britain – and there’s plenty for the flower-lover too…

Bath is famous for its hot springs, Roman baths and honey-coloured Georgian architecture. But it also has parks, gardens and flowerful spaces aplenty, and the stunning natural surroundings of the valley of the River Avon.

From the Botanical Gardens at Royal Victoria Park, with its herbaceous borders, shrub roses and scented walks, to the Parade Gardens in the heart of the city with its views of the famous Pulteney Bride and lovely summer bedding displays with three-dimensional floral features, Bath has plenty of flowerful places to offer the flower-fan.

So here’s a guide to seven of our favourite spots in and around Bath, with the accent on the floral….

 

1. Prior Park Landscape Garden

Flowerful places don't get much better than Prior Park!
Image: Dave Napier 

Now owned by the National Trust, this 18th century landscape garden was designed by Ralph Allen, who sought advice from the poet Alexander Pope and legendary landscape designer Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. Today the gardens offer some pretty poetic panoramas over Bath and the famous Palladian bridge – one of only four of its kind in the world. From the ‘Wilderness’, to a selection of follies and ponds, and access to the Bath Skyline walk with its woodlands and meadows, there is plenty to take in.

In spring you can check out Wild Garlic Month at Prior Park, when you can admire the delicate (if aromatic) white flowers of allium ursinum, also known as ‘ramsoms’. These small white flowers carpet the woodland and you can even choose to take some samples home.

wild garlic walk
Wild Garlic walk in Prior Park – Image credit

 

Prior Park can be reached via a short walk from the city centre (albeit involving quite a steep hill) – or if you want to preserve your energy for enjoying the gardens, you can hop aboard the Skyline sightseeing bus.

More details here.

 

 2. Holburne Museum 

holburne
Image credit.
The Holburne Museum opened as Bath’s first public art gallery in 1893. Built around the collection of Sir William Holburne, the Grade I listed building houses a fascinating collection of fine and decorative art, including paintings and miniatures by Gainsborough, Stubbs and Turner – as well as many other eclectic findings, from Chinese armorial porcelain, to Roman glass and furniture.

As well as its historical treasures, the Holburne Museum’s Garden Cafe is a particular gem. It has an award-winning, sunlight-drenched new design and it opens out onto the historic Sydney Gardens, Bath’s oldest park. Designed by architect Charles Harcourt Masters in 1795, the park was a popular pleasure garden in the eighteenth century, frequented by the royal family as well as the novelist Jane Austen, who took lodgings opposite the park in 1801 and enjoyed walking among its trees, shrubberies and flower-beds.

breughel
 ‘A Stoneware Vase of Flowers’ by Jan Bruegel the Elder (c. 1607–1608. The Fitzwilliam Museum) – currenly on show in the Holburne Museum’s exhibition Bruegel: Defining a Dynasty.

 

More details here.

 

 

3. Prior Park Garden Centre

Lenten-Rose-2
Lenten Roses at Prior Park Garden Centre – Image credit

 

Located in the heart of the historic city, Prior Park Garden Centre has all the stuff you want from a modern garden centre as well as some surprises, such as the maple corner, which boasts a wide range of stunning Acer japonica of various different shapes and sizes.

Meanwhile, the rose area has an impressive selection of that great blousey English favourite – from hybrid tea, to cluster flowered, miniatures, climbers & ramblers, and including an array of blooming beautiful New English Roses.

There’s also a a farm shop, gift shop and a Secret Garden Café, all family-friendly.

More information here.

 

 

4. The Forester & Flower 

forester
Image credit.

This bar, restaurant and B&B was first established as a brew house and coaching inn back in 1870. It’s a nice, friendly, slightly quirky inn, but naturally we’re drawn to the floral theme.

Each of the bedrooms has a flower-inspired name and boasts a range of floral linens, furniture and décor. Choose from the Daisy, the Lily, the Rose, the Pansy or the Iris.
More details.

 

 

 5. Dyrham Park 

Dyrham_Park_garden_ponds,_from_east
Dyrham Park garden ponds. Image credit.

Located a few miles outside the city centre, the National Trust-owned Dyrham Park is well worth a visit. The 17th century baroque mansion, garden and deer park are set among 274 acres of beautiful parkland.

Designed for King William III’s secretary of state, William Blathwayt, and originally including a formal Dutch water garden, the gardens were revamped in the late 18th century (by our friend Harcourt Masters), and are Grade II listed on the National Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.

The gardens have recently been undergoing a further, 21st-century transformation, under the stewardship of the National Trust, with the redevelopment of the West Garden to include new borders and structural planting, as well as some ‘flavours of the past’.

More details here.

 

 

6. White Hart Inn, Widcombe

The White Hart in Widcombe pic RL
Image credit.
If you’re looking for some time out from the tourist trail, the unassuming White Hart restaurant and pub at Widcombe has a relaxed atmosphere and a beautiful secluded walled garden.

Popular with locals and tourists alike, it’s considered by some to be up there with top flowerful places and the best pub garden in Bath. In the Spring and Summer you can enjoy some al fresco dining with a Mediterranean twist, among the lovely flower displays.

 

7. Kilver Court gardens

Kilver_Court_Gardens_Shepton_Mallet
Image credit
If you fancy travelling a little bit further afield to find flowerful places, why not pay a visit to Kilver Court gardens. Created by Ernest Jardine (1859-1947), the gardens started life as a recreational space for the employees of Jardine’s lace-making industry.

Set against the impressive backdrop of the 19th century Charlton viaduct, today the 3.5 acre site sits within a designer village and offers something of a haven for flower enthusiasts. Based around a reproduction of George Whitelegg’s cutting-edge Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medal-winning rockery, the impressive display incorporates sandstone boulders from the Forest of Dean and a man-made river and waterfall.

_DSC5388
Image credit.

 

The parterre was redesigned by the Showering family (inventors of Babycham!) in the 1960s, taking inspiration from classic French geometric designs. There is a huge 100m long herbaceous border, nestled in the lee of a giant Victorian viaduct, and the current owners – Roger and Monty Saul – are engaged in an ambitious project to completely redesign it as a colourist border, with a palette moving through wines, reds to silvers, blues, oranges and creams. Sounds amazing!

More details here.

 

Here at Freddie’s we think one of the most flowerful places should be your home!  Make your home naturally lovely with weekly flower boxes for £24 a pop (with free delivery in Bath!) Sign up here.

 

Image top: Karen Roe

The Great 2017 ‘Almost Spring’ Freddie’s Flowers Gallery!

Our latest gallery of gorgeous customer photos – it’s almost spring, folks!…

Well, you continue to blow us away with your arranging skills (and photography skills, come to that). Here’s a gallery of some of the recent photos shared with us by Freddie’s Flower People – i.e. our lovely gang of customers. It’s almost spring, folks!…

We reckon your arrangement are works of art, so they deserve their own gallery. Share your own Freddie’s Flower pics with on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, or drop us an email at freddie@freddiesflowers.com – and perhaps you’ll feature in the next one!

 

Hyacinth, tulip, iris and silver jubilee foliage

This was a ‘short’ arrangement so we recommended using a vase around half to three-quarters the size of the hyacinths – but your photos prove that it looks terrific in all sorts of different vessels.

This from Becky Naylor (via Twitter) is textbook stuff:

becky naylor twitter2

 

And this is a very crafty use of a clear square vase by Pandora Maxwell (via Instagram):

pandora max instagram

 

A very tasty one from Tina Koniotes (Instagram):

cake time hyacinths iris tulips

 

Megan Carver (via Twitter) has ingeniously and glamorously deployed a champagne bucket (a Hyacinth Bucket, perhaps?) in this stunner:

megan carver twitter hyacinths with champagne bucket

 

And we fully approve this message from Facebooker Patty Pulliam Terry:

Patty Pulliam Terry on FB hyacinths

 

Forsythia, rose ‘Good times’, alstroemeria, waxflower and LA lily

This January arrangement proved that winter needn’t mean dark colours. Check out these dazzling yellows from Zoe (via Instagram)…

 

zoe canalside calm yellow roses

…from Mary Martin on Facebook…

 

mary martin FB

 

…and this reflected glory from the lovely blogger and Instagrammer Three Boys and a Home

three boys and a home insta yellow roses

 

Eryngium, lisianthus, alstroemeria, eucalyptus and greenbell

This complex, cosmic arrangement inspired some true artworks, each quite unique. This from Lolly Meredith on Instagram:

lolly meredith instagram lisianthus

From Phoebe Janeh (Instagram)…

phoebe janeh instagram

How about this very cool abstract from Jerry on Instagram:

jerry hib insta

 

And a bit of brilliance here from Linda Dacoma (Instagram), making hers last and splitting into a pair of vases…

linda dacomi instagram lisianthus two vases

 

Freesia, genista ‘broom’, ruscus, trachelium and alstroemeria ‘pink floyd’

What a gorgeous photo this is by Carole-Ann Clark on Facebook:

carole-ann clark FB freesia genista

 

Laura Kateelvis on Instagram shows us how to set a perfect dinner table:

laura kateelvis insta genista

 

Snapdragons, LA lilies, linoleum and eucalyptus

Elisabeth Hogarth on Facebook told us that these are were her favourite arrangement so far. Love the way she’s displayed these!

elisabeth hogarth FB snapdragons

Some expert mult-box combining skills here – Anette Stevens (via Facebook) has added her pussywillow from the previous week to the snapdragon arrangement…

Anette Stevens FB snapdragons added pussywillow

And from Fiona Lawrence (Facebook):

fiona lawrence

 

And finally…

How about this shot of the tulips, lilies and solidago arrangment from the middle of January by Belen (via Instagram)? Can anyone spot the dinosaurs?

b_demalo insta tulips solidago

 

 

If you’re one of Freddie’s Flower People, please do share your pics with us – we love to see them.

Or if you’d like to join us, just sign up for lovely flower deliveries at £24 a pop here!

The Art of Flowers: A Floral Tour of the National Gallery

There are countless ways to enjoy London’s magnificent National Gallery. Here’s how a flower-lover could take a tour…

There are countless ways to enjoy London’s magnificent National Gallery. Here’s how a flower-lover could take a tour…

By Nigel Andrew

 

Having found the National Gallery’s Dutch Flowers exhibition such an eye-opener, I thought I’d go and see what other pictures the gallery has on show that flower-lovers might enjoy.  Here are some of the floral highlights…

 

Still life and symbolism

Flower painting as such – painting flowers for their own sake – didn’t really get under way until the Dutch took it up in the 17th century. Before that, flowers feature mostly as decorative background features or, in religious paintings, as bearers of symbolic meanings. But there were religious artists who painted flowers with evident enjoyment and who were clearly seeing them as more than mere symbols.
Virgin and Child
The Virgin and Child in a Garden (1469-91) – Style of Martin Schongauer. Image credit.

 

A fine example of this is The Virgin and Child in a Garden (Room 65) in the style of Martin Schongauer, a German artist of the generation before Dürer. That iris is symbolic of the Virgin’s grief, and carnations, it was believed, first sprang up where Mary’s tears struck the earth.

That’s as may be, but Schongauer presents us with real flowers, only very slightly stylised – and those wild strawberries and lilies of the valley bordering the garden path are just lovely.

 

A Cup of Water and a Rose *oil on canvas *21.2 x 30.1 cm *about 1630
A Cup of Water and a Rose on a Silver Plate (c.1630) –  Francisco Zurbarán. Image credit.

 

There might be an element of religious symbolism in Francisco Zurbarán’s A Cup of Water and a Rose (Room 30) – this 17th-century Spanish artist is mostly known for his sombre religious paintings – but it can be enjoyed simply as a superb piece of still life painting. An earthenware cup, a silver plate, a pink rose, its petals just beginning to curve back – each element is painted with intensely focused care and attention.

The fall of light across the scene – on the surface of the water, on the lustrous silver, on the inside of the cup – and the reflections of the rose and the cup on the edge of the tray are exquisitely rendered.  Look at the shaded side of the cup where it is outlined against the gleaming inner rim of the tray – that is great painting.

 

'Fruit_and_Flowers_in_a_Terracotta_Vase'_by_Jan_van_Os,_1777-8
Fruit and Flowers in a Terracotta Vase (1777-8) – Jan Van Os. Image credit.

 

As a reminder of how long-lived was the Dutch ascendancy in flower painting, here is Jan Van Os’s Fruit and Flowers in a Terracotta Vase from 1777-8 (these pictures were often painted over several months, to capture each species at its peak).

By this stage, Dutch flower painting was a century past its golden age and its practitioners were turning out ever more extravagant virtuoso pieces that were highly decorative but had long since taken leave of any possible arrangement of flowers in the real world (how on earth did that pineapple get there?).

This picture by Van Os is typical, painted with the utmost naturalistic skill, inviting the viewer to take a close look and gasp (the bloom on those grapes, that bird’s nest, that mouse nibbling on a walnut). It’s bright and light, it’s pretty, everything is on the surface – it’s closer to interior design than to art.

 

Van Gogh to Gaughin

It was in the mid-nineteenth century and on into the early twentieth that flower painting was revived and perhaps reached its peak. The astonishing sunflower paintings of Vincent van Gogh showed that it was possible for a flower painting to soar into the artistic stratosphere, achieving the kind of truly iconic status previously reserved for the likes of the Mona Lisa. Not bad for a series of canvases intended only to brighten up Gauguin’s room in the Arles house he briefly shared with van Gogh.

Vincent van Gogh, 1853 - 1890 Sunflowers 1888 Oil on canvas, 92.1 x 73 cm Bought, Courtauld Fund, 1924 NG3863 http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG3863
Sunflowers (1888) – Vincent van Gogh. Image credit.

 

The National Gallery’s painting, titled simply Sunflowers (Room 43), was the fourth in the series and depicts fourteen flowers, some in full bloom, some wilting, others halfway to becoming seed heads. Painted with tremendous verve and built up in thick, loose brushstrokes, it’s a beautifully balanced, dazzling – almost literally – work that captures the essence of the sunflower and the sunny South. You could warm your hands on its radiance. No wonder it is one of the National’s most popular pictures.

 

a-basket-of-roses-henri-fantin-latour
A Basket of Roses (1890) – Ignace-Henri-Théodore Fantin-Latour. Image credit.

 

A flower painter with a more conventional approach was Henri Fantin-Latour, whose still life works were at least as popular in Britain – where he was championed by Whistler – as in France. A Basket of Roses (Room A: Paintings after 1600) is a gorgeous example of his flower paintings, and was snapped up by an English collector in the 1890s.

Fantin-Latour was essentially conservative in his approach to art and never identified with the Impressionists, but the free handling of paint in rendering these artfully strewn roses is not that far from Impressionism. (Fans of the band New Order will recognise this painting from the cover of the album Power, Corruption & Lies.)

 

gauguin
A Vase of Flowers (1896) – Paul Gauguin. Image credit.

 

Paul Gauguin – for whom Van Gogh painted all those sunflowers – is not best known for his flower paintings, but he produced some good work in that line in the course of his prolific career. The National Gallery has a very fine – and unusual – example, A Vase of Flowers (Room 43). This was painted soon after Gauguin’s final move from France to Tahiti, and the flowers are all tropical blooms. Oddly they are in the French national colours – blue, white and red – though that’s unlikely to be a case of unconscious nostalgia for his homeland.

It’s a beautifully composed picture, the colours and shapes perfectly balanced, the muted colours of the background and of the vase setting off the bright exotic flowers. It was sold in 1898 to Degas, an early admirer of Gauguin, and himself a fine flower painter.

 

Wild flower impressions

Now for some wild flowers. Edouard Vuillard’s The Mantelpiece (Room 42) shows a rather sumptuous interior (a room in a rented château in Normandy) cluttered with artists’ impedimenta – bottles, unframed pictures, painting rags hung to dry. On the sharply foreshortened mantelpiece, brightening and enlivening the whole scene, stands a vase (or is it just a glass?) of wild flowers – dog daisies, cow parsley, bugloss, hawkweed, a poppy, a spray of bramble, everyday flowers artlessly arranged. Their informal beauty steals the show.

Edouard Vuillard The Mantelpiece
The Mantelpiece (La Cheminée) – Edouard Vuillard (1905). Image credit.

 

And finally, the ever popular Claude Monet. Irises (Room 41) is a painting that evolved over several years (1914-17), probably alongside the artist’s gigantic murals showing the play of light on the lily pond in his garden at Giverny. Irises shows a view from above – perhaps from the famous Japanese bridge – of a winding path beside the pond, bordered with irises. Thick paint – blue, green and purple – is freely, even crudely applied, but it achieves its effect.

It’s a pity the National doesn’t have one of van Gogh’s many iris paintings for purposes of comparison. But we can always go back to the beginning, to Schongauer’s Virgin and Child in a Garden, and there it is again – the iris.

monet irises
Irises (about 1914-17) – Claude Monet. Image credit.

 

 

A note on images – we have illustrated this post with images in the public domain and available to use under the Creative Commons license. We have also made a donation to the National Gallery via Justgiving to help them continue their magnificent work!

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