Misti’s Flower Diary – ‘Lilies, primroses and muddy boots’

Misti gets frozen by the English winter, then thawed out by a tropical jungle of flowers. She also considers the primrose: anyone remember the Flower Fairies?…

In February’s flower diary, Misti gets frozen by the English winter, then thawed out by a tropical jungle of flowers. She also considers the primrose: anyone remember the Flower Fairies?…

Yesterday I saw that the famous green parakeets of south London have returned from their annual Iberian holiday full of song.  Which means only one thing: spring is on its way. Personally I’m thrilled woolly jumper season is coming to a close. Soon near-daily sausage rolls will be a faint memory and slate grey skies will cease to be the norm.

I took a country walk through the Chilterns with my husband last weekend. Helena wanted to stay at home with Nanny who lets her eat brownies and generally does her bidding. Out in the fields there were snowdrops everywhere and in the woods daffodils were blooming. Bluebells and tulips won’t be far behind. The moment flowers spring to life again is one of my favourite perennial pleasures. All that promise lying dormant until one sunny day a shoot unfurls. It’s like watching stop animation.

When I first saw the golden forsythia Freddie’s included in one of their arrangements this month, I thought it looked rather like kindling. Then three days later, as if by magic, the branches were full of small butter-coloured flowers. Nature really can be magical.

 

***

flower jungle

Tucked in amongst the yellow roses, alstroemeria and lilies, things suddenly felt very tropical at home. What with the parakeets squawking outside, our little flat felt closer to Bengal than Brockley. So much so that Helena donned a makeshift pith helmet and told me she was going to hunt for a tiger in the flowers. Why? I asked. “Because it looks like a jungle.”

Her middle name is Primrose. Could that be why she likes flowers so much? Some names lend themselves to occupations. A. J. Splatt and D. Weedon are both doctors of urology. There’s an Israeli tennis player called Anna Smashanova, a Dutch architect called Rem Koolhaas and if you’re called Freddie Garland what else are you going to become but a florist?

***

primroses

 

Primrose Hill was the first place my husband took me to when I arrived in London from Los Angeles and it will forever hold a special place in my heart. Add this to the fact that I grew up loving Cicely Mary Barker’s book about flower fairies and there you have it. Helena has a print of her hanging above her bed and when she was tiny I used to tell her the Primrose Fairy was her patron saint.

primrose fairy

 

***

But winter hasn’t given up the ghost quite yet. Snow started to fall as Helena and I made our way to the Royal Festival Hall for a puppet show about the Moomins. Despite the signs of spring it was still bitterly cold out in the country. Following a long walk, we feasted on roast beef and Bandol, and then snoozed by the fire back at my in-laws. There are some things I do love about English winter.  Madeira cake tastes much nicer when your cheeks are rosy with cold.

On Valentine’s Day we returned home with muddy boots and an enormous crystal vase my mother-in-law gave to me that her mother-in-law had given to her.  And thank goodness as against the door were new flowers from Freddie. Lucky me!

newest flowers

crystal vase

 


 

at Coworth Park

Misti Traya fell in love with an Englishman and moved from Los Angeles to London in 2009.  After her daughter was born, she began a blog called Chagrinnamon Toast that won the writing category at the 2014 Young British Foodies. She was also named runner-up for the Shiva Naipaul Prize. She has written for Gawker, Jezebel, Look, Mslexia, The Pool, The Spectator, and Stella Magazine.

 

Love flowers? Fancy being one of Freddie’s Flower People? Sign up to try our lovely flower deliveries at £24 a pop.

Freddie’s Flower People: Judith Mackrell

Author and dance critic Judith Mackrell tells us about her latest book, the ‘spectacular possibilities of pinkness’ and an improbably named rose…

Freddie’s Flowers customers are all wonderful people… and here’s another one! Author and renowned dance critic Judith Mackrell tells us about her latest book, the ‘spectacular possibilities of pinkness’ and an improbably named rose…

It’s one of the great traditions of the world of dance that dancers are presented with bouquets of flowers to celebrate a performance. They might be more worried about whether Judith Mackrell, the longstanding dance critic of the Guardian, will be presenting them with a virtual bouquet or a brickbat in her reviews of their work.

She was persuaded to try Freddie’s Flowers and receive her own garlands. Judith says, ‘Fresh flowers in the house are a treat for me and I couldn’t resist the idea of having them delivered to the door. It’s like being sent a bouquet every week.’

flappers
‘Flappers’ – Judith’s acclaimed biography of six women in the 1920s

 

Judith is an author and biographer as well as a critic, and the year ahead is looking a busy one. She says, ‘I’ve got several features on the go for The Guardian, including one about Javier De Frutos’ new version of the Phillip Glass dance opera Les Enfants Terrible – based on Jean Cocteau’s cult novel.’

Judith is also in the last stages of seeing her latest book into print. ‘It’s called The Unfinished Palazzo and it’s a group biography of  three very different women who lived in the same Venetian palazzo at different moments in the 20th century,’ Judith tells us. ‘They are a hugely rich Italian Marchesa called Luisa Casati, who was like the Lady Gaga of the belle époque, a very wicked English socialite called Doris Castlerosse, and Peggy Guggenheim – whose astounding modern art collection is now housed in the building.’

Even if she isn’t occupying her own palazzo, Judith loves bringing flowers into her home and the atmosphere they help to create.

‘It’s always great to have something coming into the house from the outside, something that has its own life. I like being able to clock the changes of colour, texture and smell that happen to a bunch of flowers over a week — buds unfolding, petals expanding and slowly beginning to drop.’

She enjoys the unexpected mixture of flowers and foliage in her Freddie’s delivery and the fact that it’s different every time. And if Judith were to choose the flowers we’d shower her with?

peonies by Sarah Collicott via FB
‘Spectacular possibilities of pinkness’ – a Freddie’s peonies delivery arranged by customer Sarah Collicott.

 

She likes peonies for ‘their spectacular possibilities of pinkness’, hellebores and paper narcissus. ‘Climbing roses are very special and I’m easily seduced by their names. I like to wonder about the people who they’re named after, like the wonderful Parkdirektor Riggers.’*

But, Judith says, she’s undemanding and grasses, twigs or autumn leaves will do if there are no flowers around — but with Freddie’s on hand, there always are.

 

*To help Judith, we looked up a bit more about Parkdirektor Riggers. It’s a rose variety developed by Wilhelm Kordes Söhne, a German family firm that’s been around for five generations and is one of the world’s biggest rose producers. This variety was bred in 1957 at their farm in Schleswig-Holstein. We can only assume that Parkdirektor Riggers was a park keeper known to the Kordes family. But if you know more, do tell us.

 

Rosa_'Parkdirektor_Riggers'_Kordes_1957_RPO
The rose variety Parkdirektor Riggers. Image credit.

 

Are you one of Freddie’s Flower People? You don’t have to be famous – we just want to see your arrangements! Share your own Freddie’s Flower pics with on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, or drop us an email at freddie@freddiesflowers.com

Or if you haven’t already done so, sign up for lovely flower deliveries at £24 a pop here!

‘I’m a Freddie’s customer and I’m running out of vases’

Misti shakes off the January slump with tap dancing, marmalade and a visit to an art deco palace. Also, she starts running out of vases…

In the first flower diary of 2017, Misti shakes off the January slump with tap dancing, marmalade and a visit to an art deco palace. Also, she starts running out of vases…

Every January, I find myself in a perennial slump. When asked what’s the matter? My answer is always the same. Inertia problems. Perhaps I wouldn’t have such difficulty springing to action if not for all those mince pies a month ago. Which is why, in an attempt to lower my BMI and boost morale, I have signed up for tap dancing lessons.

When I was very little, I used to press bottle caps into the soles of my sneakers and pretend I had tap shoes. In my imagination Shirley Temple had nothing on me. Last week was my first lesson. I had the most fun ever. That said, I am a long way from performing Little Miss Broadway.

***

Do you know the difference between fog and mist? Apparently it is visibility. If visibility is one kilometre or less, it is fog. If visibility is equal to or exceeds a kilometre, then it is mist. Recently there have been lots of both. Especially in Greenwich next to the Thames.

thames

One afternoon after a trip to the Dog & Bell, my family and I walked along the river. At least we thought it was the river. We couldn’t really see it. A fact that made me feel like Pip in Great Expectations. Would we too run into a convict on those banks? Though the ambience was a bit spooky, the sound of the tide soothed me. It’s as close as I get to hearing the ocean in London.

We continued our walk until we stumbled upon an impressive building with skulls and crossbones on the gateposts. “Look, mummy! It’s a pirate castle!” our daughter cried.

skulls

Actually, it was St. Nicholas Church in Deptford Green but according to its history, pirates did go there before sailing the high seas. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. Maybe not pirates, but sailors. Sir Francis Drake and Captain James Cook among them. Rumour has it the church’s macabre entrance inspired the Jolly Roger.

I was surprised to discover when walking around the graveyard that it is the final resting place of poet and playwright, Christopher Marlowe. He met his untimely death when he was stabbed at a local pub in 1593. Ah, Southeast London. I love you but plus ça change. Nearby, a bush of small yellow roses was covered with dew.

roses at pirate church

***

Maybe it’s because I recently became a British citizen or perhaps it’s because Henry and I are now both early-middle-age, but we decided to join English Heritage. Our first trip as members was to Eltham Palace. King Henry VIII spent much of his childhood there. Queen Elizabeth I, not so much. In the 1930s the Courtaulds acquired the lease on this medieval property and revamped it in art deco splendour. You should see the bath. The wall behind it is covered in gold.

eltham palace bath

Personally, I can’t wait to spend time in Eltham Palace’s sunken garden this summer. The Courtaulds loved their flora and fauna. Stephen grew orchids in the greenhouse that won several Royal Horticultural prizes whilst Virginia was mad about roses. There is a red one named in her honour.

***

upcycled as a vase

Speaking of roses, my pale pink and cream coloured ones from Freddie are still thriving. As are the white Antonov blooms from three weeks back. To be honest, I’m running out of vases. Not that I’m complaining. A flat full of flowers really does salve the soul. Particularly when they smell as invigorating as eucalyptus or look as sunny as solidago.

marmalade

Last week’s arrangement inspired me to make marmalade, the scent of which is so uplifting. I find nothing makes my skin feel quite as supple as being in a kitchen filled with Seville orange steam.

Now that I think about, maybe January isn’t that dreary. Or maybe I’m happy because I’ve got tap tomorrow and a box of lilies and tulips just arrived.

tulips

 


 

at Coworth Park

Misti Traya fell in love with an Englishman and moved from Los Angeles to London in 2009.  After her daughter was born, she began a blog called Chagrinnamon Toast that won the writing category at the 2014 Young British Foodies. She was also named runner-up for the Shiva Naipaul Prize. She has written for Gawker, Jezebel, Look, Mslexia, The Pool, The Spectator, and Stella Magazine.

 

Love flowers? Fancy being one of Freddie’s Flower People? Sign up to try our lovely flower deliveries at £24 a pop.

How Ladybird Books taught me to love flowers

A whole generation of children learned about flowers from one very special source: the beautifully-illustrated Ladybird Books…

A whole generation of children that grew up in towns and cities learned about flowers from one very special source: the beautifully-illustrated Ladybird Books. In this exclusive post, leading Ladybird expert Helen Day explains how some haunting picture-books helped spark a lifelong appreciation of flowers… 

Flowers didn’t feature much in my childhood.  Our garden was tiny, my parents both worked and money was rather tight. We lived in a street of terraced houses, surrounded by similar streets – a perfectly pleasant environment in many ways – but floral decoration was sparse.

But that’s not the whole story.  Both my parents were teachers and my house was filled with books: many of them Ladybird Books.   The imagery of my childhood is a strange collage of reality and book artwork.  Even before I could read, I was reading the pictures of the books that surrounded me and these pictures were beautiful.  I learnt about flowers from Ladybird Books.

ladybird flowers 2

 

First there were garden flowers.  In my Ladybird Book of Garden Flowers, gardens were a remote and alien place –striking and colourful but as far away from my life as Never Never Land.  The vibrant colours of the plants contrasted with the grey splendour of the buildings in the background.

The sky was often dark and stormy: it was the flowers that brought the optimism to the picture.  Life was calm and stately and ordered.  Nature, with its stormy skies, might threaten change, but as long as the gardener was in charge all would be managed and all would be well.

ladybird flowers 5 edit

ladybird flowers 3 large
Three John Leigh-Pemberton illustrations from ‘Garden Flowers’. Image © Ladybird Books Ltd

 

Then there was the Ladybird Book of Wild Flowers and here the scenes were very different.  Human activity was barely visible or was shown in decay: a ruined monastery, a broken bridge.

ladybird flowers 6
‘British Wild Flowers’, illus. Rowland and Edith Hilder. Images © Ladybird Books Ltd

 

The flowers were less bright and showy and had to battle harder on the page to gain my attention. The colours were more muted: lots of blues, palest pink with splashes of yellow.  I wasn’t sure what I thought of wild flowers.

Both books were produced by Ladybird with the idea that they would be simple field guides, to be used by the curious child for reference and to stimulate their curiosity.  On the left-hand side of every page was the name and description of the plants pictured.  I’m sure lots of children used them in this way, but I don’t think I ever did. For me, the attraction was pouring over the details in the background.  Who was in that carriage, coming up the drive.  What was through that arch?  Why was the bridge falling down?

ladybird flowers 8
‘British Wild Flowers’, illus. Rowland and Edith Hilder. Images © Ladybird Books Ltd

 

Then there was Indoor Gardening – a whole book dedicated to telling children like me that I too could be a gardener – as long as I had a window sill and an odd collection of containers: glass bottles, chipped pottery or an old teapot.

ladybird flowers 10
‘Indoor Gardening’, illus. BH Robinson. Images © Ladybird Books Ltd

 

But this looked too much like a school project to me – as did the helpful diagrams in Plants and How they Grow.  I did have a go at making the ‘Minature Garden’ in The Ladybird Book of Things to Make – but like all the projects in that book, when I’d finished it didn’t look anything like the picture.

ladybird flowers 9
‘Things to Make’, illus. G Robinson. Image © Ladybird Books Ltd

 

Finally there was the magic of picking wild flowers.  Yes, I know – and you must remember this, children – that we don’t pick wild flowers today.  But in 1960s Ladybird Land it was fine to pick wild flowers.  Goldilocks was filling her basket with bluebells when she discovered the Three Bears’ House. Little Red Riding Hood gathered an amazingly varied woodland bouquet to take to her grandmother.

ladybird flowers 12
‘Little Red Riding Hood’, illus. Robert Lumley and ‘Goldilocks’, illus. Harry Wingfield. Images © Ladybird Books Ltd

 

Picking wildflowers was almost an emblem of childhood and freedom – a prelude to adventure and enjoyed equally by boys and girls.  The sky was blue, there were no adults in sight, clothes never got dirty: and we never saw the miserable picked flowers in their vases and jam jars, wilting and withering only hours later.  That just didn’t happen in Ladybird Land.

ladybird flowers 14
(l) ‘Prayers through the Year’, illus. Clive Uptton; (r) ‘The Lord’s Prayer’, illus. Harry Wingfield.  Images © Ladybird Books Ltd

 

I grew up and Ladybird Books grew up – and, for a time, I fared better than they did.  I had a house with a garden and started to enjoy walks in the country and visits to garden-centres.  Ladybird struggled with ever-increasing competition in the book market and, in the 1980s, swapped expertly-crafted artwork for much cheaper photography.

Looking back, I realise I did everything backwards.  The books I grew up with were intended to help children identify the plants they saw around them.  I don’t remember seeing plants around me when I was growing up, but later found myself identifying well-remembered Ladybird imagery in the landscapes of my adult life.  Perhaps on a walk in the country I’ll turn a corner and be confronted with a scene that transports me straight back to a page in What to Look for in Spring or Wild Flowers.

The pictures came first, and the plants came second.  But one way or another the books of my childhood taught me to enjoy and to appreciate flowers, and in the end I don’t suppose it matters which way round it happens.

 

Love flowers? So do we! Sign up for a delivery box of amazing flowers for just £24 a pop here. 

 

Helen Day is a Languages Teacher and avid collector of, and expert on, Ladybird Books. She curates the definitive Ladybird Book website at www.ladybirdflyawayhome.com .

 

Images © Ladybird Books Ltd. Reproduced by kind permission of Ladybird Books Ltd. www.vintageladybird.com

 

Floral mindfulness? How flowers saved my inner wellbeing and made me a better person

Forget all the fads – what better way to achieve inner wellbeing than filling your home and your life with lots and lots of lovely flowers?

Forget all the fads – what better way to achieve inner wellbeing than filling your home and your life with lots and lots of lovely flowers? Freddie’s customer Louise Simpson explains how she accidentally found true contentment…

If you’re anything like me, you’re attracted to the concept of mindfulness. Being calm. Being thankful for the small pleasures of life. Appreciating the present moment and letting the worries of the modern world drift away.

Yes, a place of true inner tranquility is definitely worth aiming for. It’s getting there that’s the problem. There seem to be so many routes, from meditation to Pilates to ‘clean eating’, which seems to involve consuming vast quantities of kale. I’ve tried plenty, and no doubt they all work for someone, just not me. (For a start, I really like consuming ‘non-clean’ things, like chocolate. And gin.)

So although I have good intentions for finding physical and mental wellbeing and Zen-like calm in the present, nothing ever quite seems to stick. It’s frustrating. In fact, chasing mindfulness turns out to be really quite stressful.

 

How weekly flower deliveries saved my soul

But then, not long ago, I noticed a change. I realised that something rather wonderful seemed to be happening to me, and it was all to do with the sudden flow of flowers into my life.

My Freddie’s Flowers day is a Friday, and that’s become a special day in our house. When the box comes, my two young daughters and I gather excitedly around it in the family room. Then we open it up, read the rather fab instruction/information leaflet, and spend an extremely enjoyable ten minutes carefully arranging the flowers. Wonderful, unexpected, unusual flowers – often ones I’ve never heard of.

And then we have another enjoyable ten minutes of playing with last week’s flowers – and even the ones from the week before that if they’re still going strong: mixing and matching, trimming and rearranging, moving the vases around the house.

That’s twenty solid minutes of just thinking about flowers and nothing else – a good dose of mindfulness if ever there was one. But the effects last much longer than that. All through the week I find myself taking lovely moments to stop and just gaze contentedly at my various floral displays. I think it’s partly because the flowers are so splendid, but also partly because I’m secretly proud of my new-found arranging skills.

anna archer
Anna Ancher: Interior with the painter’s daughter Helga sewing, Anna Ancher

 

But whatever the reason, a weekly supply of flowers has made my home more attractive, greatly improved my appreciation of natural beauty and generally helped make me a calmer and more sane person.

In other words, I bought a flower subscription and I accidentally found inner wellbeing. Thank you, Guru Freddie…

 

***

Six Not Particularly Sensible Alternative Wellness Treatments

If arranging flowers seems too sensible a way to achieve inner peace and harmony, you could always try one of these wellness treatments from around the world…

Image credit.
Image credit.

1) Whole Body Cryotheraphy
Yes, at the Renew Juicery in Los Angeles you can freeze your entire body in liquid nitogren for a mere $70 a session.

2) Trip out on iboga
Apparently an increasing number of westerners are travelling to the central African country of Gabon to take part in an ancestral religious rite which involves facepainting, dancing and ingesting a root called iboga. Iboga is said to have healing powers, but French health officials have called it a ‘hallucinogenic and highly toxic drug’ and warned tourists to stay well clear.

3) Dream Reality Cinema
Another LA craze this, the Dream Reality Cinema is like a normal cinema except it serves up lucid dreams instead of films via something called ‘biocybernetics’. According to the website, this is ‘the ultimate brain hack, teaching individuals the key method for manifesting ones dreams in waking life.’

4) Moisturising with snail slime
Yes, really. Snail slime.

5) Japanese crying therapy
Originating in the Kansai region of Japan, the practice of ruikatsu involves spending hours listening to sad stories and being reminded of the dead pets of your childhood. The resultant weeping is said to be good for you.

6) Bathe in wine
Staying in Japan, the Yunessun Spa Resort allows visitors to immerse themselves in giant communal baths of coffee, ramen or red wine. Actually that last one sounds rather good.

 

 Eucalyptus, pussywillow, alstroemeria
A eucalyptus, pussywillow, alstroemeria from Freddie’s Flowers

Want to find inner peace by bringing a constant flow of natural loveliness into your life? Sign up for weekly flower deliveries for £24 a pop here.

How do you drink your flowers? A guide to floral teas and tisanes

There’s more than one way to drink a cuppa. Jassy Davis explains how to make your own flower teas, known as tisanes…

There’s more than one way to drink a cuppa – and in the depths of winter a sweet-scented flower tea can bring back the sunshine. Food writer Jassy Davis explains how to make your own floral tisanes…

Forget potpourri. The best thing to do with dried flowers is drink them.  Tisanes – herbal infusions – have been warming cockles for thousands of years.

The idea isn’t that strange to us: a pot of mint tea after dinner, chamomile tea before bed. These infusions have stayed with us, while we ditched other more outlandish tisanes in favour of cups of good, strong black tea. But at this time of year, when the weather is grey and the days are dark, floral tisanes can breathe a bit of summer warmth back into our lives. And with flower beds being a bit sparse, a stock of dried edible flowers are perfect for brewing up with.

Dried Flowers Overhead

 

How to make a Tisane

The general rule is to use one heaped tablespoon of dried flowers for every 250ml water. Don’t use boiling water. The ideal temperature is around 80°C, so stop your kettle before it boils. Steep teas for three to five minutes before straining into a cup.

Important health and safety note: before you start brewing up, remember to only make teas with edible grade dried flowers, preferably organic. As tisanes have historically been used as herbal remedies, it’s best to check they won’t interfere with any medicines you’re taking or have an impact on any conditions you may have.

 

Jasmine

Jasmine 2

Jasmine tea normally means green, white or black tea scented with jasmine flowers, which has been prepared in China for thousands of years. A tisane of dried jasmine flowers is mellow and aromatic, less scented than an infusion made with the fresh flowers would be. Try combining jasmine with rose petals or a strip of fresh lemon or orange zest for extra fragrance.

 

Rose

Rose 1

Everyone who has had a piece of Turkish delight knows what rose tea tastes like. Fresh, dried or distilled into rosewater, rose always delivers that full, summer garden in bloom flavour.

Traditionally rose tea is drunk to help relieve menstrual cramps, and it’s also thought to be good for sore throats, digestion and stress. Rose is brilliant for scenting black tea. Try steeping a combination of dried rose petals, black tea and lightly crushed cardamom pods and serving it with a slice of lemon.

 

Lavender

Lavender 2

A love-it-or-loathe-it tisane. Lavender is a flavour that doesn’t give up. Dried or fresh, that heady, bee-and-butterfly-luring scent is just as strong. For some people, it’s too much like soap. But for lavender lovers, a cup of pale blue lavender tea is perfume heaven.

Lavender is always associated with sleep, which makes lavender the perfect night-time tisane. Combine it with chamomile blooms for extra snooziness. It’s also said to be good for digestion, so try it after a meal instead of mint tea (or mix a spoonful of dried lavender in with the mint sprigs).

 

Elderflower

Elderflowers 2

The powdery smell of lacey elderflowers is the scent of spring. Elderflower tisanes capture that delicate, fruity fragrance. It’s naturally sweet and won’t become bitter if it’s left to stand, so you can confidently make a pot knowing the last cup will taste as good as the first (although be warned, it’s thought to be a diuretic, so perhaps don’t drink gallons of it).

Elderflower teas have historically been used to treat coughs and cold. Add a slice of lemon, a chunk of ginger and a dash of honey for a soothing drink when you need a little relief from a scratchy throat and runny nose.

 

Hops

Hops flowers 2

Hop flower tisanes have a green note to them, redolent of thick stems of field rhubarb or orange skin. A rich, juicy bitterness that increases the longer you brew the tea for. Hops have long been used as a sedative and this tea is best kept for bedtimes. Try adding a strip of orange zest to round out the flavour, and honey to take the edge off the bitterness.

 

Calendula

Marigolds 1jpg

More commonly known as marigold, calendula petals have a peppery, tangy flavour that translates into a savoury tisane with a hint of spice and sourness. Thought to be good for digestion, cramps and menstrual pain, this sunshine yellow tea makes a great afternoon pick-me-up.

 

Freddie’s Flowers sends you delicious arrangements every week – though we recommend that you mostly just sit and look at our flowers rather than drink them.  Sign up for a delivery box of amazing flowers for just £24 a pop here. 

Flowers in a cup 1

 

Jassy Davis is a writer and food blogger. Check out her wonderful Gin and Crumpets website here.

 

Freddie’s Festive Flower Gallery: it’s your Christmas arrangements!

You’ve been sharing your festive flower arrangements with us – here are just a few of our fave Christmassy customer pics…

You’ve been sharing your festive flower arrangements with us – here are some of our fave customer pics in a bumper Christmas edition gallery…

We reckon your arrangements are works of art, so they deserve their own gallery (like these ones). Please do share your pics with us by email or social media – see the bottom of the post for where – and perhaps you’ll feature in the next one!

White Christmassiness..

First off, some splendid efforts from people who like to get their Christmas decs up nice and early for maximum festive wallowing. Here are some fine displays of the waxflower, alstroemeria, lodge pine and lisianthus from the week of 5 December.

This is a quite exquisite in situ whites-and-lights arrangement by Zoe (aka @canalsidecalm on Instagram)…

canalside on instagram

 

…and we love this trad red and green and gold and white festive look from Cally (@tallgirl81 on Instagram):

tallgirl81 on insta

 

Iona Davis, also on Instagram, has hidden a little monster in her waxflowers:

ionadavis on twitter monster

 

While Emma Dew shared this arrangement on Facebook, and we we just think it has been beautifully, elegantly done:

emma dew on fb

 

Enter the Amaryllis…

Things really got Christmassy with the amaryllis box on the week beginning 12 December – and with any luck yours are still going strong on Christmas Day and beyond.

We were sent some fine pics from Freddie’s Flower People that prove amaryllis look great even before they’ve opened up. Like this from Niki Dobs on Instagram:

nikidobs on instagram

…and this from Issey Miyake on Facebook:

issey miyake on FB

 

AlisonLovesVintage on Instagram takes a rather good photo, doesn’t she?…

alisonlovesvintage

 

And we absolutely love the ingenious use of individual Amaryllis Holders for a stunning Christmas centrepiece from Lou Emma Dixon Mele (via Facebook):

Lou Emma Dixon Mele on FB

 

Christmas combos!

Some of you preferred your amaryllis neat, and some of you artfully combined them with the previous week’s arrangement, such as Kathey Yon Smoley (via Facebook)…

kathy yon smoley on FB

…or with the red ilex berries, eucaplyptus and gold bog myrtle we sent you in the week before Christmas. Here’s Kate on Twitter…

kate on twitter 2 weeks

 

This beauty is from Alison Bell on Facebook:

Alison Bell FB two arrangements

 

And here’s a three-box mega-combo from Lesley McBride on Twitter!

lesley mcbride on twitter 3 weeks combo

 

But we also just love seeing all the interesting little creative, personal. touches you use to display your flowers. This is from Michelle Horton (via Facebook):

michelle horton on fb

 

From Sue Simmons (Facebook):

sue simmons FB

From Jackie Schneider (Facebook):

jackie schneider on fb

From Shang Ala (Facebook):

shang ala on facebook

From Caroline Steele (Facebook):

caroline steele on fb

 

How about this extremely flowerful fireplace from Sharon Walker on Instagram?

sharon walker on instagram

 

 

And finally…

We just had to share this throwback to the oriental ‘Pico’ lilies waaay back at the end of November. It’s admittedly not  a Christmas picture as such, but that is an exceedingly enviable flower table owned by Theresa Robinson (via Facebook). Let’s all resolve to get ourselves a flower table in the New Year.

Merry Christmas!

theresa robinson on fb LILIES

 

Are you one of Freddie’s Flower People too? We want to see your arrangements! Share your own Freddie’s Flower pics with on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, or drop us an email at freddie@freddiesflowers.com.

And if you’re not yet in the gang, we’d love you to join us! Sign up to receive lovely flower deliveries direct to your door for just £24 a pop, here.

Why my Christmas amaryllis have me California Dreaming

There’s a red letter day for Misti this month as she becomes a British citizen, but red amaryllis always take her back to California.

There’s a red letter day for Misti this month as she becomes a British citizen, but red amaryllis always take her back to California. Also in this flower diary: vicious peacocks in Porto, a drag panto at Selfridges and lots of Christmas baking at home…

No matter where I am in the world, the last Thursday of November is always Thanksgiving to me. It is a day of gratitude and sharing and I have celebrated it with British friends and family since I arrived in 2009. Before my husband went freelance, he used to take the day off to help me in the kitchen. I loved it. It was one of our traditions.

But traditions evolve.

Which is why we decided to do away with roast turkey this year. Usually I order a bird that we brine two days before the feast. It then gets spatchcocked and roasted and served with delicious gravy and every kind of side dish and condiment imaginable. Mostly to disguise the fact that turkey is the blandest meat ever.

So after much discussion, we decided to take liberties and switch things up a little. Henry made Elizabeth David’s boeuf bourguignon which we followed with cheese, fruit, and Rivesaltes. It was perfect. Especially as we flew to Portugal the next morning and put the remaining stew in the freezer to enjoy upon our return.

***

The British Association of Porto had invited my husband to speak at their annual Treasurer’s Dinner as he has written a book called Empire of Booze which features port quite prominently.

The evening was a thing to behold. Not just because of the sparkling company we kept or the 1863 Taylor’s we drank, but because of the flowers!

flowers

(Something totally unrelated to wine that I learned in Porto: Peacock insurance is a thing. And apparently it’s very expensive but necessary. Our hosts were lamenting the birds that they say just appeared one day, never to leave again.

Don’t be fooled by their beauty. Peacocks are vicious bastards who show up unannounced for an indefinite length of time and attack people. First, jumping on their backs then pecking at their necks. Worst guests ever.)

peacocks

For the weekend we had the pleasure of staying at The Yeatman in Vila Nova de Gaia. Our room had a view of the Douro that was magical at sunset. On the last day I had a massage that was unlike any other I’d ever had. I left the spa feeling like I was vibrating.

***

When we returned home to London, there was a box from Freddie to cushion the blow of reality…

red

Recently Freddie has sent lots of gorgeous amaryllis. Almost like they know how much these bright red beauties remind me of my mother in California. Having them in the flat makes me feel like she is with me just as I know having some of my Christmas ornaments on her tree in L. A. makes her feel the same way.

amaryllis

***

That first Monday back, life immediately got busy. The festive season was upon us. Mulled wine and ciders of all sorts. Salted creme fraiche caramels. Peppermint bark. Gingerbread and baked goods a plenty. At this rate, I don’t think I’ll see my waist again until spring. Maybe I’ll wait and see what the verdict is on Groundhog Day.

gingerbread house

gingerbread bear

***

My wildly talented milliner friend, Gabrielle Djanogly of Hood London, invited me to my first panto, a drag panto, for which she had made several glittering pairs of rabbit ears. The show, aptly named Down the Rabbit Hole, was performed in the basement theatre of Selfridges. It was such a good time. I sincerely hope they do it again next year.

panto

***

On the tenth of December, our family had a triple gold star day. Not only was it our daughter’s fifth birthday party, and our seventh wedding anniversary, but it was also the day I received word from the Home Office that my application for British citizenship was successful. I’m finally British, y’all!

citizenship

Well almost. I still have to figure out what to wear to my citizenship ceremony and swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen. Tartan or tweed? That is the sartorial question. Perhaps I’ll watch some more of The Crown for inspiration.

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 


 

at Coworth Park

Misti Traya fell in love with an Englishman and moved from Los Angeles to London in 2009.  After her daughter was born, she began a blog called Chagrinnamon Toast that won the writing category at the 2014 Young British Foodies. She was also named runner-up for the Shiva Naipaul Prize. She has written for Gawker, Jezebel, Look, Mslexia, The Pool, The Spectator, and Stella Magazine.

 

Love flowers? Fancy being one of Freddie’s Flower People? Sign up to try our lovely flower deliveries at £24 a pop.

Walking in a Winter Flowerland – 5 top Christmas outings for flowerheads

If you’re after festive activities while still getting your flower fix this Christmas, here are our top picks…

Your days between now and Christmas are probably rammed with all sorts of fun stuff – but if you have a window to fill and you’re after festive activities while still getting your flower fix, here are our top picks…

 

1. The RHS London Christmas Show

MAR0029774
Image credit.

The RHS are the dons of the horticultural show and their Christmas event this weekend (17 and 18 December) at RHS Lawrence Hall is full of festive foliage fun. Go for last minute Christmas shopping as well as food and crafts. More information and tickets here.

 

2. Christmas at Kew

kew gardens christmas
Image credit.

Who doesn’t love Kew, eh? Magical at any time of the year, at Christmas they open in the evenings for a wondrous walk through their illuminated, enchanting gardens. Includes a scented fire garden – which sounds better than mulled wine with an added slug of brandy.

Expect to leave feeling wowed and rosy cheeked! Tickets and info here.

 

3. Flowerful breakfast with Father Christmas at Clifton Nurseries

father xmas clifton
Image credit.

If your little angel has been really very good this year, a regular Santa’s Grotto might not cut the proverbial. So let them break their fast (or their fast since 5am when they woke you up demanding ice cream for breakfast – you made them toast while regretting that ‘cocktail for the road’ last night) with the man himself at the wonderful Clifton Nurseries (London W9).

Grab a few plants for yourself while you’re there. Buying flowers does wonders for a hangover. Tickets and info here.

 

4. Magic Lantern Festival, Birmingham Botanical Gardens

magical-Lantern-Festival-64
Image credits – above and top.

Ok, so this isn’t strictly to do with horticulture, but who can say no to a lantern festival at a Botanical Gardens? With floating Christmas fairies, glowing flowers and a parade of penguin lanterns, this will make even the Scroogiest of hearts lift a little. As long as they like Christmas themed lights, that is. Information here.

 

5. Amaryllis admiring

red amaryllis

And lastly, if actually what you really need is an hour or two of down time between shopping, present wrapping and parties, do just that. Sink into the sofa, admire your beautifully decorated Christmas tree, and perhaps the gorgeous Amaryllis that arrived from Freddie’s Flowers this week, and wonder what on earth you’re going to get your brother-in-law this year. (Any ideas?!)

 

Fancy a delivery of eye-poppingly gorgeous festive flowers to enhance your Christmas decs? Why not give weekly flower deliveries a go at £24 a pop?

Know Your Flowers Christmas Special: The Red Amaryllis

Here’s everything you need to know about Britain’s favourite festive flower, the red amaryllis…

They’re big, showy and more Christmassy than mulled wine and Morecambe and Wise. Here’s everything you need to know about Britain’s favourite festive flower, the red amaryllis…

A huge, shameless show-off – that’s the red amaryllis, which has overtaken the poinsettia as the festive flower par excellence. And why not? Christmas isn’t a time for subtlety: if you want your floral arrangement to stand out amidst the tinsel and glitter, you need something as astounding as the amaryllis.

They don’t just come in red, of course – and as one of the longest-lasting winter cut flowers around they’ll keep going much longer than the selection box your favourite aunt gives you every year. But no flower is Christmassier than the eye-popping, Santa-coat red varieties of amaryllis (well just take look at the beauties from one of our boxes above. They’re of the Red Lion variety, the best Christmas red amaryllis you can get, and you can practically hear Bing Crosby crooning away in the background).

And whether dazzling on the dinner table or illuminating the hallway, they make wonderful conversation starters with Christmas party guests. So if you need to drop a few impressive flower factoids into your chat, here’s Freddie’s guide to amaryllis…

 

The Name Game

Amaryllis belladonna
Amaryllis belladonna by an unknown artist c.1828. © RHS. Credit: RHS, Lindley Library

 

Scientifically speaking, a true ‘amaryllis’ is a genus of South African plants of which the best known is the (usually pink) Amaryllis belladonna.

But in one of those incredibly confusing naming controversies that happen all the time in botany, most of the plants commonly called ‘amaryllis’ – including our Red Lions – are from a South American genus which contains about 90 species and  hundreds of varieties, and which was reclassified by the Revered William Herbert in 1820 under the name Hippeastrum, meaning ‘Mounted Knight’s Star Lily’ (which wasn’t at all helpful since they aren’t lilies. And there are already plenty of flowers called ‘lilies’ that aren’t lilies).

Page 13, Amaryllis, Lys nominee Bella dona
An Amaryllis reclassified as a Hippeastrum  –  unknown c. 1790-1820. © RHS. Credit: RHS, Lindley Library

 

But never mind about all that – if it looks like an amaryllis and everyone calls it an ‘amaryllis’, then for all practical purposes, it’s an amaryllis, even if it’s a Hippeastrum.

And the name ‘amaryllis’ really does have an interesting backstory…

 

 

The Extremely Determined Shepherdess

william holman hunt amaryllis
William Holman Hunt  – Amaryllis (1884). Public domain.

 

Like all the best flower names, ‘amaryllis’ comes from the Greek (meaning ‘to sparkle’) and has a terrific mythological tale behind it.

As told by Virgil, there was once a beautiful shepherdess called Amarylis who fell hopelessly in love with a shepherd called Alteo.

Alteo had the looks of Apollo, the strength of Hercules and a keen interest in flowers (much like Freddie all round, then). But he was absurdly picky about his shepherdesses, so after Amarylis had chased him around the mountainside for a while he announced that the only way he could ever love her was if she brought him a new flower that he’d never seen before.

Since Alteo was a proper flower expert this proved frustratingly difficult but, undeterred, Amarylis went to consult the Oracle at Delphi, who told her that she would have to sacrifice her blood to win her man. Naturally, the shepherdess decided that the best way to do this would be to stand outside Alteo’s door and pierce her own heart with a golden arrow every day for a month.

A long shot, but it paid off – and on the occasion of the thirtieth stabbing a magnificent, tall and crimson flower grew from the blood spots on the path. And so Alteo got the bloom he’d never seen before, Amarylis got her man, and we got our favourite Christmas flower.

So although amaryllis (and indeed Hippeastrum) flowers do come in many colours, including white, orange, yellow-green and even salmon, you can tell your party guests that not only is red the Christmassiest colour, it’s also the real amaryllis colour… being the exact colour of shepherdess blood. That should help break the ice. And possibly even warm the cockles. Merry Christmas!

mondrian amaryllis-1910
Piet Mondrian – Amaryllis (1910). Public domain.

 

 

Love flowers? So do we! Sign up to have glorious, surprising, naturally lovely flowers delivered weekly to your door for just £24 a pop.

My Floral Education – How weekly deliveries made me an Accidental Flower Expert

One of the most wonderful and unexpected benefits of weekly flower deliveries is that you learn an awful lot about all things floral…

Our customers tell us that one of the most wonderful and unexpected benefits of weekly flower deliveries is that you learn an awful lot about all things floral. Author Terry Stiastny explains how she accidentally became a flower expert…

My children look at me in disbelief when I tell them that at primary school, we didn’t learn science. We didn’t, as they do, learn about forces and light, about electrical circuits and fossils.

The subject we were taught was Nature.

There was a nature table; it was a desk at the side of the classroom that was arrayed with leaves, seeds, conkers. We drew and coloured in the shapes of leaves and we learnt to identify the trees that they came from. To this day, I can recognise an oak or a maple and tell you the difference between a sweet chestnut tree and a horse chestnut.

We also learned to recognise birds. This involved much colouring-in of the plumage of blue tits. It’s knowledge that’s only intermittently useful for modern urban life.

I don’t remember learning the names of flowers in the same way, but for decades my knowledge of them stayed at the same junior-school level.

I could do the basics: roses, tulips, daffodils and daisies. I preferred bright, gaudy flowers to pale, insipid ones; perhaps all the better to be able to colour them in.

But when I say I preferred them, my preferences weren’t very strong. Flowers, like football teams, were things I always found it hard to have strong opinions about. So advanced-level flower knowledge, like understanding the transfer window, is something I left to others.

box insert crop

But…each time the Freddie’s Flowers weekly delivery arrives, with it comes a short, simple guide to a world that I left behind with the nature table.

I learn that gypsophila and leucospermum are not medical complaints, but rather flowers that go by the rather lovely common names of baby’s breath and the pincushion. Lisianthus is not a Roman emperor but that twirly sort of flower, white or purple-edged. Astrantia and Alstroemeria, which could be constellations, are in fact a delicate clover-like flower and a Peruvian lily respectively.

There’s even, I discover, a flower called a kangaroo paw.

Jon Terry on Twitter

I think I enjoy learning words that are new to me almost as much as the cheerful flowers themselves.

That’s why I was sad to read that one junior dictionary recently dropped catkin, chestnut and clover from its pages and replaced them with words like broadband and analogue. The urban children I know don’t need to look up words about computers in the dictionary; they know them already. A catkin, however, would be a mystery to them.

But at least I can show them, every week, a gorgeous array of lilies or roses, sunflowers or cocosmia, on the nature table in the corner of the kitchen.

arranging sonny @familytreehouse

 

For more floral education, check out the Know your Flowers section of our blog. And if you want the real thing in your life, why not sign up for weekly flower deliveries at £24 a pop?

 

 

The picture at the bottom shows our Teddy Bear Sunflowers being arranged by future little florist, Sonny – via @familytreehouse_ on Instagram. The picture above that is our Lilies, Red Alstroemeria and Eucalyptus box arranged by Jon Terry, via Twitter. See more customer arrangements in our Gallery posts!

Know your flowers: When is a lily not a lily?

Not everything called a ‘lily’ really is one. Here’s our handy guide to telling which flowers are true lilies and which are only pretending…

Lilies pop up quite often in our arrangements, and in all sorts of wonderful colours. But not everything called a ‘lily’ really is one. Here’s our handy guide to telling which flowers are true lilies and which are only pretending…

A great many of the flowers we call lilies aren’t really lilies at all. A daylily, for example, isn’t a lily, and nor is a lily-of-the-valley. The orange flowers in this arrangement really are lilies, however, called LA lilies:

lilies orange

Confused? Well, most things to do with flower names are confusing, so don’t worry about it. The main point is that all ‘true’ lilies are members of the genus Lilium – which are herbaceous plants grown from bulbs, with large, showy flowers. Here’s a quick guide to the main ones…

 

True lilies

There are nine broad classifications of ‘true’ lily, with lots of species and hybrids in each, but three of the most popular are Asiatic, Oriental and Trumpet…

Asiatic hybrids

Blooming in early summer, these come in a veritable rainbow of colours including pinks, oranges, bright yellows, reds, purples and the purest of pure white. Asiatic lily flowers are medium-sized and face upwards or outwards (which means that in the garden they can fill up with rain and dust). They are splendid in cut flower arrangements, despite being mostly unscented.

Lilium_Dimension

Lilium Dimension. Image credit.

 

Oriental hybrids

Oriental lilies bloom later than Asiatic ones, and tend to be taller (up to eight foot for some garden varieties), larger and much more heavily scented – especially at night when they can positively fill a room with a distinctively exotic fragrance. They come in whites, pinks, reds and fancy two-colour blooms.

lilies-by-anna-simpson-via-FB-768x696

Our White Oriental lily arrangement at home, sent in by Freddie’s Flowers customer Anna Simpson

Stargazer_lily

The ‘Stargazer’ Oriental lily. Image credit.

 

Trumpet lilies

Also known as Aurelian lilies, this group includes hybrids of Asiatic species, and their striking feature is the curious downward-facing trumpet shape of their huge flowers. Like the Oriental lilies, they’re tall and monstrously fragrant, especially at night.

1024px-Lilium_'Fanfare'

Lilium ‘Fanfare’. Image credit.

 

Not true lilies

So those are some of the main true lilies. But what of the imposters? Here are some common lilies that actually aren’t…

 

Daylily

Beloved of gardeners for being perfect, hardy perennials with countless varieties and colours, the ‘day’ part is fair enough (the flowers typically last no more than 24 hours) but ‘lilies’ they ain’t: they’re part of the genus Hemerocallis, not Lilium at all.

daylilies

Daylilies. Image credit.

 

Waterlily

Although these are quite possibly the most famous ‘lilies’ of all and would score very highly on Pointless in a ‘name something called lily’ question, they’re actually aquatic plants in the family Nymphaeaceae. Sorry, Monet.

Monet_Water_Lilies_1916

Monet, ‘Water lilies’ 1916. Matsukata Collection.

 

Lily of the Nile

Also known as Agapanthus (and featuring brilliantly in some of our boxes), these lovely flowers are in the family Amaryllidaceae. And they don’t grow by the Nile, either, since they’re native to more southerly parts of Africa.

Agapanthus

Image credit.

 

Sword-lily

Yes, the gladdie! Nicknamed ‘sword-lily’ because ‘gladiolus’ is the Ancient Roman for a ‘little sword’, which they look a bit like, gladioli are of course not lilies. But they are glorious: read our complete guide to gladioli here.

Pam Fairless Gladioli via FB

 

Lily Allen

Not a member of the Lilium family but rather a London-based entertainment dynasty, this Lily is famous for saying lots of very funny things, such as ‘The Mail Online is like carbs – you know you shouldn’t, but you do. Probably two or three times a day’. And: ‘The press are trying to make me out to be this really bitchy, cocky, horrible lady, and I’m actually not… Well, I am a bit.’

Lily_Allen

Not a ‘true’ Lily. Image credit: Warner Music Sweden.

 

Lily the Pink

Not a true lily, but a hit song by 1960s novelty pop act The Scaffold, whose members included the Scouse poet Roger McGough, comic John Gorman (who couldn’t sing) and Paul McCartney’s younger brother Mike.

See if you can (a) spot which is which, and (b) recall all the words from when you were at school…


 

So now you know how to spot a true lily. Of course, we love them all, even the pretend ones. And if you love flowers too – in all their glorious, home-transforming colours and scents – why not sign up for weekly flower deliveries at £24 a pop?