Top florists throughout history!

With my boxes, you are all flower arrangers. I give you the flowers and you get to create and bring out your inner florist. But was there ever a time when floristry wasn’t the in thing?

With my boxes, you are all flower arrangers. I give you the flowers and you get to create and bring out your inner florist. But was there ever a time when floristry wasn’t the in thing? The answer is no. From the beginning, humans have been hunter and flower gatherers. We just can’t help it, we’ve always had a thing for flora and fauna.

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Flowers fit for a queen

The first recorded plant hunter was Queen Hatshepsut, an Egyptian pharaoh who reigned for over 20 years in the fifteenth century BC. Her reign was peaceful and prosperous, prompting a cultural renaissance that gave rise to celebrate paintings, sculptures and temples. It is thanks to these that we know of Queen Hatshepsut’s plant gathering exploits.

In the middle temple of her palace in Luxor’s Valley of Kings, are reliefs showing an expedition of five ships sent by the Queen to the land of Punt to gather exotic goods.

Earliest known flower arranging dates back to ancient Egypt to 2,500 BCE.  Egyptians were the first to cut and place flowers in a vase to decorate and add colour to their surroundings.

Egyptians were known as the first florists by trade and commissioned to place very high stylized arrangements around burials, processions, and table decorations. These florists would carefully select flowers that had a symbolic meaning with emphasis on religion.  A big seller was the garland of flowers worn by loved ones and left at the tombs.

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Reliefs showing an expedition of five ships sent by the Queen Hatshepsut

Greek & Roman

The Greeks and the Romans used flowers while incorporating herbs and olive branches with their floral design. Romans’ prefered flower was the rose, using them for dressing tables during many meals due to its overwhelming fragrance, which was known as the “Hour of Rose.”

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Europe

Floral arranging finally reaches Europe by 476 AD.  Big arrangements were popular in churches and monasteries where flowers were used for food (to eat) as well as decoration. An essential part of arranging was with herbs, which was used as a spiritual symbol in arranging.

Italy was the first in Europe to incorporate flowers in paintings, specifically in vases, thus creating a need for floral design. Adorning your balcony with different colours and petals in baskets was an inviting sign to your home.

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Moving onto my fave florist and explorer of all time:

Marianne North

Even by the standards of fearless, globe-trotting Victorians, the flower painter and tireless traveller, Marianne North was an extraordinary woman.

In an age before air travel and motor transport, she crisscrossed the globe, living and painting in Jamaica, Canada, the United States, Brazil, Tenerife, Japan, Ceylon, India, Borneo, Java, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the Seychelles and Chile – all in the space of a decade and a half and on her own.

Wherever she went, and whatever the obstacles in her way (cliffs, swamps, jungle), she carried on painting her astonishing, botanically accurate, vividly coloured oil paintings of the exotic plant life she found. And virtually all of her flower paintings – some 833 – can be seen together in the Marianne North Gallery at Kew Gardens.

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Marianne North painting in the jungle

 

Centuries and centuries have passed, but one thing remains, flower arranging is a timeless art and will continue to be important in centuries to come. If you fancy becoming a florist, why not give my boxes a go?

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Best Places in Manchester for Flower Lovers

Manchester might not have the floral reputation of Amsterdam, but I’ve spent a lot of time there recently and when not ‘avin it large I’ve discovered a world of flowers I didn’t know existed.

When you think of Manchester, what comes to mind? Football maybe, or great music. Industry, technology, Coronation Street or Old Trafford perhaps. But flowers? Surely not.

Manchester might not have the floral reputation of Amsterdam, but I’ve spent a lot of time there recently and when not ‘avin it large I’ve discovered a world of flowers I didn’t know existed. I thought I’d share some of what I’ve found.

The floral revolution

In the 19th Century, Manchester was the beating heart of the Industrial Revolution and it still has a reputation for innovation. However, like everything in my life, there is a floral connection. Manchester – and the towns of Lancashire and Cheshire – was the centre of the cotton trade, from cotton mills to processing, modern Manchester is founded on the humble cotton plant. The damp weather that Mancunians know and love actually provided the perfect climate for cotton spinning, often using Manchester inventions such as the famed Spinning Jenny spindle. In fact, the cotton flower has become an unofficial symbol of the great city.

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Manchester during the Industrial Revolution

There’s a Picadilly up North!

If you want to hark back to that era, head to Piccadilly Gardens. Created at the tail end of the Industrial Revolution, the site has long been a haven of green in the centre of the city. Between the top of Market Street and the Northern Quarter, this little spot is a great place to soak up some verdant greenery and to spot a flower or two. Added, Piccadilly Gardens is home to a great little flower market which is ideal for picking a few elements to add to a Freddie’s Flower bouquet!

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Picadilly Gardens

War of the Roses

At the Piccadilly Flower Market, you’ll be sure to find red roses. If you do, snap them up as they’re the perfect flower for the area, especially if they’re a Rosa Gallica. This rose was the inspiration for the red Lancastrian Rose, the heraldic symbol of the very local House of Lancaster. During the Wars of the Roses it was the red Lancastrians versus the Yorkists with their white rose, so if you’re flower shopping in Manchester you’re red through and through (sorry Man City fans, but roses don’t come in blue).

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Parklife

To get away from the city centre – and it’s footballing rivalries! – you can take a trip down the Oxford Road to the fabulous Whitworth Park. Home to a gorgeous variety of flora and fauna, this haven is right next to the bustle of Manchester’s many Universities and Colleges. It is best viewed in the Spring or Summer, but never fear; if the weather is a bit Mancunian (read: a bit wet) you can take shelter in the beautifully renovated Whitworth Gallery. You’ll still be able to enjoy the fabulous parklife, as the cafe has a fantastic panoramic extension which thrusts right into the greenery.

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Whitworth Gallery

Get on the flower band-wagon

The student area of the city has spawned many of Manchester’s great bands, all of whom seem to be into their flowers. From the album covers of New Order to the name of The Stone Roses, Manchester bands have looked to florals for a bit of a contrast with the harder edge of industrial city life. However, nobody did it better than Morrissey who, when playing Top of the Pops with The Smiths, brandished fronds of fabulous gladioli as he sang. The Smiths are Manchester’s greatest band, and gladioli are one of my favourite flowers – when we have them in our boxes next year, I might have to whip out my Morrissey impression!

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The Stone Roses

Out ‘n About

Manchester has long been known for natty dressing, and it remains a very trendy place. Floral prints are very in right now, and you’ll be sure to find a great flowery shirt or two in the Northern Quarter’s fantastic vintage shops. Or pop into Piccadilly Records to root out some of those flower-inspired album covers from Manchester bands. Added, head across to Fig and Sparrow for coffee and a slice of one of their famous rose-petal topped cakes. Don’t worry if they’re closed, their shutter has been spray-painted with a Sparrow amongst leaves and flowers!

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You’ll be busy as a bee

A more recent symbol of the city is the Worker Bee. Thought to represent the industrious nature of the people of Manchester, the symbol was adopted into the city’s crest in the 1840s. I love the little Manc Bee; it links the beautiful, natural surroundings of the North West with the Industry that made the city the hub it is. In fact, they remind me of our brilliant drivers who deliver boxes all over the Greater Manchester region. We depend on them, just like we depend on bees!

I hope I’ve given you a good idea of the great floral things to see and do in Manchester. I love this city and am thrilled we’re getting to spend more time there, bringing our weekly flowery magic to the North. Please do let me know if there are any other great floral finds I need to check out in Manchester!

If you live in the North, the South, the East or the West get fresher than fresh flowers delivered to your door for £24 a pop!

My secrets to getting the most out of your flowers!

How To Make Your Flowers Last Longer. Read here to learn all about trick so of the trade.

How To Make Your Flowers Last Longer

There’s nothing like the moment your gorgeous fresh flowers all start to bloom. Suddenly, all the buds become petals and your arrangement bursts into life – we all wish this moment could last forever. At Freddie’s Flowers, we pride ourselves on how long our flowers last, but they can always do with a little bit of help. I wanted to share my top tips for keeping your flowers at their best for as long as possible. Vase, are you ready?!

It may seem obvious, but cleaning your vase is really important… yes, last week’s lilies were lovely, but this week’s Rossano Blooms don’t need to know about it! Make sure your vase is cleaned between arrangements.

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Vase… are you ready?!

The key thing here is to NOT clean the vase with washing-up liquid. I know it is tempting, especially when it all bubbles up to the top and makes your vase look like a big fizzy cocktail. But washing up liquid leaves a residue which can contaminate your water, so we recommend a small amount of vinegar, lemon juice or bleach to clean vases. Do make sure you rinse them well afterwards.

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Feeling the Inch

Because our fresh flowers come unarranged, all stems need an inch removing from the bottom, allowing the flowers to drink properly. This is best done on a diagonal angle, stopping the stem from sitting flat. We recommend using sharp, clean secateurs rather than kitchen scissors – they’re less likely to have any gunk on them which might upset your gorgeous blooms.

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Leaf Life

One of my biggest tips is to make sure that no leaves can fall into your vase water. I always tell people to remove any low-hanging leaves and any leaves or branches that will sit below the neck of the vase. You don’t want leaves falling into the water and contaminating things!

Simply use a thumb and forefinger to whip off any unsightly leaves, fronds or branches that you don’t want. You’ll be amazed at how this tidies things up!

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Fed and Watered

All Freddie’s Flowers customers know we send out flower food in out boxes. This is best added to room-temperature water – nobody likes an ice cold bath, not even fresh flowers!

We always say that water should be changed every three days to get the best out of our flowers. Simply take the flowers out of the vase, pop them to one side, change your water, add more flower food and return the flowers to their original spot.

If you run out of flower food, never fear! We recommend using a teaspoon of sugar in the water as a replacement – you’d be amazed at how effective this is. Some people have been known to try a bit of vinegar, lemonade or vodka to keep things going. Some even swear by aspirin!

I say anything sugary should do the trick; I’d avoid brown sugar, though… it might look a bit strange!

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Location, Location, Location

One of the biggest factors in getting the best from your flowers is their environment – I always encourage people to be careful where they put flowers.

They might look fabulous on your mantlepiece, but too long near the fire will dry them out. Always try and keep them somewhere not too warm, away from heat sources. Don’t worry, you can move them somewhere more prominent if you’re having people over.

Likewise, no flowers like to be too cold. If they’re kept near a draught they probably won’t be looking their best – rather like my lovely pup Claude.

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If we’re lucky enough to be having fabulously sunny weather, it is worth moving your arrangement away from direct sunlight as this can also dry things out faster. Even if you did want to keep them by a sunny window, make sure you give them a few hours off from time to time. And, turn them every so often to ensure your flowers open at the same time.

Flowers and fruit might be the stuff of a perfect Still Life painting, but in reality, they should be kept apart. Ripening fruit can hasten the wilting of flowers, so do keep your bananas away from your brassica!

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Man Down!

All flowers last for different lengths of time – your stunning irises will be around a fraction of the time your lilies are. This is entirely normal, and one of the joys of having incredibly fresh flowers.

You can maintain an arrangement by removing stems that don’t last as long as soon as they’ve gone over. This prevents contamination of the vase water and fights the spread of Botrytis, a mould that will shorten your floral life.

Those are my top tips for getting the longest life out of your flowers; I hope you give them a try! Whenever I speak to customers they’re always full of fantastic new tips for keeping their own flowers going and we’d love to hear them. Do get in touch if you have any nifty hints of your own.

I like the idea of putting a little bit of vodka and lemonade in with flowers – I wonder if it helps sustain people too? I’m off to find out. Maybe I might need an aspirin as well…

Click here to get fresher than fresh flowers delivered to your door for £24 a pop!

 

 

 

 

A complete guide to eryngium!

As the days get shorter and the jumpers get thicker we start seeing more and more of one of my favourite floral foliage, eryngium.

The ultimate guide to eryngium.

As the days get shorter and the jumpers get thicker we start seeing more and more of one of my favourite floral foliage, eryngium. Beautifully mimicking the shape that the morning frost leaves on your car’s windshield, these wonderful deep ice-blue spikey thistles really do bring a sense of excitement to the bunch. Aren’t they just the perfect autumnal and wintery flower? well, A thistle to be precise.

From the Umbelliferae family, the name eryngium derives from the Greek word for thistle. Eryngiums can have blue or white flowers depending on the variety, together with a ruff of spikey bracts on branching stems.

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Spikey by look, spikey by nature.

Native to rocky and coastal areas, they have adapted to cope with the tough conditions on the seashore. Being battered by strong winds and baked in the suns scorching heat. This is one tough thistle and brings a strong look to any bunch.

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Just bee’ing wonderful.

Although they are unscented, eryngium seriously attracts the bees and other lovely pollinated insects. They are one of the biggest pollinated flowers around and the bees just can’t get enough. Plants rely on bees and other insects to reproduce and so they have adapted, over time, to become more attractive to them. And who could resist an eryngium?

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Not just for decoration

Eryngium’s roots were used as a medicine for many things but one of its main usages was to boost the libido of an ageing man. So there you go. Good to know. It was also crushed up as a herbal remedy and drunk for coughing and whooping cough. What can’t you use this spikey fleur for?!

Not just for autumn.

With Christmas just around the corner, these little blue beauties are perfect for drying and using them around the house as the perfect Xmas decoration. You can use them for the tree by tying a bit of thread or string around the stem. They will look like little blue stars of Bethlehem. Or you can add them to other arrangements or wreaths or garlands.

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The best way to dry your eryngium.

Find a dark, dry area with good circulation, such as an attic or unused closet. With unflavoured dental floss (or string will do), secure the bottom of the flowers’ stems to a hanger so that they hang upside down to dry. Leave the flowers for two to three weeks until completely dry and hey-presto! Your Christmas dried flowers are ready to go.

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The Queen of Eryngium – Ellen Willmott

I can’t write a blog about eryngium and not mention Ellen Willmott. If you haven’t heard of Ellen then luckily I am about to tell you all about her. Why? Because she is an absolute gardening legend. Born in 1858 she was a key member of the Royal Horticultural Society and even received the Victoria Medal of Honour in 1897 for her dedication to plants. She was said to have cultivated more than 100,000 species and cultivars of plants, and sponsored expeditions to discover new species

Her particular fancy was for Eryngium and wherever she went, she made sure she had a handful of seeds in the pocket of her voluminous skirts of black bombazine. Surreptitiously she would scatter a handful in every garden she visited, knowing that a year or so later – the plant is a biennial, growing one year and flowering the next – the eryngiums would flower their socks off and the garden’s owner would wonder where they had come from.

Alas, Ellen is no longer with us, but you can have her ghost in your garden if you get hold of your own handful of eryngium seeds, scatter them on to any patch of well-drained soil and rake them in. Or with slightly less effort get this weeks arrangement! 

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Too good to miss.

This lovely spikey blue thistle really is a favourite of mine. It just gives any arrangement a wonderful effortlessly aristocratic feel. So don’t miss out on their beauty and give my boxes a go and make your flowers be the talk of the street!

If you’d like to turn your home into an eryngium dream, 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.