I have always loved flower arranging. My mother was an AMAZING flower arranger, entirely self-taught, but her displays were staggering. From a young age I would help her where possible; she would have me blow-drying the pampas grass she was using to make it all fluffy, or I’d help her make massive garlands to hang around the fireplace at Christmas; hours and hours of joyful time spent quietly tying furs into place then cinnamon sticks and finally red tartan bows! At my wedding, my sisters and I made all the table arrangements, filling old vintage china tea sets with flowers so arranging comes quite naturally to me.
Having said that, I am aware that my style is potentially quite old school – nothing wrong with that of course - but there are so many florists creating amazing and different arrangements at the moment and I love to learn and have a bit of a challenge, so when the very talented and lovely Cissy at Wild Stems mentioned on her Instagram feed she was teaming up with Anna’s Flower Farm to do an online isolation creation special workshop I signed up!
I went to Cissy’s Christmas wreath workshop back in December and was blown away by her amazing ethos and creativity. Cissy uses British flowers as much as possible and forages from surrounding hedgerows and forests, which gives everything she creates a wild, untamed, organic beauty but with a contemporary structural edge. You can read more about that Christmas workshop here.
As instructed I left my bucket of water on my doorstep Friday morning which Cissy then filled with the most glorious array of flowers and foliage including some amazing ranunculus. Shortly afterwards, the tutorial for that week went up on the Wild Stems instagram page and that was it, I was away.
If you watch the videos on her feed, you’ll get Cissy’s unique and brilliant style far better than me just regurgitating it for you but there were some really interesting takeaways I have since used when putting flowers around the house which I’ll share with you.
Firstly Cissy fills the vase right to the top with water, as she doesn’t stick her stems all the way down to the bottom – her arrangements are a lot more loose and free and as some of her blooms are arranged so they tumble over the side of the vase it needs to be full!
Secondly Cissy recommends starting with the foliage to provide a framework to the display and their stems form a grid within the vase to then hold the flower stems.
The next element, which I find fascinating, is letting the individual stems dictate the structure and flow of the display. Each flower or stem is viewed in its own right. Does it have a curved stem? Does it naturally flop to one side more than the other, or is it bouncy? Will it work well overhanging the vase or does it stand tall and straight so it would work well at the back? Though the overall affect one wants to create is of a beautiful wave of flowers, each stem/flower is viewed in its own right as an individual and by working out how best to let it shine within the overall display you’ll create something extraordinary.
The other lesson Cissy discusses is negative space and how to not be afraid of it within a display. My natural instinct is always to go big and blousy - I keep stuffing in more and more flowers and foliage till my display is bursting – honestly some of my pedestal displays when its my turn to do the village church flowers take on a life of their own, but thinking about the wave formation of a display and giving each bloom its own space to shine is harder than it sounds in practice but the result is just breathtaking.
I enjoyed myself so much and was so inspired that I made one main arrangement and three single stem displays. And now it seems I can’t stop arranging. I’ve cut some pink blossom which is now arranged in my living room, foraged some wild vibernum and blackthorn for a vase which is now adorning the snug, and a massive bowl of Lilacs and Cow Parsley is now in the kitchen. It’s like I can’t stop! Flower arranging for me is such a great time for switching off and just immersing myself in the moment – it's highly addictive and through Cissy’s approach I now see so many more interesting plants in my garden that can work in displays because I am looking at leaf formation, colour, texture etc not just the obvious blooms.
Cissy’s instruction videos are still on her Instagram feed if you want to see how she does it – I have watched them several times and just find them fascinating. It’s a blissful way to spend some mindful time and the results will give you joy for days.