We’ll be looking at bunches of blooms in a different way thanks to the new generation of florists rising up the botanical ranks. Why? Well, they’re looking beyond the buckets of cut flowers at markets and heading out into the great outdoors, growing their own flora and foliage to use in free-form designs inspired by nature. Here, three leading lights in floral design – Aesme, Juliet Glaves and Kitten Grayson Flowers – reveal how they are helping reinvent the craft.
AESME:BEST FOR WILD AND GARDEN FLOWERS
Sisters Ally Nutting and Jess Lister joined forces to launch Aesme in 2015. As owners of an artisanal flower studio in Shepherd’s Bush, west London, they’ve worked on weddings, parties and with clients such as Jo Malone London. Here, the duo tell us about drawing on the English garden as inspiration.
WHEN DID YOU BECOME INTERESTED IN FLOWERS?
A: Jess and I were living in Oxford, doing all sorts of jobs. I was making arrangements as a hobby in my spare time. Jess is an amazing illustrator, as is our mum [also an interior designer], so we both always had an awareness of colour and design.
HOW DID FLOWERS BECOME A FULL-TIME JOB?
A: We’d always wanted to run our own business, so one day Jess and I met for a coffee and just decided to do it. From the start, we knew we didn’t want to follow the normal floristry route, but instead work with unusual flowers we’d grown ourselves.
WHY GROW YOUR OWN BLOOMS?
A: Floristry has become like the slow food movement – where people want to use seasonal produce. There’s now a growing appetite for arrangements using proper garden flowers.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR ARRANGEMENTS.
A: Roses tend to be our focal point and we arrange them with what’s in season, from zinnias and clematis to phlox and long wispy grasses. We gravitate towards dainty and delicate. J: We happily use anything from a kitchen garden – herbs such as sage and mint. We even use entire tomato vines – we love the nuance of colour from green through orange to dark-red fruit.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
A: Constance Spry, the 20th-century British florist. J: Visiting beautiful English gardens such as Great Dixter.
ARE THERE ANY ARRANGEMENTS THAT ARE EASY TO DO AT HOME?
A: A small arrangement in a footed bowl is an absolute dream for a dining table. For a party, there’s nothing prettier than candlelight reflecting in flowers. And like Constance, instead of a vase, use that pretty jug sitting unused in the cupboard. J: Try single-stem bud vases, especially in gold or brass.
KITTEN GRAYSON FLOWERS: BEST FOR BLOWSY, BILLOWY, BOHEMIAN BLOOMS
Always with signature blowsy fabric flowers in her hair, Somerset- born founder Kitten Grayson has joined forces with creative director Harriette Tebbutt to bring a touch of magic to their flower arrangements. They have worked with landscape designers, such as Piet Oudolf, and biodynamic farmer Jane Scotter and chef Skye Gyngell at the new country house hotel Heckfield Place. The duo are based at London members’ club Mortimer House, where they also design the floristry.
WHEN DID YOU GET STARTED?
K: I worked with a florist in Somerset before moving to London to train with Harper and Tom’s, Wild at Heart and Scarlet & Violet. About five years ago, I decided to go out on my own. H: I did a degree in illustration, then went into set design and art direction, working for an events company where I was dressing the tables and Kitten was heading up the flowers.
HOW DID YOU START WORKING TOGETHER?
K: I asked Harriette to come work with me because she had such a natural flair for pulling everything together.
DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE.
K: We use just a few varieties en masse because we want to put each flower, leaf or grass in the spotlight. H: We’re inspired by beautiful, natural gardens, looking at what grows side by side, including their seasonal colours.
WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE FLOWER?
K: I love roses. Even the candles I burn are rose-scented – favourites include Haeckels’ Dreamland/GPS 23’5”N and Diptyque’s Roses. H: I love more folky flowers: rudbeckias, zinnias and anything that has a natural pattern on it, like geraniums, rosehips, viburnum with red berries, even ivy leaves.
ANY QUICK TIPS?
K: Grow herbs from seed in little terracotta pots – after two months, they’re just big enough to line up along a table.
H: Buy a tiny, seasonal bunch of something you love and dot them in bud vases along a mantelpiece.
WHAT ARE YOUR DECORATION TIPS FOR CHRISTMAS?
K: Go Dickensian with traditional foliage, dried citrus slices and wooden decorations. H: For drama, fix hooks into the ceiling above a dining table and string up a bare branch hung with baubles.
WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR BIGGEST PROJECTS OVER THE PAST YEAR?
K: Creating a bower of trees at the London Gate entrance of the Chelsea Flower Show was a big step for us. In celebration of Harry and Meghan’s wedding, we planted an English oak on one side for Harry and a cedar on the other for Meghan.
K: Apart from a baby on the way for me, we’re focusing on the flowers we want to grow for Heckfield Place next year.
JULIET GLAVES: BEST FOR STATEMENT CENTREPIECES
It was in 2007, after she and her husband Neil transformed a pig farm into fields and fields of flowers, that Juliet Glaves turned to floristry. Based in Shropshire, Juliet also runs a small flower shop in Designers Guild’s King’s Road store, alongside working with clients such as Temperley London and Cole & Son.
WHEN WERE YOU FIRST DRAWN TO FLOWERS?
Floristry is my third career. After graduating from Central Saint Martins, I was first a fashion designer, which then led me into TV where I started as a researcher before working my way up to producing documentaries for the BBC.
WHAT KICK-STARTED YOUR CAREER AS A FLORIST?
After making a documentary on the British cut-flower industry, I was inspired to start growing my own. Then Neil and I bought the pig farm and began filling it with rows of cutting flowers.
DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE.
Abundant, informal, slightly wild but in a considered way, full of colour and texture. I view flowers like I once did fabric as a fashion designer – I don’t play by the rules and follow my instinct. Often odd things work surprisingly well together.
WHAT SORT OF FLOWERS DO YOU LIKE TO WORK WITH?
Our little colourful slice of botanical heaven, and its ever-changing seasonal palette, inspires everything I do. We grow over 200 varieties of flowers, grasses and other foliage, from roses, peonies, ranunculus, foxgloves and dahlias to hollyhocks, lupins and delphiniums. Sarah Raven has been a huge source of information and inspiration for what to grow.
WHAT MAKES A SUCCESSFUL ARRANGEMENT?
There are no rules in my world, but I do believe an arrangement needs to make you feel something, to invoke a gut reaction – whether that’s maybe happy, melancholic or wistful.
WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION?
I love colour, so I’m always looking to fashion. I love Marni for its odd shapes, Jil Sander for its clean lines. The designer Alice Temperley used some of my flowers as inspiration for embroidered prints in a collection recently. I also love the flattering effect of flowers around the face, so I often make arrangements to be worn, like neck ruffs or wildflower crowns.
ANY FAVOURITE ACCESSORIES?
Anything from Astier de Villatte, for its fragile beauty. Coloured glass collected for many years, particularly the organic shapes of Sixties Murano or Whitefriars vases. Turquoise is a great colour with all flowers as it’s warm and cold hued. Whether the flowers are in a turquoise ceramic pot or wrapped in turquoise tissue paper, the colour somehow adds a weird life to them.
WHAT ARE YOUR DECORATION PLANS FOR CHRISTMAS?
A wreath for the front door sets the tone for decorations inside. I like wreaths to look wild and free-form, with lots of texture. I’ll use foliage, twigs and seedheads I’ve dried, like alliums, tulips and willowherb. Last year, for Designers Guild, I wired random elder branches and stems with seeds or pine cones around metal rings wound with fabric strips and velvet ribbon.
I’ve just helped with the refurbishment of The Montagu Kitchen in Marylebone. We’ve created a laser-cut Perspex etching based on the garden-themed fabric used on the chairs and banquettes, and I’ve created big window boxes for outside and wild planters for inside.