Date(s) - 12/07/2019
Kilmington Village Hall
Gardeners and flower arrangers filled the Village Hall to hear Angela Brook-Smith talk about growing and displaying cut flowers from the garden. Well-known as a specialist in garden design, grower of seasonal plants and organiser of floristry workshops, Angela’s interest in horticulture as a business started with an allotment in Putney where she grew vegetables which she sold at country markets. A course in garden design at Merrist Wood College widened her interests and she became inspired to grow British flowers for British homes, which she now does from her half-acre plot in Somerset. Angela grows all annuals from seed, buying seed from specialist merchants. Procedure varies according to hardiness: hardy annuals (HA) can be sown in September, for example sweet peas and poppies; half-hardy (HHA) such as snapdragons are sown in spring, preferably in a heated greenhouse, taking just ten weeks from seed to flowering. Grow plenty, we were advised, using modules of at least 40 for each variety. Finding a good seed compost has been a problem and Angela now makes her own. When planted in the garden, staking is done with horizontal pea netting tied to stakes at intervals at the sides of the flower beds. Pick flowers early or late in the day, using sharp secateurs, and plunge stalks straight into water up to the level of the lowest blooms. With a daily change of water, they should last for at least a week.
With a large container of freshly picked flowers on the table in front of her, Angela proceeded to demonstrate how to make a hand-tied bouquet, describing the relative merits of each of the plants as she used them. Some flowers such as poppies and all greenery benefit from a short immersion of the stalks into boiling water immediately after picking – this draws air out of the stems and gives them a longer life in the vase. The audience was spellbound as she made a circle with the fingers of one hand into which she placed carefully chosen flowers, poppies, crocosmias, gladioli, sweet peas and love-in-a-mist were combined into a fragrant and beautiful arrangement of reds, pinks, blues and purple. Working one-handedly, Angela showed us how to hand-tie it – out came string and scissors, and using one hand, one foot and teeth she skilfully tied circles of twine under the flowers, cut the stalks to the same length, and placed the finished work of art into a vase. After answering many eager questions, she then presented the flowers to one lucky member who was celebrating a birthday that week. It was an inspirational and memorable evening.