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Cheerful carnations

18 May

Carnations get a bad rep. They are mostly known for being the flowers that people buy when they are desperate – wilting flowers from the petrol garage bought in a fit of “SHIT I HAVEN’T GOT THEM ANYTHING”.

But is that association really fair? Traditionally they represent love and fascination, and although they are generally cheaper and a bit smaller than roses, they are still beautiful and come in a huge variety of colours and even patterns. For me the lower price just means they are more affordable and the fact that they are available everywhere means you have no excuse for not having fresh flowers at home!

P and I have been thinking about how we want to arrange our wedding flowers and carnations proved a great flower to test with. We aren’t likely to be using them on the day, as we are looking at wilder flora like heather and ferns, but we wanted to test how our cordial/passata/olive bottles/vases would look with some kind of flower arrangement in them. I hope you agree, they really do look lovely!

2 bunches for £5 from Marks and Spencer

Arranging flowers in the kitchen

Two bunches provides more than enough flowers to fill four bottles/vases – I could probably have filled five for just £5!

How do you think the vases look? I am thinking of dipping them in creamy paint so that just the water level is painted. But I’m worried about how much it will drip! Have you done this before? Any tips, let me know in the comments…

And what do you think of carnations generally? Take the poll over on our Facebook page.

(PS! That’s passata, cordial, olives, passata up there – they make great vases and cost nothing as we ate the previous occupiers…)

DIY wedding bouquet

20 Sep

Wedding bouquets can be incredibly pricey. The alternative bride’s bouquet of choice at the minute seems to be made of buttons. I can appreciate that this can be very personal and ‘quirky’, but I’m afraid I am absolutely not a fan. Flowers are the only way for me.

Prices I have been looking at range from £40 to several hundred pounds. The ones I have seen in wedding magazines which I have really liked have cost around £75. The flowers do look beautiful, but I would like to spend around £15 for my bouquet, which is going to mean attempting to do it myself.

According to the instructions in this video, it doesn’t look not too hard at all. But then the woman creating the bouquet in the video is clearly a professional and I, with my very limited flower arranging skills, am not.

Well, last weekend I went to the New Covent Garden Flower market to find out what was in season for our centrepieces, and to buy some cut flowers to attempt some bridal bouquet making.

And you know what? It wasn’t that hard.

Unlike Madonna, I love hydrangeas, and wanted to incorporate them. Each flower has a very large head, meaning you need to buy fewer of them.

Start by cutting off all the extra leaves, keeping only the ones you would like to include in the final arrangemnt. Hold them in your hand with their stems crossed and then add 5 stems spray flowers in where you want them.

Tie them with a string to make the ribbon tying easier. You definitely need someone to tie the string around the flowers – I don’t know how you would do that on your own. Then wrap around 3/4 of a metre of ribbon tightly around the stems, where you will be holding them.

Pin the ribbon closed and then cut off the bottom of the stems. Next time I would leave more green between the end of the ribbon and the end of the stems on my bouquet. I don’t seem to have a photo, but I don’t know why I cut them so short – there is no green after the ribbon, which will likely result in the ribbon coming off during the course of the day. NOT what you want to be thinking about!

In the end, I only used three heads, which cost around £7.50.

Next I created a test for the bridemaids, using stocks and the same spray. I used another 5 stems of spray. The stocks and spray together cost £9 but I had enough stocks for two bouquets, with 5 stems each.

I absolutely loved both of these! I like the colours and the combinations. To be sure, if I was a professional I’m sure these would be more neatly fastened, and lots of the bouquets seem to have 4-5 varieties within them, but I think they look beautiful. Plus they were really easy to do – they took around 10 minutes each.

With myself and four bridesmaids I would need:

  • 3 heads of hydrangeas (£7.50)
  • 3 bunches of spray (£12)
  • 2 bunches of stocks (£10)

Bringing the entire cost of the flowers for the bride and bridesmaids to around £30.  The bridal bouquet on it’s own would be £10. Not too shabby! For the event itself, I might splash out and spend an extra £5 or so on some additional flowers to go in between the hydrangeas and add a bit more dimension to it.

My mother kindly bought my testing flowers today, which came to around £25 altogether as we bought slightly too many, so including this trial run and the ribbon (£3.95), the total cost will be £58.95.  However, I’m tempted not to count the flowers bought today in the total cost because they are now in vases on my mantlepiece and look so pretty!

What do you think? Do you know anyone who has made their own bouquet? How did it go?

The New Covent Garden Flower Market

17 Sep

This weekend, I went to the New Covent Garden Flower Market. It’s around a year to go until my wedding, so I wanted to see what kind of flowers were in season at this time of year in the UK to keep the costs down as much as possible.  The market has started a wonderful blog which has started highlighting what’s new in each month, so if you want to see what’s right for your wedding month and don’t have a whole year to go, have a look there.

The market is absolutely enormous and has plants, real flowers, fake flowers, small trees, pots, vases, giant letters made of that styrofoamy material that you stick cut flowers into, ribbon, ‘decorative crystals’ – and endless variety of things to look at. I got there at 8:30, which was definitely too late, as I think several of the stands had already closed. The market opens at 4am on Saturdays and runs until 10, so we were there at the tail end of the opening hours. Apparently not all wholesalers open on Saturdays so if there’s a particular stand you are interested, check before you go.

The best part about this visit was that it really crystalised for me what I wanted because I could see what was actually available and how much it cost. P & I were hoping to have plants on the tables, rather than cut flowers, and are looking for colourful but natural flora.  I love the wildflowers and colours we have seen on some of our walks around the UK, so was very much looking for something along those lines. We also want things of varying heights, as each table will have around 3 different vases on it.

I loved this heather and these colourful tiny flowers. I think they would make a really beautiful centrepiece if we got some nice jars or maybe tea cups to put them in.

I also loved these tiny white flowers and they are called ‘Flaming Katie’ so that pretty much sold it to me!

I bought quite a few flowers for my bouquet testing (both for myself & the bridesmaids – more of that next week), and the great thing about the flower market was the enormous choice. There were so many different colours and styles. From the very familiar to the extremely exotic. There were even some square flowers (which somehow I managed to take no photos of – sorry!)

In terms of price, it was worth getting up a little early on a Saturday. Most of the plants are available as wholesale only – meaning you have to buy an entire tray. So, not ideal if you just want one little rosemary plant. But if you want 12 heather plants (which I think I do), then they are £0.80 each.

The cut flowers are slightly more expensive, but significantly cheaper than your regular flower store – almost half the price in some instances! And they were sold in bunches, rather than having to buy huge quantities. Things like ribbon are also a little bit cheaper but the difference isn’t as striking as with the flowers. All in all, a lovely morning and some very good research for next year!

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