I find myself ‘pottering’ around the garden, smelling the flowers, admiring the pollinating bees and more than ever, appreciating just what nature does for us on a daily basis without expectation or a thank you. This week Britain celebrates flower week from the 19th-25th June and so in the spirit of that, we’ll be talking to Donna Bowen Heath from Pheasant Botanica about flowers!
Chelsea: Tell me ALL about you and an interesting fact…
PB: I’m Donna and I live and work in the beautiful Welsh hills near Welshpool. I am a ‘Farmer Florist’ which means I not only grow my own flowers and foliage but I also use them to create anything from a simple gift bouquet to a fully styled wedding. I’ve dabbled in floristry for many years, from learning the techniques to briefly working as a Saturday girl in a flower shop and even attending flower school but dropping out as it was too restrictive on my style, which I’ve only now realised in the last few years, that you can pursue your passion even if you don’t go by the book!
Chelsea: I’ve never heard of a Farmer Florist, it’s got a good ring to it. I’m all about throwing the book out of the window. 😉 Tell us, what do nature and its flowers mean to you?
PB: Ha ha! You can’t beat nature!! You have to work with it, which is why I love growing my own flowers and foraging for foliage. I love the fact the majority of my flowers do not grow straight and regimented. A slight curve in the stem or a tulip that has gone AWOL makes an arrangement so much more interesting. Nature has a huge influence of what I create, especially the countryside where I live, I’m always drinking it all in and forever looking at how nature works, for example, colour combinations or different textures.
Chelsea: Yes I certainly try to follow the working with nature ethos. As they say, there’s perfection in imperfection. I know this will be a hard question but what are your favourite flowers and why?
PB: Well, where do I start?! I can’t say I have a favourite flower, it changes daily and most notable it changes with the seasons. In Spring it would be the daffodil, but not your traditional yellow ones, I love the pale and frilly type but then I do love a snake’s fritillary. It’s little head, nodding delicately in the breeze and if you look close enough at one, you will see it’s patterned like a chess board. Into the Summer, it has to be the peony. I love that big blousy bloom and its subtle scent. Autumn would definitely be a dahlia, often considered quite old fashioned; they have more than made a comeback. From small delicate ones to some that have a flower head as big as a dinner plate, they come in all colours and different shapes. Finally, winter. You probably think Winter is really bare but I love it! If you look close, you will find some glorious evergreens and twigs and berries make such an interesting display!
Chelsea: Those are lovely choices. Fritillary has to be one of my newest favourites which I’ve added to my garden. This time of year, I’m picking my roses and filling the house with their subtle scent. What tips do you have for creating flower displays around the home?
PB: Have a selection of different containers to choose from. You do not always need to have a vase on hand!! A jam jar can do the job just as well. I do love a vessel with a wide opening through so that the flowers aren’t standing too upright. You just want to work with the shape of the flowers and foliage so I always begin with adding the foliage first. This allows you to create the initial shape/outline and is also great at supporting the other flowers. Next, you want to add the showstoppers, such as your roses, those flowers that make you go oooh and ahhhhh!! Finally, it’s the filler flowers, they are a bit like the bridesmaids at a wedding, and are there to look pretty behind those showstoppers.
Chelsea: I’m quite fond of an old glass milk bottle I kept so that’s my ‘vase’ for my bedroom. So, any exciting projects you’re currently involved in and if so what?
PB: Ooooo, yes! I have a photoshoot coming up where the focus is on British Flowers as British Flowers Week is coming up on 19th – 25th June. I can’t tell you too much about it but I am so excited about it and what I get to create!
Chelsea: I’ll be watching your Instagram account with anticipation then. I do love those behind the scenes videos you post. Talking of backstage, describe a typical day for you?
PB: Well, I can have such a varied week; I very rarely do the same day in, day out. This week, for example, I’ve spent most of my time getting my hands dirty, weeding and planting new flowers in my polytunnels and out on the flower field. I have the most amazing view where I grow my flowers, despite being battered in the winter, it really is my paradise. Other weeks, when I have weddings, it is fast and furious as you know you’ve got a deadline. Preparation usually starts on a Wednesday (for a Saturday wedding) and can be working straight through to the Saturday with very little sleep but the joy of seeing the bride’s face when you present her with her bouquet is worth it!
I don’t always faff with flowers though; there is the paperwork side of the job, which can be a real chore when you’re itching to get outside!
Chelsea: I lived near to you for a short time so I’m familiar with just how beautiful the area is – lucky thing! I love picking flowers from my garden but they never seem to last long, any tips for preserving them?
PB: Make sure your container is spotlessly clean! I use a spot of bleach with my water to clean my containers out. It’s so important to have good hygiene to help your flowers last longer. Any bacteria will shorten the flowers vase life. Pick your flower either early morning or in the evening and take a clean bucket with you as you cut so you can put your flowers straight into cool water. Never cut flowers the heat of the sun, it’s just too much of a shock for them! Once picked, leave your flowers to have a long drink for a minimum of two hours. Leaving them overnight, in a cool place is the best option, as it gives the flowers a chance to have a long drink and condition well. Before you out them into the container you’re using, strip ofF any foliage that will end up below the water line, as this will shorten vase life too and turn the water murky, making it full of bacteria. I always cut my stems on a slant as well, to give the flower as a surface area as possible to take up water. Also, you want to display your flowers where they are not in direct sunlight or in a draught. It’s important to change the vase water every couple of days too as well as re-cutting the stems for optimum enjoyment!!
Chelsea: That’s fantastic advice and I didn’t know most of it which is why my flowers wilt after 2-3 days! Last but not least, when did flowers begin to play such an important part in your life?
PB: Umm, I’m not really sure. I’ve always loved flowers from making daisy chains to flower potions when I was little. But I think I had that light bulb moment a few years ago where I decided to pursue a career from it. I used to grow pots of flowers for the Derwen Garden Centre and despite loving doing this, I didn’t feel fulfilled. I still wanted to grow but I wanted to get my creative side out there as well (I have always been more artistic rather than academic). So the idea of growing and arranging my own flowers seemed the perfect solution. With my youngest daughter off to school, it was now or never and so I took the plunge and as clichéd as it sounds, never looked back!
Thanks for your time Donna! 🙂
I’d love to know how you’ll be celebrating British Flower Week 19th – 25th June?