Naturalistic Flower Arranging with the Floral Alchemist26th May 2017 • Stephanie's Blog • Stephanie Donaldson
I had a memorable and hugely enjoyable day when I was invited to join one of the first workshops held by Shane Connolly at his London studio. He is the man behind the glorious avenue of trees and the array of British flowers at the wedding of William and Kate and is a master of ‘unarranged’ arrangements. This is right up my street so it was a real treat to be there. His studio is inside a utilitarian building on an industrial estate in west London, but the interior is an Aladdin’s cave of all things floral. One wall holds banks of the freshest, most diverse flowers imaginable, while the opposite wall stores serried ranks of containers of every shape and size.
The day was divided into two – in the morning Shane explained his philosophy and approach to using flowers and demonstrated how he works, while in the afternoon we got to plunder the wall of flowers and put into practice what we had learned, making two arrangements to take home. He is a charming man with a soft Irish accent and is inclusive and funny which makes the process of absorbing his ideas quite effortless. He gained his love of flowers from his mother, whose use of flowers he described as the old-fashioned ‘housewife’s approach’ – in other words, flowers from the garden, not from a shop. He told us that he is most comfortable with gardeners and in gardens and loves it when his flowers blur the boundaries between indoors and outdoors. “Flowers stitch us back into Nature” he told us “the first blossom of spring always melts your heart. Seasons mean everything.”
In amongst the lyrical descriptions there was also good practical advice – for example, he recommends using vases with narrow necks for natural arrangements and when supporting flowers in wider vases he suggests using twigs and NEVER oasis because it is not biodegradable and it contains formaldehyde! Watching him select the flowers for his arrangement, just picking one of this and two of that, I realised that naturalistic flowers do not require an entire cutting garden to make use of home grown flowers – a couple of branches of foliage, a few flowers and even a weed or two and I will be able to put together something lovely.
The final challenge of the day was taking my flowers home via the Circle Line and then the train from Charing Cross to Hastings. Somehow I managed and the flowers are still looking almost as good as they did in Shane’s Studio. www.shaneconnolly.co.uk