0Interview with Jonathan Moseley, florist on The Big Allotment Challenge

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When I first heard about the new TV programme, The Big Allotment Challenge, I was so thrilled to learn that it featured a floristry element. Today, I’m delighted to share with you an interview with florist Jonathan Moseley, who will be judging the competitors’ floral designs.

The Big Allotment Challenge starts on BBC2 this evening. Could you tell us about the programme? 

We filmed the show in the most idyllic location on a pretty but derelict walled garden on the Mapledurham Estate in Oxfordshire. Here, nine pairs of amateur gardeners were given identical bare plots of land, each with a greenhouse.  Then, lots of hard work combined with Mother Nature’s magic transformed these empty plots into a flower-filled oasis of colour, scent and countless stems, all screaming out to be picked! The show runs for six consecutive weeks on BBC2 starting at 8pm tonight.

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Were the contestants advised which flowers to grow in their allotment?

The contestants were advised that they would have to grow certain flowers ready for the Make challenge.  For example, Sweet Peas and Roses. As you will see on the show, some of the flowers proved difficult and elusive for some of the contestants to grow. However, they were free to decide what other hardy annuals and summer flowering perennials they wished to grow. The teams knew that there would be a floristry challenge in each episode, so realised they had to include growing flowers for cutting within their plots. Naturally, many teams elected to grow tried and tested flowers like Zinnia, Larkspur, Cornflowers and Nigella. Some however were more discerning and grew some amazing materials like Atriplex, Molucella, Knautia, Anthriscus ‘Ravenswing’ and the stately umbels of Angelica to name a few.

Did the contestants have any previous floristry experience?

All nine teams were enthusiastic amateur gardeners with differing skill levels and abilities. People had been growing for different lengths of time dependent upon their age and lifestyles. With the exception of one team who were casually involved in doing the local church flowers, no one had done any arranging of home-grown flowers. For some contestants, the thought of formally arranging flowers was a really steep learning curve and they had to allow their inner creativity to manifest.  And in some cases allow their masculinity to be temporarily sidelined in order to get in touch with their more feminine side.

Could you tell us about the floristry challenges? 

The Make challenge which was my floristry challenge was quite a crucial point within the show, as each week I presented the contestants with a live challenge which they had no prior knowledge about. Although they knew for example they had to grow the perfect Sunflower, they did not have a clue that I would ask them to construct a Topiary Tree from Sunflowers. It was quite funny because many perceived a topiary tree as the exclusive territory of clipped and shaped Buxus and Bay – little did they know. The challenges escalated in difficulty and skill level as the show progressed. On tonight’s episode you will watch the nine teams embrace the challenges of constructing a hand tied bouquet. Here are some images of the contestants in action…

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How were their flower arrangements assessed?

For each of the six episodes, I highlighted certain criteria which the designs required. These were also top tips to help the teams focus on what was important for each specific challenge. The teams were filmed selecting and gathering their flowers from the plots and I observed their workmanship during the timed challenge. Afterwards, each design was assessed for its own merits by myself, accompanied by my two co-judges. With over twenty years experience in commercial floristry, I have a keen eye and quickly spotted various mistakes, which were usually due to bad technique or ill thought through selection of flowers. Creating designs from garden flowers is very different to using commercial grown materials, so I was always eager to see innovative use of materials and extra often subtle embellishments which ensured the winning designs always stood out from the crowd. I’m always keen to encourage people and like to explain to them how and why something has not worked, with a few pointers on how it could be improved in the future. The enthusiastic and motivated teams embraced my advice and they were the ones who showed progression and became the ultimate winners.

What do you feel were the biggest challenges that the contestants faced, flower/floristry wise?

For many, the biggest challenge was arranging flowers for the first time. That alone was a demanding task in itself. Teaming this with strict time deadlines, availability of grown materials and the intense pressure of a televised competition, then the floristry tasks were a potential nightmare. However, each team always pushed the boundaries each week and I was often amazed by their ingenuity and creativity. For many, it was quite difficult gathering the flowers because they had toiled over them for weeks and weeks. We all can empathise with how hard it can be to pick something from the garden when it looks so pretty and perfect happily growing, with the knowledge that once it is picked it will die a lot quicker. Once people were arranging, then they became absorbed by the task and quickly fell under the spell that the magic of arranging flowers offers. Ironically, some contestants referred to it as the most relaxing part of the competition!

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Jonathan also said:

“I hope the show will encourage more people to reacquaint themselves with growing some flowers for cutting within their own gardens and how a few inexpensive packets of seeds can provide weeks of endless cut flowers for the home. I also hope it will bring the concept of arranging flowers for the home to a much wider audience. The demographic of the contestants illustrates how anyone can have a go at arranging flowers. Flowers have no social boundaries and they are there to be enjoyed by all. Gone are the days when flower arranging was the remit of the well-heeled upper/middle class housewife, neither do you have to reach a certain age for it to be acceptable to arrange flowers. As The Great British Bake Off once again made home baking trendy and interesting for both men and women of all ages I would dearly hope that The Big Allotment Challenge will also put arranging flowers back up there as an enjoyable pastime and hobby for everyone to embrace.”

Thank you very much to Jonathan for all his help in compiling today’s blog post.  I’m so looking forward to watching the programme!  (I’m out tonight, but will be catching up on iPlayer asap.) Here is Jonathan with Fern Britton who presents the show and the other judges…gardening expert Jim Buttress and preserves expert Thane Prince.

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If you would like to make the floral designs featured on the show, you’ll find them in the book which accompanies the series, The Big Allotment Challenge: The Patch – Grow Make Eat by Tessa Evelegh. And if you’d like to follow Jonathan on social media, he’s on Facebook and Twitter. Plus he also has a new website.

Here’s a little taster for you of what’s in store…

P.S. The Big Allotment Challenge is also on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

(Images : The Big Allotment Challenge/BBC)

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1Interview with Isabelle Palmer, author of The House Gardener

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I hope you had a lovely weekend. Today, I’m delighted to share with you an interview with Isabelle Palmer. Isabelle is the author of the new book, ‘The House Gardener’ and the founder of The Balcony Gardener, an online company specialising in product ranges for small urban outdoor spaces.

Your first book, ‘The Balcony Gardener‘ focused on balcony gardens, could you tell us about your new book ‘The House Gardener’?

I really wanted to focus on the much forgotten houseplant. There are so many wonderful ways you can incorporate plants into your living space and I wanted to explore these and bring them back into the decorating/garden sphere. It’s a wonderful way to really make a home and great if you don’t have any outdoor space at all.

What are your top 5 houseplant tips?

  1. Make sure your plants are suited to the light levels & temperature of the room.
  2. Try to avoid direct sunlight and don’t place houseplants on top of radiators.
  3. Avoid deep shade where plants won’t get enough light to photosynthesise.
  4. Keep plants away from draughts and temperature extremes.
  5. Pot on regularly. Aim to repot into larger containers every two years.

Do you have a favourite design from The House Gardener?

I really love the moss fireside as it’s a really showy display and something out of the ordinary.

Succulents feature heavily in your book and they’re very on-trend at the moment. Could you tell us what type of growing conditions they like?

Succulents include sempervivums, sedums, aloes, kalanchoes, echeverias and other fleshy-leaved species. Watering succulents is probably one of the trickiest parts of growing succulents.  If you see black stems, you’re overwatering.  And if you see shrivelled leaves, you need to water more. Generally, keep the soil moist to touch at all times in the summer growing periods.

What is your favourite houseplant?

There are so many but if I really had to pick one, I think it would be Crassula (money plant) for sentimental reasons, as it’s the first houseplant I moved into my house with, 14 years ago and it’s still with me to this day.

Here are some images from Isabelle’s wonderful new book, including the fabulous fireside which she mentioned…

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Thank you so much to Isabelle for all her help in compiling today’s blog post. Here’s a short video where she talks about the book:

The House Gardener by Isabelle Palmer is published by CICO Books and is available from Ryland Peters. And if you’d like to follow Isabelle on social media, she’s on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

P.S.  I’m with Isabelle…I too love money plants! Do you have a favourite houseplant?

(Images : Isabelle Palmer/Ryland Peters)

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0Flowerona Links: With a wall of flowers, interviews & an underwater shoot

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I hope you’re having a lovely weekend. Here are this week’s round-up of floral treasures from around the globe.

General

Weddings

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Flowerona Blog Posts

Video

Time lapse video showing the creation of an amazing floral installation by Rebecca Louise Law for Jimmy Choo at Clifton Nurseries in London.

If you would like to see some photos of the installation, here’s a link to a blog post on Flowerona.

So, I hope you have a wonderful Sunday…whatever your plans!

(Images : 1. Zena Holloway,  2. Coco Tran)

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0New ‘Flowerona for Florists’ Facebook group…for florists everywhere!

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I’ve known for some time now that florists are very special people. And I’ve seen even more evidence of this, this week. On Tuesday afternoon, I set up a ‘Flowerona for Florists’ Facebook group and the response has been absolutely incredible! Over 300 people have already joined, from all over the world. There are members from the UK, America, Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Holland, France, India, Japan, Qatar and Panama.

My aim in setting it up is for it to be a floral hub where florists can meet, share ideas & seek advice. And I’m thrilled to say that that’s exactly what’s been happening. I’m not going to go into detail as to what’s being discussed, as it’s a private place for people to interact. But what I will say is that it’s so wonderful to watch such a supportive network in action. And I’d like to thank everyone who’s joined to far, for making it such a success! Florists who work on their own, in particular, have found the group to be really beneficial, as they can reach out to fellow florists. One very kind member has already arranged a meet-up in July, which I’m really looking forward to attending.

So, if you’re a florist and would like to join, simply click on this link Flowerona for Florists and then click on ‘Join Group’. You need to join using your personal Facebook page. I’ll need to approve your membership…then you can benefit from all the knowledge in the group too!  Any questions, please ask away…

P.S. Hope you like the ranunculus image…these are standard ones!

(Image : Rona Wheeldon for Flowerona)

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0Interview with Alan Titchmarsh…featuring his new gardening range with Waitrose, RHS Chelsea Flower Show garden & new ITV series ‘Britain’s Best Gardens’

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I’m thrilled today to feature an interview with well-known gardening expert and TV presenter, Alan Titchmarsh, who I had the pleasure of meeting recently at a Waitrose Press Event.

Alan Titchmarsh and Waitrose is a new gardening range.  Could you tell us about the plants in the Cut Flower Collection?

We have a wonderful range of plants in the Cut Flower Collection. They include Larkspur Kingsize Scarlet ‘Annual Delphinium’, Chrysanthemum carinatum ‘Silver Spoons’, Agrostemma githago ‘Ocean Pearl’, Chrysanthemum carinatum ‘Bright Eye’, Chrysanthemum carinatum ‘Sunset’, Salvia horminum Claryssa Mixed ‘Clary Sage’, Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Double Click’, Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Pied Piper’, Sweet William ‘Summer Sundae’ (Dianthus barbatus), Stock Mixed (Matthiola incana), Stock Aida Mixed (Matthiola incana), Bupleurum rotundifolium Griffithii, Antirrhinum Rocket Mixed (Snapdragon), Larkspur Sublime Mixed ‘Annual Delphinium’ and Helichrysum bracteatum King Sized Mixed (Strawflower).

How did you decide upon which flowers to include in the collection?

I wanted to include a range of flowers that I love and which are rewarding to grow – things which are not excessively tricky, but which repay a moderate amount of care.

What are you top tips on growing your own cut flower patch?

Find a spot in the sun on a well-drained patch of soil and sow the seeds during a mild spell. Do not let them dry out during the germination period, but don’t keep them soggy either – gentle moisture is what they need.

Could you tell us about the Bee and Butterfly Mats? 

The Bee Mat contains annual, biennial and perennial species of flowers that are a great source of pollen and nectar to bees and other pollinators including Common Knapweed, Greater Knapweed, Golden Rod, Chrysanthemum mix, Borage, Anise hyssop, Cornflower, Verbena, Lady Phacelia and Viper’s Bugloss. The Butterfly Mat contains Ragged Robin, Common Yarrow, Corn Chamomile, Knapweeds, Wild Marjoram and Red Campion.

To celebrate the 50th year of the RHS’s Britain in Bloom campaign and your 50th year in horticulture, you’re designing a garden at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show. What can you tell us about it?

It’s called ‘From the Moors to the Sea’ and will include a moorland stream, which wends its way between boulders and moorland plants, birch and pine trees and drystone walls to a seaside cove with a beach house, seaside planting and waves lapping the shore. I began my gardening on the Yorkshire Moors and now garden on the Isle of Wight coast. As well as following my own journey as a professional gardener for 50 years, the garden also celebrates the diversity of plants that have gone into making Britain in Bloom over its own half century.

You’re currently developing a new ITV series, Britain’s Best Gardens, where you’ll be featuring the 30 best private gardens in Britain. Could you tell us more about it and how can people nominate their garden?

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To mark the 50th year of my horticultural career, Spun Gold TV, an independent production company, will be showcasing the best private, domestic gardens in Britain with a series called ‘Britain’s Best Gardens‘. They’re looking for gardens that are owned and maintained by the nation’s horticultural heroes, who’ve turned their backyards into amazing spaces.

These gardens will represent what gardening means in the country. They are our gardens that say as much about us and who we really are as they do about the blooms, lawns and fragrant borders. The final 30 selected gardens will be revealed in three primetime, hour long shows, to air on ITV in 2015.

Spun Gold TV are seeking applications from the length and breadth of Britain with an array of horticultural wonders from the outrageous to the draw-droopingly beautiful, the grand and opulent to the small and perfectly formed. This is the series that opens the gates to gardens that are works of art, labours of love, flights of fantasy and even feats of engineering. All private, domestic gardens are eligible for entry.

Applying to the programme is easy – just email Alan@spungoldtv.com with some information about the garden (please include its location, size and contact details for yourself – phone and email) along with a few photos of the nominated garden. Or write to Britain’s Best Gardens, PO Box 64382, London, EC2P 2GJ. The closing date for applications is July 20th 2014.

Thank you so much to Alan for all his help in compiling today’s blog post. Do look out the Alan Titchmarsh and Waitrose new Cut Flower Collection, the next time you’re in Waitrose.

P.S. You can follow Britain’s Best Gardens on Twitter and Facebook.

(Image : 1. Jonathan Buckley, 2. Spun Gold TV)

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