British Flowers Week 2016 starts today, an industry-wide campaign in support of British cut flowers, founded and organised by New Covent Garden Flower Market.
For the next five days, I’ll be showcasing the flowers and florists who are part of the Flower Market’s photoshoot for this year’s celebration of homegrown blooms! The first flower and florist to be featured are the Oriental Lily and Philip Hammond from The Dorchester. And I’m delighted to feature an exclusive interview with Philip :
Could you tell us about your role at The Dorchester?
I’m the Designer Florist at the hotel. I joined six years ago and have been working in this role for four years.
How are British flowers used in the hotel?
I always champion British flowers for weddings and events. Many of our guests come to The Dorchester as it is quintessentially British. So it makes perfect sense to, whenever possible, use English flowers.
There’s one particular event space which looks spectacular decorated with homegrown blooms – our Penthouse & Pavilion. Positioned on the hotel’s 8th floor, it’s a theatrical suite of party rooms designed in 1953 by Oliver Messel. The Penthouse features floor to ceiling French windows which open onto a garden terrace with wonderful panoramic views across London. We often decorate this space with English roses and use a red, green and gold colour palette.
In The Promenade at The Dorchester, we use British flowers and foliage in two large urn designs marking the entrance to the heart of the hotel, three large arrangements which sit in the centre of circular sofas and three medium arrangements. In the restaurant where our afternoon tea takes place, we create small floral designs for the forty two tables. We also use a lot of British flowers in bouquets which guests order.
Your chosen flower for British Flowers Week is the Oriental lily. Could you tell us why you selected it?
I love Oriental lilies..their fragrance and their longevity. I also love their colours and they’re my go-to bloom when I’m creating a design with a pastel colour palette. We use lots of pale pink in the public areas and white in the rooms.
We often use Oriental lilies in the floral designs in our urns in The Promenade in The Dorchester. And they’re the first thing you smell when you walk into the hotel.
Where do you source your British Flowers?
We buy them from Pratley, Zest Flowers and GB Foliage at New Covent Garden Flower Market. We use British foliage all year round and during the summer months, 70% of the foliage we used is homegrown. Following seasonality, we’ll move from privet to forsythia and then on to rhododendron. Rhododendron is a great foliage to use as it’s so large and chunky, and creates the perfect shape for big arrangements.
Could you tell us about the three designs which you’ve made exclusively for British Flowers Week 2016?
I’ve made an urn design, bouquet and summer hat band, with a floral scarf. For the urn design, I’ve used Oriental lilies, delphiniums, peonies, lupins, lisianthus, rhododendrons and privet.
The bouquet includes Oriental lilies, peonies, lisianthus, privet and beech. It’s available to order by calling 020 7319 7256. And it’s also on sale in Parcafé, our new artisanal coffee shop at the hotel, which is next to the Ballroom entrance. We’ve a small retail space there giving a taste of Florist at The Dorchester in the cafe.
Lilies, lisianthus and alchemilla mollis are featured in the hat band and floral scarf.
How do you deal with the challenge sometimes presented by the pollen on the lilies’ stamens?
Every morning at 6.30am, our tatting ladies go around all our flower arrangements in the hotel and tatt them. This involves making sure that every arrangement looks perfect, by removing all the lilies’ stamens and any faded blooms. Whenever anyone walks into the hotel, every arrangement has to look perfect!
If you’ve not heard the term tatting before, it’s one that Constance Spry used. Two of the florists who worked at The Dorchester before me worked for Constance. And coincidentally, she opened a floristry shop not far from The Dorchester in South Audley Street in 1934.
Do you have any advice on how to remove pollen from lily petals or clothes?
Yes, we use a dry sponge and it works really well.
Do find there are any challenges in using British flowers?
Sometimes we struggle to find long enough stems, as flowers for our urn designs need to be a minimum of 80cms. Also getting hold of large enough quantities of a certain type of bloom can sometimes be a challenge.
Could you tell us how you’ll be celebrating British Flowers Week at The Dorchester?
The Promenade at The Dorchester will be transformed using purely and will be decorated only using British flowers and foliage. There will be Oriental lilies, delphiniums, stocks and possibly peonies in a pastel colour palette, with a splash of colour.
Do check out the British Flowers Week website for these three blog posts :
- Oriental Lily Designs by Philip Hammond
- Philip Hammond – A Profile for British Flowers Week
- About British Oriental Lilies
And tomorrow, look out on Flowerona for the next British flower and florist…!