Today, I’m delighted to feature an interview with a new advertiser on Flowerona, Lucy Summers, who runs a flower school in London.
Could you tell us about your floristry background?
I like to think of it as less of a floristry background and more of a design background. It’s a well-kept secret that in my younger days I used to be the ‘Lady of Letters’ on Countdown. From there, I went on to present interior design shows for the BBC. So, visual design has always been an integral part of my life. You can’t really teach people natural style…they either have it or they don’t. But what you can teach them is how to be more creative, explain how we can all use colours and textures together, and give them the confidence to really let their inner artist loose. Most people have a little poetry in their soul and just need to find the means of expressing it. Flowers do just that.
From the moment I started out as a garden designer, flowers have been part of my life. They’ve adorned every room in my home…it’s easy if you have an abundance of flowering plants in the garden to cut them and display them indoors. Cut flowers just transform a room. Even if they sit in a shabby chipped milk jug, they fill the room with happiness. At the outset, I was pretty much self-taught, though I formally honed my floristry skills with the lovely Georgia Miles. At least with my garden design background, I didn’t have to learn the Latin names of flowers, so that made floristry a breeze.
When did you start your flower school?
Unofficially, about 10 years ago…it started when we designed a large country garden for a client who decided to have a party to christen the garden. She asked us to style the indoor and outdoor areas for the party. So, we came up with a combination of floral design and live plant installations to knit the outdoor and indoor spaces together. Since then, we’ve styled all sorts of venues for clients with our unique combination of living and cut flowers, trees and shrubs… including a London hotel that wanted their garden turned into a Caribbean paradise. However, the time constraints of running a landscape practice and media commitments never really allowed us to develop the floral design side of the business. You can imagine it’s pretty exciting to get our floral design services and courses off the ground at last.
Where is the school based?
We’re incredibly lucky to operate from a beautiful 18th century mansion situated in 50 acres of parkland in Stoke Newington in central London. There’s a deer park, a beautiful tranquil pond teeming with wildlife, a magical butterfly house and naturally burgeoning flower borders. It’s a slice of the country bang in the heart of London and the perfect setting to get our students in the mood for flower arranging or honing their gardening skills.
What type of courses do you run?
Unsurprisingly, many of our classes use gardens as inspiration. Our Majorelle Hand-Tied Flowers Course explores the rich vibrant colours of Yves St Laurent’s garden in Morocco. We also offer looser hand-tied flower and varied floral arrangements that offer a less structured style. Personally, I prefer these to spirals, because this method allows beginners more creative latitude allowing them to concentrate more on the look of the flowers, than being constrained by too much technical process. People love to create a distinctive table setting, seasonal wreath or pedestal that they can adapt for entertaining or a special celebration. Our clients often say they can’t believe they have made something so beautiful in a day.
We also offer some cracking gardening classes to help people grow their gardens with knowledge and style. Both elements go hand-in-hand and our Flower Border Design and Beginners Gardening courses are hugely popular. Border design is a bit like flower arranging…people know what visually appeals to them, but lack the confidence of plant knowledge to pull it off successfully.
Our classes remove all that self-doubt and we focus on encouraging people’s creativity, whilst providing them with expert skills. Lunch is also inclusive on our one-day flower arranging or gardening classes.
How would you define your approach to flower design?
Our signature design style deliberately emulates real gardens. You’ll see our flower designs are abundant, blousy, simple and natural. I tend to group flowers that are natural seasonal partners in the garden. Both garden and flower design are all about contrivance. The genius is to make it look effortless. It requires as much artistry to create a natural effect flower arrangement or garden as it does to make a more formal structure.
As a landscape designer, I tend to use the features of an entire plant…specifically the shape, colour, foliage, size and form. And it’s no different when you arrange cut flowers, though on a more diminutive scale. However, I have to admit, plant foliage is completely bewitching and it still grieves me to strip away the leaves for flower designs. Quite often I just have to feature extraordinary foliage.
Could you tell us about the floral styling services that you offer?
We believe we’re unique in our approach to flower design. It’s very different from the traditional floristry approach. Sometimes we’ll use cut flowers, but just as often we’ll use a mixture of live plants and cut flowers together.
It works brilliantly for larger spaces, such as product launches, etc., where you really have to create a wonder world of plants and flowers. It’s an idea that is very much on-trend and believe we are one of the few floral designers in the country that offer that combination.
What is a typical day for you?
No two days are alike. Teaching, landscaping projects, interspersed with media commitments and blogging, etc. Last week I spent a glorious day consulting one-to-one with a client who wishes to develop her garden. She had 10 unadulterated acres in Sussex and just needs expert guidance on style, design and planting. I’ll work with her over a 3- year period to ensure it all comes together superbly.
What are your plans for the remainder of 2013 and 2014?
Naturally we’ve got a number of landscape projects on the go and now we have restructured the company, I can devote more time to expanding our offering at the flower school. Sadly we lost our funding for RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2014, but we have a terrific show garden design already approved. So we’re hoping to find a new sponsor. We’d also love to do a bit more event floristry and film-set floral design as it naturally plays to our strengths.
For the first time next year we’re also taking clients on bespoke trips to very special gardens. It’s all about spending time discovering plants, flowers and design style in situ. We’re planning to go to Yves St. Laurent’s Majorelle garden in Morocco…it’s a great place to soak up both style and flowers. This will be followed by Piet Oudulf’s private garden in the Netherlands. He’s the founder of the new perennial movement and does spectacular things with flowers and grasses that have natural fluid beauty. Closer to home, a private visit to East Ruston, a 32 acre garden that is full of extravagance and theatre.
Do you have a favourite flower?
That’s a hard one…far too many to enumerate. Obviously I have favourite garden plants and preferred cut flowers. There’s no such thing as a bad astrantia…ideal for both the garden or fabulous in flower arrangements. Ditto dahlias because they’re opulent and extravagant. Both have got great structure and wonderful colours. Berries and seed heads such as echinops, and eryngium are always intriguing. White lilies and magnolias are perennial favourites…the fragrance is heavenly. Callas have wonderful clean, contemporary lines and we featured stunning orange zantedeschia ‘Orange Tycoon’ in a show garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
Thank you so much to Lucy for all her help in compiling today’s blog post. Do visit her website to find out more about the courses which she runs at her flower school.
Social Media Links
To keep up-to-date with Lucy’s news, here’s where you can find her on social media:
P.S. I love Lucy’s logo for her flower school, which appears in the banner advert on Flowerona.
(Images : Lucy Summers)