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Donington Flower Festival 2019 – Memories

Donington Flower Festival 2019 – Memories

St Mary’s and The Holy Rood Church, Donington.

By Helen Chambers NDSF, Evolve Flowers Ltd.



This year’s theme ‘Memories’ caused much pondering over lots of different occasions and what to display to create…what should follow last years’ Mad Hatters Tea Party? Memories is a brilliant title as the theme can be translated in a multitude of ways; from childhood memories of gardening with parents, happy trips to the seaside or remembering a sadly lost loved one. I finally decided on ‘The Big Day’ and the concept started to unfold based around a wedding day. Wedding flowers are such an important part of the celebration of marriage and should reflect the personality of the bride. A bride from twenty-three years ago, 1996 has become a friend over the years and despite living miles away recently appeared via a trip ferrying offspring to University. The theme was discussed over coffee and the plan was made to bring The Dress on the next trip North to University. It is a fantastic gown and made to measure from a golden brocade, the picture below shows the full effect, taken in the mother-of-the Brides garden that had been lovingly tended for months before the Big Day. The plan unfolded and Mews Emporium kindly loaned a vintage mannequin on which to display the dress.

This got me thinking about the preparation stages for weddings; the back-story so to speak. To represent the mothers garden The Living Flower Wall idea came to mind. I have been wanting to create this for a while and needed a test run, perfect idea. Now how to construct? Those of you who know me will know that my dear husband is known as Mr Fixit; trading as your local carpenter and property maintenance man. He’s a brilliant ‘installation constructor’ and makes multiple structures for me to flower up. He also has the patience of a saint!

Much time was spent on how to create a wall without using any floral foam; the foam goes into landfill at the end of its life. The manufacturers are working hard on developing biodegradable versions, however it’s not quite available yet as a 100% version. We try to construct installations that have a reduced amount of foam or none, so we create minimum waste. It does involve much more work behind the scenes however we believe every effort counts towards a greener planet.

Eventually the frame was constructed with angled shelves to hold the plant material, a small test was trialled and off I went to a grower of hardy ferns and grasses. The Living Wall was built, flowers are inserted into plastic water tubes which we re-use over and over to reduce the amount of plastic waste we generate.

Evolve Flowers philosophy is to use as many British grown flowers and plant material as possible, we support our local growers and reduce the carbon footprint of flowers. All the flowers and plant material used have been sourced locally; Ranunculus, Alstroemeria and Arum lilies from Norfolk, Hardy ferns and grasses from Cowbit, Lilac from Holbeach, Tulips and Scented Stocks from Pinchbeck.

To the right of the Altar we placed the Brides dressing room with a beautiful chest of drawers which has been elegantly upcycled by the talented Sue Foyster from Past Imperfect. Sue has completed several projects for Evolve and specialises in adding script onto furniture, signs and other objects, she even managed to get a poem written on to the side of a vintage bath for the Leeds Castle Flower Festival!

The calming white and pastel flowers in the dressing room, spill out of the drawers and are reflected in the mirror which is swathed in lush scented Irish foliage garlands.

To enable the design to flow out of the drawers I placed some waterproof containers in the drawer and used some FloraGUPPY® to keep the flowers in place. They are a clever innovation; I use them repeatedly in lots of different displays. It also enables soft or hollow stemmed flowers to drink easily and last longer another challenge for large installations is to ensure the flowers last well.

The dresser drawers contain Mondial Tulips, Scented stocks, Solomon’s Seal and Eucalyptus all grown in Lincolnshire. I also came across some lovely scented white lilac on my prop collecting journey and thought that would add to the seasonal scents. Whilst ‘flowering up’ the dresser a visitor reminded me of a superstition or memory. Years ago, Lilac was used to line coffins, the scent said to mask the odour of death; that of course would only be feasible during May when the Lilac is in flower! That got me thinking how we demand fresh produce, food and flowers out of season… Peonies in January? Delphinium in February? – all possible of course if we want to pay the price and the flowers are flown in from warmer climes.  To have a flower with a story, grown locally and less travelled is the Evolve ethos; I feel makes displays and bouquets especially individual if we use flowers of the season.

One of my favourite quotes from Theodore Roosevelt is this:

‘Do what you can, with what you have, where you are’

If we all did our best to do this just a little more; by selecting seasonal and locally grown where we can; it supports our local growers. There is something quite special when you have the first flower of the season…now how are those Peonies getting on…?

A special mention and many thanks to the following who helped make this installation;

  • Mr Fixit – my rock! And the children for helping!
  • Rosemary Hughes for the generous gift of the vintage head which displays the flower crown.
  • Annetta and Cees in Norfolk for saving me some of their lovely flower ‘specials’ such as Ranunculus and Green Goddess Arums.
  • Tabitha Stanton-Stock for the lovely memories and stunning dresses. Tony Reeves photographer for her wedding day photo in mums garden.
  • Sue Foyster from Past Imperfect for the loan of the beautiful dresser and letting me use her cutting garden!
  • Mews Emporium for the loan of the mannequin.
  • All my local growers (long list!!) who passionately grow such a fantastic array of flowers and foliage. I’m very grateful to live on your doorsteps!

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