Elaine fulfilled her long-held dream of becoming a professional florist in 2014 after overcoming two bouts of cancer. She delights in creating natural and organic arrangements and has a particular passion for foliage. Here she shares her top tips for flower arranging and encourages us all to embrace greenery.
What are the best seasonal flowers for autumn?
We’re really spoilt for choice all year round with flowers – as the blousy beauties of summer come to an end, we’ve got another amazing bounty to look forward to in autumn/winter.
Amaryllis is a beautiful flower at this time of year. They're available in a range of colours and have multiple heads on each stem. If you buy them with the heads closed, be prepared to wait for up to a week for them to open up – but it’s well worth the wait. They’ll give you a real show with their big open heads and they last really well too.
Anemone are back on the scene at this time of year and these delicate little flowers with their black centres are just a sheer delight. They have a tendency to close their heads when it’s cold, but once in the warmth they open up and give you everything they’ve got. They don't last as long as some of the other cut stems, but their beauty is everything.
Black cosmos are just the most divine small-headed flowers. So delicate and fragile looking and you only need a few individual stems in a vase for their beauty to shine through. The dark rich colour always mesmerises me. If you can get your hands on a few stems pop them into a bud vase and you’ll understand what I mean.
Dahlias are usually available until late October and they’re a large-headed beauty available in all sorts of colours – the café au lait dahlia is a particularly popular colour.
What are the latest floral trends?
Foliage (or greenery) is hugely popular right now and I don’t see this changing any time soon. It gives such an informal and organic feel to arrangements and can be used without flowers to great effect. Silvery foliages like eucalyptus and senecio complement so many blooms, but I often have a vase of eucalyptus on its own, its fragrance and its decorative appearance and long stems are beautiful. Leatherleaf, soft ruscus and pistacia are long-lasting, dark, rich colours. Delicate foliage like wispy asparagus fern and thlaspi brings an understated quality to an arrangement, while olive is truly gorgeous. A few simple springs displayed in a bud vase is stunning, or go all out and display it in abundance in an urn to make a real statement – it’s incredibly beautiful – no flowers required.
Which flowers lend themselves well to foliage arrangements?
I think large-headed flowers work well with foliage. Small-headed flowers can get lost in all the leafy greenery, and that’s why I tend to place them in a vase on their own. Although, saying that, there is such a huge variety of foliage available now that there is always something that will compliment a small-headed flower. For instance, a delicate black cosmos head would look great with a small sprig of wispy asparagus fern. I think the key is for flowers and foliage to complement one an another and not to distract from each other.
Thinking beyond the traditional vase – what are your favourite ways to display flowers?
Having incredibly beautiful flowers is one thing, but you need the right vessel to showcase them in. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that it’s just as important to have beautiful vases as it is to have beautiful flowers. I’m lucky enough to get the opportunity to collaborate with some amazing people in this industry and one of my all time favourites is TUTTI & CO. Their products, styling and approach are right up my street and their vases and vessels are perfect for individual stems of flowers or larger arrangements. Clear glass hanging vases are perfect to showcase a few stems in a unique and different way, and bud vases are such a valuable investment as you don't need to spend a fortune on flowers to fill them.
What are your favourite flowers of the moment and why?
Working with Mother Nature ensures I’m well and truly spoilt all year round and with the ebb and flow of the seasons I’m constantly reminded that everything changes. I think that’s what I love the most. A few weeks ago I was in complete awe of the big sweet-smelling peonies and right now I’m really looking forward to seeing the bounty of dark glossy berries and rich floral tones. Is it possible to love it all?
In your opinion which flowers are underrated?
My heart always breaks a little when I see daffodils in empty buckets at the end of supermarket checkouts. These stunning little flowers deserve so much better – they signify that spring is on its way and fill me with such optimism. They are mass produced for supermarket which means they’re often perceived as cheap, but this shouldn’t devalue the glory of the mighty daffodil.
What are your top five tips for flower arranging?
Believe in your ability. With the right vase and flowers, anyone can do it– it’s all about confidence.
Ask your local florist for their help. They will be able to advise you on what flowers and foliage work well together.
Invest in some good vases. Clear cylinder vases or small bud vases will serve you well for most flowers. Be mindful of the width of the neck when buying vases – a wide neck means you require a lot of flowers.
If you’re unsure about colour combinations, stick to the same colour. A vase full of one vibrant colour will be a real showstopper.
And, of course, embrace foliage. I have a bud vase with a sprig of olive on my bedside table right now – it’s the prettiest sight to wake up to.