Last week I had the absolute pleasure of running a flower arranging workshop as part of the Chelsea Fringe at Doddington Place Gardens in Kent. We couldn’t have asked for better weather, or for a warmer welcome from the team at Doddington Place.
Doddington Place Gardens
Doddington Place is surrounded by wooded countryside in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the North Downs. The landscaped gardens are recognised of being of historical importance by English Heritage. The 10 acre garden is set in the grounds of an imposing Victorian mansion and have been open in aid of the National Gardens Scheme for more than fifty years.
The woodland garden is spectacular in May and June. There’s a large Edwardian rock garden with streams, pools and stepping stones; a formal sunk garden with herbaceous borders, and a flint and brick folly. The extensive lawns and avenues are framed by an impressive clipped ‘cloud’ yew hedge.
The Coach House at Doddington Place Gardens
a very rare treat - PYO flowers
The Coach House
Our group of flower arrangers were allowed exclusive use of the Old Coach house - making us feel like ladies of the Manor. After settling ourselves in Lucy - the head gardener - shared her story of how she got into gardening and took us on a private tour of the grounds.
I think the highlight of the day for all of us was being let loose on the gardens to pick our own flowers. A dream come true. Lucy was generous with her time and advice. She pointed out what flowers we could pick – the one’s growing in abundance. And what to avoid- the euphorbia – because of its irritant milky sap, and the handful of delphinium and eremurus (foxtail lily) spikes.
After conditioning our flowers in the cool, of the Coach House we enjoyed a buffet lunch served by the tea room staff.
"I had a wonderful day" - Karen N
"thank you for a lovely day" - Rebecca
On with the flower arranging
After lunch came the flower arranging. I demonstrated how I go about arranging a vase of flowers. I explained what I was doing (and why), so the group could make informed decisions when they made a start on their own arrangements.
At the end of the workshop we all took a moment in the spotlight to talk about our flowers. Talking about what had gone well – and what we’d do differently next time.
"I enjoyed looking at everyone's creations and hearing how they had tackled their designs. All so different and beautiful" - Susie
"what a privilege to pick and arrange from your beautiful gardens" - Karen B
Tea and cake
Before we said goodbye at the end of the day we grouped our arrangements down the refectory table we’d been working on and enjoyed a slice of homemade cake and a cup of tea. It was so lovely to sit and chat with like-minded flower lovers
At the end of the day we had another opportunity to enjoy the beautiful gardens on our own … dreaming, perhaps, of coming back for another workshop at dahlia time.
The Chelsea Fringe operates on the fringe of the established Chelsea Flower Show. It works on an ‘open-access principle’- if it’s interesting, legal and on the topic of plants, gardens or landscape, it’s in!
You can find out more about Chelsea Fringe events here – with events being held nationally and internationally until 4 June 2017.
Until next time, happy flowers!
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