This weekend – March 9th 2019 - saw the first wedding of WildFolk’s season – a vibrant and quirky affair at new venue Flint Rooms on Finklegate and reception at Namaste Indian restaurant.
The bride’s flowers were big and colourful. She had a large wild bouquet and flower crown, six bridesmaid posies in similar style with splashes of colour and 11 vibrant buttonholes.
The wedding was a challenge on the sustainability front and I’m writing up my reflections now before I romanticise the experience – this post is as much for you as it is for me! I have learnt so much about planning a wedding out of season and what I’d do next time, starting with managing expectations….
The bride and I met over a haircut. We starting chatting flowers as I tend to do with anyone who is up for it. She was a bubbly, curvy brunette and wanted to wear a black leather jacket on her wedding day. I wanted to make her wedding flowers and before long, that’s exactly what we agreed I’d do.
Her wedding was going to be in March. I looked back at my photos from the previous year. I could see tulips, which I’d forced indoors over pebbles on water. I immediately matched the bride with black tulips. She jumped at the idea and we went from there.
In September I bought loads of black tulips and white peony daffodils and potted them up outside. My thinking was that I’d start them off outside and the daffs would bloom in time and the tulips would have a boost at the end. Then I found out the wedding was early March (I was hoping late March) and factored more hellebores into the arrangement (the most stunning of flowers in pale Spring tones) and planted some white anemones in a little poly tunnel.
However, by this point the bride had begun planning the table flowers and décor for the reception. It was all vibrant colours and her mood board looked very different visually to winter flowers. I started to feel quite sick. I saw that some other growers sometimes achieved ranunculus so I got some pink and orange corms to match the black tulips. I’d read online that these were easy to grow and as I’m an optimistic person, I hoped for the best. For the record, they are not easy to grow and I take my hat off to the array of experienced growers on Flowers From the Farm.
I’d potted some up to bring inside if needed but couldn’t get the right amount of light, cold air and water consistently right. I moved all 20 pots to the front windowsills, then the cellar, then the side of the house, then the back garden. Pot after pot of sprouting corms got yellow leaves and rotted away and each time some of my optimism melted away. I realised my dream of being a totally sustainable plastic free florist out of season wasn't going to happen. I know now that it was ridiculous to promise a particular flower or colour particularly one that doesn’t grow out of season!
Luckily the bride and I could discuss what to do next. She would be able to source lots of her desired foliage from family gardens and would deliver three buckets to me to bump up bouquets. She was also dying teasels black and I would work some of these into bouquets.
Luckily I had just completed an incredible chapter on being sustainable within an online course called The Business of Growing Flowers. This chapter reassured me – if you aim for the best, most sustainable practices and work down through a list of next best options, you are the best you possibly can.
My list for sustainable wedding flowers looked like this:
1 – grow the flowers myself
2 – buy from other local field-grown flower farmers
3 – buy from other British growers further afield (no pun intended)
4 – buy imported flowers.
Option 1 worked for my yellow, orange and purple wallflowers, pink, purple and green hellebores, white and yellow daffodils, hyacinths, lots of dried flowers, berries and rosehips. Option 2 wasn’t looking great as other farmers started their season at the end of March. I had to go with Option 3 for ranunculus, tulips and a few more daffodils.
Although I was so pleased that I could meet the bride’s expectations I was truly saddened by the huge lorry that arrived to deliver the flowers and the plastic sleeves that went in the bin. At least they didn’t come in an airplane and at least I only had to order one box to top up what I had. I can only imagine how much plastic waste there is from weddings when all the flowers and foliage don’t come from a farm and when they are stuck into floral foam.
From next year, WildFolk weddings in February and March will feature hellebores, catkins, berries, dried goodies, eucalyptus, daffodils, wallflowers, anemones and primroses. I now know that just because you can grown something one year it doesn’t mean it will happen again the next - our climate is going through some crazy times. March last year we were three feet under snow and this year February was the hottest on record. So I will work flexibility into my T&Cs.
Oh and on the forcing… I brought the pots indoors three weeks before the wedding. The tulips already had three inches of growth. That should have been more than enough time based on my water and pebble experiment the year before. But I’ve concluded that forcing in soil takes longer. I also poured water on those pots every few days but I think it wasn’t enough and I should’ve watered every day to account for the affects of central heating. If they were on pebbles I’d be able to tell if they were thirsty as the water would be going down rapidly.
I put a pot of tulips under a grow light at night for a week and they came on much more quickly than the others but still three days late to the party - what princesses! The others will be ready in two weeks. The daffodils hated being inside with a passion and their buds turned to papery crisps. This might have been the heat but it might have also been the drought. In future I will stick to forcing on pebbles and water, as it is much easier to tell how thirsty the bulbs are.
To use daffodils in bouquets I trimmed the stems shorter than the other flowers and conditioned them on their own to let the sap stream out. The if I had to resnip at all after bouquets were made I put the stems in their own reusable vials within a bucket of water so they didn’t re-sap the other blooms.
Anyhow, those are my thoughts and musings on sustainability out of season – hope they are as useful to you as they are to me.