Christmas at Ted Martin Flowers

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without going to see everyone at Ted Martin's flower shop. I call in to collect some flowers for my final workshop before Christmas. This is a special workshop as I am helping friends create advent rings for their tables and wreaths for their doors. My friend Deena also wants a special wreath for her parent's grave and feels she would like to make it herself, so I am very pleased to be able to help her to do this.
The weather is bitingly cold but the front of the shop is festive with holly trees, lanterns and wreaths. There are cerise cyclamens and scarlet roses mixed in with anemones and deep bronze chrysanthemums.
The shop is packed to bursting with a new delivery of flowers. Ted tells me that when she arrived this morning she could not actually get into the shop, so many boxes had been delivered from the market.
There are candle arrangements and tree decorations that have been made by the girls in the shop, ready for people to buy. I particularly like the hearts of red wooden beads.
Apart from the flowers for my workshop I have ordered a treat for myself. A box of tall, stately amarylis - they are the most wonderful colour, a deep plum velvet.
No time to stop for a coffee this visit, but I will be back on Christmas Eve when I might bring something a little stronger with me!

The Self Employed Ladies Christmas Lunch

Anyone who works for themselves will know how lonely it feels at Christmas when friends are heading off to their office Christmas parties and you sit around feeling like Norman No Mates. So this year my friend Hilary decided to do something about it and organise a Christmas lunch for those of us who are self employed.
So six ladies head for lunch at the White Lion in Bourton - a real mix of professions; there is Hilary who works in HR, Lucy who sells clothes and also works in TV production, Denise who is a cleaner, Sarah who is a sculptor and me.
As I had been demonstrating Christmas arrangements at Kew the night before I have some spare flowers, so put together a tiny bucket of flowers for each of my friends. I place each of the small buckets in a glass bowl so I can carry them to the lunch - then decide if I pop a candle in the middle I will have a table centre for our table too!

Cafe des Fleurs

Is there a better way to spend a Tuesday than to drive down to Rye in Sussex and visit a gorgeous flower shop that is also a cafe? I don't think so. And the sun shone for me. As Billy Kelly says, if I fell in the docks I would come up dry!
Cafe des Fleurs overlooks one of the fingers of water that push their way into the town of Rye from the sea, and is an enticing mix of flowers and gifts - and of course, cupcakes & coffee. Owner, Lucy Forrester, has read my books and has kindly said she will help me with a new book I am researching.
But first stop a cappuccino amongst the flowers.

It's not everyday you have coffee with six foot teak horse! Lucy says she saw this wooden sculpture at a recent trade show and had to bring it home with her. We discuss whether it would be undignified to hang a wreath of flowers around his neck, or maybe add some Christmassy antlers.
Over coffee we chat about the book idea (more of that closer to the time) and Lucy asks about my book Flower Shops & Friends. In this book I visit 12 beautiful flower shops around the country and as part of getting to know the florists there I ask them to tell me their favourite flowers, food, drink etc.
It is not long before we are discussing what would be on Lucy's list - so here goes.
Favourite flower: Peony (good choice)
Favourite food: Roast Beef and Yorkshire pudding
Favourite drink: Vodka
Favourite view: The sea at Camber Sands
Favourite song: Stir it Up by Bob Marley
Favourite fragrance: Scented roses
It is very easy to lose yourself amongst the flowers, gifts and Christmas decorations. I see a pink stripy heart decoration that would be perfect for my daughter Libby, but decide to wait and let her choose herself. It is a tradition that the girls and I each buy a new tree decoration every year. Now our Christmas tree is a record of all the things they have loved as they have grown up. Libby's are mainly pink and involve a lot of sparkle (my budding fashion journalist) and Alex's are mainly animals (my budding zoologist). Funny how things turn out.
Just time to take a photo of an antique bowl of roses and it is time to head home. Sadly not in the car that is now parked outside the shop - but Lucy does send me off with a box of cupcakes tied up with satin ribbon and a rose. All this and a car like that would be greedy!

A Week of Bookshops & Flowers

As we are fast approaching Christmas I had been asked by a number of bookshops and florists to conduct book signings and demonstrations for their Christmas events. So last week was a very busy week,  - but a very happy week, as I was out and about meeting new people, driving around the country with my Mini filled with flowers.
First stop on a cold winter's evening was the Old Hall bookshop in Brackley. This lovely old bookshop is situated in a Georgian house just set back from the Market Square. After demonstrating some Christmas arrangements I was kept busy signing books - including some copies of Love Pink which was written by my daughter Libby (I had been singing her praises during my talk). I explained that I shouldn't really sign them as they were her book, but the ladies of Brackley decided I should sign them 'Libby's mum'!
Next stop was Paperview in Ringwood, a great spot for a book signing as owners Trevor and Barbara are friendly with the florist next door - Patricia Taylor. So I spent the evening talking about books and drinking red wine and Patricia demonstrated flower arrangements and drank white wine. A perfect combination!
The great thing about meeting other florists is that you pick up new ideas. I would never have thought to combine cabbages and peach gerbera like this, but with cones, cinnamon, oranges and a touch of mistletoe I think it looks subtle but still very Christmassy.
Final stop for the week was an old favourite, Stourhead, the National Trust property in Wiltshire. I like to think that at the end of the day I had the most festive display!
Mixing oranges with purple or burgundy has been a favourite theme for me this year.
And even a smart glass arrangement can benefit from a bit of gingerbread!


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