Last year, at the onset of Autumn, Neill Strain was invited to create an exhibit among other world-renowned, international designers at the exquisite castle of Alden Biesen in Belgium. Neill reveals to us his perception of "Autumnal Organic Opulence" with a magical table display of exceptional luxury and beauty.
Alden Biesen's FLEURAMOUR is an event not to be missed on the floral designer's calendar every September. Organised by Fleur Creatif magazine, the majestic Belgian castle and stunning gardens make the perfect venue for floral designers from all over Europe and beyond to be inspired to show their creativity to both amateur and professional flower lovers. Each designer decorates a room and I was delighted with my corner location with a magnificent, panoramic view of the leafy gardens below.
The spectacular gardens of Alden Biesen, with their century-old trees and foliage changing shades to rust, burgundy and brown during the exhibition, were my primary inspiration for the "Autumnal Organic Opulence" table setting I designed. I wanted to create a magical, ethereal forest with a table set for Royalty in the Neill Strain style for which we are renowned. Given the season, I wanted the setting to be autumnal with natural garden plant material in seasonal colours topped with the luxury of Orchids, Roses and Gloriosa in the same colour scheme.
We had four days to prepare our exhibit. I had some of the Birch tree trunks dyed in London and we drove them, along with all our mechanics, accessories and some of the flowers and foliages, to Alden Biesen in our van. Placed around the edge of the room, we alternated the gold Birch trunks with natural ones, according to our theme of combining organic with opulence. We attached glass tubes to the Birch and filled them with autumnal foliages and dancing stems of Gloriosa to create the effect of a forest clearing. We covered the base mechanics with moss and conkers, as would be the forest floor.
The next challenge was to create a canopy of foliage and flowers above the table. We made a wire structure to support the Birch leaves and Gloriosa (in tubes), from which we hung glass tea light holders with ribbon.
In harmony with the Birch trunks around the room, we hand made tall Birch bark vases topped with spheres of moss and gold-sprayed Orchid roots to set the organic tone to the table.
We filled rustic, grey vases with Hydrangea heads into which we placed more stems of Gloriosa. I adore the autumnal orange hue of this Leonella Gloriosa and the way they create movement across the table.
At the base of the tall vases and on the rich, brown taffeta table cloth I placed long stems of Celastrus berry branches, several hundred conkers, grey and pink succulents, squares of massed Roses and shiny red apples. A strong organic, natural look with rustic iron containers and lanterns.
My team spent several hours creating almost 80 garlands to hang over the backs of the "Ghost chairs." Strands of beads, ribbon, foliages, berries, leaves, conkers and all the autumnal plant material and accessories we had available, thus bringing the chair designs in harmony with the table. We covered the seats of the chairs with moss, bark and twigs reinforcing the organic atmosphere of fine dining in a forest clearing.
For the most luxurious and opulent part of the table, I filled the chinaware and glassware with the finest Vanda and Phalaenopsis Orchids and Gloriosa heads in a wide range of colours, yellows, oranges, reds and pinks.
If anyone would like to enjoy more stunning floral designs and is able to escape to Belgium for a few days, this year's Alden Biesen FLEURAMOUR exhibit will run from Friday 25 to Monday 28 September 2015 (10 am - 6 pm) at the castle of Alden Biesen - Kasteelstraat 6, 3740 Bilzen (Belgium). Further information at: http://fleuramour.be/en/info/.
I hope these autumnal designs will inspire you to host a dinner party, decorate your home or office, or simply offer a gift with the wonderful flowers and arrangements this season has to offer, with our luxuriously organic and opulent Floral Couture.