The fabulous display of colours and textures in Autumn is a delight that soothes the nostalgia of the end of summer. As Halloween and Thanksgiving approach, Neill takes a look at the richness of our seasonal flowers, berries, foliage and gourds and the inspiration they offer to the floral designer.
Autumn has always been my favourite season. As a young child, it was mostly for the Halloween celebrations we had at home in Ireland! But as a floral designer, the seasonal plant material at this time of year is at its most abundant and most inspirational.
The flowers and foliage that our growers offer us in Autumn are incredible. Dahlias are at their finest, available in many bright and deep colours in varying shapes and varieties - and since recent years, some with massive heads larger than a grapefruit! Long trails of velvety Amaranthus; Roses, Orchids and Callas in autumnal shades, branches of autumn leaves in tints and tones of red, yellow and brown (Cotinus is one of my favourites)... But it is the berries and fruits that allow us to create floral designs so exceptionally rich in texture that make Autumn quite unique.
Of course, the most famous fruit of Autumn is the Gourd. There are many kinds of Gourds and it is believed they were among the world's first domesticated species, in Asia between 12,000 and 13,000 BC. Throughout history and in almost every culture, they have had a multitude of uses including food, kitchen tools, containers, toys and musical instruments as well as for decoration. Here are a few Gourds as displayed in the Belgravia boutique.
Pumpkins are part of the Gourd family, which brings us to Halloween. In Ireland, as we don't honour Guy Fawkes on November 5th, our Halloween celebrations have become lavish parties. Houses are decorated with cobwebs, bats and pumpkins with a bonfire and fireworks. This originally Celtic harvest celebration of summer's end and later Christian tradition of remembering the dead and warding off evil spirits has been celebrated in Ireland since Medieval times. October 31st was the one night in the year when the souls of the dead were believed to revisit their homes seeking hospitality and hence food was left for them in return for good fortune. This developed into people going from house-to-house disguised as the dead in scary costumes to frighten the evil spirits and reciting poetry or songs in exchange for food. Hence, the origin of trick-or-treeting. The popularity of Halloween grew in the U.S. due to the arrival of Irish immigrants in the 19th century.
We have a lot of American clients at the Belgravia boutique hosting Halloween parties for whom we decorate their dinner tables or create table arrangements. People also ask for Halloween arrangements as a gift. Over the past few years, I have noticed more and more of our British clients celebrating Halloween in a similarly festive fashion.
Clients will also offer one of our beautiful autumn couture hand-tied bouquets, as a gift for Halloween or for Thanksgiving.
For Thanksgiving, our American clients ask us for luxurious table displays and seasonal home styling. As this is not a religious holiday, many Americans celebrate the occasion more than they do Christmas giving us a chance to create sumptuous designs. Our Middle Eastern clients also celebrate with family gatherings at this time of year. Here are a few images of the autumn flowers and designs we create for Thanksgiving.
Autumn is also a season for beautiful plants which can make an exciting alternative to cut flower arrangements. Orchids, including the lovely trailing Cymbidium Orichids, Chili Pepper plants, Solarum with its orange berries, Aloe Vera and many more...
I hope all these images portray my immense esteem for the magnificence of Autumn with its glorious colours and wondrous textures. Should you share this feeling with me, please pop into the boutique so you can enjoy all these beauties in the flesh. And we can chat about creating designs for your Halloween or Thanksgiving party!