Wednesday 12 June 2013

Rose alert: the winter sleep is finally lifting!

It is the first weekend in June – which used to be our annual Open Day date. This year it was postponed to June 15th, next weekend, and it still can't happen because of the weather, I am looking out at a sea of green with occasional white and pink splashes - hundreds of roses, but not thousands as there normally would be.

This has been such a frozen winter of discontent for all flowering plants, the roses have worn their Siberian overcoat for so many months now, I can barely remember what they should look and smell like in early summer.

But today our elegant pink Gertrude Jekyll roses have suddenly leaped into life, and we managed to send off hundreds, along with the magenta Mme Isaac Pereire and some beautiful ivories Iceberg, Mme Alfred Carriere, Mme Hardy grown against the walls. So, as always, thank you Gertrude! (see picture above).
Sadly we still don’t have enough colour in the beds to make a display for florists, so there will just be a small gathering of rosy friends by the lake instead, and I'll get them all to do a sun dance.

Earlier this week I should have been exhibiting roses and what some might call my arranging skills (country style) with friends - the brilliant floral designers Paula Pryke and Shane Connolly, at Guildford Cathedral, where Paula was putting on a show, sponsored by Waitrose, in the holy space. Her theme, for British-grown flowers, was a God-given rainbow, but so many of the English-grown plants were late she was struggling to find what she needed up to the eleventh hour and at the tenth hour, to my sorrow, I had to withdraw. I had hoped there would be enough lilac and cream roses (Twice in  Blue Moon are always the first to appear in the poly tunnel) to create part of Paula's rainbow, but I like to have abundant armfuls to work with, and by the first week in June, for the first time since I started to grow roses ten years ago - we simply did not have enough.

Walking along the barn beds and gardens earlier, there was a new and subtle scent in the air and I could see Mary Rose and Madame Isaac alongside a fence full of Gertrude, some Golden Celebration and Constance Spry is almost there, although practically nothing to see on the fields but the wonderful rugosas, trumpeting their white (Blanc de Blanc) and rich crimson (Roserie de la Haie) blooms, weaving their way through honeysuckle and clematis, swaying in the sharp cold winds which blew their petals like confetti across the lawns.

Despite this, the decision to postpone this weekend's rose day was inevitable, frustrating, but smart. Who would want a phalanx of furious florists wielding their secateurs with nothing to behead but me? Sorry dear flower lovers - it's a joke!

Now I am looking at specific orders and speculating on when to start regular London deliveries. There are old friends and loyal clients, events full of imagination - from weddings to parties to anniversary bouquets, requests which come in daily. I am keen to develop our connection to organic cooking and chefs. There is such a natural fusion between good food and good flowers. For people who cook divine ingredients will care about their flowers (like Hugh Fearnley-Whittinstall for instance whose mother is a landscape gardener). This style of cooking, often organic, usually British-grown, creates a 'look' and 'feel' with which we naturally combine. It means not just big houses, and elaborate weddings - although we do that too, but home dinner parties, natural delicacies, warm atmosphere, and the scent of the garden brought into even the most urban environment is something which really works. See below a simple arrangement of some of the first of our garden roses, Mme Alfred and Purple Tiger (the stripy one) on the kitchen table.

Coming up next is the Glemham Hall Vintage Wedding Fair  (Sunday 23rd June) in Suffolk, at which we will have a presence and on my team Flora will come down to model our vintage wedding dresses (decorated with roses of course) designed by Jane Bourvis, and Trisha (Oscar nominated, BAFTA-winning  set designer) to help me decorate the set.

Lots of people have asked to visit us even if there is no Open Day, so once we have our own rainbow of roses, in about ten days' time I forecast, all you have to do is pick up the telephone: 01206.273.565 and make a date!  Danae.

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