At home flower arranging tends to stretch to plonking in a vase and that’s about it, luckily I quite like the plonked in a vase look! I think I may have been on a couple of workshops on Christmas table decorations and that’s about the sum of my flower arranging education! My mum used to do the church flowers so I must have absorbed a bit, though the main thing I remember her talking about is how easy it is to ‘lose’ the balance of a big flower arrangement. Despite this I rashly agreed to help with decorating the church for the wedding of my closest friends daughter. This was what I call a covid wedding, it was meant to be in May 2020, then May 2021, and now it was actually happening!
I was thinking of a few pew ends, so I did take a big gulp when she mentioned that her daughter wanted two arrangements in milk kits. They’re a farming family so they still had the old fashioned big milk churns (or kits) around the farm. Milk kits were going to be big arrangements, especially as they were to be viewed from all sides, I did warn her that it would take a lot of flowers to fill the kits! When we were at the Harrogate flower show we wandered round the floral art tent so I could get an idea of what they wanted.
The wedding was on Tuesday, so on the Sunday before we met at the family farm to make the pew ends. I’d raided my garden for foliage, especially eunonymous, osmanthus, and box. I’d wandered up the back lane too for some ivy and some cupressus and suddenly spotted the huge philadelphus bush on the back lane was in flower. Perfect! Philadelphus has creamy white good sized flowers which have a wonderful scent.
The bride had bought lots of silk roses which were wired into a spray and also some garland lengths too. Silk flowers have improved so much in the last few years, they made the job so much easier too. For the pew ends we basically made a hand tied bouquet mixing fresh foliage with the silk flowers. We also added a branch of philadelphus to each one. They were tied with a matt green ribbon as the bride didn’t want noticeable bows, she also wanted the cut ends hidden so we just added a sprig of box to cover them up. I had a team of four or five helpers, I don’t think anyone particularly had any flower arranging experience but we had a good production line going making ten pew ends plus a spare! This is one in place on the end of the oak pew on the day…
The church at Gargrave has a beautiful rood screen and the plan was to tie garlands to either side of the arch, so we tied little bunches of foliage to the silk flower garlands and added philadelphus too. We had four garlands and two double ended arrangements which we padded out with foliage the same way. After a few hours work we had everything prepared. My only concern was that I wasn’t sure how philadelphus was as a cut flower, would it last or would I find all the petals in a heap on the floor…
Monday morning I picked some more philadelphus for good measure, a phone call from the farm confirmed that the philadelphus from Sunday was still looking good! I also picked some solomons seal flowers from the garden as they are a nicely arching shape. In reality the flowers were well past their best but they are so tiny it wasn’t noticeable, it was the shape I wanted. We took everything down to the church and started decorating. We tied all the pew ends on, we had an arrangement for every other pew which looked lovely.
There had been a wedding at the church earlier in the week and some of their flowers were still in place, including an arch of ivy and a few roses over the rood screen. I realised that an arch would actually be easier to attach then the original plan of swags either side as we were already pondering how to attach them at the outer edge where the screen meets a stone pillar. After a brief discussion with the mother of the bride we went for a full floral arch, we left the original ivy up and just hung ours over it. It turned out the bride wanted an arch initially so we knew she would be delighted.
Here’s a photo of me and another helper starting to put the garlands up, the ivy and the odd roses on the left were the ones from the wedding before.
Having worked out how to arrange them I left the team to it and they did a wonderful job, here’s the finished arch…
All that was left was the two big arrangements, I deliberately left them till last as there was a coffee morning on in church, including one of the ladies who did the church flowers usually…I didn’t want an audience, especially someone who knew all about flower arranging!!
At the suggestion of the florist who supplied the flowers I did both arrangements at the same time, that was good advice as it meant they were balanced together. I did it flower by flower, dephiniums first, then the huge hydrangea heads, which were gorgeous but so big they almost didn’t look real! Next was the lisianthus, larkspur and the roses, some carnations and the solomon seal around the lower edge. I added the philadelphus branches to fill any gaps, especially at the back, although the flowers were to be viewed all the way round, in reality there was a front where the hydrangeas were.
Here’s me and the brides aunt as we started, it does show nicely how big these arrangements were! The arrangements were also to be transported to the reception venue where another two milk churns would be waiting, the brides father had attached some tape handles to the oasis container so they could be lifted out so I did have the foresight to position these handles directly above the milk kit handles so they could be easily located, you can just see them in the photo….
The flowers were a beautiful shade of creamy white and pale pink, very pretty. We added lots of foliage such as eucalyptus, I covered the back of the oasis with hosta leaves.
I think with big arrangements like this it’s hard to know when to stop, you can titivate and add stems for ever but you can end up losing the shape or the balance of the arrangement. Eventually I decided they were done. Here’s one of them on the day..
I was well chuffed with them, proud as punch! They were positioned either side of the aisle at the back of the pews so it made a nice entrance. The scent from the philadelphus was beautiful too. We suggested the bride came down that afternoon to see the flowers as on the day they become a blur, she loved them…
They still looked good on Tuesday morning when we arrived for the wedding and they received lots of compliments, they even survived being transported in the back of a van to the reception! We had a wonderful day, the church service was lovely, and the fifteenth century Tithe Barn at Bolton Abbey was a stunning venue for the reception…and of course the bride looked beautiful 🙂