17th June 2015
This week’s blog is about the Stoke on Trent literary festival flowers. The Literary festival took place on the 12th and 13th of June and was held at the Emma Bridgewater factory for its second year.
Arranging flowers is quite a quick business really – but if you’re picking them on scale where the blooms are flowering in self-sown habits, rather than in easily accessible garden rows, it can make the affair quite drawn out.
At present my main cutting garden is Matthew's meadow, otherwise known to almost everyone else as “the wasteland”! To most, it just looks like an off wild green belt within an urban landscape next to the factory. But to me, it is a meadow, a place and indeed a source of flowering beauty.
It may be without jumping deer or coveys of partridges, and there is no backdrop of fields and hedgerows beyond it, but it is still very much alive; if you were to spend just a few moments standing within it, you'd realise the amount of life such a space can support. The buzz of bees and flutter of butterflies is to be found here, as well as flocks of shamefully rare sparrows and even brightly plumed English parrot gold finches who flit in for the abundance of grass seed.
I've come to adore seeding grass over the past few weeks. I used Yorkshire Fog (Holcus lanatus) a lot for the literary festival as it looked great with the roses. These I picked from the factory walls. The old English roses are scented and win over a shop-bought rose hands down; alas, they don't have much of a vase life, but they kept looking good for the important 48 hours thanks to searing their stem ends in boiling water for 30 seconds.
When Matthew had the brilliant dream and vision to sow over the wasteland several years ago with wildflower seeds, the first season saw upon it a sea of colour. Today however, the grasses have thrived, and only the toughest of bloomers remain. This may be due to an absence of yellow rattle, a plant which controls the growth rate of grass and therefore allowing room for more delicate wildflowers to take hold.
There are still jewels to be found though, in plentiful enough groups to cut from – and in fact cutting them encourages more flowers. Of course I wouldn’t dream of cutting anything rare, like an orchid, but all the blooms are common such as Phacelia, Campion and Centurea.
Annual ethereal corn poppies are useless if cut, but those of the Oriental perennial sort are better and hold their flamenco-dress-like petals for at least a few days. On the meadow side is one such Oriental poppy with great whopping beacon-like red blooms. These meadow flowers go from being Cinderellas out in the field to princesses once cut and placed in the factory, and that’s perhaps what I like the most about using them for public display - it makes us notice the true beauty of our native flora.
I hope that everyone who visited over the literary festival weekend had a wonderful time.
With Very Best Wishes, Arthur Parkinson
17th June 2015