Saturday, 11 July 2015

Corsage - really?

Here at the Country garden we spend most of our time growing and arranging flowers for weddings.
We get asked for all the usual things; bouquets, buttonholes, table arrangements and the less usual; arches, crowns and fairy wands but recently the most troubling item that we discuss with our brides are corsages!

Originally the word corsage referred to the bodice of a womans' dress and the French used the term 'bouquet de corsage' for flowers on the bodice and now the word 'corsage' has evolved to mean a small bunch of flowers worn on a womans' clothing, hair or body.

Many wedding couples like the idea of honouring the female members of the wedding party with a corsage just as the male party are given a buttonhole or boutonierre, and that is where the problems begin!!

Most of the male wedding party will, at least initially, be wearing a suit or kilt jacket meaning they normally have a single coloured, firm lapel to pin the buttonhole to. They also tend to be wearing the same colour jackets but even if not they are generally plain coloured. The ladies of the group will, on the contrary, have gone to some effort to ensure that they are all wearing different colours and styles. Many do not wear a jacket at all or it may be of a light material such as chiffon or silk. Pinning a corsage to that is the last thing they want. They have also probably bought outfits with differing colours so each corsage would have to be matched individually unlike the buttonholes which are generally of the ' same but slightly differing' variety.

So apart from the jacket where else is it possible to wear a corsage? The hair used to be popular but the fashion for striking hats and fascinators makes that a poor and generally unpopular choice. How about the handbag? - fine for a simple clutch with a strap but modern bags come in all shapes, textures and sizes - most not suitable for a corsage. The corsage also needs to be attached with a magnet meaning even more weight to the corsage and a very strong magnetic force on your bag - not a good idea. Handbags get left on the floor during meals and the corsage usually ends up damaged. Finally how about the wrist? Made popular in the USA for proms etc this is probably the worst of all options! Fresh flowers are fragile and the hands are active - flowers get knocked, bruised and torn. The corsage is irritating to wear particularly when eating and most get damaged and discarded. This is the only time I turn to silk flowers - no less annoying but much more durable!

So what is the answer - I don't really know - many couples present mothers and grandmas with a bouquet during the speeches while others spend a lot of time arranging for individual corsages for all who want/need them - finding out who is wearing what and who wants what takes effort when there are a lot of other things to do.

The call of the corsage does however remain strong so what do you think? What can we use instead of the corsage or are there some other clever ways to use it?



Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Choosing your wedding flowers - the budget!


Choosing wedding flowers is something that seems to divide engaged folk into two distinct camps; those who know exactly what they want and those that really have very little idea.
This is a series of blogs taking you through the process to try to ensure you get the flowers that you want.
One of the first things that needs to be decided is the budget. There is so much variation in the cost of flowers that the choice of the actual blooms impacts greatly on the cost of the arrangement. This year I have decorated candelabras with ivy and very few flowers for £25.00 and I have done fully decorated candelabras using dozens of flowers including dahlias, garden roses, astrantia and sweet peas for £125.00. It is so important to have an idea of what you expect to pay for your flowers before you go to discuss it with your florist. Most florists and flower growers are experts at making sure you get 'bang for your buck' and you should not be shy to discuss this.
Choosing flowers that are in season is an excellent start to ensuring that you get the most for your money. Peonies in season are absolutely glorious, out of season they are less so and about triple the cost - there is always something wonderful in season in British flowers - it makes sense to embrace that rather than insisting on expensive, out of season blooms. A clever florist or flower grower can always suggest a wonderful alternative that will help stick to your budget.
It is useful when considering the budget to have in your mind a list of absolute essentials - most folk would say bouquets, buttonholes and table flowers, and a secondary list of what you would like - ceremony flowers, extra buttonholes, floral crowns.... but it is important that these are your own priorities. I am currently working on a wedding with 22 buttonholes but no bridesmaids bouquets - your wedding is your own and you should never accept a 'package' unless your theme is actually 'generic wedding'!
I often think that the flowers at the reception are more important than the flowers at the ceremony - people stay for longer at the reception and it is more a reflection of the couples personalities than the ceremony venue. Also, at the ceremony, the focus is very much on the couple, the words that are being said and the vows they are taking. Although it is lovely to have flowers at the ceremony they are quickly left behind as guests move to the reception. It is entirely possible, of course, to re-use ceremony flowers at the reception. This is something that can really ease pressure on your budget but the logistics need to be carefully thought through. I find that florists and flower growers are masterful at innovative ways to use, move and re-use flowers. It makes not only economic sense but is also eco friendly and less wasteful.
In summary decide and stick to your budget, be realistic about how to get value for money and work with your florist to ensure you get what you want without breaking the bank.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Making cocktails is hard work

This week I have been making one of my favourite syrups - ginger vanilla.
We have been having some pretty unusual HOT weather here in Fife, and ginger vanilla syrup is a real favourite with sparkling water and plenty of ice. We have been sitting out most evenings with a glass of this in hand or pouring the syrup over vanilla ice cream.
I love everything about this syrup - the spicy ginger blends so well with the smoooooth vanilla. I even love the vanilla seeds floating about in it!
As we do though, we got to wondering if the syrup could be used in an alcoholic cocktail. We tried a few ideas out but quickly realised that, like our lavender syrup, ginger vanilla is a 'less is more' kind of thing so we whittled down the ingredients and settled on a ginger gin.

Recipe
2 parts cheap gin
1 part ginger vanilla syrup
1 part lemon juice

combine all the ingredients and then pour over ice.
I liked this in a martini glass with a twist of lemon peel.

We did try expensive gin but found too many flavours going on - so save your best gin and stick to the simplest you have - my kind of cocktail!

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Ramson season begins

Here in Fife the season for wild garlic or ramsons has begun. Ramsons are also known as bears or wood garlic and these names give the clues as to where this delicious wild harvest can be found. It grows best in the dappled shade of deciduous woods and around the shrubby edges of woodland; often interspersed with bluebells. If you cant find them or are not sure of the identity a good sniff will usually find them out.

The ramson is a member of the allium family and has endless uses in the kitchen including using the leaves wilted like spinach and making variations of pesto with a good hard cheese, pine nuts or walnuts.

All parts of the plant are edible in that they will not do any harm but the bulbs are very small and are not much used in the kitchen It should also be noted that it is illegal in the UK to dig up wild ramsons so be warned!

Luckily it is mainly the leaves that have the best flavour and are most useful in cooking. It is best to collect them as early as possible in the season, concentrating on the smaller younger leaves. I am experimenting this year with freezing some of the leaves - I use ramsons to make a wild ramson vinegar so any changes to the texture caused by freezing will not effect the outcome of the vinegar. I will let you know how the freezing experiment goes. The white flowers are also edible and are a wonderful garnish particularly on egg dishes - very little beats freshly scrambled eggs topped with ramson confetti unless it is an omelette with chopped, wild garlic leaves through it.

This recipe for ramson and walnut pesto is a slight variation on one taken from Denis Cotters book 'wild garlic, gooseberries and me';

100g young ramson leaves including stalks
75g walnut pieces
8tbsp good olive oil
salt and pepper - to taste
a good squeeze of lemon juice - again to taste

put ramsons, nuts and oil into food processor and blend to required consistency. Add seasoning and lemon juice to taste. Fabulous stirred through pasta or with lightly toasted pitta bread.

Enjoy the ramson season. As soon as the tree canopy fills out they will be gone (except for mine - safely tucked away in the freezer).





Thursday, 7 March 2013

spring is coming

I often think that I will have  nice quiet time during the winter months but it never seems to work out that way. I have been endlessly busy sowing seeds  - annuals, perennials and even some shrubs. Sowing them is such a nice job but the excitement when the first seeds start to appear is soon overshadowed by the endless task of pricking out. I am trying to keep to at least 150 per day - seems like a lot but they just keep coming and some days I have to spend all day frantically potting the faster growing ones. It is really time for a second sowing of some and for the less hardy annuals to be started off but I will just have to clear some space somewhere to put them all. The polytunnel is full, the small greenhouse is full, the dining room has no more space and I am gradually filling up the bedrooms. I am hopeful that we may be able to start planting out soon - perhaps under the long cloches that I bought last year.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Busy busy

Well what a busy time I have been having here at the country garden. We had an amazing Christmas season for all the right reasons! Sarah and I got busy early making wreaths from holly, silver pine, cones and plenty of berries from the garden. We have some very productive hollies in the garden in gold, silver and some covered in berries. I am always reluctant to deprive the birds by taking too many berries but this year the holly berries were so abundant that I was able to be generous in all the wreaths and swags that we made. As well as the front door decorations we made plenty of wreaths for indoors - some for advent candles and table decorations but I was very surprised by the number of cemetary sprays that I was asked to make.
Our other big project this winter has been to re-introduce our range of soaps. I have been making cold process soaps for many years developed from recipes written in my grandmothers notebooks. I use a lot of herbs and flowers from the garden and decided to trial these soaps at several Christmas fairs and what a success they were! I learned that pretty pale colours are the most popular - a buttery yellow honey soap and gently fragranced lavender soap were probably the biggest sellers. We also bagged up our lavender in a new range of sachets, dried oranges and cinnamon sticks for home decoration and made pretty hanging decorations from cones and berries.
As soon as Christmas was over it was back to completing the new range of garden inspired foods - fruit vinegars, finishing salts, flavoured sugars, herbal teas, syrups and cordials. We will use the same principles as we do for our cut flowers - seasonal products, low carbon and the minimum ingredients - no preservatives for us!

I will be putting all the new products onto the site over the next few days - a job I am not looking forward to - maybe some urgent weeding will take priority!

Friday, 28 September 2012

Oh dear I have not been a good blogger. I have been so busy in the garden that I rarely seem to get a moment of calm to sit and blog.

The beginning and end of the growing season in the country garden are such busy times. Up until last week I was still attending the farmers markets with cut flowers, but a couple of frosts combined with the wind and rain of the last couple of days have really put an end to the outdoor annuals. I did manage a last harvest for drying so hope to make some lovely dried flower wreaths.The main 'busyness' though is starting to prepare for next season. I have decide to use some of my goat/hen paddock for growing bulbs and shrubs so we have been clearing it and a huge roll of mypex has arrived so I need to up the pace and get it all planted up before the weather gets any worse. I have added a picture as it is now. Lets hope it looks a bit different shortly!!



In looking back I try to assess the best and worst flowers of the season so that I can decide what to grow next year, but is is also good to try something new and I have high hopes for these lovely anemones. I hope that they will be wonderful from April onwards and imagine them in beautiful posies or with scented narcissus.