Rachel, from Green & Gorgeous is well known and respected in British cut flower growing circles and I had the pleasure of spending a day with many years ago at her flower farm in Oxfordshire.
What every cut flower grower wants to know is the specific varieties to plant that give beautiful but useable stems in productive and coverable colours, oh and when to cut the flowers so they reach their peak – e.g. in the hand of a bride as she walks down the aisle or in the floral tribute for a departed loved one that comforts and consoles.
I can say that this book answers these questions authoritatively. There is practical wisdom is every sentence, experience and a genuine knowledgable enthusiasm for growing that Rachel is keen to pass on.
Of course, the photographs in the book are stunning. You would expect nothing less from the talented Eva Nemeth who I have yet to meet. No mere coffee table images grace the pages though. Each image provides the reader with a view on shape and form and colour.
The sourcebook is one you see yourself being tucked up with over winter. A book to inspire both the dreams of a building your own cut flower growing beds while simultaneously giving the necessary practical tips for getting there. Oh, and let’s not forget a definitive plant directory of such depth that this could be the only book you’ll ever really need to grow your own great floral business.
What Rachel also understands is the need for different key floral ingredients to be available at any given seasonal moment. Both views on the specific design elements and then the advice given for creating the achingly beautiful and British aesthetic that is recognisably Rachel is both honest and heart warming.
The title of exceptional perennials and woody plants is a high bar to assert on the cover of any flower growing book particularly when using exclusively all British grown flowers and foliage. Like an effortless athlete though who has honed her both skill and craft, Rachel’s sourcebook more than meets the mark.
And there’s a lovely list of bulbs too.
There is none of that guessing what variety has been used in the arrangements, guarded in some books like secrets.
A shelter belt of fast growing wood cuts is what many of us desire as well as need with flower farms that grow in less than perfect conditions, i.e. all of them.
I can attest to the quality and hardiness of Taylors Clematis. You plant in hope rather than anticipation of resilience and are resoundingly and reassuringly proved to land on hope.
In fact, in writing this review, I am struck that new grower or old seasoned flower grower, forgive the pun, there is a wealth of knowledge that you know you can trust.
For florists, the floral arrangements are a master class in textured combinations of colour and shape and scale. Excellent advice is given on the all important care required to achieve optimal conditioning.
For one who has been trained in the critical art of scientific rigour and review, I feel almost duty bound to find some small aspect of the book that could be built upon. The picture on page 35 has sight of some plans that I find myself attempting to look under the page at. In a book that is intended to inspire and encourage a garden led approach, more garden plans such as the tantalising glimpse in this picture would have been great. There’s always a follow up book though Rachel ……
Rachel is foremost a grower with formidable flair for colour, and gives great advice on choosing a muse from your garden for your floral designs.
The only caveat when you rush to purchase this brilliant book is you’ll be hard pressed not to want to expand your own flower growing endeavours. The 128 plants listed in the book will have you running to the nearest stockists which Rachel also rather convieniently lists in the back for all of us growing in Great Britain.
This beautiful and basically brilliant sourcebook cannot be confined to these shores alone though. The book is nothing short of a total triumph. Can you tell I am a fan? Rush out an purchase a copy for your favourite floral friend, or for yourself. Within is the knowledge to save many an expensive mistake. Her advice to design and maintain a separate flower cutting area from the garden is a solid one. Another excellent piece of wisdom is the criteria she uses for trialling. Pretty much, every plant has to stand on its own in an exposed field and meet a very specific need, be that in colour, shape, texture, or all 3 ideally knowing Rachel. Hooray for research days visiting nursery’s indeed.
What I can say is currently reading Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury’s book on designing with plants, I can see where Rachel has gleened her philosopy of naturalistic vase arrangements. There is no line to my mind between the garden and floral designs, both of whose “arrangements” are inspired by the natural world.
And while we don’t all grow on to quote Rachel “beautiful silty loam, rich and almost stone free” that had her tempted to sign on the dotted line immediately after years of Cotswold brash, she does offer solutions to other situations.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have been gifted this book. The review and thoughts are my own however.
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