This week I spent a day in the company of the super talented florist Millie Richardson as she explained some of the techniques she uses when working on a wedding. From start to finish, she made every step, every explanation so simple and easy to understand, that by the end even I thought (with my two left hands), I might be able to make some of beautiful creations she taught her workshop attendees!
Nestled away in the beautiful Cotswolds, our venue for the day was Lapstone Barn, a new and exclusive wedding venue for 2018 (more this amazing location in another blog). Arriving for coffee and a super friendly welcome, Millie’s five guests were soon set to work creating bouquets for brides or bridesmaids – handy for the two who have their own weddings this summer.
Millie initially gave a demonstration on how to ‘build’ a bouquet, creating a sample using predominantly English grown flowers that she sources from The flower Garden at Stokesay Court in Shropshire. She also had a few blooms from specialist Dutch growers to ensure that each bouquet contained the best flowers available. She also only works with seasonal flowers, adding lots of lovely smelling foliage such as Jasmine and Spirea and natural greenery from hedgerows including Beech and Birch.
Millie’s floristry is a very relaxed, loose style and although every stem used had its rightful place in the bouquet, nothing is forced. The end result is so natural to look at and yet the intricate work that goes into the ‘building process’ is more complicated!
Millie says: “I start with a focal flower and working anti-clockwise build the bouquet around it, rather than getting too hung up on a particular shape or design. As it grows, so it is easier to see the shape forming – particularly if you can work in front of a mirror; that really helps. A couple of other key points to bear in mind throughout the design and build are to work with odd numbers of flowers, try to establish and retain a spiral shape and before you finish make sure you have a front and a back.”
Once finished the bouquet is tied with natural soft wire to keep the stems secure and retain the shape, then finally beautiful satin, grosgrain, or velvet ribbon is tied around to cover the wire. Simple – takes about 30 minutes; although her tutees took a little longer to perfect their own. Interestingly, even though all the flowers at each table were the same, every bouquet was slightly different once created, showing the diversity flowers can give regardless of how they are worked.
A quick break for a scrummy lunch and the famous five were back to work – this time table decorations. With the increasing move away from floristry foam to secure flowers, Millie provided a small centre piece filled with chicken wire which she feels provides more rigidity for the flowers, but more importantly allows the flowers to drink, so once in situ (which could be as early as one or two days before the wedding), they don’t go over. As with the bouquet tuition, Millie gave a few pointers to the team from the simple “don’t add flowers dead centre” to the more obscure “think Dutch Masters in terms of shape and height”. Overall though the guidelines were totally logical, from not overcrowding, keeping to the odd number rule and work asymmetrically. The results were amazing and again, while working with the same basics, the finished table centres were all different in colour, size and shape.
Finally, Millie gave an intricate example of button hole, corsage and flower crown making from wiring and taping individual rose buds to creating perfect shapes, tying and adding ribbons. As with the other elements of the day, this appeared remarkably simple, but in reality, it’s one job that most florists will outsource first due to the fiddly nature of the job!
I know I for one would never make a florist, but Millie’s business is going from strength to strength with 2018, being her busiest year to date. She has always had a love of flowers and following her wedding in 2015, set about changing her career from a full-time marketeer of beautiful watches to being her own boss as a florist.
She trained with Judith Blacklock in London and initially combined a few weddings with her day job, before moving to Gloucestershire and setting up Millie Richardson Flowers. This year will see her provide flowers for weddings and events up and down the country as well as freelancing for other florists for some really exciting events.