Late summer wedding flowers

Have I mentioned that I’m getting married in a few weeks? Oh yes, I have. About six gazillion times.

summer wedding flowers
My dining room closely resembles a florists at the moment…

In a classic “how hard can it really be?” moment, I decided that it would be a good idea to arrange all my own wedding flowers. Actually, I had originally planned to grow them, transport them and arrange them myself, but the 60 white snap dragon plants that I’d been nurturing since spring all flowered six weeks ago, so that was the end of the grow-it-myself plan. Enter new plan: buy wholesale, drive to Shropshire and then arrange. Simple!

So on Wednesday this week, I set my alarm for 3.30am and cajoled my Mum into driving me to the new Covent Garden flower market in Vauxhall, to do a trial run of the wedding flower plans. My dining room currently resembles a florists shop, as you can see from the photo above…

Some of the stalls at the market will actually deliver if you’re based in London, so I won’t have to brave such a ridiculously early start two days before the wedding which is excellent news. (Huge bags to my cheekbones isn’t quite the fresh faced wedding look I’m after.)

But of course, I need to try out some plans for my bouquets, table flowers and buttonholes in advance. Firstly to make sure they work and secondly to figure out how many of each flower I’m going to need.

I’m a fan of British flowers, or at least flowers which have been grown in this country, so I really wanted to go for some seasonal blooms that look (almost) as if I might have grown them in my own garden.

I thought I’d share my finds with you, in case anyone else is looking for inspiration for flowers from late Summer too…

Poppy seed heads

poppy seed head

First up, these absolutely stunning poppy seed heads. Big, bold, architectural and interesting, I think I’m going to put a few in my bouquet and save some for table flowers as well. I’m also going to make sure I hold onto them afterwards and let the seeds ripen so I can hopefully collect them and sow them in my own garden.

Flowering mint

flowering mint

What more can you say about flowering mint? It’s mint, it smells beautiful. And the flowers are really delicate and cottage gardeny, which is my favourite sort of look…

Thistles

thistle

I love the spikiness and wildness of the thistles. Along with the gorgeous blue colour too. You may notice, there’s mostly a blue and white theme going on here.

Lisianthus

lisianthus

I have to admit, I know little about lisianthus, but I’m hoping that they’ll be able to stay out of water long enough to take a good central place in my bouquet. The colour on these is so vibrant it lifts the more muted blues and whites of the other flowers. But the thing I love even more is the spiralled purple and white of the closed buds. Gorgeous.

White snapdragons

snapdragon

Well, I had to have some white snapdragons. I adore these plants. When we were little, we always picked the flowers off and made them “talk”… I’m going to have some of these spiralling out of the bouquet as well as quite a few in the table arrangements as well.

Wax flowers

wax flower

These are not only beautiful, but the piney stems smell heavenly and they last for ages out of water. I’m using some sprays of these as buttonholes (along with lavender from my garden), quite a few will go into the bouquet and they will also go into the table jars. And even then, I’ll probably have armfuls of the stuff left over from the bunch I’m buying as you get a lot for your money!

Cabbages

cabbage

They’re cabbages. I love that.

Gentians

gentians

A really bright blue colour, these also seem slow to open their buds, which makes them perfect for keeping for a few days before they need to show off.

Chincherinchees

chincherinchee

Best flower name ever? Known as the star of the Bethlehem, this is white and green with dark black centres. I’d never come across it before, but it might be making it onto my list of top flowers ever… I’ll just be using one in the bouquet and probably will dedicate a few to the table arrangements as well.

I spent yesterday afternoon trying out different table arrangements, planning the buttonholes and practicing the bouquet. But this post is already super long, so I’ll save that for tomorrow…

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  • Once again, I’m counting this post as one of my photos of the day, too, since, hey, it does have some photos in. See more of my August break photos.

A photo a day: August 23rd

Thistle, flowering mint and stocks
Thistle, flowering mint and stocks

I’m half way through a big detailed post about all my wedding flowers, which I was planning on publishing today. But sitting down just now to finish it off, I discover I’ve got a fuzzy Friday evening head on, so the words don’t feel like coming out.

Instead, here is a little sneak peek of what’s to come. I apologise in advance for two days of flowers in a row…

Joining in with the August break.

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A photo a day: August 22nd

Hand stamped bags for wedding favours
Snacks for the road

Oh dear me, no photo for the day yesterday. I was absolutely determined that I was going to manage to post a picture every single day this month, but yesterday passed by in a blear of exhaustion as I’d got up at 3.30am to go to the New Covent Garden flower market for a trial of wedding flowers…

But more on that tomorrow.

Today, a little more wedmin. I spent the sproglet’s lunchtime nap today hand stamping these bags (above) to use as favours. They’ll be filled with either homemade fudge or homemade peppermint hearts, depending on how the sweet making trials pan out at the weekend.

They’re lying out on the dining room table drying off, surrounded by four buckets full of flowers. It’s all very jolly in there — or would be if I didn’t have the curtains closed and the door shut, in order to keep the flowers as healthy as possible.

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  • Take a look at the rest of my August break photos. (Sob, though there are only 20 others, not 21 as there should be…)

Blackberry and apple vodka recipe

…AKA a photo a day: August 19th…

Yesterday was all about jamming and chutneying. But even after making 10 jars of the blackberry and apple jam, we still had plenty left over.

With the rest of the blackberries, I decided to make a couple of bottles of fruit vodka.

Blackberry vodka
Oh this is a sight for sore eyes!

We have some seriously cheap, seriously nasty, seriously eye-watering bottles of vodka that have been sitting in our larder ever since my 30th birthday party nearly five years ago. I massively over-ordered on the booze, and for a while went through a phase of cooking everything in a vodka sauce (which is pretty tasty, actually) but somehow these two bottles had escaped that mania unscathed.

But they are much, much too vile to be drunk alone (I hasten to point out, for my birthday they were made into Moscow Mules, I didn’t just force all my friends to drink cheap and nasty vodka on its own) so the addition of some fruit is the perfect solution.

It’s a very simply recipe, based on sloe gin, but which can be adapted to vodka or pretty much any fruit as well.

Ingredients:

  • A litre bottle of gin or vodka, two thirds full
  • 200g of sugar
  • Approximately 300g of blackberries

What to do:

1. Pour the sugar into the bottle of vodka, using a funnel

2. Shake well (with the lid on, obviously) until the sugar is well dissolved

3. Stuff the fruit into the top until the bottle is completely full up. This was around 300g of blackberries in this case, but just keep on going until the bottle is full. Shake again.

4. Store in cool dark place. Check on it every few days or once a week for the first month or so and give it a good shake.

5. Leave it for at least three months before drinking. Ideally, you could leave it about two years for the flavours to really infuse the vodka. But, I should say, the very best sloe gin I ever drank was 21 years old.

blackberry vodka
It’s tempting to drink this straight away, it looks so utterly delicious, but one whiff of the cheap vodka inside put me off immediately… In a year, though, it’ll be a different story.

Other fruits:

You can use all sorts of other fruits (as well as substituting the vodka with gin, of course…) Keep the sugar / booze / fruit ratios the same, but any of these would work too:

  • Cherry vodka. I made some of this last year with the sparse crop from my new morello cherry tree. (18 cherries, if you’re wondering.) Cut the cherries in half and you can either leave the pip in or remove it. If you leave it in, it tastes a bit like almonds as well, which is actually very delicious. This definitely takes a while for the flavours to infuse though. We tested ours after eight months and it was quite unpleasant. Now, about 14 months later, it’s really good…
  • Sloe gin. This is the classic, of course. Prick the sloes all over before adding.  Sloes are ready to be harvested in Autumn time, so keep an eye out for them soon. The gin you make should be ready for drinking in time for Christmas, so this can be a perfect present.
  • Damson gin. Again, prick the damsons before adding to the gin.
  • Apple vodka. This was a new one for me, but I also made a bottle of it yesterday. I had some slightly unripe windfall apples in the garden, so I decided to try a bottle and see how it goes. If you’re still reading this blog in 18 months, I’ll give you the verdict! This is what they looked like before being mixed together:
apple vodka
I’ve got to say, I don’t think this looks hugely appealing right now. We’ll have to see whether it improves with age…

Tell me, do you have any other great fruit / booze combinations I should try?

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A photo a day: August 18th

Ah the overpowering scent of vinegar wafting through my house!

It’s everywhere: in my hair, my clothes, the freshly-washed laundry waiting to be folded… But it’s when you step into the kitchen that it really burns your eyes, bringing tears streaming down your cheeks.

Yes indeed, it’s my first pickling day of the year.

pumpkin chutney
Lovely vinegary, sugary pumpkins…

For some reason, I’d completely failed to eat two Abel & Cole pumpkins for so long that they were really past their best. So there was only one thing for it: pumpkin chutney.

I followed a recipe I found at the British Larder that adds some apples (for which I picked a few windfalls from our garden), raisins, plum tomatoes (I had none, so used a tin) and various delicious spices.

I’m a massive chutney lover and this looks like a good one. I’ll let you know how it tastes, when we crack open the first jar at the start of Winter…

Blackberry and apple jam
This is the jam down the barrel of the jar, so to speak…

Yesterday saw more preserving as well, with the blackberries we’d picked in the cemetery. I made up a batch of blackberry and apple jam, following a recipe from the Cottage Smallholder. I guess it’s somewhere between a jam and jelly, since it is sieved, like a jelly, to remove all the blackberry seeds, but, like jam, will be used on toast, not cold meats. The smell of this stuff was absolutely incredible, and I couldn’t resist opening a jar straight away, so I can report that it is really, really, really tasty.

blackberry and apple jam
Yeah, I like to keep my jams and chutneys out in the garden. Don’t you?

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about the fate of the rest of the blackberries. Advance notice. It involves lots of booze…

Joining in with the August Break.

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A photo a day: August 17th

We went blackberry picking this morning in Camberwell Old Cemetery. The cemetery is a two minute walk from our house and worth a visit as about a third of it is fantastically overgrown, with winding little lanes overhung with trees and a huge amount of brambles.

camberwell old cemetery
Just the perfect spot for a walk with the pram. Ahem

There’s something really romantic about the old graves, just peeping out through the foliage. When I go, I’d like my grave to end up looking like this one:

grave and blackberries
I’d like the snail as well.

Before the blackberry picking in the overgrown lanes, we walked the upkept cement paths first, in an attempt to get the baby off to sleep. I read the inscriptions on the gravestones, noticing especially those who’d died young, or very old, or at the age I am now.

Gravestone
Then again, maybe I’d like a gravestone with a huge statue on…

It’s sobering and yet somehow wonderfully beautiful to see the remains of all those lives, boiled down to one little sentence on a gravestone. I always enjoy the ones that say “To my darling husband” or “To my much loved Mum”… There are huge achievements you could reach in life, of course, writing books, becoming famous, making crucial scientific discoveries. And yet I rather feel that to be remembered as someone’s “beloved mother” or “adored wife” is a pinnacle that can’t be topped.

After these introspective musings, baby well asleep, we set off into the undergrowth and were rewarded for our bravery. We foraged a good kilo of blackberries, returning home an hour later covered in scratches, a few bites and with our hands stained purple.

Weed seeds
I did my bit to help the spread of the local weed population

The plans for these little beauties are some blackberry and apple jam / jelly (it’s used like a jam, but sieved like a jelly) and either some blackberry and apple leather or something similar to that. I’ll show you some pictures tomorrow, if they end up looking appealing.

Trug of blackberries
It’s ridiculously hard to photograph the blackberries together with any definition. Why is that?

This post is a double whammy, joining in with the August break and also being part of my Making the most of London series.

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A photo a day: August 16th

A wedding reading

Poetry books
A year’s worth of reading here… (The Lowell is my favourite)

Many moons ago, I did an MA in Modern and Contemporary Poetry. (I know, it just sounds like one of those qualifications that absolutely leads to a job the minute you leave university, doesn’t it?)

Last night, I had all of these glorious books back out again, scouring them for the perfect second reading for our wedding.

We already have one poem planned and after a few joyful hours reacquainting myself with some of these poets, I couldn’t find a second poem that complements our first one and wasn’t either too sappy or too bleak.

But then, the books still strewn around the room, I found a perfect Darwin quote on an internet search.

Poetry books
They make the covers of poetry books nicer than the covers of normal books, don’t they?

My fiancé is an enthusiastic hobby naturalist, so an extract from Charles Darwin’s diaries is particularly apposite. Plus, who could resist this quote?

Deciding whether or not to propose to his cousin, Darwin drew up a list of pros and cons for marriage:

(Anyone reading this who is also coming to my wedding, please look away now!)

“This is the Question:

Marry

Children — (if it Please God) — Constant companion, (& friend in old age) who will feel interested in one, — object to be beloved & played with. — — better than a dog anyhow. —

Home, & someone to take care of house — Charms of music & female chit-chat. — These things good for one’s health. — but terrible loss of time. —

My God, it is intolerable to think of spending ones whole life, like a neuter bee, working, working, & nothing after all. — No, no won’t do. — Imagine living all one’s day solitarily in smoky dirty London House.—

Only picture to yourself a nice soft wife on a sofa with good fire, & books & music perhaps — Compare this vision with the dingy reality of Grt. Marlbro’ St.

Marry—Marry—Marry Q.E.D.,

Not Marry

Freedom to go where one liked— choice of Society  & little of it. — Conversation of clever men at clubs—

Not forced to visit relatives, & to bend in every trifle.— to have the expense & anxiety of children— perhaps quarelling—

Loss of time. — cannot read in the Evenings— fatness & idleness— Anxiety &
responsibility— less money for books &c— if many children forced to gain one’s bread.— (But then it is very bad for ones health to work too much)

Perhaps my wife wont like London; then the sentence is banishment & degradation into indolent, idle fool —”

The dog! The loss of time! The wish to read in the evenings! The banishment from London turning him into an indolent fool! This has to be the greatest wedding reading ever written…

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A photo a day: August 15th

Cucamelons and radishes
Cucamelons and a couple of radishes that were made into a delicious salad last night

For those who remember the sad story of the asparagus pea (I’ve heard talk of support groups being set up around the country to help gardeners deal with the crushing disappointment of an asparagus pea crop), I bring you cheerful news.

These amazing cucamelons, in the photo above, were started from seed at the same time and have been a huge success.

For a start, these weird little vegetables (fruits?) look gorgeous. As promised on the packet, they really do look like tiny little grape-sized watermelons. Secondly, and arguably more importantly, they also taste gorgeous. Mostly like cucumber, but with a definite suggestion of something a little sweeter and more fruity.

I also think they’re going to give a reasonable crop. I’ve got seven plants and I would guess that the amount you see in the bowl above is probably going to be a quarter, or even less, of the overall harvest.

And it’s worth mentioning how easy they’ve been to grow and how little care they’ve needed. They’ve cheerfully colonised the greenhouse and are growing cheek by jowl with the tomatoes, both plants seeming perfectly happy with the arrangement.

So anyone on the look out for some unusual veg to grow next year: I heartily recommend the mighty cucamelon.

Joining in with the August break, a photo a day for the whole of the month.

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A photo a day: August 14th

rhubarb syrup bottle
Gloriously pink

On holiday in Rye two weeks ago, we had supper one night at the Ship Inn.

Because we were on holiday, I treated myself to one of the delicious-sounding but outrageously expensive cocktails.*

After a long, serious study of the cocktail menu and a weighing up on the pros and cons of various appealing options, I settled for the rhubarb martini. And boy was I glad I did.

I absolutely love rhubarb, but had never before come across the genius idea of combining it with alcohol.

In a moment of pleasing synchronicity, a few days later I saw this rhubarb mojito recipe on the ever-wonderfully-written Decorator’s Notebook blog.

So, armed with some of the rhubarb that grows prolifically in my garden, I decided to make up some of the rhubarb syrup, so I could add it to gin, vodka or perhaps just some lemonade.

It’s the most fabulous colour, isn’t it? Here’s another picture of the whole bottle glinting away in the morning sunlight:

rhubarb cordial
The only difficulty will be rationing the bottle…

Joining in with the August Break.

*To be fair to the Ship Inn, it’s not that their cocktails are particularly expensive cocktails, rather that I can never quite get over spending £8 for one single drink, when I would never spend more than that on a whole bottle of wine from the supermarket.

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