We are in the midst of British Flowers Week, the busiest week in the Garden Museum calendar! Our annual exhibition in partnership with New Covent Garden Flower Market celebrates the beauty and variety of British-grown flowers, as well as the immense talent in floral design flourishing nationwide.
This year we were delighted to welcome HRH The Duchess of Cornwall to officially open the exhibition on Thursday 10 June. Floral designer Shane Connolly led The Duchess of Cornwall around all five interactive installations, which this year explore the theme of ‘healing’. Connolly was awarded a Royal Warrant of Appointment to HRH The Prince of Wales in 2006 and to HM The Queen in 2015, and is curator of the Garden Museum’s current exhibition Constance Spry and the Fashion for Flowers.
The Duchess enjoyed a tour of the installations by our five fabulous florists – Cyrill Tronchet, Hazel Gardiner, JamJar Flowers, Simon Lycett and Tattie Rose; before touring our Constance Spry exhibition and stopping by a plant science lesson with local students from Notre Dame Roman Catholic Girls’ School in our Clore Learning Space.
For those of you who aren’t able to visit the Garden Museum this week to see (and smell!) our floral world for yourself, the florists have shared the inspirations behind their installations:
Cyrill Tronchet: Floral Colour Therapy
The inspiration for this colourful floral installation is the idea that immersing ourselves in nature, can activate our inner healing process.
Panels of flowers make up the octagonal structure, each filled with a different-coloured selection of British-grown flowers and foliage. With a gentle touch, the structure begins to spin. As it rotates, the visitor is immersed in the carousel of colours, textures and scents, losing themselves in nature’s variety.
It was very important for me to ensure that visitors are able to activate the movement themselves; a choice to start the healing process. Some flowers, like some colours, make us feel good, they bring us memories, joy or just a sense of positivity. Through this floral colour therapy, you can choose the colour that inspires you, comforts you, engrossed as you wait for it to spin around again.
This three-metre tall spinning floral installation will be visible from anywhere you are within the Garden Museum. From across the room, the rotating colourful stripes of blooms will catch your eye, stirring your inner serenity.
Ensuring the long-term sustainability of the structure was an integral part of the creative process. Each panel is detachable and can be reused and re-imagined for events and floral installations in the future. Similarly, the test tubes, implanted behind the panels to hydrate the flowers, will most definitely continue to be reused for a plethora of events to come.
As a survivor of cancer, and someone who strongly believes in the capacity of the botanical world to heal, my installation is a personal homage to the soothing power of colour and nature. Tree trunks have always been a symbol of strength and resilience so I have chosen to create a tree design in a positive, restorative palette. Those experiencing anxiety or stress are often told to visualise themselves rooted to the ground to feel the earth supporting us. These are tools I use to be present in nature and to remind myself of its calming effect.
It is widely believed that experiencing the outdoors reduces stress hormones and calms the nervous system. Indeed the Japanese have a term, shinrin-yoku, which translates as forest bathing and is a form of nature as mindful therapy. I’m hoping to help bring this ideology into the Garden Museum with my design. Part of the museum building is a deconsecrated church and this is also part of the inspiration behind my piece. People would have visited the building looking for comfort and a place for quiet contemplation.
I also wanted to amplify this idea of community and togetherness by including an interactive element. Visitors will be able to write their wishes for themselves, or others, on paper tags and are invited to hang these on to the tree’s branches. The installation will grow as the week progresses as people take a moment, after a tumultuous year, to think about the future.
My work often mixes materials by using dried, fresh elements and plants. The flower choices will be informed by varieties that create movement and depth, playing with height and texture. Stimulating the senses is an important element in all of my work. These layers of preserved and seasonal flowers will work together to create an otherworldly setting.
While the world is still asleep and the first birdsong pierces the still of the night, we invite you to rise with us at dawn and come to find the place we have created for you. Sit with us a while in sublime, surreal nature. Here is a chance to breathe and heal.
Last year we found ourselves in a nightmare from which it was impossible to wake. Masked faces loomed expressionless in the almost deserted streets. Our city was silent. Caged in our homes, we stared at the hopeless screen that connected us and divided us. Deep in our trauma every piece of news was another assault. No one could touch us. We were isolated, quarantined, afraid.
We have dreamed this field of peonies for you, with the air filled with a dawn chorus captured deep in the countryside on Midsummers Day 2020. Imagine how you might sit here for a long time and let the peonies show you their brief magic. They will be changing all the time you see, imperceptibly loosening their tight structured buds and opening up until they show their hearts to you. Their colour softening as they move so very slowly toward the moment when the petals fall and they will be over. Life is short but it is so very beautiful.
Ever since the age of seven, having visited the local Horticultural & Allotment Society Annual Show in my home town of Warwick, I have wanted to spend my time amongst flowers and plants. Now over 45 years later, and having worked all my life as a florist, I still find solace and serenity within my garden.
The past 15 months or so have been very challenging for us all, and working as an Events-based florist, when the pandemic hit in March 2020, all work ceased. Shortly afterwards the realisation that my working life, as a florist, was going to either cease for ever more, or be put on hold for a considerable period was a very difficult concept to accept.
For the Garden Museum – British Flowers Week “Healing” – I have re-created a little vignette of my garden at home which truly was a healing place of sanctuary for me during the hell of 2020 and continues so to be. I have brought some vintage buckets, wash tubs and terracotta pots as well as a chair from my garden to the Museum and within them I transplanted an assortment of flowering British plants, all grown specifically: some by me and some by a Flowers From The Farm member based less than 50 miles from the Garden Museum. Many of the plants and flowers I feature have healing and health-giving properties and some have “healing” meanings and symbolism.
The entire installation is set within, and in areas spill from, a 6ft x 6ft x 6ft open sided cube, created in rough raw unfinished steel, some of it entangled with naked branches, representative of the harsh reality of the world last summer from which my garden became my refuge and my healing happy place.
I think it is safe to say that whilst we have all slowed down over the last year or so and grown in many ways, this strange time has of course caused much pain and suffering.
I have made an installation choosing plants and flowers that have been used throughout history for healing and medicinal purposes. Many of the flowers I chose have been concocted into potions, ointments, syrups, aromatherapy oils and poultices for the body, but these ingredients and the setting they grow in are also an integral part of soothing the soul and calming the mind.
Over the last 18 months we have found salvation in the outdoors and our open spaces, gardens, parks and forests and I wanted to bring the feeling of this to the Garden Museum. My installation has parts of a meadow laced with medicinal flowers, it has pools of water to cleanse and rest by and a tunnel of woodland ingredients to transport you to the wild forests and woodland of this wonderful country.