Huw Morgan | 28 February 2020
When we last saw each other in October Flora and I had planned on her returning to Hillside in the very depths of winter to see what she could create with the skeletons of last year’s growth when there was hardly a flower to be seen in the garden. We pencilled in a late January date in the diary. However, I was taken ill after Christmas and was out of action until early February. This meant that the next available date for us to meet was at the end of last week, when the season was definitely starting to tip into spring.
Flora arrived on Thursday evening with her good friend Paul, who gardens with her at Westhill Farm. He has assisted Flora on the last two shoots here, cutting and conditioning flowers, organising and filling containers and clearing up afterwards, not to mention the laughter and banter. We could not have done any of them without his help. We were all up early on Friday morning, wary of the weather forecast with its warnings of another approaching storm. I had gathered some woody material – hazel, willow and cherry plum – from the hedgerows, woods and garden the previous day, and there was a wide selection of dead material in the tractor barn that I had saved from the garden before Christmas. After breakfast Flora and Paul took a tour of the garden to select the things that took their fancy to bring colour and a feeling of hope to the arrangement.
With storm clouds gathering and wind gusting erratically, and despite the fact that we had decided to make the arrangement under cover, the weather conditions were challenging. On more than one occasion the entire, and nearly completed, arrangement almost blew over. Fortunately Paul was quick off the mark and managed to catch it, preventing it from needing to be entirely remade. Just moments after I had taken the last shot of the finished arrangement a great easterly gust blew into the barn and sent everything flying. We all laughed and understood that the shoot was well and truly over.
Although it was testing working and photographing in these conditions it felt like a very authentic engagement with and recording of the reality of the season.
Flora Starkey | 28 February 2020
It is winter at Hillside and there’s a new quieter beauty in the garden. Again, I’m happy to be here on the cusp of the season as spring starts to show beneath the fallen grasses and branches that are bare of leaves.
The rains held oﬀ for a few hours on Friday morning, but the winds still blew. Huw and I decided it would be impossible to try and continue our series in front of our usual rusted barn background so we moved behind and into the inside corner of the barn. We both liked the light there and hoped we’d be more sheltered from the elements, but there were still times the wind caught us from the side – all adding to the fun.
I’d used ceramic and glass vessels in the summer and autumn arrangements and so this time I was drawn to the idea of metal. Speciﬁcally vases made from old mortar shell casings. I brought a small collection with me, including a bowl with a drilled lid gifted to me by my friend Paul. A remnant of World War 1 and life in the trenches. I like the idea of using ﬂowers to reﬂect, remember and bring beauty from the darkness. I guess it seemed especially ﬁtting for the season with the violets and primroses showing up and braving the end of winter.
Despite the fact that much of the garden was dormant, Huw cut some beautiful single ﬂowering Prunus from the border hedgerows. These, along with hanging hazel lambs’ tails and a few varieties of silvery, soft catkins formed the base of the shape. I especially loved the snowy delicacy of the Salix purpurea ‘Nancy Saunders’.
Some tall but delicate stems of rosemary and a twist of honeysuckle coming into leaf added some essential green. These were followed pretty quickly by a frame of dried beauties that Huw had saved for me last autumn – some wonderful silver stars of aster and rusty licorice seedheads. It has been interesting for me to recognise how important the dried elements from the season before have felt every time I’ve come here.
With the taller elements in place, I moved to the ﬂowers below the canopy – a single snip from several varieties of hellebore including a double black that I was particularly taken with. With the winds picking up again, it was time to focus on my favourite low lidded vase at the front. This held a tiny carpet of primroses, snowdrops, Cyclamen coum and a violet complete with leaves.
I had wondered how much of a challenge our winter arrangement would be. It might be that it’s my favourite yet.
Epimedium x versicolor ‘Sulphureum’
Eurybia x herveyi
Galanthus elwesii ‘Cedric’s Prolific’
Gladiolus papilio ‘Ruby’
Helleborus hybridus Double black
Helleborus hybridus Single black
Helleborus hybridus Single Dark Pink Spotted
Helleborus hybridus Single Green Picotee Shades Dark Nectaries
Helleborus hybridus Single white dark nectaries
Helleborus hybridus Single yellow spotted dark nectaries
Lonicera periclymenum ‘Graham Thomas’
Salix purpurea ‘Nancy Saunders’
Teucrium hircanicum ‘Paradise Delight’
Verbascum phoenicium ‘Violetta’
Photographs | Huw Morgan
Published 28 February 2020