Riding my bike through parts of the Dutch countryside is a favorite, venturing out on the weekends for long rides, clocking in at 6 hours one Sunday. There isn’t always a final destination, but just choose which sandy road looks the most beautiful, has the nicest allee, a large farm in the distance, road that has a water course running parallel to it, etc. With the land being so flat, it’s easy to go for long periods, exploring the back roads that often cross through small towns and villages. When going through these villages, I’m always amazed to see the varied types of architecture from traditional, to more modern and how the gardens seem to embody the same character. Seeing so many I start to question why I like it, why I don’t, or what would I do different. I have plenty more of these photos but thought I would share these with you, as an extension of my love for our Tuesday’s Terrace series. They make me smile, laugh, and the occasional cringe too, but to see people put in such effort is enough for my applause. Any favorites, would love to hear? – James
There was a wonderful wedding here in Holland, she was a beautiful bride with a radiant smile and he an equally handsome groom with a sharp sense of humor, there was happiness and laughter all around. The ceremony was in Dutch and English, with delicious food and drink at the reception, and everyone got in some serious dance time with the amazing band that performed. It was a joyous time for all, for good reason.
It was my first time doing floral arrangements for a wedding and found the whole experience to be challenging but a wholly satisfying creative process. Most of the foliage and flowers were grown on and harvested from the estate, from which there was plenty to choose from. The church looked small from the outside, but upon entering, it was as if we had stepped into a jewel-box, with such colors and ornate details inside, we thought it best to keep the color schemes of the arrangements simple, to enhance rather than compete with the exquisite surroundings. We thought some large green and white arrangements would suit the church interior best, and took notice of some of the details on the walls too, which could come into play later.
Some of these details that stood out were the leaves and acorn ornamentation painted onto the columns.
Once back at the estate, we harvested young oak saplings (that needed to be thinned anyway) of Quercus robur, which surprisingly lasts well in water for a few days. We used these to connect with the oak leaves painted within the interior of the church. The edge of the woods were lit up with foxglove blooms so we harvested all the white ones, Digitalis alba, to add some major height to the arrangements. Mixed with the oak, they were simple, large, and very effective. To some of the other arrangements red dahlias were added to highlight the red used throughout the frames of the religious icons and triptychs in the church, again keeping within the simple color scheme chosen.
Table space was limited, partly due to large plates that were to be kept on the table as ‘dishes to pass’, as well as all the glasses and cutlery, so we found we were restricted and could not make many large arrangements. A solution to decorating the table was pressing some ferns, specifically Blechnum spicant, which was done a few weeks prior to the wedding, and running the dried fronds down the center of the tables. Blechnum spicant, which was harvested from the ‘Wild Garden’ on the estate pressed really well, holding its shape and color while adding that other dimension needed to the beautifully set tables.
The area where dinner was held is actually a large garage that was converted into a more welcoming space by hanging swags of fabric and ribbon while using a some large arrangements to help soften the space. In these tall but thin cylindrical vases, I squeezed as much as I could fit, not wanting to make too heavy of an arrangement, so I focused on height while keeping them light, airy and somewhat open. All materials were foraged from the garden and the estate which included Cornus alba ‘Aurea’, Astrantia major ‘Ruby Wedding’, Prunus branches from the kitchen garden (it was either us or the birds that harvested the cherries) and for height a variegated Miscanthus and reeds that grow alongside the moats.
Elsewhere, I used pear branches, heavy with young fruit, mixed with the scented Philadelphus coronarius, which were surrounded by pots of wild strawberry plants.
Some last minute arrangements thrown together, using more oak and peonies, a combination that I would like to try more of. It was an honor to be part of such a wedding and to do flowers for wonderful friends, and pleasurable to have acres of greens and flowers at your fingertips to choose from. It was so much fun thinking of ideas, trialling cut branches for longevity (Salix did not last at all, surprisingly, while Castanea sativa lasted really long, can you believe it?), and seeing everything come together as one hoped for. I only wish time slowed down during this day, so the joy and pleasure of the day could’ve been savored longer by all who attended.. Hope this finds you well my friend……. – James
Traditions regularly weave their way through our lives, being passed from one generation to another without written instruction, following what those have done for ages before us. Some of these we enjoy, others not so much. One beautiful Dutch tradition takes place on birthdays and is usually orchestrated by your immediate family members. On their birthday, the person is celebrated with their very own flower chair, when it is tradition that the family decorates a chair with seasonal flowers, paper streamers, paper flowers and balloons. It is customary in my friends’ family to use fresh flowers only, taken, of course, from their very own cutting garden. I had a hand in helping to continue this celebration once, first harvesting any blooms we wanted to use from the garden, keeping in mind to choose flowers that have longevity and that would not wilt immediately or stain clothing. To create the chair a base of grapevines, sans leaves, were weaved through the frame of the chair, which was used as the anchor for the rest of the blooms and foliage that were to follow. The more densely packed the chair became, the easier it was to insert more flowers, from annuals to perennials, grasses and foliage, we piled it on, barely leaving a place to sit. Once finished there was no denying the smiles this seat elicited from the birthday girl and the others in this wonderful Dutch celebration. Gelukkige verjaardag!