My fascination with flowers didn't just come about because I liked to paint them or watch them grow, it was also because of their scent. I was lucky enough to grow up in a house with a dream garden, the dream I am referencing was in the flowers. Arrays of old David Austin rose climbers, damson blossom, entangled jasmine vines and a heady lilac tree. Those scents are so nostalgic to me and the element of nostalgia and storytelling is something I strive to put into my bridal bouquets and arrangements. My floral path if not floristry was going to be perfumery, so when Jo Malone approached me to come and host floral masterclasses to celebrate the launch of their new fragrance collection inspired by the liberal writers, poets and painters that made the Bloomsbury Set, it was a rather apt collaboration!
These 5 new fragrances are all so unique and tell stories evocative of the life and times the Bloomsbury Set led as they resided amongst bohemia and unconventionality at Charleston House in Sussex; Leather & Artemisia, Tobacco & Mandarin, Whiskey & Cedarwood, Garden Lilies and Blue Hyacinth.
Chasing an early sunrise to Covent Garden, I set about selecting arrays of seasonal, heavily fragrant blooms; abundant dusty mauve lilacs, tonal blue hyacinth, the largest Dutch parrot tulips veined with soft pinks and golden mustard, the sweetest-smelling tuberose, pale copper Butterfly ranunculus, jasmine vines, a new variety of dusty purple hellebore, intoxicating oriental trumpet lily and the deepest claret anemones with the beginnings of a blue ombré centre. Foliages were eucalyptus variations, whimsy fern, variegated ivy and blossoms. Foraged damson and cherry blossom branches were rife with berries and copper-tinged leaves. I wanted the palette to be unconfined, textured and an emulation of the painterly garden at Charleston House. The bohemian painted fireplace and oil paintings at Charleston ran a recurring colour theme of these potent hyacinth blues and muted coppers. The notes of sweet tuberose and jasmine gave a nod to the warmth of sunlit windows and garden sunsets.
The March sun descended on the Jo Malone store in Newbury and the masterclass set-up was ready, full to the brim with flowers and tumbling foliages for my guests to delve into. As we were on the weekend of Mothering Sunday, mothers, daughters, sisters and friends were amongst my guests for the day, who after spending the first 10 minutes discovering the stories and inspired scents behind the new fragrances, each received an introduction to the art of liberal floristry and a talk (and smell!) through the scented flowers they'd be choosing from for their own bouquets. I started the ladies off with a demonstration of a painterly hand-tied bouquet, layering rich and delicate tones, textures and scents. They then set to start collecting blooms and foliages for their own bouquets, as I reassured them to not confine their choice of flowers and colours, as we wanted to emulate a painter's garden. They took to their creations like a duck to water, working in a loose spiral formation and finishing with jasmine vines and ferns to give their bouquets a real garden feel.
Some of my guests had visited Charleston House, so we had a little photo slideshow midst chats about colour inspiration, style inspiration and of course our favourite fragrances...not just from the new Bloomsbury Set fragrances but their own favourite scents. It became a full-on sensory workshop. From the oohs and ahhs from the whiffs of tuberose and hyacinth, to the stories shared on nostalgic perfumes, it became one very transcendent afternoon.
Ladies had a choice of vintage gold velvets or stained ribbons to tie their bouquets and during the process they discussed thoughts of sun-lit windows or their favourite vases to home their bouquets. I brought along my favourite frosted swan vase to sit my demo bouquet in since it sat in my childhood home on my Mum's bedroom windowsill.
It was such a pleasure to collaborate with Jo Malone on this very fitting workshop. We are now looking forward to our next collaboration for the next set of floral-inspired fragrances!