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The flower shop

Our botanical guide

When it comes to creating the stems in our Flower Shop, we’re usually inspired by the traditional country house garden – think hydrangeas and spires of foxgloves, and that most quintessential of English flowers, the rose. But we’re also just as influenced by our native plants, and among our designs you’ll find branches and blossom from the hedgerows and woodland copses that dot our countryside. 

We’ve talked about the benefits of our life-like flowers and foliage before, as well as how to arrange them. But now we’d like to put the spotlight on the plants themselves, so you can learn more about their heritage, so you can feel confident if you’d like to grow them yourself, and so you can easily spot them when out and about. Read on for our botanical guide to every stem and twig in our collection...

Stems


Hellebore

Latin name Helleborus

Plant type Herbaceous perennials (sometimes with evergreen foliage)

Flowering season January to mid-spring

Common names for the hellebore include the Christmas rose and the Lenten rose, which gives some clue to how long it flowers for – it’s not unusual to have hellebores in the garden from the new year until late spring. They like a little shade (our native Helleborus foetidus can usually be found in woodland clearings) and white varieties are perfect for brightening up a gloomy corner, but they come in green and purple too. They’re part of the Ranunculaceae (buttercup) family, so are actually related to the Ranuncula we also have in our collection.

Hyacinth

Latin name Hyacinthus orientalis

Plant type Perennial bulbs

Flowering season March and April, but can flower earlier using the method of ‘forcing’

A bowl of white hyacinths at Christmas is just as possible as a garden full of them in early spring. That’s because you can ‘force’ them (by keeping them in a cool, dark place until green shoots appear) using bulbs that have been ‘prepared’ through heat treatments to make them flower earlier. Hyacinthus orientalis is one of three varieties of hyacinth in the Hyacinthus genus and it’s the one you’ll find in most gardens – not to be confused with the large number of other plants with ‘hyacinth’ in their common name, such as the grape hyacinth, Muscari.

Apple blossom

Latin name Malus

Plant type Deciduous trees

Flowering season Almost always in May

May means apple blossom. There might be fewer apple orchards around nowadays, but it’s still lovely to grow apples in your own garden for their late-spring flowers as well as the harvest that follows in September and October (and even later). More delicate than cherry blossom, each flower is around for just a couple of weeks. And while most (if not all) are pink or pink-tinged, there are a handful of cultivars with almost completely white blossom like our branch. Try growing ‘Cox’s Pomona’, which has crisp and juicy dessert apples, and ‘Duke of Devonshire’, with its slightly acidic but refreshing fruit. 

Anemone

Latin name Anemone

Plant type Herbaceous perennials

Flowering season Spring to autumn

Another member of the Ranunculaceae family, there are lots of different types of anemone, but they can be roughly divided into wood anemones, like Anemone nemorosa, and Japanese anemones, also known as Anemone x hybrid, which is what ours is most like. Japanese anemones tend to have bigger flowers (although you could never call an anemone showy), and flower from summer into autumn. To grow one like ours, try the cultivars ‘Honorine Jobert’ and ‘Andrea Atkinson’, which have white petals with a hint of pink and green. 

Ranuncula

Latin name Ranunculus asiaticus

Plant type Herbaceous perennials

Flowering season Early spring to early summer

You’ll probably have noticed that the Ranunculaceae family is a big one, but think of a ranunculus and you’ll no doubt picture a Persian buttercup (also known as Ranunculus asiaticus). When they flower is determined by when they’re planted – pop the tubers in in autumn and you’ll have blooms in March and April, plant them in spring and they can last into early summer. They generally come in shades of yellow, orange, pink and white, and have tightly packed petals similar to peonies and roses – so it’s not surprising then that they’re sometimes known as the rose of spring.

Snowball

Latin name Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’

Plant type Deciduous shrubs

Flowering season May to June

Snowball is the common name for the bush Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’. It’s a cultivar of our native guelder rose, which you can see growing in damp places like riverbanks and fens as well as in old hedgerows and woodland thickets. Unlike the guelder rose however, the snowball bush doesn’t produce fruit in the autumn and has much denser clusters of flowers that fade from pale green to white as they mature, hence its name.

Magnolia

Latin name Magnolia

Plant type Trees or shrubs, sometimes deciduous and sometimes evergreen

Flowering season Usually in spring

One of the reasons that magnolias are so dramatic is that they flower on mostly leafless branches at a time of year when there’s not much else around. That goes for the deciduous varieties (like ours) anyway; the evergreen ones, like Magnolia grandiflora, flower with their glossy leaves right through the summer. Plant-hunters brought the first plants to this country from the southern states of America, so it goes without saying that they like warm, sunny sites. Give them enough warmth and they’ll climb to astonishing heights.

English Rose

Latin name Rosa

Plant type Deciduous or semi-evergreen shrubs and climbers

Flowering season From early summer and well into autumn

Roses are, without a doubt, the perfect country house garden flower. There are thousands of cultivars, from shrubs for borders to ramblers that’ll scramble through trees and over houses. Their flowers also come in lots of shapes and sizes – there’s the delicate and simple dog rose, Rosa canina, that’s found in hedgerows, highly-scented Old Roses, and colourful Floribundas and Hybrid Teas. Lots of them will repeat flower too, so don’t be surprised if you’ve still got roses in the garden in October. If you’d like to grow something similar to our English Rose, try cultivars like the creamy-white ‘Claire Austin’ or deep pink ‘Royal Jubilee’ – both have masses of cupped petals.

Dahlia

Latin name Dahlia

Plant type Tuberous-rooted perennials

Flowering season Mid-summer to autumn

Dahlias come into their own as summer fades into autumn. They are to September and October (and even November) what roses are to June and July, their big, blowsy flowers lasting right up until the first frosts. They come in all shapes and sizes too: simple, understated flowers like ‘Bishop of Auckland’, in tight pom-poms like ‘Jowey Mirella’, or with dramatic, spiky blooms like ours (try ‘Café au Lait’ and ‘Penhill Watermelon’). They’ve got a bit of a reputation for being difficult to grow though. Unless you live in a warm area of the country and your soil’s not too waterlogged, you’ll need to lift the dahlia tubers up come winter and store them inside.

Peony

Latin name Paeonia

Plant type Herbaceous perennials or deciduous shrubs

Flowering season Mid-spring to early summer

There are two types of peony: tree peonies and herbaceous perennials, like ours. We know them for their large, cup-shaped blooms, some with bright yellow centres. In fact, the flowers are so big that you’ll probably need to stake the herbaceous ones so they don’t flop over. Herbaceous peonies also only flower for a short time, usually just in May and June, and they usually won’t re-flower if you cut them. If you’d like similar ones to ours in your garden though, you could try white-flowered ‘Duchesse de Nemours’ or ‘Lady Alexandra Duff’, which fades from blush pink to white.

Tulip

Latin name Tulipa

Plant type Perennial bulbs

Flowering season March to May

You’ll find all sorts of tulips out there, from Darwin and single tulips with their elegant, inwardly curving petals, to frilly-edged parrot tulips and the lily cultivars, which have petals that splay outwards. You can even get double tulips that have so many petals they look more like peonies. We’ve included four stems and two types of tulip in our bunch: three resemble a single tulip at various stages of blooming (although the one that’s still in bud, with its green-tinged petals, could also be a viridiflora), and the fourth is a parrot tulip. Pick cultivars like ‘Francoise’, ‘White Parrot’ or ‘Florosa’ (for that hint of green and pink), and pop them in the ground between October and December.

Lily

Latin name Lilium

Plant type Perennial bulbs

Flowering season June to August

Our Lily is based on an oriental hybrid lily, but you can also get varieties like the smaller ‘turkscap’ flowers (so called because of the way their petals curl back) and Asiatic hybrids, which are unscented but colourful. In fact, there are nine different ‘divisions’ of lily. What they do all have in common though are those large stamens full of pollen. In their native Japan, oriental lilies are actually grown as a vegetable (the bulb is the part that’s eaten), but in Britain we’ve only ever grown them for their flowers.

Hydrangea

Latin name Hydrangea

Plant type Perennial (sometimes evergreen) shrubs and climbers

Flowering season Any time from late spring onwards, but generally in late summer and autumn

Hydrangeas are split into two types: shrub hydrangeas and climbing ones. And then the shrubs can be divided into mopheads, lacecaps and panicles. Ours are mopheads, with their huge, dome-shaped clusters of flowers.

Hydrangeas are picky when it comes to their colour. The white and green varieties won’t change, but the pink and blue ones can swap between the two depending on the soil they’re grown in: blue in acidic conditions and pink in alkaline (or mauve in between).

Foxglove

Latin name Digitalis

Plant type Biennials or short-lived perennials

Flowering season Generally May to July, but some hybrids can flower into autumn

Think about typical cottage garden flowers and foxgloves usually come to mind. They self-sow freely (especially our native variety, Digitalis purpurea, which fills our forests and woodland in summer) and pollinating insects love them. There are lots of theories about the name ‘foxglove’, but the Latin name Digitalis comes from the way that the trumpet-shaped flowers resemble finger thimbles. Our Foxglove is most like Digitalis ‘Camelot Cream’ or the ‘Dalmatian’ hybrids, with their speckled flowers. 

Scabiosa

Latin name Scabiosa

Plant type Herbaceous perennials or annuals

Flowering season June to October

One look at a Scabiosa (or scabious) flower and you can see why they’re also often known as the pincushion flower. The centre is made up of lots of tiny florets that form a ‘cushion’ surrounded by much larger outer florets. These open out first, and then over the season the florets in the centre will open too, turning from green to whatever colour that cultivar is. Our Scabiosa is most like Scabiosa caucasica, with its large flower heads and mass of frilly petals. If you’d like to grow something similar in your garden (bees and butterflies love scabious flowers) then try the cultivars ‘Alba’ or ‘Perfection White’.

Gypsophila

Latin name Gypsophila

Plant type Annuals or perennials

Flowering season June to August

Think of gypsophila and you’ll probably picture a dainty, slightly fussy plant with clouds of white flowers (it’s also known as baby’s breath). We wanted our life-like stem to suit contemporary arrangements too though, so we opted for a ‘single’ variety. Its flowers are slightly larger than the tightly-balled ones of double forms, and more widely spaced, so it has a much airier look to it. In the garden, you can have the same thing if you plant any of the cultivars of Gypsophila elegans. They’re annuals, so are pretty easy to grow: just give them lots of drainage and cut them back after they’ve flowered to encourage them to bloom again that year.

We hand-paint each piece in our Flower Shop collection – from petals to leaves to stems and bark. We’ve found it’s the best way to get them looking as close to the real thing as possible. In fact, the only giveaway is when you go to smell them.

Twigs


Laurel

Latin name Prunus laurocerasus

Plant type Evergreen shrubs

The gardening world uses the name ‘laurel’ quite freely. You could be talking about either the bay tree, Laurus nobilis, or a few plants from the cherry family, such as the cherry laurel, Prunus laurocerasus, or the Portugal laurel, P. lusitanica. Our stem, with its dark green, glossy leaves is most like the cherry laurel. It’s an evergreen shrub that produces long spikes of small white flowers in spring, followed by cherry-shaped fruit that turns from red to black. It’s often used as a hedging plant because it grows bushy very quickly, but it’ll need to be kept in check as it can get unruly if you don’t prune it.

Skimmia

Latin name Skimmia

Plant type Evergreen shrubs and trees

In spring, skimmia bushes have clusters of white or pale-yellow flowers, which are followed by red fruit in autumn. Our stem is at the point just before it flowers, when tightly balled, green buds sit above glossy green leaves, making it perfect to use as an interesting foliage plant in an arrangement. You can get the same thing in the garden by planting the cultivar Skimmia x confusa ‘Kew Green’, which will hold onto these buds right through the winter before it eventually flowers in April.

Willow

Latin name Salix

Plant type Deciduous trees and shrubs

Left to their own devices, most varieties of willow will grow to full-size trees. But usually we coppice willow, which involves cutting them down to the ground to encourage many slender stems to grow from the base. It’s this, and its pliable stems, that has made willow (alongside hazel and sweet chestnut) so popular for weaving, be it into baskets, fences or plant supports. One of the easiest ways to use willow is simply by taking sticks with branching twigs at the top and pushing them into the ground, angled in towards each other, to create a natural wigwam for climbing plants such as sweet peas to ramble up.

Olive

Latin name Olea europaea

Plant type Evergreen trees

You’re much more likely find an olive tree in the Mediterranean than you are in Britain, of course. But, like lemons and figs, they’re something that we’ve embraced wholeheartedly, welcoming them into our gardens and orangeries. If you want to grow an olive in this country, you’re best off planting it in a pot. They’ll be fine with cold weather down to -10°C, but it’s good to have the option of bringing them inside over the worst of winter. They also need free-draining soil and a sunny spot. Given all these things there’s no reason you can’t have a bit of the Mediterranean in your own garden. Just don’t hold out on any fruit.

Pittosporum

Latin name Pittosporum

Plant type Evergreen or deciduous trees

You normally grow pittosporum for its foliage, which is usually evergreen, but it does have small flowers in spring and summer and fruit in autumn. It’s frost-hardy but likes a warmer site, so you’ll often find it in sheltered coastal gardens. The variegated forms – such as ours, which is just like Pittosporum eugenioides ‘Variegatum’ – especially like lots of sun.

Oak

Latin name Quercus

Plant type Deciduous trees

Some varieties of oak are evergreen but it’s the deciduous ones that we’re most familiar with in Britain, especially our two native species Quercus robur (English oak) and Q. petraea (sessile oak). We tend to imagine oaks as ancient and gnarled trees, and with good reason – they can live to be as old as 1,000. Oak is also one of our favourite timbers and we use it on our indoor pieces wherever the wood’s not painted. We love it because it feels classically British, it’s strong, it’s lovely to work with and it has an attractive grain.

For inspiration on how to put your new-found knowledge into practice creating bouquets for inside the home, take a look at our blog on flower arranging.


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