When floral designers Becca Stuart and Marion Parish of the Garden Gate Flower Company dropped in for a holiday visit on renowned garden designer Arne Maynard at his home at Allt-y-Bela in Monmouthshire, we decided to join their Festive Wreath and Table Centre Workshop.
And festive it was. Becca and Maz arrived in their trusty van, laden with branches, boughs, and berries to bejewel wreaths and create table decorations. With lingering mist in the valley and a winter chill in the December air, the atmosphere couldn’t have felt more wintery.
(N.B.: The Garden Gate Flower Company is creating wreaths for purchase throughout December; for more information, email Becca and Maz at [email protected]. Arne Maynard’s courses for 2017 are now available to book via his website.)
Photography by Britt Willoughby Dyer.
Above: As the workshop got under way, hazel and willow stems of all colors (the willow soaked to keep its suppleness), were gently teased into the circular shape that creates the bare bones of the wreath.
Above: Becca and Maz have a symbiotic relationship, always working together and each knowing when to step in with a moment of inspiration or creative touch. They complement each other in their artistic direction, and the results are always gentle and soothing to the eye.
Above: Each stem is individually maneuvered and tucked in, all going in the same direction to keep the structure in place. Becca explained that this was the most difficult part of the process as the willow can be very strong, occasionally setting itself free, which can quickly unravel all your hard work in seconds. Taking a firm hand and pushing those difficult stems into place securely will in turn create a nice strong base to work from.
Above: Willow comes in all sorts of colors; depending on your style and taste the wreath can benefit from leaving some areas without any flowers or foliage to allow the raw materials’ seasonal colors to shine through.
It’s surprising how many branches can be used in creating the base. The designers encouraged the workshop participants to create their own style (and less branches can be just as effective).
Above: With the wreath base complete, it was time to add floral decoration. Becca and Maz encouraged guests to regularly take a step back from their creation to see exactly where more could be added or even removed, to give a balanced overall effect.
Above: Wreaths can be filled with all kinds of embellishments, including both living and dried flowers, seed heads, and foliage.
Above: At this time of year the chilly, damp air can prolong all living flowers and foliage in a display and even when the flowers do start to fade, the effect of natural decay can be seen as part of the process and is one to be embraced.
Above: If natural decay isn’t the look you want to create, consider dried seed heads, grasses, and even pretty additions such as feathers, which can look stunning, as well as the finishing touches of a ribbon.
Wreaths created by The Garden Gate Flower Company are not just for the exterior of your front door, but could easily be placed on an internal door or even on a mantelpiece. And depending on the season and the materials, they can be a wonderful addition to your house all year round.
Above: The combination of red willow stems and mahonia, together with the ribbon, add just that little bit extra to your door. If you can be decadent enough and use quite a bit of ribbon, Becca and Maz encourage you to leave them long with the tails allowed to gently flow in the breeze.
Above: An inspired wreath using all dried material, the effect can be soft and ghostly, it can also be kept on show all year round.
Above: For decoration inside the house, the duo had brought with them some wonderful vessels to create tabletop arrangements and after a morning of being outside, the warmth of the studio for the afternoon session was welcomed by everyone.
Above: Guests were shown how to create a table decoration to suit any setting, with Becca and Maz working with asymmetrical flowers and foliage, one of their signature styles. Everyone set to work and as the vessels were water tight, it was possible to use living material in the display that would last for the duration of the Christmas season.
Above: The arrangements were each very individual to their creator and everyone was not only surprised but also thrilled with their results. Becca and Maz had achieved what they set out to do, pushing people outside their comfort zones to explore a way of floral decoration that they hadn’t tried before, resulting in some stunning displays ready to set the tone for Christmas.