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The Christmas Post

There is snow on the ground and the smell of woodsmoke in the air. Yesterday we awoke to a blanket of snow in Buckinghamshire, so I (happily) ignored the unfinished tax return, pulled on my boots and head for my favourite spot when it snows. My local woods is a sight to behold; the towering evergreens bowing gracefully under the weight of the snow piled high on their branches. There is a stillness, a calming quiet, that snow brings. I sat hugging my knees on the windowsill the night before with the window thrown open, a ritual of sorts, watching it softly fall until I couldn’t feel my fingers. Snowfall has always brought me a deep sense of peace. I find it a calming presence, and a nod from nature to stop for a moment. It is always a joy to wake to snow around Christmas time but it can be rather stress inducing too as we all hurry around preparing for the celebrations. January is a good time for snow I have decided. There is breathing space for it, and it gently illuminates those darker, chilly mornings.

I wish to cast your mind back to the festivities however, not wanting the frills and frou frou of this December to pass by unmarked. I am very much one for traditions when it comes to Christmas. The advent calendar must be filled (and there must be a back up one for when I consume the original one in under half an hour in the studio in a stressed crazed frenzy), a particular winter garden candle lit ceremoniously every night, and I always need a Christmas dress. This years ruby red silky number went down a treat, and I’m quite sure I wore it every day from December 20th to Christmas Day. I did shower in between. I think.

My only communal carols sung this year were on Christmas morning at church, which saddens me slightly. I adore Christmas carols, they give me a Dickensian sense of excitement. Petticoats, bonnets and treasuring oranges kind of excitement. All very ‘Little Women’ really. A particular favourite this year, I choose a favourite each year, had to be ‘O Holy Night’. Calming and easy to sing, it was the perfect way to start those many, many early mornings in the studio.

So whilst dancing around buckets of rosemary, thyme, sage, pine and eucalyptus, I sang along to a lot of carols on Classic FM (badly) from early morning until evening, whilst whipping up wreaths, garlands, bouquets and everything in between. I consumed numerous nets of chocolate coins and I also entertained the morning birds and probably neighbours with a few renditions of Walking In the Air and East 17 ‘Stay Another Day’ on repeat. I would like to personally thank Aled Jones and the chaps from East 17 for keeping me going. I owe you shares in V&T.

I went to bed with moss in my hair and became rather famous for leaving a trail of leaves and a flurry of ribbon off cuts wherever I went. Dungarees have become my staple uniform at V&T, most helpful with their endless pockets perfect for storing scissors, twine and streams of silk ribbon for on site floraling. I now have quite the collection (making their debut most days on Instagram) and a dusky pink cord pair have been a winter favourite this year. Redundant lengths of velvet ribbon made the perfect hair tie many-a-time, when not being used to adorn gift bouquets or bind bridal bouquets. I sometimes wonder if I look more like an extra from Matilda than a florist, but I’d be lost without my multi-pocketed dungarees, especially when they harbour forgotten about chocolate coins.

The early mornings and late studio nights meant I saw far more winter darkness that I would have liked, and creeping out to the studio to the sound of birdsong with a steaming cup of tea and mince pie at 5.30am became my daily routine. It’s amazing how the dawn chorus can lift spirits at that hour, a little daily joy to start each day.

When I did finally get to rest my head, I found my mind jolting me awake at all hours of the night with ideas for wreaths, gift bouquets and the two winter weddings the week before Christmas. I was also honoured to be invited to one of my favourite spaces in Old Amersham, Su Chases, with friend and stylist Sundari Ferris to bring seasonal festive fare and floral styling tips to their Christmas Inspiration Day. It was a really wonderful way to begin the celebrations, and I would like to thank Su, Alex and her lovely team for welcoming both Sundari and I into their beautiful space with kind words, encouragement and endless mince pies. I would highly recommend popping in for a look if you are in the old town, it is a feast for the eyes.

For Emma & Tom, who tied the knot at Wasing Park, I brought armfuls of seasonal greenery into the beautiful St Nicholas church onsite, left long and sweeping and tied to the end of the pews with plump pink bows. A sea of ranunculus, rose, hydrangea, scabious and berries in a palette of blush, merlot and white dressed both the garden room and the castle barn at Wasing, with asymmetric wild urns spilling over onto the tables and floor standing meadows greeting guests, to a backdrop of flickering candlelight. Alongside an abundance of winter flowers, the bouquets featured a variety of different eucalyptus and the men’s buttonholes featured sprigs of home grown rosemary and thyme. Heavily scented and full of the bounty of winter; December weddings really can be something special.

A few days later, I was also honoured to dress the beautiful Hedsor House once again for Namita and Rich. A softer palette of blush and white prevailed, with hellebore, anemone and mimosa stealing the show. It was a truly beautiful December wedding, the soft romantic pinks sitting perfectly against the grand ceremony room at Hedsor, with its sparkling chandeliers and grand fireplaces at every turn. Namita walked towards her love on a carpet of rose petals, and they read their vows to one another in front of an urn bursting with seasonal blooms and foliage. Walking through to the Grand Ballroom, guests enjoyed silver antique urns filled with blush and white winter blooms, whilst the top table was adorned with a berried eucalyptus runner and dotted with clusters of bud vases.

I presented Namita with her bridal bouquet in one of the most beautiful bridal suites I have ever seen. I urge you, newly engaged couples, to take a look at Hedsor if you are looking for an exclusive venue to hire and stay at during your wedding celebrations. You won’t be disappointed, it is something special.

Satisfied that homes had been sufficiently floraled, weddings happily delivered and gift bouquets dropped off in secret locations so not to ruin the surprise come Christmas morning, I downed tools around lunchtime on Christmas Eve. Exhausted but happy. Aching hands but not finished quite yet. My own Christmas florals were yet to be created.

Christmas Eve has always been the most magical day of the Christmas festivities for me. The anticipation of the big day stirs up a childlike excitement, and Christmas Eve tea is usually my first chance to wholeheartedly enter into the festivities and truly switch off. I always do the Christmas Eve tea, this year opting for a grazing table affair complete with table forest (foliage runner) and an array of bud vases. Roses, lilac, anemone, paperwhites, scabious and ranunculus made the cut, arranged in single groupings at varying heights across the table. I may have gone a little overboard this year, with seemingly more flowers on the table than food, but I don’t think anyone noticed under the flicker of candlelight. A vanilla bundt cake made the centrepiece, dusted with icing sugar and adorned with my favourite spray roses, and drinks also received a floral flourish with a final sprinkle of rose petals. Yes the men in my life are incredibly tolerant, I do count myself lucky.

With each festive meal undergoing a fresh tablescape (self inflicted, I can’t help myself) we enjoyed a croissant breakfast on fresh white linen, dotted with snowball scabious and sweetly scented white lilac on Christmas morning. Red and white French linen napkins dressed plates, and festive tea was poured from the favourite teapot. It is never quite as leisurely as we would hope, as we are always in a desperate hurry not to be late for church (we fail abysmally every year) but very much enjoyed.

I went rather rogue for the Christmas Day table, choosing my favourite Icelandic poppies in apricot, blush, cerise and buttermilk yellow mixed in with those favourite spray roses of mine. Poppies were popped in individual vases, being the showy madams that they are, and dotted down the centre of the table with the spray rose and white dinner candles in sparkling gold candlesticks. It was unconventional, and I loved it. I have always been mesmerised by the poppy; their delicate parchment like petals and unique watercolour colourings are truly a thing of beauty. Being so big and blousy they are a force to be reckoned with en masse, but single stems at eye level really allow you to study each poppy and their individual character. A rather simple yet beautiful way to dress trestle style tables at a wedding feast too. Icelandic poppy loving brides be sure to drop me a hello.

The rest of the festivities passed in a blur of family celebrations, much needed rest, and a close friends wedding between Christmas and New Year. My gift for the newly weds was a wedding wreath, hung above the fireplace for their ceremony and enjoyed well into the new year I hear. I kept it simple, a calming balm after the decadence of Christmas, using seasonal foliage, posies of herbs and an asymmetric smattering of narcissi. Ribbons of pure white silk added the final flourish.

I returned home to the poppies still in perfect bloom, bringing some much needed colour to the typically grey start of the new year. It has been another very busy month, the busiest January to date in fact, with V&T flowers being asked to grace homes and special occasions, and remember lost loved ones. It is set to be another truly beautiful flower filled year ahead, I am already looking forward to sharing it with you…

Charlotte xx

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