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Flower Power

TOAST talks winter florals and tablescapes with Rees & Co

Ever wondered how to make a standout wreath, put together a bouquet or add floral touches to an informal supper? Rees & Co’s Al Fagan downs tools to share the secrets of her trade



Sourcing, prepping and styling the flowers for your own wedding might sound like a busman’s holiday if your day job is in floristry, but for Al Fagan, founder of Rees & Co, putting together her wedding blooms was a relaxing rather than stressful experience.

“It kept me sane,” she says of the prep for her marriage earlier this year. "The secret lies in lots of advance planning. We married at my parents’ home in Ascot, so plenty of herbs, trees and garden cuttings were the order of the day. We all pitched in and potted up the herbs in a selection of vintage terracotta pots a week or two beforehand. It was a real family affair.”

Reese Co Blooms

This relaxed approach is in perfect synergy with Al’s signature style. 

My mother loves flowers, shrubs and plants and knows all their names,” reflects Al. “So from a young age, I followed suit. Later, working in events kick-started my interest, but I wanted to be more imaginative and les corporate, so setting up on my own felt like a natural step.”

These days, Al divides her time between the Battersea flat that she shares with her husband Ed and her Buckinghamshire studio where much of the prep takes places for larger events. But mostly, it’s Al, a trusty Land Rover Defender and her steal-the-show Parson Russell Terrier Dusty that get the job done, with a small team of freelancers on hand when needed. And even now, with her own business thriving, she still occasionally helps out other florists.

"The best experience you can have is on the job,” Al advises. “So I always take the opportunity to soak up as much creativity as possible. The other day, I was asked to create a floral hanging ceiling. I’ve never done it before, but if you are pushed out of your comfort zone, you’ll grow.”

Accordingly, there’s not much that fazes this florist and you’re as likely to find her creating a striking flower crown for a Land Rover wedding car, as you are to see her hosting a floral workshop in London. Early bird starts are second nature. “You get used to that 4am call in my job,” she says of her frequent pre-dawn visits to Covent Garden Flower Market. “But it’s a great leveller – I love finding myself standing next to a celebrated florist who’s also sourcing flowers there. It’s a very friendly industry – I freelanced for Pulbrook & Gould and John Carter Flowers and completed a course at Judith Blacklock; all of them generously passed on their experience.”

Wedding Car Rees Co

Her own inspiration comes from far and wide, whether the garden of her London home, trips to Melbourne, Australia, or the seasonal catwalk shows. “There’s a strong correlation between fashion and flowers,” she reflects. “Right now velvet is trending and that’s reflected in the bouquets I’m inspired to put together, which feature plenty of the deep blood red velvet Baccara roses this winter.” Al is also a fan of showy, vibrant Dahlias. Unfairly labelled as ‘garage flowers’ in recent years, these long suffering blooms are currently experiencing an overdue renaissance. Café au Lait varieties with their “cream- blush pillowy petals” are a favourite.

Roses Reese Co

Fortunately, the trend for undone, naturalistic blooms is a godsend for those of us wanting to recreate the look at home. And, according to Al, the first place to forage is the garden and local hedgerows. Her own backyard is planted up with species that can withstand the odd plunder, from copious herbs such as rosemary and lavender, which Al suggests weaving into bouquets for a scented, undone look, to variegated greenery, including Pittosporum which acts a great decorative filler. She also grows hydrangeas, tulips, daffodils and Lily of the Valley, best potted, to keep it in check. “I also love the ephemeral and wispy nature of Nigella or Love-in-a-mist,” says Al. “It makes a lovely addition to a vase of garden flowers.”

Wildflowers Reese Co

Reese Co Showtopper

Winter flowers and wreaths benefit from the spoils of the hedgerow too. “Don’t be afraid of bare branches,” suggests Al. “They bring a great sculptural quality to a display – if you live in the country or have a garden, just get out the secateurs.” Another tip is to weave odd numbers of flowers into your bouquet. “Work in threes, fives and sevens and the eye is less likely to form a circle or square out of the end result,” she advises. “You’ll create a more naturalistic arrangement.”

Christmas Scene Reese Co

Christmas Wreath Reese Co

At home, Al suggests massing blooms together, whether roses, eucalyptus, or dried hydrangea heads and branches treated to a blitz of silver spray paint. Most of all, it’s about thinking outside the box, evidenced by her own creations: buttonholes out of succulents, wreaths from crabapples and wedding arches fashioned from silver birch branches.

And which blooms grace her own table? “Anything I can get my hands on, and often spoils from projects I’ve just finished,” she says. “At the moment it’s a big bowl of blowsy Dahlias.” An enviable perk of the job.


Recreate Al's Beautiful Christmas Wreath Yourself with her Step by Step Guide:

  • You can either build your wreath from scratch, or begin with a ready-made frame of greenery and foliage from your local florist or garden centre.

  • To create from scratch, use a circular metal frame sourced either from a florist, craft shop or garden centre.

  • Pad out the frame with sphagnum moss and use a roll of wire to bind and hold it firmly in place. Don’t be afraid to pull the wire really tight as you want it to be very secure.

  • Once you’re confident that it’s sturdy, gather the foliage, greenery and decorations that you have chosen.  I like to use pine and spruce to start and then a mixture of eucalyptus leaves and pods, pine cones, branches of crabapples, dried oranges and walnuts.

  • Cover your moss base completely with greenery and foliage. The best way to secure each item is to individually wire each stem. To do this, take a length of wire, bend it in half to form a hairpin and hold the hairpin against the bottom of the stem. Take one of the hairpin legs and wrap it around both the other hairpin leg plus the stem to form a really tight bond. This can then be pushed through your moss wreath and secured at the tail end.

  • Once you have ‘greened up’ the moss wreath, repeat this with your chosen decorations. Walnuts may need a little bit of elbow grease and possibly a glue gun to secure the wire. 

  • Keep adding as many decorations as you fancy – Christmas is the perfect time to indulge. And finish it off with thick deep red velvet or wired edged ribbon.”

For more Information on Reese & Co, take a look at their listing on our Little Black Book, or see Al's website www.reesandco.co.uk 

 

Posted in Spotlight

by Emma J Page
on on 18 December 2016

 

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