This Christmas, visitors will see Shakespeare's Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon like never before — filled with flowers fit for a traditional Tudor festive season.
Flowers for Winter features specially curated floral displays by Rachel Flowers, of March Hare Floral Design in Stratford-upon-Avon, and Carole Patilla, of Tuckshop Flowers in Birmingham. Their British winter blooms can be seen throughout the house where William Shakespeare was born and grew up, between 14 December, 2019 — 5 January, 2020.
Here, Rachel and Carole tell us a bit about themselves, and what inspired their designs that will help tell the story of Shakespeare's works, life and times.
Carole: I've been an obsessive gardener for many years, and in 2012 I decided to turn my back on teaching and turn my passion for growing flowers into my day job. I set up Tuckshop Flowers and focus on relaxed, natural flowers for weddings, events and funerals. I grow as many as I can in my garden and allotment. I also buy from other local growers who I’ve got to know through my work with Flowers from the Farm, an organisation set up to encourage small scale flower growing and to promote the use of seasonal British-grown flowers. I’m always looking for flowers, foliage and textural ingredients which reflect the seasons, and which offer a distinctive wiggle or evocative scent to add character to my work.
Rachel: I've always loved being creative and floristry has given me the opportunity to express this with flowers. My journey into the world of flowers followed a career in the NHS as a physiotherapist, and began with my initial training as a florist at Moreton Morrell College in Warwickshire. I work from my studio on the border of Warwickshire and Gloucestershire where I design garden-inspired floral arrangements and installations for events and weddings. Living and working in the beautiful Cotswolds' countryside is a constant source of inspiration, particularly with the changing seasons. I love to design with British flowers and always consider the environment and sustainability, and wherever possible I create all my designs without the use of floral foam (a non-biodegradable plastic product).
Carole: I was approached about being involved in Flowers for Winter after running a bouquet making workshop for the Trust's After Hours programme. I loved the Trust’s enthusiasm for the idea of a winter project using just British-grown ingredients.
Rachel: Modern day Christmas decorations could not be more different to the way in which a house was decorated in Tudor times. There were very few decorations at all during that time in history, apart from a kissing bough and yule log. This has meant that Carole and I have been able to get creative with the designs, as there are no traditions to follow!
Carole: This display will be different from my usual work, due to the conservation considerations of the historic building and its Collections. I usually work with fresh materials, so it’s been a fascinating challenge to identify and preserve potential ingredients throughout the growing seasons of spring and summer, and to think about how to incorporate these into the displays. I’ve learned, however, during the course of this project that peonies make the most fantastic dried flowers!
Rachel: During the 1970s and 1980s dried flowers were very popular and, as with most things, they are now slowly becoming more popular again for use in floral design. Our challenge has been sourcing a range of flowers since they are not mass produced in the UK, as they are in some parts of the world. It has been an enjoyable process sourcing from small British growers and drying a selection of flowers from my own small cottage garden. Dried lavender will be used as part of the displays as it was a popular medicinal herb in Tudor times; I've harvested most of it from my own garden and, as a unique twist, I've also acquired some grown on a roof-top garden in London that overlooks the site of Shakespeare’s Curtain theatre in Shoreditch, where Romeo and Juliet and Henry V were first performed.
'At Christmas I no more desire a rose than wish a snow in May’s new-fangled mirth; but like of each thing that in Season grows'— Love's Labour's Lost, Act 1, Scene 1
Carole: In a world where we increasingly need to think about the environmental impact of our consumer actions, Shakespeare’s view of flowers seems to be one we should all perhaps embrace, choosing to celebrate the best of what is growing naturally, rather than demanding the unseasonal, and thinking of flowers as only a colourful consumer commodity. I hope that the displays will encourage people to re-engage with the idea of seasonality in flowers, and to realise that the glorious moment when a flower reaches its peak is both brief and fleeting. I hope this display, which also reflects the current resurgence of interest in dried flower materials, will also persuade everyone that there is beauty to be found in all stages of a flower’s development, even into decay.
Rachel: To be a part of the Flowers of Winter exhibit is a wonderful opportunity to design floral installations in such an historic building for a diverse audience. And for visitors over the festive period it will be a chance to relish in the delights of this wonderful historic building, whilst enjoying the beauty of unique floral arrangements.
Flowers of Winter is part of the Christmas season of events at Shakespeare's Family Homes.