I was once chatting to a gardening friend who was in a bit of a tizz.
Her daughter had asked her to grow the flowers for her wedding. She probably thought how lovely it would be to involve everyone in the family in her big day: DJing by her brother, dad driving the limo, home-grown flowers by mum…
It’s the ultimate gardener’s nightmare.
I grow to a deadline myself from time to time, usually when I’ve got Gardener’s World mag coming over to do a photoshoot for an article or two. It is an appalling amount of pressure: you do what you think is going to work, several months in advance, then along comes the weather, or a large dog, or several slugs at once, and you have to start again, only this time with just two weeks to go. There is no wriggle room, no way out, no fudge (although I have been known to panic buy plug plants – not an option for a home-grown wedding).
My friend’s solution was sweet peas: lots and lots of sweet peas, all sown at monthly intervals to make sure there would be enough for the wedding itself. Her garden was nothing but sweet peas that year: they were on every fence, over every wall, in every container. You could barely get in the back gate.
It was a lovely wedding, of course: but if only she’d had Georgie Newbery’s new book.
Then she could have calmed down, for a start: Georgie has a lovely measured, practical way of going about things with minimal panic, borne of years of doing this sort of thing herself, every weekend in fact for about 50 weddings a year (now that is my idea of a nightmare… good job we’ve got people like Georgie around, really).
She would have known to include foliage from her garden as well as the sweet peas: she could have fallen back on berries, seed heads and wildflowers. She could also have treated herself to loads of new roses, dahlias, chrysanths and late-summer bulbs like nerines and schizostylis, all of which would have filled the garden with late-summer colour for years afterwards – a fitting reward for all that hard work and stress.
She could have used Georgie’s useful tips for sidestepping the inevitable disasters: cosmos, for example, just keeps flowering and goes with everything, so you can use it to replace anything that fails; and sowing a ‘spare’ tray of each variety from seed under cover as well as sowing direct.
And there are gorgeous photos of bouquets and posies with matching recipes so you don’t even have to worry about the fact that you’re no good at flower arranging. Plus a lot of good advice on general wedding matters: which side to wear a buttonhole, for example, or which side to put the bride’s family (slightly alarmingly, something to do with swords).
I have two daughters. They are, at the moment, reassuringly far from getting married, but no doubt the day will come. And then I no longer have to dread the bright smile and ‘it would be so lovely if you did the flowers, mum’ comment. I won’t worry, because I’ll have Georgie’s book: it will be, quite literally, my lifeline.
Grow Your Own Wedding Flowers by Georgie Newbery is published by Green Books.