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25 February 2013

Hand of the Buddha

This week when I visited a friend she presented me with a present from her garden, unlike anything I have seen before, hard to believe that it comes from the Citrus family. Is is nicknamed The Buddha´s Hand or Fingered Citron (Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis).

This buddha’s hand is one of the oldest citrus in the world and oddly enough, has no juice or pulp. The citron family of citrus fruits normally have very little juice and the buddha’s hand is part of this unique category of citrus.  What Citrons lack in juice, their rinds make up in powerful fragrance. They’re superbly aromatic with concentrated lemon citrus smells. I looked up on-line and there are various recipes you can use this in, basically for a recipe that requires lemon zest and then I happened upon a Vodka one, very simple in that you slice the Citron open into strips, remove as much of the pith as possilbe, put in a jar and cover with Vodka and leave for 30 days, after which time you have a wonderful infused Vodka ready for cocktails! Not wanting to venture away from my “floral design” column into Cookery or Garden I then thought what I could do with this interesting spectacle...

So I have cut lots of wild Rosemary which is flowering in abundance at the moment, some flowering lavender, lemons and mandarins.

Find a wooden platter and using some oasis soaked in water will help the arrangment to last longer (rather than simply placing the herbs/foliage on the platter, which you could do if you only wanted it for an evening).

To secure the Buddha´s hand into the centre of the arrangement I have taken a wooden skewer and pushed it up into the middle of the Citron, leaving the end to be placed into the oasis, now it is quite stable

Then place the mandarins and lemons into the platter. I always like to group the flowers or fruit together as it gives a more natural look, as if they were growing.

Add the Rosemary, pushing the stems into the oasis inbetween the fruit and around the back.

Fill the rest of the oasis with Lavender. Here I have deliberately kept it long so that it will flow over the edge of the platter. The Buddha´s hand is reaching over one way and the Lavender spilling over in the other direction.

 If only we had smell-o-vision here – the heady scent of Lavender and Lemon is delicious – a platter good enough to eat!

Having had flower shops in London for many years and hardly ever seeing fruit and flowers growing in my close environment (other than in my garden) it is one of the joys I find of being here in Mallorca. Living in the countryside and daily walks with the dogs have opened my eyes to a wealth and abundance of different flowering shrubs and foliages. Certain days I do miss the freedom that I had with busy shops with discerning clients who were constantly looking for the latest trend or style in flowers and I would, therefore, order from Holland a complete array of exotic blooms to sell. Holland is the largest importer of flowers as well as exporters, so the flowers would have originated from all corners of the world.

Regularly, I would order in a flower called Chocolate Cosmos, (Cosmos astrosanguineus) which is a little dark red/brown coloured flower, that actually smells of Chocolate and I would place them in a little pot by the till and challenge customers to tell me what they smelt of – we rarely sold any as they were rather expensive, but would add to the shoppers experience of coming into our shop!

Of course I still import a lot of my flowers from Holland for our weddings, event, yacht and many clients, but at this time of the year, when all is a little quieter, I do enjoy foraging around to see what I can find and thinking what I can make when presented with a gift as unusual as the Buddha´s Hand!

Enjoy your Fabulous Flowers for this week

13 February 2013

ROMANCE AND ROSES... Valentine´s Day!
This is one of the times of year that it strikes me the most how different my professional life here in Mallorca is, compared to my London days.  The dawning of Valentine's Day when I owned three flower shops in London, was a time of lots of planning.  I would have to double our staff for a three day period, hunting down available free-lance florists who weren't looking for exorbitant pay, finding drivers who knew London well, whilst also being able to handle flowers with care.  The ordering was also a task to keep me awake for many a night - if you over buy and are left with Roses, your profit is gone.  Would people opt for white or pink instead of the traditional red Roses, would the discerning customer steer away from Roses altogether?  Once the buying was calculated, orders would starting rolling in, either over the counter or by telephone with some clients leaving cryptic messages and swearing us to anonymity and even over the years a few marriage proposals.  Bows would be made up of many evening at home, whilst watching the television. 

Once the flowers arrived at our doors the dreaded task of conditioning the Roses would commence...  We actually invested in a de-thorning and Rose striping machine, which had rubber spiked cogs, electrically charged that you pushed a few stems of Roses into - a certain amount of muscle power was needed no to let the whole stem, head and all, be sucked into the whirring cogs.  For a few thousand red Roses and a hundreds of other coloured Roses this job would take many hours. Stems would be cut and placed in buckets of fresh water, which rubber bands tied around 6 and 12 stems for ease of eventually making up the bouquets. 

Usually on the 13th February I would work through the night, with a team of florists who may leave at 10pm only to return at 5am.  Security guards would protect the stock overnight as a few of the shops were on main-line stations and there was simply not enough storage space to put away the flowers.  Drivers would arrive at 8am and be separated into areas, north, east, south, west or central London.  Extra care being taken to attach Valentine helium balloons, chocolates or teddy bears to bouquets as ordered and even the odd bottle of Champagne.  Once the drivers had departed and deliveries were made the phone would start to ring with people begging us to inform them of who the mystery sender was of their flowers, whilst also taking orders from clients in a panic who had not forward planned.  In the evening rush hour customers would come to the shops knee-deep to pick up a bouquet on their way home.  All hands would be on deck, serving the commuting public, with one person dedicated to operating the credit card machines and one on the till.  As the vases emptied and the clear up operation began there was always, for me, a feeling of being on a real high - all deliveries made, lots of Londoners lives enriched with the Valentine's day thrill and a job well done. 

Us florists would then return home, with aching limbs and often bleeding hands from the stray Rose thorns and dream only of falling into a hot bubble bath and certainly no desire to see another Rose for quite some time and certainly not having the strength to be taken out for a romantic candlelit dinner, that could wait until another day!

So here on the island of Mallorca things seem to be quite different.  I am told that for any romantics here it would be more common to give a single Rose to their partner OR take them out for dinner and probably in these "crisis" times it would be too frivolous a gesture to shower your loved one with gifts.  We make a few bouquets up, but are certainly not overwhelmed with a deluge of orders like my London days.

 A client rang a few days ago to say that he was desperate to obtain 30 of the best long-stemmed white Roses he could find.  Having missed the cut off for ordering flowers to be delivered to us in the normal way from Holland, I.e. via ferry, the only option was to have the flowers flown in, incurring high charges, but this seemed acceptable.  So a trip down to cargo at the airport and the flowers were here.  Stems stripped and Roses conditioned and put in water for a few hours to drink and re-cooperate from their journey.

Eucalyptus was also prepared, stems cut and lower down foliage removed.  After a few hours I put the Roses together.  Adding one stem at a time with a few stems of Euclyptus and gradually building up the bouquet, placing the stems at a diagonal in my hand, always keeping them going the same way. 

After holding about twenty of the stems in my (large) hand it becomes impossible to hold it altogether and the bunch has to be securely tied, enabling you to keep on adding more stems without fear of any slipping out.  I made the bouquet up in a domed shape, with the tallest Rose in the centre.  The bunch was the again securely tied.  Taking two squares cellophane I wrapped this around the base of the stems and tied this tightly around the tying point of the bouquet.

Triangles of tissue were then added loosely around the bunch, cello taping them together to make a skirt of tissue. 
This process was then repeated with cellophane on top of the tissue.  A bow added, flower food attached and there we have a stunning bouquet of the best Roses available flown especially onto this island.  One happy client and I am sure gratefully received!

Enjoy your Fabulous Flowers for this week.

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04 February 2013


One of my favourite ways of displaying flowers is in jugs. They certainly suit our rustic finca and a little jug of flowers, bringing some of the outside inside, on a brunch table adds to the setting. I have an array of jugs that I have collected on my travels, and a great momento of trip, for example from a little pottery up in the Scottish Highlands, one I have from Hay-on-Wye market in Wales and of course, ones collected in Mallorca also.

To make a little jug of flowers it is best to start with a posy of a few different blooms for interest.
So here I have a few stems of cream Roses, a Chincherinche (Latin name Ornathoglium) and a stem
of Statice (Limonium). The little Chincherinche flowers are incredibly long-lasting and when they
are fresh they are quite green and then gradually every single little floret will open, over a course of
a couple of weeks until it almost turns into a ball at the end of the stem. There is also a variety of
Ornathoglium called Arabicum, which is much longer and the florets open with white outer petals
and a black centre. The Statice is an extremely good flower for drying as it retains its colour (best
to hang upside down to dry, so that the stems dry straight). Euclyptus also dries well.

So, take your foliage and cut down into shorter pieces, do this by cutting the stem right down to
where there is a leaf, so that you don´t waste any of the stem.

Start by taking one of the Roses and surrounding it with foliage, making sure that there is no foilage
below the tying point (where you are holding the posy)

Gradually starting introducing the other flowers, keeping it quite tight in your hand
until you have all the flowers in the posy

Tie the posy to keep it compact and together and then cut down to size and pop in your vase which
is lovely on a brunch table or on a bed-side table.

For one of my bigger Mallorcan vases I have simply taken three stems of Oriental Lillies and mixed
them with foliages cut from the garden. There are two main varieties of Lillies, either Oriental or
Asiatic. The Oriental Lillies are the larger headed variety, which usually come in whites and pinks
or a mix of the two, such as the Stargazer. The Oriental Lillies, along with the Longii-florum
Lillies, with the trumpet head, these ones are heavily scented. The Asiatic Lillies are the cheaper
ones that come in an array of colours – yellows, reds, oranges, pinks and whites and these ones are
smaller headed, sometimes with spots on the petals and they do not have a scent. As I always say,
beware of the pollen on the Lillies and cut this out as soon as it appears and we know how much of
a stain it can leave if it were to drop onto a table cloth! It is good to use the lip of the jug to have
the flowers almost spilling out of the vessel.


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01 February 2013

Blooming Bouganvillea

Bouganvillea grows bountifully here in Mallorca and is hardy, not affected by sea spray, hot and cold climates, which is why you see it swathed over houses, even coastal properties.  It comes in a big variety of colours now, from white, corals, pinks through to this cerise colour, which is probably the most popular.

Our Bouganvillea around the outside of house is just about finishing now and so I wanted to
use the last blooms for this week's article.  We have a couple of bushes down by the car port which have been allowed to grow freely, shooting off these lovely long tendrils.  I cut the longest, healthy ones I could find.  I have also used a couple of plants of small leafed Ivy (Hedera) which I always have in stock, as once they have been cut with a little care they will have sprouted new shoots for the next season.

The idea is to make a circular wreath of the Bouganvillea and Ivy which you can make by tying a long piece of ribbon to the stems and winding the ribbon in and out, pulling quite tightly as you start to make the circle.  Bouganvillea does have some nasty thorns along the stem, so it is a good idea to snap or cut these off before you begin to work.

Keep going around adding stems as you go, using the longer ones first and when you get back to  the beginning cut the ribbon and tie tightly.  Then cut some of the Ivy trails and start adding these, wrapping them around the wreath, leaving some shoots to spring out.  This should be a natural style arrangement, not too tight and formal.

There are then a few options of how to display this arrangement which is not very long lasting as the blooms are not in water, if you want to make it up in advance keep it in a shallow bowl of water and take out half an hour before you need it.  Ideal for a dinner party, you can either hang it on the front door to welcomed your guests when they arrive...

...or you can hang it on the wall near to the dining table...

...or you use it as the table centre piece (if you wanted to be the Hostess with the Mostest,you could of course hang it on the door and whilst your guests are sipping their aperitifs, whip it off the front door and put it on the table)!!

Place a glass vase in the centre of the wreath with a candle inside and then take five smaller candles or night-lights around the edge.  Wrap some more Ivy around the smaller candles and scatter some flowers heads on the table.

Enjoy your Fabulous Flowers for this week.

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