Farewell, the last rose of summer

Farewell, the last rose of summer

What a summer it’s been, and here we are already, in the cool hazy hug of autumn saying goodbye to the Flower Friends season, keeping ourselves busy by planning what flowers we’ll grow in time for next spring and drying flowers to create designs especially for winter 2024.

So many things have happened, so many things to share!

Our new volunteers, Amanda, Clare, Cynthia, Helen, Jeanne-Lyse and Kirsty recently joined me for a posy making tutorial at Brent Mencap. I was bowled over by their natural talent and creativity and am so happy to have a team of such committed and enthusiastic gardeners and flower arrangers to grow and make for us. You won’t be surprised to hear of the frenzied fight that followed between Mencap staff for first dibs on the dahlia arrangements. Dahlia mania – it never stops!!

Our new volunteers’ posy arrangements using flowers from their gardens.

Brent Mencap and Harlesden Town Garden have committed to continue growing for Flower Friends next season and are busy with sowing autumn hardy annual seeds and perennial and bulb planting. We look forward to a spectacular menu of blooms and foliage from their gardens and from Salusbury Primary School Greenspace to make and give bouquets from next springtime onwards.

One of our commercial growers, Matthew Boddum of Ecoblooms, is heading back home to California to start up a new flower farm and also to John Litchfield of Camden Community Champions Programme, who has left for a new post in the NHS. Both Matthew and John were with us from the beginning so it’s with poignancy, sadness and gratitude that we say so long, farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, adieu to them both. Thank you John and Matthew! We wish you much luck and happiness in your new ventures and will never forget you and your support and dedication to Flower Friends.

But as the old saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining. Matthew’s parting gift to Flower Friends was his Thames-side plot in Chiswick, which we will use to grow flowers to give, as well as to sell at Chiswick Flower Market, as we explore different ways of fundraising. Gorgeous roses, ranunculus, lilies, dahlias, amaranths, orache, sunflowers and a whole manner of other sparkly blooms and grasses are on our grow list.

Dahlia ‘Totally Tangerine’ and sunflowers from the ProCut series – two of the flowers we plan to grow in our new plot next year.

Ros Bryar of Bryarrose Flowers, commercial grower and member of Flowers from The Farm, is directing the planning and planting, with the help of horticulture and floristry student volunteers from Capel Manor College (where Ros and I trained) and Strenght and Stem. I’m always reminding Ros, when I have no idea what I’m doing in the gardening department, that I’m just a florist but she is a clever clogs horticulturalist and florist!?

Watch this space to hear how we get on!

With greater output from our new plot, community garden supporters and individual local donors, together with the help of our new volunteers, we will be able to give many more beautiful flowers to the vulnerable and lonely in our communities , sending them floral love and good wishes and the message that they are not alone and that we are thinking of them.

On a personal note, one of the highlights of the season was spotting a vixen in Harlesden Town Garden while I was harvesting the beautiful azure cornflowers, Calendula and Briza they grew for us. As helpful as ever, foxy left us a pair of slippers just in case we needed a rest and cosy up on the bench between the digging and planting. How thoughtful of her!

Foxy and her slippers in Harlesden Town Garden!

And then seeing the wild limonium covering the chalk cliffs of Broadstairs. Magical!

I had a fabulous time at the Notting Hill Carnival where it occurred to me that all those floats could do with a lively up with some local flowers.  A Flower Friends tribute next year, perhaps? I’m sure Bob would approve! ?

But in the meantime, while we are waiting for the autumn leaves to fall and cool dark winter to approach before spring and the new season embraces us, I leave you with this lament by Thomas Moore.

‘Tis the last rose of summer,
    Left blooming alone;
All her lovely companions
    Are faded and gone;
No flower of her kindred,
    No rose-bud is nigh,
To reflect back her blushes
     Or give sigh for sigh!

This heavenly scented David Austin rose, The Pilgrim, is one of many varieties grown and donated by lovely Kensal Rise volunteer Victoria. Thank you Victoria! x

….and the mural in my grandson’s school, reminding us that love, care, friendship and peace are really all that matter.

Until then, au voir…