April saw the Grade II listed Poltimore House host its first ever Flower Festival, joining forces with the Academy of Floral Art and their students who created a series of inspired and evocative floral displays.
Poltimore House started its life as the home of the Bampfylde family. Since then, it has served as a girl’s school, a wartime home of Dover College for boys, a hospital, and a nursing home until a fire destroyed the former ballroom wing in 1987 when it was finally abandoned. After being brought to national attention through the BBC’s Restoring England’s Heritage programme in 2003, the charity, Friends of Poltimore House was formed to support the House and its restoration.
The Academy students had wonderful opportunity to really let their imaginations run wild and bring the decaying house alive. They didn’t disappoint! With such an atmospheric setting, the installations celebrated the raw beauty and history of Poltimore House with themes emerging from each room, including an impressive 7ft dragon to mark St. George’s Day.
It wasn’t just floral designs though. The old surgical theatre housed plant specimens, dissections and observations. A lovely addition of botanical education.
One visitor commented “It was as beautiful as I expected… like walking round an art exhibition with each piece really prompting you to stop, look and take it all in.”
The Academy of Floral Art train their students all the way through to Masters level. I studied art at college and when I started in floristry, all of those skills came flooding back and were put to good use! You could compare a bespoke floral installation to commissioning a painting or sculpture. Right from the initial inspiration, through to design and finally producing the piece we look at form, texture, colour, scale, environment, subject and so on. I aim to tell a story and provoke an emotion or response… just using flowers as a medium rather than paint or clay. The Academy students showed imagination and creative skills in abundance. I adore festivals like this, it really is like visiting an art gallery and what a wonderful way to celebrate flowers and venues alike.
Do you fancy trying your hand at floristry? The Royal Academy of Floral Art run a number of courses ranging from Beginner level through to advanced, take a look here. If you’re not sure it’s for you, why not pop along to one of their taster days in July and have a go.
I’m looking forward to writing another guest blog in June. 19th-25th June marks British Flowers Week: the week-long celebration of British flowers and the UK cut flower industry. It shines a light on the best of British flowers and local growers – of which there are many in the South West. The Academy of Floral art will be taking part and are running a Flowers in a vase workshop on the 24th of June at their studio in Devon. You’ll learn how to fill your own vase with a stunning display, using flowers and foliage from British growers.
There are also lots of opportunities coming up to visit Poltimore House and show your support. On Sunday 28th May they will be hosting their second Poltimore festival, showcasing the best music, theatre, art, film and spoken word from across the South West. Then on June 3rd there is a nature weekend talk by Caradoc Doy, a gardening storyteller. More information about their events here.
The flower festival was a great success, with all the ticket proceeds going to the Poltimore House Trust to help fund the restoration.
Images by James Davey, used with permission.
About the author:
Catherine Allen (owner of Blooming Catinky florists)
After an enjoyable and successful 10 year career in the media industry, Catherine decided it was time to follow another path and passion – to use her creativity in the world of floral design.
Cat works with seasonal flowers and supports British growers as often as possible, creating truly bespoke arrangements from gift bouquets and Christmas décor, styled table settings for private parties, to full blown floral installations for weddings.
She is in the process of launching a new, nationally available brand to be based in the South West, focussing on British flowers and locally made gifts.
To follow her journey and see some of her beautiful work for yourself, head over to her Instagram.