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Summer Centerpiece by Swallows & Damsons

by Grace Bonney

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“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer”
-F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby.

Growth. It all happens so quickly and my summer is soon spent buried under hot, sweaty piles of it. An abundance of wedding work, shop duties and events stirred up in one wild and extravagant cocktail, mixed with corporate preparations for Christmas, all of which distract from reality. The other growth, my children, garden, business, all quietly blooming whilst I’m frantically de-thorning roses and worrying about tones of ribbon.

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There are days when I struggle to think about flowers, to see their significance. Whilst the world is seemingly being turned upside down by division, injustice and ignorance, displayed on every screen, it feels somewhat shallow and a little naïve to be concerned with how pretty a peony may be, or demanding a certain shade of taupe from a rose. Yet when you step outside it all, when you stand in a garden, when you’re explaining the miracle of growth to a child, you can’t help realise that actually re-connecting to the rhythms of the natural world around us does have huge value and importance.

So one glorious English summer day I picked up my flowers, left the four walls of the flower shop, tried not to panic that Albert’s nursery was closed for the day (because of teacher training which I’d known about for weeks, I just hadn’t written down) and I went outside. –

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Working amongst a full blooming, summer garden I could observe how the flowers grow, bend and shape, learning from nature’s colorings. I worked freely and without the constraints that walls can give. My four year old was torn between the desperate need to help and the even more urgent need for ice cream. He’d pick up the arrangements, drop them, casually put them back together and I would learn from his carelessness, to experiment, to not be so damn precious.
The beauty in growing cycles where big, juicy and abundant summer blooms share their space with crispy, long past their time, former celebrities of the flower world speaks volumes about the stages of life, it’s fragility and the passing of time. The carpet of petals beneath the heavy headed garden roses in all their royal splendor is a big mess of fragrant mush and ladybirds. This is where I find inspiration.

The pops of berry red, a color I usually struggle with, can be seen all around. Raspberries, strawberries, geranium and roses to name but a few. Albert stole raspberries from my arrangement and a look of terror spread across his face as he glared at our stained red hands, perhaps he thought he had been attacked by a thorn? I then smeared them across the peonies creating a natural paint, everything was beginning to look edible, perhaps it was time for ice cream?

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Life continues and things will grow. And though there is much injustice to be found, I will embrace this summer with childlike wonder. I will experiment and make that rose petal perfume round 2. I’ll throw things on the floor and pick them back up again. I’ll step outside and I will not be distracted from the real growth around me.

“The darkness around us might somewhat light up if we would first practice using the light we have in the place we are.”
-Henry S Haskins

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