Designer Helen James on The Luxury Of Flowers

HELEN JAMES shares tips on how to DRESS YOUR HOME with flowers, greenery and herbs in winter …


Flowers are one of my passions. They bring life into a room. I am not thinking of the elegant, pruned showy arrangements you might see in a hotel, but the hand-gathered posies and billowy, blowsy things with tendrils reaching and trailing; soft, whispery fronds with delicate ephemeral petals that fall onto your mantelpiece. Having my own garden was one of the things I missed most when I lived in New York. There are few things in life that bring me more pleasure than wandering into the garden and gathering a bunch of flowers either for my table or bedside, or as a gift. If you have any patch of garden at all, I implore you to grow flowers for cutting. Shop-bought flowers are lovely and have their place but they will never compete with a home-grown specimen – the natural bend of a stem and unpredictable beauty, much like home-grown food, has a quality that cannot be reproduced on a mass scale.

Evergreens and architectural leaves can add a bit of individuality and drama. I like to add a lot of greenery and especially herbs to my arrangements – mint, rosemary, thyme, even vegetables and salads that have gone to seed: rocket and coriander that have bolted are a lovely addition. Autumn and winter are my favourite times to use evergreens. The prolific conifer leylandii, which is the scourge of neighbours and gardeners everywhere, is particularly beautiful placed in a posy with roses or other autumn blooms. I love the idea that this tree, which is so unfashionable, gets a little moment to shine. I also love using euphorbia – the acid green and oranges of the leaves are so beautiful with red and plum tones from roses and dahlias. Don’t be afraid to use bare twigs or branches in a posy in the wintertime – the effect can be beautiful.

Helen James’ new book, A Sense of Home (Hachette, €19.99) is out now.

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