LOOKING FORWARD: JANUARY & THE GARDEN LIFE YEAR - SARAH STATHAM, SIMPLY BY ARRANGEMENT
This week on Cultivating Place we start of the new year with some thoughts on life and our gardens as feasts for the senses, with an eye toward life-long learning and encouraging our own senses of adventure with purpose. We're joined by the gracious Sarah Statham of Simply by Arrangement, whose passion is to bring fine seasonal flowers to the North of England – and the world.
Seasonal and calendar thresholds are frequently accompanied by a desire to start fresh – to take this next day, week, season as the first one in the rest of our lives – and to strive to live up to that. This is perhaps never more true than at the turning of the calendar year. Resolutions both well-made and well intended come to mind. As a gardening acquaintance, Annie Redbird of Redbird Restorative Gardens likes to say: as in the garden, so too in life.
British floral designer, flower farmer, forager, educator and encourager Sarah Statham of Simply By Arrangement is based out of Yorkshire and Lancashire in the North of England. She works collaboratively with her friend Christie, also known as Mrs. B. Together they tend to floral workshops in Lancashire and Yorkshire, and now well beyond, including the workshop mentioned being held on the Cambo Estate in Scotland in October. On the Simply By Arrangement website, they write "[We] are passionate about bringing fine flowers and food to the North of England. Christie lives in Lancashire where the two have a large workshop and where Christie tests out new recipes and makes delicious food. Sarah lives with her husband James and little dog Molly in Yorkshire, the home of the Simply By Arrangement cutting garden and smaller workshop - a place where Sarah is inspired to create natural, lush, seasonal arrangements."
In our conversation today, Sarah shares with us her own garden journey, her gardening and life practices with her husband James and her New Year's thoughts and resolutions as we’ve just walked across this threshold into 2018 and are looking forward.
“It’s great to think that you’re growing something that’s going to end up as a very special part of someone else’s day….And I do like to think as well that some of these couples who’ve got their own gardens will actually then be growing some of these flowers and using them themselves for years to come.”
Sarah Statham, Simply By Arrangement
Sarah began her career as a cutting edge flower farming floral designer and workshop leader after she was ready to move on from a 20 year career in criminal law. In her work with flowers, gardens and people she encourages us all to get outside, look carefully in our own gardens and landscapes year round for what moves us, for what pulls us outside and then to bring some of that life and inspiration back inside – our heads and our homes.
Sarah grows flowers for events like weddings and funerals and others of life’s thresholds to be marked. I so enjoyed the idea she mentioned of working with clients well enough in advance that she could grow the flowers they wanted for their event. Imagine planning your summer wedding and knowing that the flowers and foliage for that big day were emerging from seed dormancy, germinating and growing specifically for your big day – out there in a well-loved garden. floral workshop and garden based destination travel workshops offer a sense of community with like-minded people, and purpose to how we spend our time and money.
For Sarah and her colleague Christie the work is about a whole feast for the senses – for sight, sound, scent, touch and taste – for the body and soul and mind. Going out into the garden or landscape and seeing what trees and shrubs and flowers are doing, what they look like – what the weather feels like and then moving inside to compose a vase or center of table arrangement over which you will then share a good meal with conversation and laughter – that’s the full circle of her daily, weekly and annual work. When it comes down to it – it’s about paying attention and always learning – it’s cultural literacy at its best.
When I asked Sarah toward the end of the interview what her regular gardening practices were for the New Year and January were, her first instinct was to say – well, not much really. But then after having a chance to reflect on it, she wrote me to with this lovely insight – wisdom for us all I think this time of year. “I really don't have any particular gardening practices in January and I suppose I felt a little bit guilty saying that actually after the hard slog through Christmas, which is always our busiest time.” She went on to recognize that her practice, much like our quiet winter gardens was “to actually look forward to a whole month of snuggling up by the fire and actually looking outside at the quietness of the garden as it too takes a rest. It’s typical of a northern woman to feel guilty about not actually working but you have to recharge the batteries when you can and I do love the planning and the seed catalogues and I'm hoping that I'll be starting an on-line garden design course too - or if I don't get that for Christmas then I’ll be reading my new Christoper Lloyd book!).”
In Sarah’s final reflection, as in the process she shared with us about creating and photographing the early winter arrangement she and I walked through, are whole narratives about the gardening life, aren’t there? There's the nod to working together and encouraging one another (like the well-planted or planned structural supports in a good arrangement or garden design) , there's the subplot of observation and leaving time and space for discovery, appreciation and the creating of beauty.
There's the hopeful narrative of the power of the garden and landscape to inspire lifelong learning through travel, through community and through following our dreams to do things like take better photographs, take a new class to expand on what we know and do – and to remember to do what we need to do when we need to do it: like snuggle up by the fire, read a good book, fix a cup of tea and enjoy the quietness of our gardens as they too take a rest.
May we all make time for resolutions such as these.
Once again, Happy 2018 to you in the cultivation of your place!
Cultivating Place is an award-winning co-production of North State Public Radio, where it airs every Thursday at 10 am PST.