June is traditionally a month in which many, many weddings are celebrated with family, food, and FLOWERS. With many of these weddings (and other important and cherished life threshold rituals) on hold this year due to Covid-19, we catch up this week with floral creative Philippa Craddock to talk about the business of floristry, the sustainability of it on several levels, and to reminisce about the lovely florals - from epic arches to the most romantic of bouquets which Philippa designed for the lovely Meghan Markle and her Prince Harry, now the Duchess and Duke of Sussex.
The world was watching this wedding for a variety of reasons, I was watching for the flowers and they did not disappoint.
Chances are you will know Philippa’s name as a result of her work on one of the sweetest and most romantic weddings of the past decade -that of standard changing Meghan Markel in her 2018 wedding to Prince Harry. Meghan’s posey style bouquet was understated yet meaningful featuring fragrant lily of the valley, astilbe the large inflorescences of which were hand separated into slimmer sections, astrantia, jasmine, and myrtle, as well as the late Princess Diana‘s favorite flowers forget-me-nots. Philippa is known for her romantic, foraged-look displays and through her love affair with flowers and her business, she has stepped into her own sense of self, creativity and confident leadership .
As we enter what should be the height of wedding season in the northern hemisphere, Philippa, a long time famed floral designer in the UK, joins us to share more about wedding floristry, sustainability, and building confidence in business. She joined me to talk from her stay-at-home time in East Sussex, England.
Of the designs for Meghan and Harry's wedding Philippa has written: "Harry and Meghan were both very involved in the design stages and gorgeously thoughtful throughout including that day at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.
The five internal archways were my favourite designs. The inspiration came from the vaulted ceilings and the architectural detail, with the aim of working in perfect harmony with the space and bringing the outside in, reflecting the surrounding parkland.
I remember the gentle hum inside the Chapel as we created these designs, immense team work at its best. The archways were huge, we used scaffolding and designed a complex under structure to ensure they were absolutely secure, without causing any damage to the beautiful stonework underneath. It was important each stem had access to water, to last the duration (and without the use of floral foam). We left the archways in place the following day, for the congregations to enjoy during the services.
A few days before Harry and Meghan’s wedding, I was driving my children to school through the Sussex country lanes and loved the abundance of cow parsley in the hedgerows. On the way to the studio, I stopped to pick a few. I was mesmerized by the lightness of their perfect, delicate petals and the elegant length of their stems. I hadn’t considered using cow parsley in designs before, so in the studio I tested their longevity in water. The cut stems lasted well (for at least 36 hours, which is what I needed) and alongside the Keeper of the Gardens, John Anderson, we happily found a bountiful supply in Windsor Great Park, where all the greenery came from. We added the cow parsley to the outside designs towards the end of the installation - their long stems gave the perfect gentle movement and the final ethereal touch to the designs. I love that such a significant stem within these designs, is found in abundance across the country, in shaded hedgerows and along the edge of woodlands. They grow wild and free, and resemble everything that these designs needed to be - accessible, humble and down to earth. Happy anniversary Harry and Meghan, sending huge love and thank you so much again for this incredible opportunity xx (In this weekend’s IGTV Tutorial, I am really looking forward to sharing a design with you, using beautiful cow parsley).
Behind the scenes with the team - florists, growers, metalworkers, project managers, drivers, suppliers and crew. The best bunch you could imagine. Every single person worked tirelessly, nothing was to big an ask, huge smiles and a genuine atmosphere of complete control, calm and enjoyment. A few inevitable curve balls were thrown our way, but no one was ever fazed. I love the photo of us on the platform working beside the BBC, to make sure not one leaf was obstructing any of the cameras and also ensuring that not only the installations looked balanced and perfect from the ground level, but also through the cameras which were positioned at different angles and would be broadcasting into billions of homes around the world. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to every single person involved, it was an incredible and great fun experience, only made possible with all of you.
We finished the installations early that morning. The previous day we had been there for the final rehearsals of The Choir at St George’s Chapel and The Kingdom Choir - both equally haunting and breathtaking as their voices filled the cavernous space. The following morning, after my team left, I walked quietly in the silence, double checking every part of the designs. Everything was fresh and vibrant. The beautiful foliage, roses and the more delicate flowers, all standing strong ready for their own performance.
I was excited that the sun was shining that day, as I knew the outside archway would remain in shade until the doors reopened at the end of the ceremony, and the main design would then be in full sunlight. When Harry and Meghan appeared at the top of the steps, under the vast natural archway, every detail shone - it was breathtaking.
At the end of the day, after the guests were long gone and the crowds had dispersed, we returned with a fresh team and turned the external archways into hand tied bunches. We hand delivered these to women’s refuges and hospices around London. We received so many gorgeous messages, including from one recipient, she told us that she had been part of the team embroidering Queen Elizabeth’s wedding veil, and another lady who is a carer, she had been invited to the wedding for her charity work, she saw all designs in situ and was then able to enjoy her own flowers afterwards.
Every part of Harry and Meghan’s wedding was extraordinary, full of emotion and consideration from beginning to end, entirely testament to the couple."
Philippa Craddock began her professional floral life in just 2009, through self-study and perseverance. She quickly became a leading floral designer in the UK. She is dedicated to helping other floral designers of any stage grow their skills and confidence. This summer she has been hosting wonderful IGTV tutorials every Sunday to share her tips and knowledge forward.
All photos courtesy of Philippa Craddock, all rights reserved; photo of Meghan and her mother Getty Images/Australian Vogue
Join us again next week when in honor of National Pollinator Week we revisit one of our BEST OF conversations with Nadia Ruffin of Agricademy and Urban Farm Sista as she shares her great love of life and our companion bugs of all kinds!
THINKING OUT LOUD this week..
I don’t know about you but I loved that Philippa shared with us about landing one of her first floral contracts in a restaurant by being willing to “hoover” for them for the day as a way to be helpful and thus show them who she was. She saw a need and she stepped in.
Similarly, her incredible audacity to take on learning and trying floral design in part because she didn’t know better – her naivete is disarmingly simple – brave, but simple. Her willingness to fail because she cared so much about trying these are among the reasons I chose her work to feature in The Earth in Her Hands.
Philippa is also without question a standard bearer in sustainability in floral design, reducing overall waste in her work, and being publicly vocal about NOT using environmentally harmful synthetic floral foam. She joins her voice to other leading voices in the industry in this cause, including the other floral designers in The Earth in Her Hands as well as to the creative likes of Shane Connelly, the brilliant designer behind the florals at the weddings of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011 and the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall in 2005, and Emily Thompson of New York City among others.
Thank you to everyone who has been ordering signed copies of the book from me on Cultivating Place. Com – it is such an honor to send the books off with their personalized messages of hope and love many for mother’s day last month, many for people offering them as shower presents and birthdays presents for friends and family old and young. Amy Clay in Oxford Ohio wrote me to say: Hooray the book arrived today, and I can't wait to give it to my dear friend (and amazing gardener) for her birthday, she will love it!! I've been trying to only read a few at a time, so I can soak all of them up.
I love that in this time of uncertainty, the book might serve as an inspiring wayfinder for other plant loving people who might need such.
Bravery is one word that is really sticking with me from this second segment of my conversation with Philippa. And the bravery of eliminating things from our lives which are no longer serving us. For Philippa this was deciding to give up her business presence at Selfridges after 5 years of visibility and success there. It might have looked perfect from the outside, but it was no longer sustainable for Philippa.
I think this time of cultural pause – which we are now coming out of in some often confusing ways – perhaps provided some of us with some insights as to what we didn’t miss while we were on the pause. Some things that with a little planning and BRAVERY – we could work to permanently eliminate from our lives as we move forward. In how we garden, in how we spend time in the garden, in who we garden for….and how this is integrated into our everyday lives - these are what come to mind for me….
what about you?
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