Spring can be a funny time for flower farmers. The initial rush and blooms of the daffs, hyacinths and tulips has been and gone, but it’s too early for the biennials. Therefore, it was with some trepidation that I decided to participate in a local artisan makers and designers fair (the Amersham Artisans) in late April, knowing full well that I might have limited flowers to sell.
I’m a firm believer that boundaries and constraints bring with them the most innovation and opportunity, and a quick assessment of what I had growing a couple of weeks ahead of the event made realise I would need to approach this differently to make best use of what I had. So rather than just sell flowers as I usually do, I decided to create a bold floral arrangement that would get people talking and interested, showcase British seasonal blooms at their best, and create something that quite frankly, I wouldn’t do every day!
I won’t bore you with the details of my decision process, but I eventually landed on creating a peacock made mainly out of foliage (which I had an abundance of!), which I’d then embellish with a few additional flowers.
Here is a picture of the finished peacock…. Want to know how I made him? Read on to find out more…
Step 1: Shape the frame. The peacock’s body was shaped out of chicken wire. I used a Shaun the Sheep hot water bottle cover filled up with clothes to mould the wire around. It worked rather well, although Shaun looks abit perturbed in the photo. I then added on a neck out of a separate piece of chicken wire and shaped it. Peacocks have very slim necks and small heads compared to their bodies. I used a Christmas bauble for his head, although the picture below shows the frame with a lightbulb.
Step 2: Cover the frame. I used some cheap weed membrane that we had spare to cover the body and fixed it with string and some tape. This was to give me something to fix the leaves on to.
Step 3: Select your vegetation. I used whatever I had available in the garden which was ‘non-wilty’. This was:
– Mixed conifer for his tummy
– A bush with large waxy variegated leaves to cover his back. I’m not sure what it’s called – it’s a bit like rhododendron but isn’t
– Eucalyptus leaves to cover his neck and face
– Some offcuts from our old Christmas tree to make the wings which had turned a beautiful copper colour (yes, we hadn’t got round to getting rid of it yet!)
– Long lengths of ivy and some small branches from a hedge to make the tail.
Step 4: Cover the body. This part was a real labour of love. I did it in phases over a couple of days using a dab of glue from a glue gun to fix the leaves in place. It is important to sort the leaves into sizes before you start and choose the bigger or smaller leaves depending on what part of the body you are covering. I also roughly paired the leaves in terms of size and shape to make sure I got a good degree of symmetry across the left and right.
Step 5. Make the tail. I made the tail as a separate piece using a second piece of chicken wire to form a base to fix the foliage onto. I created clumps of foliage using the hedge branches and ivy (~6 of them), then wired them onto the tail frame.
Step 6. Assemble. I assembled the ‘green’ peacock at the event the following morning, by attaching the tail to the body with wire. I also put a bag of gravel inside the wire body frame to give it weight and make sure he didn’t topple over. The way the chicken wire had been folded at the beginning meant that there was a flap under his tail where the bag could be added/removed.
Step 7. Add flowers! This was the last task and was completed in situ. Given the peacock was going to be outside all day (and it was pretty chilly!), and so the flowers only needed to last the day, I just added them freely into the tail without test tubes – they’d all been well-conditioned overnight, and would last well for the day. The tulips I used where those that were lingering around at the end of the season, too open for sale but perfect for displaying. These were:
– Angelique – pink and fluffy
– Shirley (I think) – white, with violet tips on the petals and long stems which gave a nice spray effect
– A few anemones
– Bluebells and mixed scilla – I added in some long blue, pink and white bells which gave coloured lines to the tail.
Step 8. Enjoy! Here is a short film of the finished peacock. He generated lots of attention and conversation at the event, and he was a fantastic way of demonstrating what can be achieved with garden foliage and fabulous British seasonal flowers.
Things I would do differently next time. This was a complex design to create and I had limited time to do it in. On reflection, there are a couple of things I would do differently next time:
- His face! I am the first to admit, I didn’t get his face right. He was lacking a proper beak, and his eyes needed more gravitas. His face did make me laugh though as it was so silly! And that’s what it’s all about.
- I would add more colour into his body to give a stronger balance between the body and tail.
I’d like to do more of these for showcases and events. Any ideas for what I could create next time?