It may be surrounded by stunning gardens, but the floral arrangements inside Summer Lodge Country House Hotel and Restaurant are just as impressive as those outdoors thanks to resident florist, Robyn Semple-Dower. The creative talent behind the stunning displays throughout the hotel, Robyn incorporates foliage and seasonal flowers from the gardens in her bouquets. Here, she shares her secrets to flower arranging at home, as well as her current favourite blooms to work with.
Can you talk us through your typical day at Summer Lodge?
“I arrive at 8.30am, just before the flowers arrive at 9am from the wholesaler. I’ll start by taking apart the old arrangements. If they’re still good, I’ll freshen them up and change the water. Once that’s done, it’s time to make some new arrangements. My first call is usually the Summer Lodge gardens, where I often find foliage that I can use and bring a bit of local natural world inside.”
What have been your most memorable events at the hotel?
“I started at the hotel in September 2018 so I’m very excited about the upcoming wedding season as it will be my first here. I really enjoyed the displays we had up at Christmas. I made arrangements for every fireplace, with glittering golden twigs and a red, gold and evergreen theme throughout the hotel. I also made fresh wreaths for all the exterior doors. I had a lot of fun creating a gothic display for the hotel last Halloween.”
What flowers are you currently enjoying working with?
“That’s a very hard question for a florist! I really love delphiniums. Their height works for big, striking designs. At the moment, I’m loving all the spring flowers we’re getting, like tulips, ranunculus, anemones. I really enjoy working with seasonal flowers.”
What foliage do you like to use in your arrangements?
“I use quite a lot of laurel – it’s particularly good for the bigger pedestal arrangements as it forms a good solid structure and base that you can then drop your flowers into. I try to avoid working with a floral oasis – I prefer to do everything with fresh water as it’s a lot better for the environment. I also use a lot of camellia foliage.”
Are there any florists who you really admire?
“I love a florist based in Frome called Bramble & Wild. Their work has such a lovely rustic country feel, with a gorgeous mix of textures and colours.”
What top tips do you have for taking care of cut flowers at home?
“Make sure to remove all the foliage that’s below the waterline. Any foliage in the water is going to cause it to become green and slimy so be sure that only the stems go into the water. Cutting the stems at an angle will also really help as it ensures that the flowers get a good amount of water. Changing the water regularly is essential and you can use flower food if desired. Sometimes warm water can help liven up droopy flowers, particularly for varieties such as hydrangeas. It sounds a bit unusual but it does work!”
What are the secrets to creating a stunning arrangement at home?
“Good quality flowers are the foundation for a great arrangement, so having a great selection to work with is key. Choosing the right shaped vase makes a big difference, too. If you’re working with fewer flowers, a wide-neck vase is unlikely to work as well as a thin one that will hold the stems at the neck and give them shape. Be experimental with a mix of colours and textures, too. Green flowers are a really good way to make other colours pop, particularly reds and pinks.”
Admire Robyn’s exquisite floral creations at Red Carnation Hotels’ Summer Lodge Country House Hotel and Restaurant.