Looking for the best flower arranging classes in London? Ahead of Mother’s Day, we bring you the pick of the bunch from London’s top floristry schools.
The London Flower School
The brand-new London Flower School is opening in May in King’s Cross, with flower powerhouse Wagner Kreusch (former head tutor at McQueens Flower School) and Helen Dyson (experienced teacher and florist) at the helm. This is something to get excited about –the duo has created a new type of flower school which teaches classic floristry techniques without being constrained by them– Wagner and Helen are all about innovation, experimentation and creativity.
I was treated to a preview course with the great Wagner himself despite being a total beginner, and I was impressed by how much I managed to achieve in such a short space of time. In a private studio at the South Place Hotel, I was taken through the basics of how to choose and cut flowers, and watched in awe as Wagner masterfully arranged a floral table centrepiece in hues of white, pink, lilac, purple and green. Chatting away as he did so, he gave away some of his top tips from a lifetime in the flower business; the most important being ‘don’t fight against nature!’.
Wagner and Helen’s approach is all about naturalism and encouraging the development of individual style. Texture and movement are central to successful flower arranging, as every flower is different and it is important to pay attention to its individual shape:
‘It’s all about respecting the shape of the flower. Don’t fight what it naturally wants to do.’
Wagner encouraged a more natural and loosely grouping of the flowers, similar to how you will find them in your gardens. Revealing the creative freedom that is central to his work, Wagner emphasised the importance of trusting your eye as opposed to simply following rules, and once I started to do this I understood why the school’s formula for nurturing individuality works so well. Once I was provided with the materials and knowledge that I needed, and feeling inspired by what I had witnessed, I surprised myself to have created a beautiful arrangement which I was proud of. Despite using the same flowers as Wagner, mine came out completely differently, reflecting not only the natural individualism of the flowers I chose but also my own personality.
It was a strangely therapeutic experience. His final words of advice: ‘hands off!’. It’s also important not to get carried away and overdo it, tempting as it is…
A one-day hand-tied bouquet masterclass is £250, with all materials included, refreshments throughout, and you get to take your creations home. Courses available for all levels and specifications, including a four-week career course, a course dedicated to wedding and events floristry, and ‘inspired by art’ masterclasses.
Flower arranging at McQueens Flower School
They’re pioneers of contemporary English floristry. Don’t mix too many flowers together. Keep them clean, bold and striking. Try one type of flower and colour block your arrangements. Go for simple, stylish blooms beautifully presented. That’s the sort of advice that’s dispensed here. Welcome to McQueens flower workshop in Bethnal Green, an industrial-sized flower school in a former factory.
I’m with delightful Head Tutor, Wagner Kreusch, a Jesus lookalike with beard and hand-knitted jumper. I follow his lead to put hydrangea heads inside a goldfish bowl vase to great effect. ‘For a “landscape” repeated down a table centre,’ he explains. Now I’m being shown how to condition my fleurs – removing excess foliage, plucking unsightly petals (‘sometimes I like to leave them to give a bit of character’) for a tall table arrangement with delphiniums. Next we do a hand-tied bouquet (‘we avoid Oasis as it’s bad for the environment’) with seasonal foliage and flowers.
He scribbles the names of the blooms on the blackboard wall. And we get to gossip. (‘A Russian client even ordered an arrangement of 1,000 red roses that cost £15,000.’) Now Wagner’s teaching me to spiral the flowers, so the stalks all face down in the same direction. Then he demonstrates making a neat dome of top-notch Avalanche roses. And I follow suit – after a fashion. (It looks simple, but it’s not.) It’s a wonderful class. Think floral art and innovation.
Before I leave, I look around the flower ‘factory’ beneath the workshop. There’s a flower shop and a room filled with every vase and candelabra necessary for events. The stuff of cutting- edge floral dreams. Plus, I’m given the two hand-tied arrangements that I’ve made. I leave blooming with inspiration.
One Day Course, £225, includes refreshments and your own hand-tied floral bouquet to take home.
Find out more about McQueens flower workshops here.
Wild at Heart
The Christmas wreath-making class takes place in the small but perfectly formed Pimlico outpost of Wild at Heart – the florist that boast clients such as Valentino, Kate Spade, Liberty and Betty Jackson. There are gorgeous decorations and flowers everywhere, including a big tree with baubles. The class kicks off with festive wine and champagne, and there are mince pies to munch on.
Then tutor Ruth Warren-Steed leads the charge. ‘Create a base from our ingredients,’ she instructs, picking up the metal wreath frame and a wad of moss. ‘Cover the frame in moss to keep the foliage fresh. The moss retains the damp.’
There are five chic women and one male student… with three florists on hand to help. Think teamwork. (There’s one participant here because there’s a three-day wait for Wild at Heart wreaths – they’re labour intensive – and so she has decided to make her own. The wreaths they sell start at £95, depending on how heavily decorated they are.) We bind the moss in ‘real wire’ then use ‘stub wire’ for adding our foliage – in my case, pine, lichen with cones and eucalyptus.
‘You can add ivy from the garden,’ explains Ruth, ‘or offcuts from your Christmas tree.’ Afterwards I wire on lavender, pinecones and grey moss. (Or, rather, Ruth does.) It looks beautiful.
£150, includes refreshments and your wreath to take home.
Book a Wild at Heart class here.
The Flower Appreciation Society
Not your average florists, is the way Anna Day and Ellie Jauncey sell themselves. And they’re right. From their charming website (with delightful hand-drawn illustrations by Anna) to the homemade lemon drizzle cake you get with your cup of Earl Grey during class, there’s just something a little bit different about them.
The workshops take place in an arty Hackney studio that they share with a set designer (think mannequins and hanging paper rainbows alongside the duo’s vintage vases picked up from car boot sales) and range from Winter Fresh Flower Head Dress making to Autumn Vase Arranging. I do an Urn Vase and Jar Arrangements class, with eight jolly women at two wooden tables. Anna and Ellie work as a double act. ‘Condition everything first…’ says Ellie.
‘I’ll start with this little bunch here,’ adds Anna, starting to strip the foliage off the stems. (Their flowers are mostly English. ‘They have a delicacy and divine scent that things that have travelled haven’t got,’ says Anna, passing round blooms for us to sniff. ‘We’re getting some flowers from an allotment in Walthamstow,’ interjects Ellie excitedly.) ‘Now I’m going to talk you through a jam jar arrangement then you can go and have a play,’ explains Ellie, teaching us to spiral the stems.
We work from buckets filled generously with dahlias, hydrangeas, ranunculus, jasmine and foliage. Then we do urn arrangements in 1950s vases. ‘Build a fan shape of foliage at the back,’ instructs Anna. ‘Then put bold flowers in first then play around with the delicate ones,’ says Ellie. ‘Work with different heights, the more it looks as if it was just picked from the garden, the better,’ adds Anna. It’s a blissful afternoon and I leave with two arrangements that wouldn’t look out of place in the prettiest cottage garden.
If you can’t make a class, buy their delightful book. The Flower Appreciation Society, An A-Z of All Things Floral by Anna Day and Ella Jauncey. Book a class here.
The Covent Garden Academy of Flowers
This is a slick operation boasting the glossiest of brochures and a team of six tutors. At any one time there can be up to 40 women – and maybe one man – learning about flower arranging in this Covent Garden basement, which boasts preparation areas, flower chill room, library and study area. (On the wall there are photos of the royals, including one of Camilla when she visited.) I do the three-day taster course with 15 women and (rotating) tutors Madeleine Mukherjee, Kim Ropek and (school principal) Gillian Wheeler. It’s for beginners. The students come from Saudi (just for the course) to Stanmore. There’s a studious, back-to-school atmosphere – a senior is even doing work experience .
I learn hand-tied arrangements (using palm leaves, sea holly, eucalyptus, lilies and roses,) buttonholes and how to make a bridesmaid’s posy. How to create a ring – for funerals or christenings. (There’s a great demonstration of all the different ways to display the ring.) And to do topiary. ‘Topiary,’ explains Kim, ‘is like hairdressing.’ It’s also like grown-up Blue Peter. (Who ever knew there were such things as moss pins?)
There’s a health and safety mini-lecture; oodles about Oasis (can’t re-use it, mustn’t plunge it…), tips on tools and equipment (they’re big on Japanese scissors), conditioning and containers (‘TK Maxx and charity shops are good for purchases,’ says Gillian); and guidance on how to buy flowers and care for them. (There’s an accompanied visit to the flower market. ‘The flower opens faster if you take the leaves off,’ says Gillian. ‘It’s like sending the lift to the top floor.’)
There’s also lots of emphasis on stretching your budget. ‘No one can afford to use all flowers,’ explains Madeleine. At the end of three days, the tutors want beginners to feel OK about flower arranging for some events (there’s a lot of talk about weddings) and special occasions at home (‘Put your foliage in the bath if you’re doing a big party’). ‘The most important thing we can give you is confidence,’ says Gillian.
The school is in a courtyard of shops, with a zillion cafes and restaurants nearby for lunch. And there’s a little store upstairs that sells their signature candles, hand-wash and seasonal flowers. I leave with a topiary tree over my shoulder, a smile on my face and with an attendance diploma too.
£550 for three day taster course, includes hand-tied arrangement, a buttonhole, a wired posy, topiary tree and a circular arrangement (wreath).
There are plenty of other courses from beginner to advanced, with specific sessions such as ‘Wedding Bouquet’ for £110.
Find out more about The Covent Garden Academy.
Learn flower arranging at The Judith Blacklock Flower School
A tip-top class for those who don’t know their freesias from their gladiolus. We start the day at New Covent Garden Flower Market, at the civilised hour of 8.30am. Forget wearing carnations… JBFS students recognise one another by meeting under the market clock.
The principal of the school, Judith Blacklock – a pocketsize human dynamo – then takes us round the market (she’s difficult to hear, she could do with a microphone) introducing us to traders, and impressing with her encyclopaedic knowledge of flowers. Including sprouting Latin names.
‘If it’s fresh, a rose bud will feel solid,’ she says, squeezing a bloom. ‘Superior orchids have a phial of water. Cheaper ones have cotton wool.’
After an hour of flowers and instruction, we retire for bacon sarnies and steaming cups of tea in the traders’ caff. Then take taxis (Judith pays) to Knightsbridge, where JBFS is hidden in a cute mews set back from the road. The pretty classroom has big floral paintings on the walls, dried hydrangeas hanging from the ceiling and a large wooden table. Thirteen female students gather around it, sitting in front of lazy Susans, each one of us with a vase and Oasis foam on it.
‘It’s rare that it’s an all-English class,’ reports Judith, pulling in a Korean intern to redress the balance. Judith starts demonstrating how to arrange (and preserve) our blooms. And teaching us the basics. ‘How much time does it take to soak foam so that it’s wet all the way through?’ asks Judith, standing in front of her flip chart.
Forty seconds, that’s how long. We do arrangements using cotinus rhus, dianthus barbatus and physalis – smoke bush, ‘green trick’ and physalis to you – while Judith fills us in on balance, proportions, colour and texture. She gives us enough practical tips to make us budding experts. Plus, we get our formal floral arrangement to take home.
£150, includes breakfast, taxi from New Covent Garden and your one floral arrangement.
Find out more here.
Flower arranging at Orchidya, Dalloway Terrace
Get excited about a special occasion with a wreath-making or flower-arranging masterclass from the experts at Orchidya, or book in for a work party, hen party or bridal shower with a difference at this gorgeous London pop-up. Located on the stunning Dalloway Terrace, you can book in for Orchidya’s floristry masterclasses in groups of two or more, which can even by combined with afternoon tea on the terrace.
We tried the wreath-making class and picked up some great tips – read our review of the Orchidya at Dalloway Terrace floristry class and our top tips for wreath decorating.
Masterclass bookings via [email protected], £120 per person for two or £100 per person for groups with a minimum of five participants £165 per person, including Pierre Marcolini Afternoon Tea. Classes take around one hour. The Orchidya Popup Flower Shop at Dalloway Terrace is open 8.00am – 7.00pm weekdays and 10.00am – 4.00pm weekends from 7th November at Dalloway Terrace, 16-22 Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3NN 020 3302 1539.