A Tudor-ish Christmas at Shakespeare’s Birthplace

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Carole Patilla and Rachel Flowers.

SHAKESPEARE’S Birthplace in Stratford is looking like it would have done 400 years ago – filled with flowers fit for a Tudor festive season.

Flowers for Winter features specially curated floral displays by Rachel Flowers, of March Hare Floral Design in Stratford, and Carole Patilla, of Tuckshop Flowers in Birmingham.

Their blooms can be seen throughout the house where Shakespeare was born and grew up, until 5th January. Here, Rachel and Carole tell us a bit about themselves and what inspired their designs, which help tell the story of Shakespeare’s work, life and times.

Carole: I’ve been an obsessive gardener for many years and in 2012 I decided to turn my back on teaching and turn my passion for growing flowers into my day job. I set up Tuckshop Flowers and focus on relaxed, natural flowers for weddings, events and funerals. I’m always looking for flowers, foliage and textural ingredients which reflect the seasons, and which offer a distinctive wiggle or evocative scent to add character.

Rachel: I’ve always loved being creative and floristry has given me the opportunity to express this with flowers. My journey into the world of flowers followed a career in the NHS as a physiotherapist, and began with my initial training as a florist at Moreton Morrell College in Warwickshire. I work from my studio on the border of Warwickshire and Gloucestershire, where I design garden-inspired floral arrangements and installations for events and weddings. Living and working in the beautiful Cotswolds countryside is a constant source of inspiration, particularly with the changing seasons. I love to design with British flowers and always consider the environment and sustainability, and wherever possible I create all my designs without the use of floral foam, a non-biodegradable plastic product.

Carole: I was approached about being involved in Flowers for Winter after running a bouquet-making workshop for the Trust’s After Hours programme. I loved the Trust’s enthusiasm for the idea of a winter project using just British ingredients.

Rachel: Modern-day Christmas decorations could not be more different to the way in which a house was decorated in Tudor times. There were very few decorations at all during that time in history, apart from a kissing bough and yule log. This has meant that Carole and I have been able to get creative as there are no traditions to follow!

Carole: This display is different from my usual work, due to the conservation considerations of the historic building and its collections. I’ve learned, however, during the course of this project that peonies make the most fantastic dried flowers!

Rachel: During the 1970s and 1980s dried flowers were very popular and, as with most things, they are now slowly becoming more popular again for use in floral design. It has been an enjoyable process sourcing from small British growers and drying a selection of flowers from my own small cottage garden. Dried lavender is part of the displays as it was a popular medicinal herb in Tudor times – I’ve harvested most of it from my own garden and, as a unique twist, I’ve also acquired some grown on a rooftop garden in London that overlooks the site of Shakespeare’s Curtain Theatre in Shoreditch, where Romeo and Juliet and Henry V were first performed.

Carole: Shakespeare’s view of flowers seems to be one we should all perhaps embrace, choosing to celebrate the best of what is growing naturally, rather than demanding the unseasonal, and thinking of flowers as only a colourful consumer commodity. I hope that the displays will encourage people to re-engage with the idea of seasonality in flowers, and to realise that the glorious moment when a flower reaches its peak is both brief and fleeting. I hope this display, which also reflects the current resurgence of interest in dried flower materials, will also persuade everyone that there is beauty to be found in all stages of a flower’s development, even into decay.

Rachel: To be a part of the Flowers of Winter exhibit is a wonderful opportunity to design floral installations in such a historic building.