Top Tips on Floristry at Cowdray House

Karen Watson of This Floral Life transforms Cowdray House with her beautiful, seasonal floral displays. Karen talks about how sustainability is the cornerstone of her business and the joy of weddings especially in the Spring.

  1. Describe your role at Cowdray?

I worked in the fashion business for many years, laterally as Buying Director at Harvey Nichols but found myself becoming increasingly inspired by the amazing floristry at the shows and events I attended in addition to the clothes themselves. I eventually left and became a florist. In 2014 we set up This Floral Life in a studio at our home in Midhurst, a bespoke floristry business with a local, seasonal and sustainable focus.

Soon after the business began, we forged strong links with Cowdray. We now carry out weddings and corporate events at Cowdray House, arrange house flowers, send flowers on behalf on the Estate and create the floristry for photo shoots.

2. How important is sustainability to your business?

Sustainability has always been at the heart of This Floral Life: we try to ensure that our events do not leave a mark on the environment.

This is principally done through using plants and locally grown seasonal flowers where possible, focusing on local events so that we are not driving long distances. We make sure that flowers are arranged in water so that they can be taken away by the clients and often the only waste is some green leaves which we compost and then put back into the garden.

Photography by Nicole Hains

We never use any floral foam in our work, which is made from bonded micro plastic particles and is terrible for the environment, and always display our flowers using moss, which can be dried out and reused, and we use and reuse good old fashioned chicken wire.

We have had an electric van for five years now, and as our work is very much centred around Midhurst it has been an amazing addition to our business.

We do everything we can to reduce our carbon footprint.

3. Where are the flowers grown and where do you source them from?

We grow a lot on site in Midhurst and make use of our garden including spring bulbs, hellebores, viburnum opulus, hydrangeas, anemones, dahlias, jasmine to name a few flowers and lots of foliage from our shrubs and trees.

We try to incorporate plants wherever we can as we love the idea that clients can take the plants home to plant in their own gardens. This works especially well for weddings as the plants will flower each year for the wedding anniversary.

We do also bring in flowers from abroad. We always buy seasonal flowers and buy through a very reputable wholesaler who buys in from the best growers.

4. How do flowers transform Cowdray House?

We absolutely love doing the floristry for weddings at Cowdray House; each event is unique, and we love working with our clients to design something that is meaningful to them. Our bridal couples always love that we are local and that we really know the house well.

Louise Adby Photography

Buck Hall, at Cowdray House, is a magnificent room with a vaulted ceiling and makes a wonderful room for both ceremony and dinner. We usually decorate the huge fireplace with greenery and flowers if couples are getting married at the house or, if the weather is good, we create a freestanding arch and aisle in the garden by the fountain.

The decor at Cowdray House is fabulous and our aim is always to bring the outside in creating gorgeous billowy country style vases and relaxed flowers on the tables and always allowing the seasonal flowers we use to behave in as natural a way as possible.

Camilla Arnhold Photography

5. What advice would you give to couples about choosing flowers for their wedding?

Flowers always look so much better if they are seasonal so if they have favourite flowers in mind its always best to get married in the month it’s in flower.

I’m not a great fan of too many flowers crammed into any space as I’m always inspired by the way flowers grow in the garden and so my schemes are always designed to enhance a room but not to overwhelm it with flowers. Less is often more with flowers if they are the right flowers for the space.

6. For Spring weddings, what type of flowers do the bridal party tend to go for?

Spring is a wonderful and romantic time of year to get married as everything is beginning to flower; bulbs are popping up everywhere, the trees are in blossom and new leaves are forming. The weather is often glorious too!

We love using Narcissi, jonquils, mini-Irises, tulips, hellebores, ranunculus and fritillaries in our arrangements. Also, hawthorn and blossom branches look amazing in large vases or to give height on tables.

7. Have you got a favourite Spring flower?

Fritillaries are my favourite flowers in the spring – they are delicate meadowy flowers and endlessly fascinating to study.

Louise Adby Photography

Karen also creates floral displays for weddings and celebrations at The Walled Garden, an equally historic and charming setting for events. The Walled Garden is a charming Cowdray venue, not far from Cowdray House nestled beside the Cowdray Ruins close to the market town of Midhurst.

Written by Matilda Reid

Back to News

Join our Newsletter