Creatively chic floral design & styling
Ten Ways to be Creative with Flowers

I’m always on the lookout for ways in which I can be creative, especially with flowers. Having always loved flowers: for their colour, texture, fragrance & shapes. But not least of all for their range in difference: difference in style, pattern, depth of hue, tone & saturation, as well as each flower having their own unique characteristics (not to mention temperaments – which is a whole other post).

Here are 10 ideas for ways to be creative with flowers:

  1. Dried flowers – press flower heads, leaves in paper for several weeks to flatten & dry. Create an image using them on paper or canvas.
  2. Use dried rose petals in a homemade beeswax candle.
  3. Make your own pot-pourri using dried rose heads, lavender, delphinium. Experiment with flowers to see which dry well, retaining their colour & scent.
  4. If you buy your flowers from the supermarket, why not style them more naturally? If you have your own garden, pick foliage stems or branches to add movement to the flowers (which will invariably have straight stems). Even a little green will change how the flowers look & give them a picked-from-the-garden appearance.

    Garden rose & grape vine

    Garden rose & grape vine

  5. Make your own terrarium – use succulents or cacti. You can read more about making your own terrarium here:
  6. Think wreaths are only for the Christmas season? Adorn your door all year round with fresh botanical ingredients. Inspiration here:

    VBF Autumn Wreath

    Autumn Wreath

  7. Looking to experiment with a more contemporary style of designing with flowers? Why not try manipulating stems in a fishbowl container. Tulips, orchids, cala lilies, gloriosa are particularly effective for this.

    VBF Gloriosa


  8. Short on stems? Who says you need a whole bunch of flowers in order to display them? Showcasing a couple of blooms on their own is visually effective.

    VBF Peonies


  9. Potted plants in an interesting container with potting compost & moss. Spring bulbs are particularly lovely to have on your table whilst the earth begins to come to life outside. VBF Spring bulbs
  10. Treat yourself to a flower crown. From simple & elegant to voluptuously luxurious, crowns don’t need to be an extravagance.

Most importantly, enjoy whatever direction your creativity takes you in. Flowers have so many beautiful elements to them… see where your experimentation takes you.

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By Vanessa Birley
January Flower Styling

VBF Floral Styling Narcisuss

You might be thinking… January… British flowers? Isn’t that an oxymoron? Not at all! We are fortunate enough to have some beautiful flowers & a plentiful supply of gorgeous foliage at this time of year. It’s helpful to keep in mind when planning flower designs, that you will not have the same choice from the bounty of summer flowers, however, you do have choice.

The following are a few tips on working with January’s finest:

  1. Work with what you have. You can’t force a square peg into a round hole. You may not have flowers with large heads, or bright colours, but look at what you do have & use that to its fullest advantage.
  2. Green & white: always a classic & timeless combination, so work it. Use different tones, textures & shades of green to add interest, for example, fern, variegated pittosporum, sarcoccoa.
  3. Consider adding twigs/branches, such as catkin, to your designs for interest, movement & additional shape.
  4. Creating designs with one colour (using green as a neutral) will give a sense of harmony & aesthetic unity.
  5. Make a focal point of one flower using containers that add appeal. We used anemone & hellebore under a cloche for this.
  6. Repetition in design is an easy way of making a statement. Either by using the same flower, or same container, you can create a visually interesting display.
  7. If you’d like your tulips to retain their straighter stems, wrap them in newspaper after you have conditioned them whilst letting them drink water. Otherwise, embrace the tulips natural curvy stem & allow them to weave & wind their way with your design. Also, keep in mind that tulips will continue to grow even after they’ve been cut.
  8. Add echeveria succulents to bouquets or arrangements for texture, pattern & shape.
  9. Alstromeria have a vase life of up to 3 weeks. Keep this in mind when buying – once they are fully open they are at their most beautiful, so use in designs accordingly.
  10. One of the huge advantages of using locally sourced rather than imported flowers is scent. Incorporate rosemary & viburnum for a fresh & invigorating fragrance. VBF Tulip Styling

Personally, I love the challenge of being somewhat limited either in variety or colour of seasonal botanical products. It means I have to think a little more creatively, but it also means stumbling across some interesting surprises when designing with flowers. Enjoy exploring what is available & you might just be very pleasantly amazed.

This post was originally written for the British Flowers Book blog:

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By Vanessa Birley
Autumn Wreath Workshop

I love to be a witness to another’s creativity. During the time I worked as an art therapist several years ago, the process in which I was involved in someone’s awakening to their creative process, was an incredibly humbling one. On a different spectrum, but no less worthy, in 2016 I was able to run several successful workshops of differing mediums working with botanical items.

VBF Autumn Wreath

Flowers and botanical products are an easy accessible and beautiful medium to work with. Most people are drawn to flowers, either for their aesthetic qualities, their scent, evoking memories from childhood or a person, or sometimes it could be for the pure simplicity of having a living object in their hand.

Autumn Flowers VBF Autumn Wreath

An autumn wreath making workshop was one of our workshops from last year. Its a fortunate moment when one meets someone who working with forms not only an enjoyable working relationship, but a great friendship along the way. Sarah of Myrtle & Smith & I ran this workshop, as well as several winter wreath workshops in the run up to the holiday season.

Autumn is a time of drawing inwards: when the days become shorter, nights are longer and we hunker down for the forthcoming winter. Here in the SE of the UK, we enjoyed many days of bright sunshine, clear days and unseasonably dry weather. Acknowledging the external changes and in celebration of the seasons, Sarah & I scheduled this workshop in celebration of the bounty of natural offerings available at this time of year. Fiery red oranges, reds, deep lush purples & the softening colours of foliages graced our tables.

From berries to seed heads, grasses to fresh and dried flowers, we formed a space for our workshop participants to come & create to their heart’s content.

Using a fresh mossed wreath ring, there was no prescriptive formula for the wreath creations. Participants were shown a basic design, from which they could create a more traditional styled wreath, or a more natural, flowing design.

The results were amazing! Everyone created their own unique design & were truly happy with a wonderful evening.

Massive thanks to Neil Norton Design for hosting us in their kitchen design showroom in SW London & to all who attended. Keep creating!

Sarah & I will be scheduling more workshops for 2017 soon.

Workshop Participant's Wreath

Workshop Participant’s Wreath

Autumn Wreath

VBF Workshop Participants

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By Vanessa Birley
Custom Bridal Bouquet Illustration

One of the joys of how I spend my days is re-creating the beauty of a bride’s bouquet through illustration. Whether it be one I have designed for a client, or its been created in the hands of another, there is something immensely honouring in being involved in this process.


Having always been drawn to representing the beauty of flowers & nature, in one form or another, illustrating a bridal bouquet is a way to capture the beauty, symbolism, significance as well as evoke memories of a couple’s special day.

Christopher asked me to create a bespoke illustration for his wife Belinda on their 4 year wedding anniversary. Starting with preliminary sketches in pencil, I sought to gain a sense of shape, style, movement & textures within the bouquet from the photo’s that I’d been given. I mixed up colours in my palette & tested them on paper to access & gain accurate colours to be used.


VBFBridalBouquetIllustrationThis illustration was drawn with pen & ink initially with watercolour added afterwards.

An ink drawing is a way of capturing line, movement & shape accurately & I love the flow that comes through my pen once I begin. This image could be finished at this point but the pastel colours were calling to be expressed.

Belinda’s bridal bouquet was created with a delicate mix of pale pink & buttery soft yellow sweet pea (lathryrus) with baby’s breath (gypsophila).


The process of layering watercolours means shading & depth, difference in colour can be captured in a light & natural way. VBFBridalBouquetIllustration

VBFBridalBouquetIllustrationUsing archive watercolour paper, this gift will last a lifetime & provide memories of the union. It was a pleasure to create this illustration & I wish Christopher & VBFBridalBouquetIllustrationBelinda many more years of love & happiness together!


for your own custom bridal bouquet illustration.

Available in watercolour & ink, coloured pencil. Framed or unframed.


VBFBridalBouquetIllustrationBelinda’s Bridal Bouquet Illustration



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By Vanessa Birley
Hannah & Fraser’s March Wedding
March Wedding Flowers

March Wedding Flowers: rose, spray rose, eryngium & forget-me-not

Hannah & Fraser wedding day was an intimately fun & engaging affair. With an eclectic mix of elegant 1920’s era partnered with rugged Scotland, in some ways the planning of flowers could have been a challenging process.

Yet Hannah was a bride open to suggestions for the choice of her flowers & one of her few requests was for a cascading bouquet. Having chosen a vintage inspired wedding dress, Hannah was keen to have a naturally styled soft, vintage bouquet. Their wedding colours were navy & grey.

Wanting to keep a natural style to the bouquet, it was designed with a lush assortment of British grown foliage & rose, spray rose, alstroemeria, hellebore, forget me not, eryngium, narcissi & jasmine. Hannah

Her maid’s bouquets were designed with a similar mix of rose, spray rose, alstromeira, hellebore, eryngium & foliage.

Bridesmaid's bouquets

Bridesmaid’s bouquets

Getting married in the town hall meant that Hannah & Fraser wanted their  flowers to be focussed on the wedding party in a photogenic & personal way.


Incorporating eryngium as an alternative to thistles – which are tricky to find in March – however both bride & groom wanted a hail to Scotland’s national flower & eryngium were close enough in style as well as colour to meet the brief.



“Such gorgeous flowers & colours! Expertly picked by your lovely self. Can’t thank you enough. They were exactly what we wanted & more. Thank you so much!” HannahButtonhole


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By Vanessa Birley
Event Flowers for Pritch London

Last November 2015 I was asked to design event flowers for Pritch London for a couple of their press days.

The theme for this particularly contemporary & chic brand had a strong element of contrast: with only black and white to be used as colours, as in their designs, in a very striking & bold way.

“The Black Raven ready-to-wear incorporates striking textures, sharp cuts and distinct silhouettes, offering a line of readily available pieces. Integral to PRITCH London’s Autumn-Winter and Spring-Summer collection cycles, each design is brought to life in London and Italy, a place praised for its reputation in quality, meticulous attention to detail and decades of leather-craft experience.”

Black flowers are somewhat of anomaly in the natural world… deepest darkest purple or dark blue are probably the closest one can get, unless using dyed, or silk flowers.

The black & white ravens had prominent positions & held importance for duality. We looked at incorporating semi precious stones into the designs as well.

It was an exciting process to come up with ideas for this event, starting with inspiration boards, below:VBF Inspiration Board


I looked at the ideas of opposition, juxtaposition, light & dark, yin & yang – elements that can be thought of as clashing or contrary & independent – yet work well with one another. Thinking about an object holding two different meanings, could this be accomplished in floral design? Flowers are frequently thought of as beautiful, & yet the very notion of “cut” flowers means they are already in the process of decay. Of course there can be an element of beauty in death as well as life.

The inspiration boards aimed to hold onto these contrary ideas in their design.

Since it was winter, amaryllis were an obvious choice of flower & I contrasted these with deep purple cala lillies. Each design was completed with a black tie leaf, pinned around the stems, reminiscent of leather. Black raven feathers were also added throughout the designs.

A distinctive & contemporary design for a brand mixing rock harmony & classic chic.

VBF Event Flowers PritchVBF Event Flowers PritchVBF Event Flowers PritchVBF Event Flowers Pritch

VBF Event Flowers

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By Vanessa Birley
The Symbolism of Flowers: Tulips


With a plethora of colours, shapes, varieties & sizes, the tulip has a long & proud history. Once originating from the Middle East, the tulip was taken to the Netherlands in the sixteenth century to become a beloved & sought after flower. Seeking popularity not only in art & culture, alongside gardens of the time, the age of “tulip-mania” took over in the mid seventeenth century, until this versatile became so expensive the market took a nose dive & its popularity dropped its novelty.

I was fortunate enough to visit the tulip fields outside of Amsterdam in 2014: a memory etched in my mind of endless colours of this iconic bloom. Apparently these particular flowers are not grown for the cut flower industry, but rather for their bulbs. In admirable Dutch style, the rows were immaculately planted & beautifully cultivated.

Flower fields - outside of Amsterdam

Flower fields – outside of Amsterdam

Amsterdam, Holland

Today the tulip is a popular, mostly though of as Dutch flower, but holds its place in familiarity as a seasoned spring flower. Once upon at time, tulip growers in England, particularly in the North & Midlands, did the country proud by growing their own lovely varieties; with towns holding annual shows & hosting tulip societies. I’m happy to say British growers, such as Clowance, are producing their own fine tulips, which I’ve savoured this season, & made for some pleased clients this year.


So what of the tulip’s symbolism & meaning? Standing tall & even growing once in a vase (its true… watch your tulips & even measure them if you’re so inclined!), this flower exudes elegance, perseverance & grace.

In ‘The Language of Flowers’, Mandy Kirkby states, “But it was the seventeenth century traveller John Chardin who noticed the tulip’s special role in the language of flowers, where it was employed as the emblem by which a lover makes his passion known to his mistress. The flower’s strong, bright colour shows that the suitor is on fire with her beauty, and the black centre indicates that his heart is burned to coal, so fierce is the heat of his love.”VBFPinkParrotTulip

The red tulip in particular may symbolise eternal love – perhaps even challenging the quintessential red rose to this prized position. Whlte yellow tulips portray happiness & cheerfulness, the white varieties symbolise forgiveness & a certain purity. Purple signifies regality & prosperity.VBFWhiteTulip

One of my personal favourite varieties of tulip are the gloriously stylish, parrot tulips ranging from scarlet red to green/white to pretty in pink, all looking as if they’ve been created under the hands of a loving painterly touch. I am endlessly inspired by their soft wavering petals & beautiful floral folds.


But the main reason I personally admire & behold this lovely flower is that it is one of the first (next to the crocus & daffodil) to offer us the promise of the change of season & new beginnings. Also, the tulip’s versatility in its use: wonderfully flexible stems to create organic designs with, stunning solo or grouped, but one of my favourite traits of this humble flower is its beauty as it continues to open. As it ages, it flows in a magnificently elegant line, as well as revealing a volumous collection of petals opening to a decorative centre makes it a continual attraction in the vase.

“The tulips along the border are redder than ever, opening, no longer wine cups but chalices; thrusting themselves up, to what end? They are, after all, empty. When they are old they turn themselves inside out, explode slowly, the petals thrown like shards.”
– Margaret Atwood

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By Vanessa Birley
Bespoke Bridal Bouquet Illustration

A lifetime keepsake: a custom illustrated bridal bouquet illustration. The bridal bouquet is symbolic of much: the femininity of floral sweetness alongside promises of trust, loyalty, respect, kindness & of course, love. Carrying a bouquet of fresh flowers signifies life, beauty & the murmurings of a union with her beloved.

Watercolour & ink

VBF: Watercolour & ink detail of cosmos & dahlia bridal bouquet

The memory of the day is captured well in the memory, as well in photo’s, but for a unique & customised way of capturing the grace of the floral significance, what better way than with a bespoke bridal bouquet illustration?

Watercolour paintings bridal bouquets

VBF: Watercolour paintings bridal bouquets

The bouquet: evocative and a work of art of exquisite flowers, beautiful colours, heady scents and trailing ribbons. It may be made up of different coloured white flowers, pastel shades, vibrant and brightly coloured florals, or even adorned with jewels or feathers. But however it looks, the bridal bouquet may be symbolic of much. Each flower may have been especially chosen for its symbolic meaning, its colour or for its aesthetic qualities.


VBF: summer bouquet

Ultimately though, a wedding may be a poignant time in a woman’s life and the bouquet possibly symbolic of her fertility and sexuality.

Planning a wedding may be a time of stress and anxiety, excitement, hope and partnership. The actual day may pass by in a blur yet memories of one’s wedding day may be etched in one’s mind for the rest of one’s life.

One of the beautiful things about fresh flowers is their aliveness and yet this also means their deterioration. Most brides adore their wedding bouquet and holding onto the image is possible in different ways.

VBF: Summer bridal bouquet sketch

Vintage Bridal BouquetWinter Bridal Bouquet

VBF: Winter Vintage bridal bouquet with rose, snowberry, ruses & eucalyptus


One way is to have a personalised, beautiful illustrative keepsake drawing or painting made. I offer a customised service in which the bridal bouquet is illustrated using, either coloured pencil, ink or watercolours. The best archival paper is used to ensure a long-lasting and quality image.

I have been sketching, drawing or painting images of flowers for several decades. Flowers have always appealed to me in their shape, colour, vibrancy and aliveness. I enjoy capturing what I observe and each time I sit down to draw or paint, find something new in what I see.

Framed Watercolour Bouquet

I like to make preparatory sketches to begin, either in pencil or charcoal pencil, seeing where there is light and dark in the flowers, where is the most intense hue or colour saturation, and really see what colours are within the petals, leaves and stems. I will look at the shape of the flowers, the space between the flowers and around them. This process often takes several hours spanning over several days. I can work from photographs or still life.

I offer my wedding flower clients a discount of 15% on a bridal bouquet illustration. These make beautiful wedding or anniversary gifts as well as capturing the significance of the bridal bouquet.

VBF Bridal Bouquet Illustration




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By Vanessa Birley
Home Styling Workshop – with a Botanical Twist

Saturday the 5th of March saw Mathilde Kubisiak, interior design expert & I team up to host the first of a series of styling & florally inspired workshops. Based in Wimbledon Park, SW London, we hosted an exhilarating afternoon with advice for styling a small area of your home, spring de-cluttering tips, a demo of how to make your own terrarium, with workshop participants then creating their own individual & unique creation.

I’ve been fascinated with terrariums for a while: a self contained ecosystem created in any clear glass container. Stylish, relatively low maintenance & bang on trend.

succulent terrarium

Succulent terrarium – photo William Walsh

Echeveria succulents were used with layers of cacti/succulent soil, activated charcoal, pebbles/sand & to customise your terrarium – we provided a variety of decorative elements including sea shells, figurines, jewels, beads, sculptural elements as well as some fun items such as googly eyes!


Succulent terrarium

Succulent terrarium with decorative elements 

Succulents & cacti

Succulents & cacti


Workshop participants

Workshop participants – photo William Walsh



Table set up

Table set up

VBF chalkboard sign

VBF chalkboard sign – photo William Walsh


The atmosphere for our participants was relaxed, fun & creative.

“A big thank you for such a wonderful event on Saturday. I had the best time.”






Workshop Participants

Workshop Participants – photo William Walsh


Everyone left with their own designed terrarium, instructions on how to look after their new botanical creations, plus a fabulous goody bag of wonderful gifts supplied by: Romo, Nest, Really Well Made, Bon by Vanessa. Many thanks to all our suppliers & the talented William Walsh for the photography.

Workshop participants 5 March 2016 with finished terrariums

Workshop participants 5 March 2016 with finished terrariums – photo William Walsh


More creative workshops with MK Designs coming soon…




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By Vanessa Birley
Plant Design at Grand Designs Live 2015 for MK Design

Last spring saw an exciting collaboration with VBF and stylishly chic contemporary interior designer MK Design London at Grand Design Live 2015 at the Excel Centre, London.

MK Design Plants

Mathilde of MK Design London’s vision was the following:

“This Grand Design Live Room set proposal embraces cool, soft colour choices mixed with subtle warm tones and follows a minimalistic “en plain air” theme, taking a cue from nature.

 Choosing a pastel palette based on LA in the 80s, the idea is to use optimistic colour combinations of orange and pink sunsets, green palm trees, aqua pools, and pink flamingos.It’s a muted palette with shocks of Marsala’s Pantone rich tone of an earthy yet  sophisticated brown/red.

.MK Design Plants

Refreshing and fun this room sets the tone for a new way of living. Full of joy, yet emanating a soothing escape from the everyday hustle and bustle of modern life. The perfect place to disconnect.”

Plants for MK DesignMK Design Plants

Keeping with the green, minimal & exotic feel, I used maidenhair fern, a range of succulents (echeveria), hart’s tongue fern and dumb cane for the terracotta pleated planters & dish, as well as in the cool grey planters. Providing a variety of textures, as well as range of colours from the plants provided a compliment to the design of the space. I also supplied two large rubber plants (ficus elastia) which are evergreen trees from India, and provided not only height in the space, but a touch of depth from their rich leaf colour. NB. this plant is particularly effective at removing formaldehyde from an environment.

Simplicity was key for the three porcelain vases: a single stem of leucadendron, protea and a cordyline black tie leaf.

Bringing plants into a space is an effective and easy way of bringing nature inside, as well as creating a serene and calm environment.

VBF creates flower, plant & pot et fleur arrangements for the home & work environment.

Read more about the MK Design vision here.

All photo’s MK Design.


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By Vanessa Birley