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  • Writer's pictureAnna

Seasonal Musings

Autumn...

Welcome to my new seasonal musings. Something I've been pondering doing for a while. The idea is to share snap shots from the Apple Tree House Studio, jobs in the garden, success and failures in life and work, seasonal recipes, creative projects or challenges, inspiring creatives I've come across, plans that are happening and just generally what's making my heart sing. Originally I was planning a monthly musings but think that might be a bit ambitious with my time. We'll see how this one goes down and maybe in the future I can write them more often.


As an Autumn lover I tend to get a tad over excited about this season in particular. Maybe it's my flame red hair (maybe a bit less red and more grey these days though!) that makes me feel at one with this particular season. Finally I fit somewhere! If you can fit into a season that is? Which season would you be?

It's been so mild recently that, thankfully, we haven't had to put the heating on and the winter coats and the open fire haven't had regular use yet. The logs are dried out and ready to go and extra layers will be adorned soon I'm sure. The light is always so beautiful at this time of year and as the leaves turn to all my favourite shades I find I'm unusually excited for the idea of winter and the excuse to hibernate for a while. Especially after a very hectic Summer wedding season and the up and coming Christmas craziness that is wreath making. I'm really look forward to some down time. Or slowing down a bit anyway. Autumn has always been a reflective season for me, a time to prepare and plan for the Christmas period which is always very busy at the studio. Plus we get to dress up for Halloween, pick and eat copious pumpkins in every form and my favourite, wrap up and go and watch a firework display. I also really love soup so there's that too!


Seasonal observations -

  • The leaves changing colour (obviously!)

  • The lakes and rivers are still really really low on water so despite the rain we've been having we are still feeling the effects of the Summer drought. It's going to be a while before those reserves are filled up again.

  • The huge number of conkers and acorns this year. Not sure if it's just the South East but we seem to be having a bumper crop this year. Anyone else?

  • The beautiful light. I love this time of year for the change in the suns angle. The low level makes for some beautiful skies and wonderful reflections in puddles. We've had some storms too and as they blow in and then out again we've been blessed with those spectacular skies.

  • An abundance of fungi - have you noticed? They really are everywhere this year. We've clearly had perfect weather conditions for them. Are you brave enough to forage them though?





The Apple Tree House Studio

October Studio Jobs:

  • Autumn studio tidy up & deep clean

  • Refresh and store all dried flowers

  • Prep studio space for Christmas wreath making and workshops

  • Order sundries for Christmas

  • Make Autumn wreaths/hoops

After my busiest September for years it felt good to hit October & have some breathing room. September is one of my favourite months, we had beautiful weather and some fantastic weddings to flower. October is always a planning and prep month work wise for me but that doesn't mean there isn't a lot going on. I started the month off with my last wedding of the year creating a truly Autumnal display of colour for Sharon and Sam who got married locally in Battle on 1st October. A wonderful way to finish wedding season. I was also asked to contribute again to the wonderful Wildflower magazine for their Christmas front cover. A couple of days spent at the most beautiful of houses near Lewes (the big reveal will come once the magazine is out very soon I believe) bringing Christmas to them early. I can't wait for you to see what we created. There was, as always, a fabulous team involved that I felt really inspired by and privileged to work with.

After that it was on to the big tidy up.

I like to have an Autumn clean, much like the Spring one but with more spiders! I'm not the tidiest worker and often kick myself for not doing it as I go. Sterilising buckets & vessels, dusting shelves & composting all the little bits that I couldn't bring myself to throw out but are not good enough to end up in a wreath now. It's a time to cleanse and always makes me feel better and ready for the next onslaught of work. Once that job is done it's on to the storage of all the flowers that have been drying. Over the Spring and Summer months I'm always collecting flowers to dry for use in the Autumn and Winter months but storing them can be tricky. I have two loft spaces but both of these are quite damp in the winter. I've found if I use large Tupperware boxes filled with kitchen paper on the bottom and then wrap flowers in small bunches with tissue paper then it seems to work quite well. Anything really delicate I leave hanging upside down in my studio in bunches or in my house.

Prep for Christmas started way back in August. Yes, you heard that right. I pre order all my sustainable English moss in August and my spruce in September. I also start foraging in September for Autumn and Christmas wreaths. So that's already started and continuing but in October I like to order all my sundries for wreath making. I'm running my first full day Christmas workshop this year at Wickerwood Farm and I've been working hard behind the scenes to source some fabulous vintage decorations, ribbons, fabric and vessels to use in this class as well as planning exactly what tips, tricks and designs I'm going to be sharing on the course. It looks set to be a fabulous day. I'm off to Ardingly Antiques Fair to do some sourcing too next week so see you there if you're going to. My usual wreath making classes will also be running so I've been ordering ribbons, wreath frames and all other sundries needed for that course. The fabulous photographer, Sarah Carmody has taken some wonderful shots earlier this month to advertise our new Kids wreath making sessions coming up too and I've been busy getting the word out on my socials and email marketing. Sessions are getting booked up but I have to say that the state of Instagram these days it's become incredibly difficult to get the word out to people. Is anyone else having the same problem? But then social media nightmares is probably a whole other blog post in itself.


In the Press and on the Drying Rack

Pressing -

  • Autumn leaves - Acer, Geranium, Viburnum, Peony, grape leaves, Cherry

  • Geranuim, Cosmos, Corepsis flowers



Drying -

  • Dahlias

  • Helichrysum

  • Hydrangea


There's not much left in the garden at the moment and I haven't got around to switching my patio pots over to winter yet. It's a great time of year to pick leaves for pressing as they turn all the shades of Autumn. Cotinus isn't quite ready yet but there are some lovely shades on my Peony leaves and Viburnum as well as the Acer. If you have a grapevine it's also a great time to press some leaves as the veins and details really come to life now. I've been pressing lots of Cosmos that's still flowering away, coreopsis, nasturtiums (leaves and flowers), Chocolate Cosmos, violas and any other little bits and pieces I can find around the garden. These will be used in art pieces and cards throughout the year. There isn't a huge amount left to dry in my cutting beds other than the last of the dahlias, straw flowers and hydrangea. I've been hanging as many as I can to use in wreaths as well as any seed heads and grasses left in the garden that will dry.

If you'd like some more information on how I dry different flowers then please see my previous blog post on Dried Flowers.


Foraging

What to look out for in October -

  • Mushrooms

  • Lichen covered branches/ interesting twigs

  • Hips

  • Acorns, conkers, chestnuts, pin cones

  • Reed grasses

  • Bracken




It's the perfect time of year to forgage. Whether that be for mushrooms, foliage, berries or fallen branches it's a great time to take a walk in the local countryside and see what you can find. Hips are fabulous at this time of year and if you store them somewhere dry, cool and dark they should last until it's time to make your winter wreaths.

I'm a bit wary foraging for mushrooms but there are a few accounts to follow that are a great resource for this. The Resilient Life , Jennishroom or Urban Forage are all worth taking a look at on Instagram. There are so many foraging courses out there too which is a great activity to do outside in Autumn. WildFoodUK , The Wild Side of Life and a great one for all types of edibles to forage is Eatweeds. Id recommend googling foraging courses near you to find your local ones but it really is a fantastic thing to do.

Reed grass is about to go over as the weather gets wetter so we're nearly past the point for foraging that but it looks great in wreaths and vase arrangements if you can find some in marshy areas.

Probably the best thing to forage now is the Bracken as it's turned brown. Catch it before it rots in the damp weather though and cut it on a dry day so it's not all limp and soggy. Also great to decorate your house with as well as wreaths, bouquets and arrangements all year round.

Collect all kinds of nuts and seeds from trees to make nature tables with kids or for yourself. Acorns, conkers and chestnuts can be wired into Autumn wreaths for added interest and stock up now on pine cones for Christmas.

I'm a bit obsessed with lichen covered branches and twigs in wreaths so I'm picking these up whenever I go for a walk. I find the best place to find them is under oak trees. I also like more delicate twigs to go in wreaths too. Please remember to be mindful when foraging. You can read a few tips on my Instagram post and see a more comprehensive description of how to forage responsibly here.

If you're pruning your vines/climbers/Wisteria/willow then cut it as long as possible for making into sustainable wreath bases. These can be made now ready for Christmas too. I've ordered some locally gown willow from a flower farm to make in to bases for my wreaths this year. I'll be picking that up next week so that will be on my November to do list. They also sell the bases ready made if you can't be bothered to make it yourself. If you aren't sure where to buy locally grown willow then have a look on the Flowers From The Farm website for local growers to you, email a few and see if anyone local to you is growing willow that you can buy. It's such a great resource for finding locally grown. If you don't use it already then definitely check it out. There are also some flower farms doing dahlia picking sessions so get in quick before the season comes to an end!


Creative Projects - Just for the fun of it.

It's really important for me to always have something creative to do, especially as Winter starts to creep in on us. Drying and pressing flowers is a great project in the months leading up to Winter so that you have a wealth of material to play with in the cold dark months. I also like to challenge myself to make arrangements with only what I can find. That might end up just being a vase of twigs with a few Autumn leaves clinging onto them by the end of November but for now there is still lots of berries, interesting foliage and seed heads out there even if you don't have any flowers. Here are a few ideas you could try this month to keep those creative juices flowing as the garden slows down.

  • Pressed flower collages/cards

  • Leaf painting with watercolour paints or drawing patterns directly onto leaves

  • Decorate a pumpkin with pressed flowers - as seen on northwoodsfolk instagram post. I love this idea! Just so pretty. A great account to follow with lots of inspiring seasonal content.

  • Pressed flower bundle dying - See Jessica Unsell's Instagram page for loads of inspiring posts on bundel dying using pressed flowers. wild_fire_water

  • Make a leaf hanging. See My_Plastic_Free_Home for a great leaf project idea and many other great projects too.

  • Use what you can find vase/urn/bowl arrangement challenge

  • Nature collection and painting

  • Still life photography using fruit, nuts, seeds and fabrics to create interesting scenes and use the wonderful Autumn light to create atmosphere

  • Chalk pen Autumn window - See Little Paper Swan's instagram post and profile for a wealth of inspiring craft ideas, baking and seasonal delights especially if you have small children.

  • For great craft project ideas then Helen , White Wood & Linen has a fantastic blog for you to follow and a beautiful instagram account with a wealth of projects to get stuck into.

Jobs in the Garden this month

I'm going to let you into a secret. I'm so rubbish at doing gardening jobs when they are supposed to be done. I always feel like I'm chasing my tail. So no, I haven't planted any bulbs yet. But I have bought them! To be fair I have been ill for the last week and a half so gardening hasn't been an option and my weekends have been taken up with family stuff. I really try not to stress over the long gardening jobs list. You can only do what you can. I find watching gardening accounts on instagram actually makes me panic that I'm not doing what I'm supposed to be so tend to try and think less in jobs for the week and more in jobs for the season.

On my current seasonal jobs list that I'm working through very slowly is -

  • Leaf clearing (bag up your leaves and leave for 18 -24months to turn into perfect leaf mulch)

  • Clear the annuals bed and add layer of mulch ready for planting next year.

  • If you've already had a frost then start digging up the Dahlias (we haven't yet but I know some parts of the country have). I'll be posting another blog soon about this process. Any in pots can be moved undercover to start drying out ready for over wintering though.

  • If you live in a dry and mild area then you can leave your dahlias in and just dump a layer of compost or other suitable mulch to protect them for the winter.

  • Cleaning the greenhouse. Time to get rid of the green on those windows. I like to use this citrus cleaner to get it all sparkling clean.

  • Sowing hardy annuals - Sweet peas especially!I buy most of my seeds from Chiltern Seeds, Sarah Raven, Higgledy Garden and Zoe Wood Gardening

  • Planting Spring bulbs - Narcissus, Hyacinths, Crocus, Snowdrops etc but not Tulips yet. Wait for the ground to get colder in November to protect them from diseases. Farmer Gracy and Peter Nyssen are great places to find bulbs. Farmer Gracy has a bulb sale on at the moment if you haven't bought any yet but get them quickly as you're running out of time to plant before winter.

  • Pre sprout Ranunculus and Anemone corms. Soak for a few hours or overnight before planting into trays. Once sprouted you can pot on.

  • Order dahlias and seeds for next year.

  • Plant bare root roses.

  • Trim hedges

See, so many jobs! So little time! There's loads more to do but that's just a little snippet for now.



Reflecting

As we move towards the end of the month with Halloween and then bonfire night just around the corner, I'm grateful that this season has given me some down time. Some of that has been enforced by seasonal bugs that have meant I couldn't get done what I wanted to but maybe that's a good thing. Maybe after a really busy Summer, especially September my body just needed a break. I've had some time to think about what's working and not in the garden and in other areas of my work (social media definitely is something that isn't working but I won't get on that as it tends to send me a bit ranty and nobody needs to hear that!). Another thing that hasn't been great this year is my soil condition in my cutting beds which has led to low yields and poor crops of some flowers this year. That's definitely something I need to invest a bit of time and energy into correcting. I will be trying to find a local farmer who wants to get rid of some well rotted cow manure. Now there's a challenge!

I'm also on a mission to reduce the amount of imported flowers I use for weddings and events. As a wedding florist this is really hard to do. Educating the client and giving them the space to decide what is right for them is the best way forward for me I think. I find that when I talk to clients about the seasonality of flowers and working with local flower farms they are really keen to use as much English grown as they can to get the style they want. This isn't always possible though. I've worked really hard this year to reduce it to a point where around 60% of the flowers and foliage I use come from locally grown sources using no toxic chemicals. But I know I can do better so am meeting with other farms this month to see if I can improve this more next year. That's the dream anyway. There's always room for improvement and while I'm by no means 100% sustainable I'm doing everything I can to reduce the footprint my little business leaves. My to do list remains long but I'm not beating myself up over it. I'll get to it eventually.



My Favourite things about October

  • Autumn leaves. The colour, the crunch...just everything!

  • Wearing cosy jumpers and big fluffy socks

  • Lighting the fire while it rains outside - I found this great page for eco friendly home made firelighters

  • Candle light on cosy evenings - Have a look at Loriest & Co for some beautiful seasonal scented candles

  • Snuggling up on the sofa to watch a movie with my family

  • Making soups and hearty stews - Favourite Pumpkin soup recipe by Jamie Oliver and a lovely easy creamy mushroom soup by Cafedelites


Social Media Watch

Finally, as well as the accounts already listed above here are a few of my favourite accounts on Instagram that really capture the season beautifully. If you don't already follow them then go take a look and hopefully be inspired.

The Wild Wood Moth - Alice is a photographer and takes stunning photos of the local Dorset countryside throughout the seasons.

Foxglove and Ivy - Rachels account is packed with stunning images of nature and beautiful places to visit.

Cucumbers and Roses - Kati's account is filled with beautiful photographs of the things she loves. Her baking and florals are especially beautiful.

Cake and Moss - I've followed Claire for a long time now and her recipes, beautiful florals and craft ideas are so fabulous. Definitely not to be missed.

Another account that I'm avidly following is Greenwashtheflowers. As a floral designer and a consumer this account has been highly insightful and informative about the floral industry and its practices. There have been some very interesting discussions on their posts from lots of different view points. If you're interested in protecting the environment and finding out more about greenwashing then this is a great account for you.





So that's my Autumn round up. I hope there have been some ideas and suggestions that you've found useful? If you have any suggestions of accounts to follow or resources then drop a comment below as I'd love to hear from you. I hope you have a happy Halloween and enjoy the rest of this beautiful season. I'll be back here with some Winter musings in January. Sign up to my mailing list to keep up to date with any blog posts, workshops and product launches. Until then, take care.


Anna x



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