Heavenly Flowers With Chirpee
by Ruth Lawrence
Ruth Lawrence recently visited Steph and designer Tim Walsh of Chirpee Flowers to hear how they can create a fairytale wedding from classic, to the totally alternative, taking care of everything floral from hair, bouquet, cake, installations and table decorations.
Claude Monet once wrote, “I must have flowers, always and always,” and the same could certainly be said of Steph Willoughby, Chelsea Gold medal winner, international florist, teacher and judge.
It’s obvious that Steph lives her life’s vocation; quietly spoken and modest despite her stellar career, she buzzes with ideas and enthusiasm and adores making the couple’s day as special as her limitless imagination will allow. I caught sight of her fabulous ‘flower dress’ where white silk has been adorned with a cascade of flowers that tumble to the hem and a stunning white floral festoon of blooms to trail along the ground while held in an outstretched hand. Her bouquets are breathtaking; deep, rich colours offset with luxuriant foliage, each a triumph of subtle combinations and shading. I particularly loved a creation of vintage pink rose and deep lilac dotted with tiny sprays of pure white. A stunning full length table decoration used scarlet roses and purple grapes interspersed with glimpses of baby pink blooms and rosy apples peeping through the flowers – it looked spectacular on the crisp ivory linen table cloth beneath.
“We have created pagan, Indian and gothic weddings as well as the classic traditional weddings for any couple,” Steph told me; “and we can create wedding packages for all budgets and bespoke requests.” Wild flowers are apparently on trend at the moment and the colour of the year is the strong purple, ultraviolet. Wild flowers can create a memorable personal bouquet as traditionally, all flowers of the field held specific meanings and flowers told a language of their own.
As most wedding bookings come from personal recommendation, Steph gets to know the brides really well and many have become friends. An initial enquiry and chat about colours and themes leads to a design centred upon the wedding dress. All consultation is done at the client’s home or wedding venue, making it far more personal than visiting a shop and being surrounded by customers. A mood board is created along with sketches so that each client can visualise the entire effect and be certain that their wedding looks exactly as they have dreamed. Flowers can even be preserved after the special day if a client wants an everlasting memory to keep.
Steph is a Master Florist and has trained eighteen Chelsea gold medal winners; for the last 21 years she has also been teaching floristry and has taught hundreds of students from many countries. Chirpee Flowers has courses ranging from day long workshops to ten week online classes with flexible learning, appealing to young people, professionals and the retired. She hosts bespoke workshops for up to a dozen people, which make wonderful gifts for Mothers Day, Valentine’s Day and anniversaries. Brides and their mothers can attend the ‘Mum and Me’ workshop to help them make decisions for the wedding based on what they have learned. A more in depth two day ‘Bridal Flowers’ course covers everything from creating corsages, buttonholes and bridal hand tied floral designs to caring for flowers and budgeting for the event. The Easter floral workshop teaches style ideas for home and table and how to get maximum life from your cut flowers and spring plants. There are short workshops for creating hen party crowns from fresh and faux flowers, making an exciting design to sit in a vintage urn and a Valentine’s special which demonstrates how to make twisted willow hearts with intertwined flowers. Tailor made workshops cover anything from floral chandeliers and living wreaths to hanging baskets and flower jewellery.
As floristry can now be studied to Foundation degree level, Steph’s online course, ‘Beginners and Beyond’ would make a perfect taster and will prepare prospective students for their chosen training and give them their first step to a potential career. The ten module course starts with a brief history of floristry and covers everything from colour theory and flower identification to practical lessons in creating bouquets, table designs and crowns. Steph has also created a FREE online ‘Floristry Taster Course’ which is a fantastic way to begin either a new hobby or perhaps take the first leap into a new way of life. To book workshops and discuss classes see details below.
Chirpee Flowers can also create beautiful sympathy flowers and wreaths to any personal theme, however unusual, while eco friendly floral tributes are increasingly popular for natural burials.
As Steph has decorated most of the venues in Sussex she has extensive knowledge of all the major venues and knows the potential for her designs in each one. Any couple knows that planning a wedding can be one of life’s most challenging events and being able to rely on the long years of knowledge that Steph holds can take some of the inevitable pressure off the decision making progress. Testimonials of Steph’s creations are emotionally charged; one lady wrote how, “I nearly cried…because the flowers surpassed our expectations,” while another observed how, “it is a rare gift to be able to interpret dreams, so they are better in reality.” A wedding is the ultimate dream for two people and Steph’s creative talents have now been making the dream come true for the last twenty one years.
Workshop dates for your diary are; Valentine’s Special 10th February and Mother’s Day workshops on the 3rd & 10th March
Telephone: 01273 951745 / 07545 489569