On Flowers by Amy Merrick
Published: 16th Feb 2020
I heard Amy say in a podcast that she had waited nearly a decade to write this book.
On Flowers: Lessons from an Accidental Florist is testament to doing something at precisely the right time for the most perfect result.
When I ordered this book I had no idea how big and luxurious it is, so when I opened the packaging it was a lovely surprise. I wish I'd been able to admire it in a bookshop first, carry it in my arms and eagerly begin reading it on the bus on the way home. It's a proper hold-it-in-your-hands-and-indulge-in-every-word-and-picture book. It's the kind of book you wish you had the experience and talent to write and create. It's several books in one; instruction manual, autobiography and the most beautiful scrapbook and floral travel journal you've ever seen.
Honestly, if this had been a book solely about arranging flowers I wouldn't have been interested in it. Floristry isn't on my radar. I don't tend to cut flowers from my garden to display in the house and when I do they are ones that have been accidentally broken off and I couldn't face throwing them on the compost. I sometimes cut flowers to give to others as gifts but that feels different somehow. If someone buys me flowers I'm a bit fingers and thumbs with them, I don't own any vases and they end up in a water jug or several drinking glasses and jars. I know this isn't anything to brag about, I'm just trying stress the point quite clumsily that I prefer to enjoy flowers outdoors or with food and it doesn't occur to me to cut their stems and bring them inside.
Amy's book is about the joy and magic that working with, living with and dreaming of flowers brings and that is something I can absolutely identify with. I don't want to go into detail and spoil anything for anyone who wants to read it (and you should) but I do want to say how much I love it. The style and photography is right up my street, both dreamy and retro. The words take you on many journeys both geographically and emotionally. It teaches you about florsitry and botany, tells you stories and inspires ideas. I can see me coming back to this book over again.
So, despite everything I said about having no clue or interest in flower arranging, after reading the first section of On Flowers (the instructional part) I found myself looking at vessels around my home and wondering if they would make suitable flower vases or bowls. Being wintertime in the UK our choice of seasonal flowers is more limited than in summer, they're generally smaller and more delicate but there are beautiful flowers nonetheless. Following Amy's guides I made two tiny arrangements. One using fallen pine needles and cones from the forest alongside my own snowdrops, primroses and narcissus and the other using faded hellebores with a sprig of cotoneaster, one of the prettiest evergreens I have.
And the vases? Well, the black one has been holding pens and pencils on my desk for the past 15 years. Before that it did the same job by the telephone in my parents' house where I grew up. The cream one is a sugar pot that lost its lid under the kitchen cabinets, never to be seen again. I think they do this job quite well.
I'm not sure I nailed floristry with these two first attempts but I really loved looking at bringing cut flowers into my home in a completely different way. I think I'll invest in some beautiful vases too.