Finally, the Christmas rush is over. The Hayford & Rhodes office has gone from being calm to all-things-Christmas-chaos to calm(ish) again
Column by Joanna Rhodes Managing director of Hayford & Rhodes
‘Christmas elves’ is a slightly over-used phrase, but I feel that the Hayford & Rhodes team of expert florists really are. Nocturnal and with seemingly endless energy, our spritely florists and drivers weave magic as they construct our clients’ Christmas installations overnight and often invisibly. At the Bond Street location of jewellers Piaget, we worked from 11pm to 4am to transform the storefront into a vision of fresh pine, Grevillea and dipped-gold magnolia leaves, holly and fern. Set against the Royal Blue of Piaget’s front door, warm fairy lights created a soft glow.
If you’ve visited or walked by the famous J Sheekey on St. Martin’s Court in Covent Garden, you will have seen Liberace the Lobster & Friends, the Hayford & Rhodes take on a glitterati, crustacean-tastic Christmas. We had a lot of fun creating this theme. We sprayed and glittered shells and (fake) lobsters, crabs and fish. Using different colours and textures where they’re least expected – at a chic seafood restaurant – creates an unforgettable display. You don’t always have to play by the rules with red and green. Hayford & Rhodes pride themselves on being innovative, and this is the perfect example of how much fun it can be when high-quality, expert design meets an uninhibited imagination.
Whilst a lot of my time is taken up with spread sheets, reports and tenders, it is still really important for me to maintain some ‘hands-on’ time where I can be creative. I don’t want my role in the company to be taken over by emails and finance reports. This year, our Christmas cards and gift tags featured one of my pencil sketches of a Hayford & Rhodes door wreath (taking me back to my days as a Fine Art student). Being creative is a very therapeutic process; amidst the frantic pace of daily life, slowing down to sketch or build a wreath is my meditation.
Last month I talked about our wreath-making classes. These are so much fun and the perfect chance for me to get creative alongside the guests. In early December, we hosted 26 people at the loft space of The Alfred Tennyson (part of the Cubitt House collection of public houses and hotels).
Guests were welcomed with the venue’s seasonal G&T, a warm cocktail of Sipmsith Gin, Sipsmith Botanics and hot water. It’s punchy and warming, and the botanical flavours give it a sweet, Christmassy taste.
Canapés provided by the in-house chef included Middle White pork sausage roll and clementine chutney; smoked mackerel pâté, beetroot and horseradish on rye; Black pepper lamb loin with cauliflower and toasted brioche, and Manouri cheese and courgette fritter with date yoghurt.
The makings for the wreath consisted of Christmas pine (one of the most emotive smells on the planet), Populus Eucalyptus leaves, a scattering of white Wax Flowers, preserved white mushrooms, natural Poppy heads, white-washed Oak, Conifer and Lotus seed-pods. Given an apron, florist scissors (and other tools of the trade we like to keep secret), guests learned how to create a wreath from start to finish, even learning how to hand-tie the perfect bow using beautiful pewter satin ribbon.
The crowd was an eclectic mix: From luxury hospitality insiders, two best friends to a mother/ daughter duo. The latter was our youngest student to date – 13 years old! It was really encouraging to have her there, and to see her and her mother build memories together. I hope one day I can do the same with my daughter (who, at five years old, is slightly too bonkers to focus on slow-hobby activities quite yet).
Fortified by gin (bar our younger guest) and the moreish nibbles, the group soon relaxed and produced some beautiful wreaths, and got to take home their handiwork to hang proudly on their front door.
I hope they felt what I feel when I work with flowers; relaxed, inspired, thoughtful and simply very happy. It’s incredible how many people come to our Flower Schools announcing they’re “not creative” or “rubbish at stuff like this”, and an hour later they’ve designed the most stunning display. It doesn’t matter if you’re arty or if you know anything about flowers. Building a wreath or bouquet is a huge confidence boost and no student has ever been “rubbish” or lacking in creativity.
Also not lacking in creativity is the person who tried to make off with four of our freshly made wreaths. After spending half a day building them, I left the finished wreaths propped up outside our studio door to dry. About 20 minutes later, I joined the queue for soup at our local lunch spot on Bermondsey Street. I suddenly noticed my mornings’ work sitting on a bench outside the café. “Wait a minute,” I thought, “aren’t those my wreaths..?!” No one volunteered responsibility, so I hurried them back to the safety of the office, and the story of the wreath thief was re-told around the office all afternoon, to much hilarity.
Once I finish at work after our staff Christmas party – I’ve got to plan the parties I’m hosting on the 22nd, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve… I love having friends and family over at this time of year, and the more, the merrier. I’ve got to start making my Christmas cake (yes, I’m very late). Always home made from a family recipe, I never forget to make a wish when I stir the ingredients. Such once-a-year traditions are timeless. Merry Christmas to you all; and a very happy New Year!