Flowers are good for your Health

Flower arrangements created during the floristry workshop at Clue Hill Farm, Brill, during the summer of 2014.

Hand-held arrangements from a Creative Green Flower Workshop

Floral design, or floral arts is the art of creating flower arrangements in vases, bowls, baskets or other containers.  It may also include the making of bouquets and compositions from cut flowers. People have been using flowers to lift their spirits for hundreds of years.  Studies have show that even the view of a flower, or tree can lift the mood and help an ailing body recover.  There are definitely benefits to health by just being near to them.

There have been studies at Rutgers University (USA) where they found that flowers had an immediate impact on levels of happiness, in all age groups. Flowers have a long-term positive effect on moods. In particular, the study participants reported feeling less depressed, anxious and agitated after receiving flowers and demonstrated a higher sense of enjoyment and life satisfaction.  Flowers can also allow intimate connections.  The presence and use of flowers led to increased contact with family and friends.

‘Flowers bring about positive emotional feelings in those who enter a room’ said Dr. Haviland-Jones. ‘They make the space more welcoming and create a sharing atmosphere’.  This is applicable to homes, offices, hospitals or anywhere where people tend to gather.  This may also be applied to outdoor spaces, but in this instance we have our native wild flowers with their abundance of colour and natural beauty to enjoy.

In the hay fields and surrounding woods and paths at Clue Hill Farm we have an abundance of wild flowers.  This is primarily due to the fact that there have been no chemicals used there for the past 28 years and that the sheep are our wonderfully efficient natural lawn movers during the winter months, which prepares the hay fields so that they can burst into an amazing pallet of colours as they mature and grow during the months of May and June.  There has been an amazing crop of buttercups this year, which looks stunning in the sunshine.

We have the following wild flowers on natural display at the moment: buttercup, wood anemone, bee orchid, red campion, red clover, rosebay willow herb, dandelion, bird’s foot trefoil, yellow iris, yellow archangel, bugle, yellow rattle to name but a few.

Wild flowers do not really last when brought indoors and also, should not really be picked.  They are better left in the natural environment, for us to enjoy and for bees and insects to make use of.  For floral arrangements, the use of natural materials such as mosses, lichens, bark and small branches can really enhance a few garden flowers giving that back-to-nature feel.

Our Gift Flowers and Floristry Techniques Workshop is specifically designed to make use of these natural materials that can be harvested sustainably from Clue Hill Farm.  Caroline Wilson  and Hazel Harmanour workshop tutors, are passionate about the use of nature’s fruits and have both had many years in the floristry trade where they have practiced this art.

Summer flower arrangement

Creative Green Floral Arrangement using Natural Materials

Some of the floristry tips that are being offered at this workshop are:

– ensure that your flowers are as fresh as possible when you get them.  Even after they are in the vase, the freshest flowers will continue to open up and live fully until the end of their lifespan.

– whilst growing, flowers need water and sunlight, but after they are cut that’s not entirely the case – sunlight plays a vital role in growth, not necessarily in lifespan.  In fact, too much heat will restrict the absorption of water, so a hot windowsill in the midday sun may not be such a good idea.  Equally, avoid putting them near radiators or fires, or even microwaves.  Overnight it is a good idea to put your flowers in the coolest part of the house to ensure that they do not get too warm.  It is also crucial not to place them in a draught, or near a door.

– to maximise water absorption, put your flowers in warm water, not cold when they arrive.  Warm water is easier to absorb and will ensure that the flowers stay fresh.  Be vary of adding too much water – flowers only absorb through the bottom of the stem, so only an inch or two needs to be submerged.  Ideally, cut your stems across and keep them as short as you can.  Shorter stems means the water does not have as far to travel and will make a difference in lifespan.

‘A successful person is not necessarily someone with a lot of money and material goods, but rather someone who is in tune with people and knows how to touch their hearts.  I can think of no other item besides flowers that evokes such positive feelings and perceptions for both the giver and the recipient’ M.J. Ryan author of the Random Acts of Kindness books series.

 

The Birdsong is Amazing at this Time of Year – The Cuckoo is Here!

On my dog walks around Clue Hill Farm last week I heard the cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) three days running.  A true sign for me that spring is really here.  I think that this must be a real privilege, as the call of the cuckoo is becoming a

wood violets

Wood Violets in the Sunshine at Clue Hill Farm

very rare sound in the U.K., because fewer and fewer of them return to breed here every year.  It seems that very little is known about their habitat and where they go, so it is therefore very difficult to concentrate on their conservation.  We just hope that the conservation work that we are doing will prove beneficial to providing the correct habitats for birds such as the cuckoo.

I may have heard one, but I certainly did not see one and I wonder how many people would recognise one if they did see them?  The cuckoo is a dove-sized bird and has blue/grey upper parts, head and chest, with dark barred white under parts.  They have a sleek body, long tail and pointed wings, which is not unlike kestrels or sparrowhawks.

The females lay their eggs in the nests of other birds, especially meadow pipits, dunnocks and reed warblers.  The unfortunate host birds then take on the duties of parents and feed the cuckoo chick, unaware that the baby bird is not their own.  A female cuckoo may visit as many as 50 nest in one year – which if they are such prolific breeders, begs the question as to why they are in such decline; but due to their recent decline, they have now been listed as a Red List species by the RSPB.

Planning for the Wildlife Safari in the Barn at Clue Hill Farm

Planning for the Wildlife Safari in the Barn at Clue Hill Farm

When I met with Stuart Mabbutt last Saturday, who is now our Resident Wildlife Sound Recordist* at Clue Hill Farm, within the space of 25 minutes of walking around the woods and surrounding hedgerows, he heard: robins, willow warbler, wren, great tit, blue tit, pheasant, blackcap, green woodpecker, dunnock and saw two buzzards searching for prey.  We did not hear the cuckoo though.

Stuart was preparing a site study for his Wildlife Safari on May 16th and was really pleased to see how the woods and pond were springing into life.  He had last visited us in late autumn and our careful and sustainable management of the area is proof of how we try to nurture the environment to encourage wildlife.

Meanwhile, I shall be looking to spot my first cuckoo.  They are masters of disguise.  Some of them are even able to match their eggs to those in their chosen nest, making it less likely for the real owners to notice the new addition. How clever is that?

* Our Resident Wildlife Sound Recordist will be using Clue Hill Farm to build his sound archive so that he can produce soundscapes.  This is an exciting new collaboration for us, so watch this space!