Life, Lather & Luxuries

Interview with Avant Garden designer Emma Coleman

June 1st, 2013 | Comments Off | permalink

JMP_Avant_Gnd_covent_gnd_05The Avant Garden has been created for the 2013 Chelsea Fringe, what is so important about the festival?

I think the concept behind the festival is fantastic. RHS Chelsea Flower Show is a brilliant event and is a highlight for every designer, nursery and keen gardener, but the Chelsea Fringe has been formed to appeal to everyone else too. It aims to bring horticulture to people who wouldn’t necessarily be inspired to go to RHS Chelsea. It opens up hidden gems around London that local people can go and visit. It allows community gardens to show off their hard work. It is a platform for different types of medium to come together to appeal to different types of people. From art installations, to open gardens, to poetry readings. Chelsea Fringe has been created to show that there is such a diverse array of people who love horticulture, and to get everyone to take in interest and ideally get involved.

What are the key inspirations for your design? 

The planting is heavily inspired by the Crabtree and Evelyn’s Gardeners Range. Each ‘pod’ has the key ingredients in; Lavender, Sage, Thyme, and Rosemary. These plants led me to creating a herb garden. Crabtree were really keen to include a ‘Crab Apple’ tree in to the garden, so we have included a Malus Honey Crisp, which is genetically linked to the Crab apple tree, Malus sylvestris.  I was really keen to include some native wildflowers within the garden, so the herbs are combined with species inspired by the plants that would naturally be found around the Malus sylvestris; Anthriscus sylvestris (Cow parsley), Geum rivale, Viola labradorica, Centaurea montana, Briza media.

The structure is inspired by a wooden puzzle cube. If one was to put all the ‘pods’ together, they would reconstruct in to a solid cube. I really wanted each pod to have a connection to each other. The fact that they can all potentially combine to create a single unit creates that relationship.

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How does it feel to be exhibiting in Covent Garden, somewhere with both cultural and horticultural significance?

I love the fact that we are lucky enough to have Covent Garden as our venue. One of the main criteria of the installation from the outset was that the garden was to be available to the public. RHS Chelsea Flower Show showcases beautiful design, plants, hard landscaping and exhibits, I wanted to achieve this but allow the public to intermingle with the garden as well. The shame about RHS Chelsea is that the public can only look from afar and appreciate the garden from certain view points.

Covent Garden’s history automatically lends itself to being a fantastic venue for any horticultural event, and the diversity of visitors within the area means it is the perfect platform for interactive installation. The visitors here are keen to look, investigate and are essentially driven by curiosity. These are the perfect visitors for the garden.

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 What has been the highlight of the project so far?

My highlight so far has been the morning after the install. After an incredibly late night and early start, I got to see the garden ‘in action’. Commuters at 8 in the morning were pausing to look at the planting or to touch and smell the herbs. Tourists were posing next to the pods to take photos. These small actions were great to see, and were exactly what I wanted the garden to do. Every small interaction with the garden means that it has been a success in my view.

What would you most like visitors of the garden to get out of their time in there?

I want visitors to take something from the garden, although not quite literally! If a passer by gets inspired by a planting combination, or new herb, or the colour scheme, or a tourist has a photograph taken next to garden to show people when they return home. Someone may take inspiration from the material combinations. If a handful of people start addressing their attitude to water management within their own green spaces, I think the garden has been a success. There’s a variety of levels that someone can take inspiration from the garden, and if even just one person gets inspired, then I think the garden has met its purpose.

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Water conservation and management is central to the garden, why have you used this as a focus of the garden?

Water management is a subject that really needs to be addressed. Everyone is aware that the climate is changing and we are more frequently getting very bizarre weather. For example, just last year in the UK we were victims of a drought followed by continuous rain and flooding in the space of six months. We can learn to appreciate what a commodity water is, and use it more wisely and effectively. Gardeners and garden owners can make small steps to change their use of water and it can make a significant difference on our bills, on our drainage systems, and in our gardens. I think any small step towards considering water management can only be a good thing.

How did you first get into Gardening?

I’ve always been in my garden as I’ve grown up. Whether that’s me making ‘mud pies’ as a child with my sisters or helping my parents in a more beneficial way as I got older. The simple act of mowing the lawn was the start of the Summer for me and I still love doing it now. After completing my degree in Fashion and Textiles, a brief visit home found me working on the family allotment, where I began to love what a bit of hard work could achieve. Our allotment is rather more ‘wild’ than our organised neighbours on either side, but the sense of achievement with a bit of hard work is really rewarding. It was after a couple of months where I discovered I wasn’t bothered about being covered in mud, and whilst walking round with greenery unknowingly caught in my hair, I decided that I should really think about combining two things I really loved. Design and the outdoors.Flowers for emily 02

Wonderful wedding favour ideas…

May 20th, 2013 | Comments Off | permalink

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It’s that time of year when confetti whirls around country lanes and bunting dances in the summer breeze. If you’re getting hitched and in need of some wedding favour inspiration, from pretty pearls to posh pouches and plump marshmallows, we’ve got it covered. Plus, with 4 for 3 offers on all Crabtree & Evelyn mini products there’s no better time to shop for thank-you gifts.

 

Check out our selection of beautiful buys to suit any wedding colour scheme…

 

Green dream

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Snap up some seed packets from www.notonthehighstreet.com to give your table settings a rustic feel, and when planted they will give guests a lasting reminder of the big day. Alternatively, why not peg these wedding favours onto a tree for guests to help themselves? They could return the favour by writing down a wish or advice for your future together and pegging it to the tree in place of the seed packet.

 

Gift it with… give your guests the gift of super soft hands with our new mini Somerset Meadow Hand Therapy.

 

Life is peachy 

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Sugared almonds might be traditional wedding sweets, but they can be cruel if you’ve got baby teeth or dentures. Instead, why not consider some soft and sumptuous marshmallows? Edinburgh based confectionaries Zukr Boutique Ltd can be commissioned to personalise sweet treats with colours and flavours. How about peach and pansy petal? We love the look of their apricot and saffron marshmallows, which would work brilliantly for any mellow colour themes.

 

Gift it with… a mini Summer Hill Bath & Shower Gel – after the petits fours are served and the dancing is done ­– guests could relax with a luxurious bubble bath.

 

Pink princess

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Bridesmaid favours don’t come much cooler than this cute pouch from Alphabet Bags – which could be filled with lots of little treats. There are plenty of different designs so you could use them as gifts for flower girls, pageboys, the best man and ushers. Plus, wedding-themed shopping bags are also available, which would be great for using as goodie bags for larger pressies.

 

Gift it with… pop a mini Rosewater Body Lotion inside the pouch for a pampering treat fit for a princess.

 

Snow White

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We adore these personalised freshwater pearl bracelets from www.theletteroom.com. They would make a gorgeous gift for bridesmaids, or anyone who has helped out in a big way. The pearls could be worn on the special day or draped over a place setting or wrapped around the stem of a champagne flute as a surprise.

 

Gift it with… inspired by seaside summers, a mini Nantucket Briar Body Lotion is the perfect pairing for a pearl bracelet.

 

Purple passion 

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Creating show-stopping table settings with pots of lavender and let guests take them home after the wedding. This pot of French lavender available at www.notonthehighstreet.com looks blooming lovely and will also smell amazing. Lavender is known for its relaxing properties so could help calm your frazzled mother-in-law.

 

Gift it with… continue the theme by tying a mini Crabtree & Evelyn Lavender Bath & Shower Gel to the pot with some purple ribbon.

 

Are you getting married soon? Share your wedding favour ideas in the comments box below or on our Facebook page.

 

 

 

Rise to the challenge for World Baking Day!

May 14th, 2013 | 1 comment | permalink

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Dig out your favourite apron, dust off those scales and raid your store cupboard. World Baking Day is almost here (19 May) and encourages people to step out of their comfort zone, by choosing to bake one of the 100 cakes on the event’s website, which have been submitted by cooks from all over the globe. At no. 1 on the list, Banana Muffins are for the kitchen novices, while the show-stopping Cream Puff Cake at no. 100 is for those very brave bakers.

The Vanilla, Strawberry & Rose Victoria Sponge took my fancy (level 66), but I decided to add my own take on it. Yes, I have baked many sponge cakes in my time. However, I must confess that recently I’ve been suffering from the curse of the dreaded soggy bottom! That’s why I wanted to go back to basics. For ease, I did an all-in-one recipe and my unique twist on the cake involves a blueberry jam filling and drizzle.

 

I’m proud to say my Blueberry Jam & Drizzle Victoria Sponge was a resounding success (next stop Cream Puff Cake?). Here’s how to make it…

You’ll need…

Cake

4 eggs (weighed in their shells)

Soft margarine (same weight as the eggs)

Caster sugar (same weight as the eggs)

Self-raising (same weight as the eggs)

Drizzle and filling

Half a jar of Crabtree & Evelyn Blueberry Preserve

1 tbs margarine

2 tbs Belvoir Blueberry & Blackcurrant Cordial

50g icing sugar

A handful of rose petals (or you could use fresh blueberries)

Jam

 

Make it…

 

1. Set the oven to Gas Mark 4, 160C (fan oven), 180C or 360F. Grease and line 2 x 8inch sandwich tins.

 

2. All the cake ingredients need to weigh the same amount. First weigh the eggs in their shells. I used duck eggs fresh from the farm and they weighed 8oz, so I made sure the margarine, sugar and flower weighed 8oz, too. The beauty of using duck eggs is that they have bigger yolks and make for a delicious golden sponge.

 

3. Make life easy for yourself by doing an all-in-one cake mixture. Crack the first egg in to a small bowl to make sure it’s a good egg, and add it to a food processor, KitchenAid, or a large bowl (you’ll need an electric whisk to beat the ingredients together). Repeat until all four eggs are cracked, then add the margarine, the sugar and sieve in the flour.

 

4. Mix all the ingredients together until they are pale, light and fluffy as a day old chick!

 

5. Using a large spoon dollop the cake mixture into the tins so it’s equally distributed. Smooth over with a spatula.

 

6. Bake the cakes for 20-25 minutes until they are golden and spring back to touch.

 

7. Leave the cakes to cool in their tins and then press them out onto a wire rack for further cooling.

8. Once the cakes have reached room temperature, put one half on a lovely large plate and spread half a jar of C&E Blueberry Preserve on to it (use more if you’re feeling lavish). Place the other half of the sponge on top.

 

9. Now for the really fun part, the drizzle! Pop the margarine, icing sugar and cordial into a bowl and whisk until all of the ingredients are combined. Pour onto the center of the cake and let the drizzle work its magic. To make the Victoria sponge look super-pretty and fit for a queen, scatter rose petals on top and dust with icing sugar.

 

Will you be taking part in World Baking Day? If so, tell us all about your cakey creations in the comments box below or on Crabtree & Evelyn’s Facebook page.

 

Cake&well