Seasonal Working and Sustainability 

Although working with flowers has always been an artistic practice, the medium has become even more relevant in light of the climate crisis and increasing focus on sustainability. Brigitte Girling, from Moss & Stone Floral Design, is an inspiring artist at the forefront of this skilful and intentional way of working with flowers. 

Brigitte discusses her affinity to gardening and nature which began in childhood and gives an insight into the expansive nature of the practice including its overlap with other art forms.

She discusses the collaboration of formal training and an intuitive feel for working with nature in her work, what sustainability means to her and tuning in to those passions that won’t disappear. 

THE PLUS: Where did your interest in the artistry of flower design begin?

Brigitte Girling: I have always loved gardening and being outdoors. As a child I was free to roam the lanes and fields near my home in Suffolk, the only instruction being to ensure I was home for tea! So the essence of the countryside, nature and the seasons just became a part of me really.

After working in education, I realised that I needed to explore my secret desire to work more closely with flowers. Self-taught, my approach was (and still is) haphazard and undesigned. I just love having my hands in the soil and watching the flowers grow and self sow and gently arrange themselves. I think the interest was always there but it just became a calling I couldn’t ignore any longer!

TP: Did you receive any formal training?

BG: Well, I began as a trained florist. That training pretty much rejected my mum’s beautifully gentle way of enjoying flowers but I went with the flow of those traditional floral ideas and enjoyed many years of freelancing for some wonderful floral event companies as a consequence.

TP: Can you tell us a bit about your artistic process?

BG: Somewhere along the line, I realised my heart wasn’t with the stiff, characterless, imported blooms that you could get any time of the year whatever the season. I had a longing to go back to a more natural, relaxed, gentle way of working with flowers. True seasonality is fundamental to me, that and a sense of place.

I only use what is available now, today, outside in the locality, usually my garden, to create my floral art. I see my art as being a celebration of nature, so I don’t use chemicals or pesticides, all my work is foam-free and wildlife is encouraged everywhere…even in my designs! Who doesn’t want a ladybird in their bouquet?

TP: How would you describe your signature style?

BG: I always think of my designs as a seasonal representation of my garden. I simply think of myself as creating a little garden in a bowl or in my hands if it’s a bouquet.

TP: Is there any overlap between floral design and other art forms you are interested in? For example, writing?

BG: Oh yes, absolutely. I think any creative activity is inspired and nurtured by other creative outlets. They all feed into each other igniting new ideas, ways of thinking, feelings and emotions that you can channel and use to bring a fresh perspective to your own work.

I write about the garden and my daily dog walks, about the wildlife I see, how it feels to be gardening. I can lose myself in these activities which are all creative too. They are almost meditative and so often generate new ideas or questions I want to answer.

TP: Where do you find inspiration?

BG: I love visiting art galleries and other people’s gardens, photography, listening to music, reading, collecting shells along the seashore, listening to the birds, watching my bees. The list of influences and overlaps is really endless. Just designing with flowers alone would become stale very quickly without these other enlivening stimuli.

TP: What is your favourite season to work during?

BG: This is an impossible question to answer. I find each month, each season has its own intrinsic beauty, difficulties and treasures. Winter obviously offers less choice but then each element is to be treasured and revered.

Conversely, summer can offer too much, and so although there is abundance, the choice can almost be overwhelming. I love every season, and I love the anticipation of the next season just as much!

TP: What role does sustainability play in your work?

BG: It is the forefront of my mind in everything I do. I forgive myself for what I don’t know but as soon as I am aware of a new way I can work better I adopt it, this will always be an ongoing process.

I am chemical free, foam-free, peat-free. I use no-dig methods to preserve soil integrity, I constantly reuse all the plastic pots and trays I have accumulated over the years. Everything is composted and put back in the garden.

Wildflowers are encouraged and celebrated. I keep piles of dead wood for insects, fungi, and shelter for birds and hedgehogs. I have two wildlife ponds, I don’t mow except for paths. But I know there will always be more I can do.

TP: What would be your top tip for someone interested in flower design?

BG: Seek out designers you love and try to learn from them. Then practice, practice, practice…there is no fast route to discovering your own style and confidence except practice.

Oh and try to adopt foam-free, environmentally sensitive practices from the beginning so there are no bad habits to break going forward!