In his Summer 4 Week Course presentation, Colin Chuter’s sensitively composed wedding florals blend creative spirit with a heartfelt appreciation of nature’s deep rooted aesthetics. From the commonest urban street flower to the highly cultivated beauties in New Covent Garden Flower Market, each plant is appreciated for its unique charm. His ‘Stylish Marriage’ is fully focused on creativity, encapsulating the fleeting natural grace in a considered choice of foliage and blooms with the magical flux of bright summer colours melting into autumn’s glowing tones.
We asked Colin to share some details about his experience at the Zita Elze Flower Academy. Did you have a special reason to choose this class? “I actually had no interest in floristry as such. But I was very drawn to Zita’s work, it looked so very different. I couldn’t say why, it was just a feeling. I had a couple of projects in mind and I wanted them to look really special.”
And what about having Zita as your tutor? “I previously attended the one day hand-tied bouquet class and I was blown away by her teaching method.”
What was the highlight for you? “Being totally absorbed in a creative process for four weeks.”
What did you call your Bridal Week Project? “‘A Stylish Marriage’ – the style all comes from the creative process not from expensive, showy blooms.”
What was your inspiration? “I was very inspired by previous students’ projects I had seen on the blog. I definitely did not want to go for the popular ‘wedding look’. So it was to do something less conventional with richer, more subtle colours and textures.”
Which colours did you chose and why? “I think really the choice of the wedding dress was crucial. It was not a satin/taffeta look, but something softer and more natural. The colour was mustard/yellow. Something quite extraordinary happened when I was talking with Zita about this and we looked out of the window and saw someone walking away down the street wearing exactly the dress we had been talking about. This was @grace.margarita who very kindly agreed to appear in the photos.”
Were you looking to share a special mood? “The project was done in the last week of August and I think it captures the feeling of that time of year: it is still very much summer but the richer colours of autumn have started to appear.”
Which flowers did you choose for the project and why? “We used a lot of quite simple seasonal British flowers. The fountain grass and spray chrysanthemums came from Pratley’s British stand at the Flower Market and I love these because they are easy to grow in our climate and are sold in cardboard boxes. There was also a selection of material grown locally in Surrey by @beehaven_flowers. I particularly liked the verbascum ‘Southern Charm’. This added some real beauty to the bouquet and is quite unusual. They are not sold in cellophane wraps and we know that this grower is working to support local bees. I was also very pleased to be able to use some plant material from my own garden, including the wild herb feverfew.”
Any further thoughts? “I always try to include something in my designs that would be described as a weed in gardens, in public spaces or in floral design. In a different context they might be prized as wildflowers. But there is a phenomenon called ‘wildflower blindness’ where consumers have been so well trained to look for the brightest, biggest, showiest flower displays that they become completely oblivious to native flora. These plants don’t need to be grown on flower farms or nature reserves, they will happily grow in local grassed areas. But every year from March onwards I see maintenance teams and gardeners out with strimmers and mowers keeping the grass cut short and preventing the ‘weeds’ from flowering. This is called ‘the neat and tidy mindset’ and is very harmful to wildlife. There was a huge clump of bladder campion growing at my local train station earlier this year. It is sold at the Flower Market, there is even a specimen in Chelsea Physic Garden, but it was removed from the station. Local flora have a special place in my garden, in my creative work and above all in my heart.”
What do you think this class has given you and what are your future plans with flowers? “It has helped clarify the general direction I wish to take and given me the confidence to continue with that. I want to work with local flora and native species and engage with environmental issues but never losing sight of the exquisite beauty that Zita has taught me to create.”
Zita found Colin to be a very special soul: “Colin came to me at such a great time. Apart from the many things I am doing to become more eco-friendly in a busy commercial floristry business and school, I was going through a challenging time with some of the chapters in my forthcoming book and Colin was such an inspiration!
We discussed various environmental issues and villains and there are many! I hope that together we will find a way to get around one of my biggest issues and that is the floral foam wreath, for which I haven’t yet found a viable solution. Stay tuned to see what we might come up with.
I greatly enjoyed teaching Colin. I love his concept of working with native British and local grown plant materials and I especially love his clever use of so-called weeds in his designs. We had a great time – I was as happy as him when he came to the classroom with his recycled old bag filled with treasures that he had picked from his garden. I am sure that he will find a wonderful niche in the world of floristry. We definitely need more Colins in this industry!” Zita Elze, September 2019
You can follow Colin’s floral journal via his Instagram page.
Photography © Fiona Caroline Photography