Hello! Yes, it’s been far too long since I last posted. I went through a period of lockdown blues, then Frank, my partner’s beloved brother, died of Covid, and then I too got Covid. It was impossible to find enthusiasm for anything other than biscuits.
As if that wasn’t enough, our wonderful labrador, Barney, had to be put down just before Easter. Yep, 2021 turned out to be just like 2020 – lousy. In 14 months, my partner has lost two brothers, two best friends, a mare and foal and his adored dog. And one of my best friends died too. So I haven’t really felt able to grasp the nettle of this blog.
But the story does get better, I assure you. When the first lockdown easing happened, I went up to North Norfolk – my nephew has a little one-room flat separate from his house which he keeps for family and friends wanting to take the Norfolk air. So I was able to have an entirely legal holiday there, meet my nephew’s adorable babies and get to know his fabulous wife, see my beloved sister who lives 7 miles away, and see my darling friend Olivia who was 25 miles away. It was during that warmish patch when spring arrived and so being outside all day was no problem.
And I can tell you right now, hand on heart, that it’s quite miraculous what four days with family and friends can do. I am still grieving, but I’ve got some of my mojo back.
Stop waffling, Dillie
Anyhow, I was going to publish this in time for Valentine’s Day but I didn’t. And then Easter and Mother’s Day slipped by. So I’m hoping this will land in time for all those May birthdays – and once you’ve read this, you will send birthday bouquets rather than “arrangements”.
Because you need to check carefully if those arrangements use Oasis®. Yes, it’s one of the unrecognised evils which we take for granted in modern life and it is made by those old friends of the environment (IRONY ALERT), du Pont.
(I should at this moment add that this piece was suggested by one of my readers, Shane Connolly who is a Floral Designer Of Great Note and thus knows what he is talking about. Thanks, Shane, I never knew this!)
I’m horrified to admit that I have used it quite a bit in my life. I love flowers in the house. I’m firmly of the belief that a jug full of cheap daffs can really lift the spirits. My mother, who loved a nice bowl of flowers, was a great fan and used tons of the stuff. It’s beloved by floral artists the world over and if you ever go to Covent Garden flower market early in the morning, as I have done many a time, you will see stalls where it’s piled high.
Here’s a particularly offensive bit of kit. These things are called “Connecting Floral Wet Foam Cylinders” – that’s Newspeak for “more plastic than you can possibly need”.
But of course, I had no idea that Oasis is actually a plastic – it’s produced by mixing phenol and formaldehyde with each other and then adding air, which turns it into phenolic foam.
In other words, the same stuff the building trade use for insulation on external walls. It has a low thermal conductivity which is good for keeping heat inside the house, and is very nearly non-flammable with negligible smoke emission, and a very low level of toxic gas emission. In other words, it’s an incredibly efficient form of insulation – an eco use of something non-eco. (Later Edit – thanks to reader Sandy Macpherson for reminding me that inflammable means easily set on fire.)
I’m not naive enough to think that we can stop all uses of plastics – it’s far too useful to humankind – but we can surely stop frivolous use of plastics, and using it for flower arrangements certainly counts as frivolous.
I’ve written enough on plastics here on the blog, but if you want to know what happens to plastic as it degrades and why it is dangerous, have a look at my piece on Saran Wrap/Cling Film.
But really, all you need to know is this. Oasis is plastic that crumbles easily – heck, it almost becomes a nanoplastic the minute you use it. Even if you try to dispose of it properly enters the sewage system where it is eventually washed out into the sea, into our rivers and onto the land with catastrophic results.
Flower arranging without foam
Yes, just search “flower arranging without foam” and you’ll see that it’s perfectly possible. There are YouTube videos showing you how, gadgets for holding flowers, and shops that sell arrangements.
And I made the wreath for Frank’s coffin without oasis. Before I show you what is possible from a total amateur (me), here’s a pic of the frame. The plastic cup was part of an arrangement that someone had sent me, and could be removed afterwards.
Then I put chicken wire in between the layers of bamboo which held the stems. Finally, as I wanted the arrangement the size of the coffin, I placed the frame on a piece of chipboard which supported the frame. Everything was reusable, in other words. Obviously, I hope I don’t have to reuse any of these for a long time!
Best of all, every single branch of greenery and every single flower either came from my garden or the gardens of friends who’d also loved Frank. And it was February too. Here it is.
And goodbye Barney…
I always end with a picture of one of our animals, because they’re such wonderful friends; they gladden our hearts and sustain us through bad times. Barney was John’s dog, so I didn’t post so many pictures of him. But oh, he was a glorious member of our household for very nearly 13 years.