However our brief from Flora for the gala opening of Savage Beauty was not to bring her armfuls of frothing, spring joy but to help her find a beauty in death. The soft beauty of dying flowers in their final days and the tough, savage beauty of nature with long tendrils of brambles with thick, cruel thorns.  Flora had chosen a palette of peppery parchment colours, with soft buff and tones of red, pinks and lilacs. And so last Monday afternoon in the drizzle, head down, we both set out in the garden and woods to pick….
 Lichen covered stems and plump, soft, velvet buds of Magnolia Soulangeana. Verdigris, mossy greens and ashen grey. We were thankful we had not cut down the herbaceous border, having decided in the autumn to leave the seedheads for hungry birds.
 We picked armfuls of delicate, buff heads of Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’ which wanted to fly away in the wind.
 We trod gently amongst the plants to pick Golden Rod - so strong and bright yellow in the prime of life, now so soft in old age. We stood on ladders to pick large, mahogany flower heads of climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea Petiolaris). It is so satisfying to mix pruning with cutting - which is why we are leaving some of the apple trees so we can prune them in blossom!
 Soft, buff hydrangeas and deep plum rose hips in buckets, ready to go
 Muted blue and lilac dried hydrangea which were picked in late summer before they started dying and were left to dry in a vase of water. Then there were the brambles!!  Finally trails of brambles were bundled into the back of John’s van. 
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