Country Living (UK) - - Contents - Words by lauran els­den pho­to­graphs by alun callender

Our lat­est book on cre­at­ing the con­tem­po­rary coun­try look

Amanda Clay­den de­fies blus­tery Scot­tish weather to grow beau­ti­ful cut flow­ers for wed­dings and work­shops

hen you think of abun­dant gar­dens, Scot­land might not nec­es­sar­ily be the first lo­ca­tion that springs to mind. How­ever, with its beds of briza, rows of roses and pas­tel-coloured pe­onies, Green Pea Stu­dio in the Port of Men­teith near Stir­ling is a ver­i­ta­ble oa­sis. It’s a sunny mid-july morn­ing and the sweet scents of bee balm and ap­ple mint min­gle on the breeze. “Be­cause of the cli­mate up here, folk as­sume that gar­den­ing must be ex­tremely chal­leng­ing,” florist Amanda Clay­den says, with a smile. “But, while we’ve had our fair share of late frosts and wet win­ters, I’ve learnt to un­der­stand the soil and grow what I know will flour­ish.” Spe­cial­is­ing in sea­sonal flow­ers and herbs that she cul­ti­vates her­self, Amanda cre­ates artisan bou­quets and dec­o­ra­tions for events across the coun­try. And, while some may think it’s as sim­ple as “pop­ping a few seeds in the ground and wait­ing for it all to hap­pen”, there’s a great deal more to it than that.

Af­ter grow­ing up on her par­ents’ farm in Northum­ber­land, Amanda lived all over the UK be­fore set­tling in the west of Scot­land, where her hus­band, Hugh, helped to es­tab­lish the Queen El­iz­a­beth Na­tional Park. Fol­low­ing spells work­ing in re­tail and the pub­lic sec­tor, she de­cided to un­der­take an art de­gree, fo­cus­ing on site-spe­cific de­sign – which places an em­pha­sis on an in­stal­la­tion be­ing suited to its set­ting. “I think I look at things with a slightly dif­fer­ent eye,” she says, snip­ping at the stems of some sweet peas. “I like to fo­cus on the tex­ture, shape and form of flow­ers, whether it’s us­ing ten­drils to pro­duce a lovely cas­cad­ing fin­ish or a con­torted leaf that’s been nipped at by in­sects.” Once she’d grad­u­ated, Amanda em­barked on a year-long RHS hor­ti­cul­tural course at the pres­ti­gious Royal Botanic Gar­den Ed­in­burgh, be­fore do­ing some hands-on train­ing with Ashley and Rachel Siegfried of Green and Gor­geous (fea­tured in Coun­try Liv­ing, June 2017). “If you’re not a nat­u­rally con­fi­dent per­son – which I’m not – thor­oughly re­search­ing your trade is a great way to gain self-as­sur­ance,” she says.

Five years af­ter set­ting up Green Pea Stu­dio, Amanda has be­come renowned for her rus­tic and slightly wild style of ar­range­ment. Her stu­dio, which is con­ve­niently po­si­tioned just around the corner from the cut­ting gar­den, is a cre­ative space with white­washed walls, an­tique fur­ni­ture and col­lected cu­rios. Once the var­i­ous flo­ral com­po­nents have been gath­ered – buds

with semi-open heads and dense, green fo­liage – Amanda re­turns to her work­table where she’ll loosely ar­range a bou­quet to get an idea of shape. “Wed­dings can some­times be a lit­tle tricky,” she says. “You’ve got to man­age a client’s expectations while de­liv­er­ing some­thing beau­ti­ful within the time frame.” And, although there’s in­evitably a cer­tain amount of pres­sure that goes with con­tribut­ing to a cou­ple’s spe­cial day, Amanda rev­els in the col­lab­o­ra­tion process and be­ing there when ev­ery­thing fi­nally comes to fruition: “Noth­ing can beat as­sem­bling all the bits and bobs you’ve grown your­self, then hand­ing them over to the bride and her mum, who’ll of­ten burst into tears – not that I like see­ing peo­ple cry!” she says, laugh­ing. “I’ll have chat­ted to them for a long time, so, to see their ex­cite­ment, well, that’s just the ic­ing on the cake.”

From Aberdeen to Glen­coe, Amanda is for­tu­nate to have worked in some of Scot­land’s most scenic spots. “Monachyle Mhor in Balquhid­der is one of my favourite venues. You trun­dle along a sin­gle-track lane lined with gnarled Scots pine be­fore reach­ing a won­der­ful pink ho­tel in the mid­dle of nowhere,” she says, un­reel­ing a length of hand-dyed silk rib­bon in ‘apri­cot blush’. “They’ve got an in­cred­i­ble Dutch barn that, de­spite its asym­met­ric shape, comes alive once you dec­o­rate it.”

Per­haps it’s her artis­tic back­ground or her love for in­te­rior de­sign, but Amanda is some­thing of a vi­sion­ary when it comes to co­or­di­nat­ing trans­for­ma­tions. At a wed­ding in Ber­wick­shire last year, she fash­ioned an ‘in­verted meadow’ – us­ing fish­ing line to stitch to­gether long lengths of na­tive Scot­tish wild flow­ers – in­clud­ing yar­row, knap­weed and ox-eye daisies – which she then fas­tened to the roof of the mar­quee. On an­other oc­ca­sion, a series of 1940s lamp­shade frames were wo­ven with moss and hung from the ceil­ing, with ev­ery third one fea­tur­ing an al­lium head ‘light­bulb’. “The aim is to make a unique dec­o­ra­tion that links to the cou­ple and their story. “My motto is sim­ple, stylish qual­ity with a lit­tle bit of op­u­lence thrown in,” Amanda says.

With Loch Lomond and the Trossachs just a stone’s throw away, sprawl­ing glens and ex­pan­sive wa­ters are a con­stant source of

cre­ativ­ity. In fact, af­ter a brisk stroll with her boxer Hec­tor, it’s not un­com­mon for Amanda to rush back to the stu­dio to try to recre­ate what she’s seen: “I’ll pass a patch of ferns next to a pale-pink dog rose and think, ‘Now, there’s a won­der­ful com­bi­na­tion – I’d love to re­peat it.’” With a ten­dency to see beauty wher­ever she goes, it will come as no sur­prise that Amanda ap­pre­ci­ates the whole flower rather than only its bur­geon­ing blooms: “I’ll of­ten use leaves just as much as blos­som. Scented green­ery such as eu­ca­lyp­tus, laven­der or lemon ver­bena can bring an­other di­men­sion to a dis­play,” she says. “Back in 2016 I did a wed­ding where the groom was part of the ju­nior Scot­tish rugby team. Each ta­ble had a sim­ple ar­range­ment of scented herbs and all these strap­ping, six-foot-tall blokes kept com­ing up to me say­ing, ‘Oh my God, these smell amaz­ing!’”

Back in the gar­den, Amanda is wan­der­ing between the beds, in­spect­ing and dead-head­ing as she goes. She may ap­pear to be a green­fin­gered guru, but there’s a lot of hard work be­hind the tow­er­ing del­phini­ums and sway­ing cos­mos. “My head is like a bum­ble­bee – con­stantly buzzing,” she says, smil­ing. “Peo­ple think that flow­ers ap­pear nat­u­rally, but I’m heav­ily de­pen­dent on my diary and a host of spread­sheets.” Sum­mer might be high sea­son, but ev­ery month is spent plan­ning those that fol­low. Even autumn and win­ter months mean ‘madly plant­ing’ tulips, anemones and ra­nun­cu­lus for spring, when it starts all over again. While she may know what will and won’t work – not dis­re­gard­ing the in­put of Mother Na­ture, who “al­ways wins” – Amanda still en­joys a bit of ex­per­i­men­ta­tion: “I have a low bore­dom thresh­old. I’m al­ways think­ing, ‘What’s next?’ Re­cently I’ve been tri­alling some New Zealand hy­brids that come in shades of dusky laven­der and smoky pink. I can’t wait to get my hands on them and see what they’ll work with next year.”

As the sun be­gins to set, send­ing the nearby hill­tops into shadow, Amanda is busy sweep­ing up the loose leaves between the roses – one of the more high-maintenance blooms un­der her charge. To­mor­row will be spent away from the gar­den, host­ing a stall at Stock­bridge Mar­ket in Ed­in­burgh – where Amanda of­fers an as­sort­ment not usu­ally found on the high street. “One of my proud­est mo­ments was when I was strolling through the city and spot­ted a bou­quet of dahlias and grasses I’d made in some­one’s win­dow. They had kept and dried them be­cause they still found them in­ter­est­ing.” And, when asked what she finds so con­tin­u­ally cap­ti­vat­ing about flow­ers, Amanda is res­o­lute in her re­sponse: “You think you know what you’re do­ing, but then I find I am al­ways learn­ing and never, ever sit­ting still.”

For more in­for­ma­tion on Green Pea Stu­dio, visit green­peas­t­u­

Along­side her cut-flower busi­ness, Amanda also sells a se­lec­tion of dec­o­ra­tive pieces for the home and vin­tage items for the gar­den

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