Spring in a bot­tle

The Daily Telegraph - Gardening - - Front Page -

Melissa Richard­son set up JamJar Flow­ers seven years ago. She had been run­ning a suc­cess­ful model agency for 28 years, but by 2009 had had enough and was think­ing of start­ing a sim­ple flower busi­ness from her kitchen ta­ble.

One of the clinch­ers was de­cid­ing on a name. As Melissa says, the nicest flow­ers are the ones you pick when you go for a walk, plonk them in a jam jar and put them on the win­dowsill. She was bought up in a Sus­sex house with walled gar­dens, but her fa­ther hated any­one to cut any­thing from the bor­ders. So she would go into the woods and pick milk­maids, cowslips and cow pars­ley. That’s where her love of sim­ple flow­ers be­gan, choos­ing them ev­ery time over stems which had a whiff of poly­tun­nel about them. Even­tu­ally it be­came Melissa’s busi­ness plan: to spe­cialise in wild­flower look-a-likes, or sim­ple gar­den flow­ers.

Her tim­ing was spot on. In 2009, we were just on the tail of the fi­nan­cial cri­sis. At that mo­ment, the flower fash­ion was, as Melissa re­minds me, “all Mar­tini glasses, calla lilies twisted in fish­bowls, with strands of steel grass, and the whole world was in a rage, with peo­ple re­ally hat­ing that os­ten­ta­tious, show­ing-off-of-wealth sort of look”.

At the back of her mind was the time when she had had her chil­dren and been sent flow­ers in hos­pi­tal, but the nurses couldn’t find yet an­other vase. At the model agency it was the same. There were al­ways flow­ers wrapped in cel­lo­phane dy­ing in the

From run­ning a model agency to a trend-set­ting florist – meet the cre­ative mind be­hind JamJar Flow­ers. By Sarah Raven

sink, wait­ing for a model to pick them up. So the idea of the flow­ers ar­riv­ing in a vase seemed like a good one. The con­cept of JamJar was born.

Melissa was soon joined by her son, Finn. He had been work­ing in a bank, but loathed it. As a math­e­mat­i­cal whizz, she knew he would be good at sched­ul­ing and spread­sheets, but it turned out he was also a ge­nius at gar­land­ing and large-scale ar­rang­ing. He is now her right-hand man.

The JamJar stu­dio is in Pea­cock Yard in Ken­ning­ton, south London, and most of their work is press launches, wed­dings and con­tract flow­ers for clubs and restau­rants. There is also a flower school, with about eight cour­ses a year, rang­ing from weeks (there’s one com­ing up in June at Château Du­mas in France) to one-day cour­ses (see be­low).

Vin­tage glass

Con­tain­ers are all at JamJar, with some firm favourites used ev­ery day.

The first thing Melissa shows me is one of her vin­tage rose globes. A friend in­tro­duced her to th­ese at the age of 15, when she vis­ited him in his old-fash­ioned, coun­try house flower room on the Isle of Wight. He went out into the gar­den and picked a sin­gle rose and then showed Melissa how to ar­range it in an an­tique glass globe. The beauty of th­ese is the mag­ni­fi­ca­tion, with tiny lit­tle air bub­bles trapped in a halo around ev­ery pe­tal like phos­pho­res­cence. The rose globes work bril­liantly in clean, min­i­mal­ist spa­ces.

The best flow­ers for th­ese, Melissa tells me, are good, huge-headed cab­bage roses with a com­plex shape, such as ‘Beatrice’ or ‘Juliet’; pe­onies are al­most as good. ‘Sarah Bern­hardt’ is a re­li­able per­former and easy to get, but Melissa’s favourite is ‘Claire de Lune’ and, as she also shows me: “In­tri­cate flow­ers like snake’s head frit­il­lar­ies are mar­vel­lous un­der the mag­ni­fy­ing glass.”

JamJar’s other unique con­tain­ers are made from cigar presses, with dif­fer­ent-sized test tubes drilled into the press. They’re a dream con­tainer for peo­ple cut­ting from a city gar­den, a sprig of this or that, turned eas­ily into a ta­ble cen­tre and per­fect for show­ing gar­den – rather than poly­tun­nel – flow­ers. “Gar­den-grown stems have twisted and turned to the sun. That makes their shapes so much more in­ter­est­ing,” Melissa says.

She, on the whole, likes the cigar presses ar­ranged very plainly, with

Sim­ple tastes: Frit­il­lar­ies in vin­tage poi­son bot­tles, above; Melissa Richard­son of JamJar Flow­ers out­side her stu­dio

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