Heckfield Place, Hampshire
Photography: Dave Watts
In Conversation about Heckfield
WHAT MAKES THIS PARTNERSHIP UNIQUE?
There were two unique aspects to the brief - one the emphasis on the hotel as a living home, and the other the collaborations involved.
All the flowers were to be homegrown, and to come together in arrangements much like those that would have filled this Georgian family home when when it existed in it heyday. So the role was not simply to come in as a floral consultant, but to collaborate with a curated collection of specialists throughout the hotel to create an enriched, holistic offer.
A stay at Heckfield is a sensory experience, each aspect of the guests’ stay is interwoven with the next. The “hero” flowers of each seasons are celebrated, becoming a study throughout the hotel - for instance, when the roses bloom, not only will the home be filled with roses of all species, but relevant literature will be selected inside, rosewater infusions and tisanes, bedside essential oils, talks and workshops etc
“Here it begins with the soil” is something Skye (Gyngell) said which really encapsulates just how important the roots are of this hotel, its innate sense of belonging. Over the years there have been so many conversations, so many fine threads of interlacing ideas and inspirations that spun off from one another, only to weave back together to create this organic, rich tapestry.
Together with Ben and his design studio we looked at the interiors discussing natural palettes and raw pigments which best harmonised with the garden and landscape views in each room. This informed the vase choices, and of course the flowers that filled them; each stem has a sense of belonging, of having found its natural place within the home. The arrangements impart a unique story from the gardens and landscape beyond into each and every room.
That natural consonance between the inside and out became a central part of our work with the Rich Brothers. There’s an evolving exchange between their exterior planting and our interior planters - together we have tried to maintain a style which is considered but natural, refined yet wild. We’ll come back to those indoor living planters shortly
The closest and perhaps most rewarding partnership has been with Jane from Fern Verrow who has been brought on to establish the biodynamic farm and cutting gardens at Heckfield. Together with Jane we have rooted through every single nursery and specialist, in a bid to find some of the country’s rarest species and unique English flora. We’ve then been planting not only according to physical habitat but also natures unseen energies, those governed by the astronomical calendar such as solar positions etc. Jane is an inspiration - there is alchemy in her fingertips. There’s something rather poetic to think this approach would have pleased Heckfield’s first gardener. William Walker Wildsmith, who was celebrated for his progressive approach to cultivating.
THE FLOWER ARRANGEMENTS
The flowers from the cutting gardens have an altogether different energy and form from those that are produced for the flower trade. Flowers grown in nature are softer, more varied — they are beautifully imperfect as opposed to rigidly straight, and they come together in painterly, romantically soft arrangements. Furthermore, because each stem has come from the same season and habitat, not imported from various flower farms, there’s a innate harmony to their tones - nature has the best eye!
THE ‘LIVING’ PLANTERS
This sense of cradling the flowers in their natural habitats is what has informed the indoor planters, which are dotted around the ground floor interior.
With flower arranging, you have so much control, and the gratification is relatively instant - one can create something beautiful in a matter of minutes. However, these living arrangements require patience and a relinquishing of control, we put our faith in nature. We have a plan for each season, but the exact look and character of each planter will only be determined by the mood of the flowers themselves.
Our first workshop at Heckfield is all about planting one of these living planters - for more info please visit The Assembly at Heckfield Place.