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Working with Bread and Roses

One of the proudest moments for Flowers from the Farm this year was seeing two of our members grow a relationship with a UK charity that supports women from refugee backgrounds through floristry training. Sarah Barnes of WE GROW COLOUR and Elsie Harp of Divina Botanica reflect on their path-breaking work in 2022 with We Are Bread and Roses.


Sarah Barnes and Elsie Harp share a joke in this promotional shot for their collaboration with the We Are Bread and Roses refugee programme

Sarah and Elsie sharing a joke – and keeping things colourful!

As the year comes to a close this is a perfect moment to look back on one of our shared highlights of 2022. We are both passionate about the powerful effects working with flowers can have on our general wellbeing and have long admired the work of We Are Bread and Roses. It was therefore very exciting to be approached by Liv Wilson to run the first UK pilot outside of London of their hugely popular floristry programme for women refugees.

This statement taken from the Bread and Roses website explains more about what they do:

We harness the therapeutic benefits of working with flowers, offering women a forum to be creative, build their confidence and learn a new skill. Alongside floristry, our programmes provide women with an opportunity to practice their English through our tailored curriculum, form new friendships and learn more about local support services through information sessions.

In collaboration with Bristol based refugee charity Borderlands Bristol, we were absolutely thrilled to kick off a 9-week Bread and Roses Floristry Training Programme in September. Very quickly we had a cohort of ten refugee women from all parts of the world, excited to learn and participate in something positive and new.


A table of fresh British blooms laid out for one of the Bread and Roses floristry workshops with Sarah Barnes and Elsie Harp

Education about seasonal British flowers and their creative possibilities is at the heart of the Bread and Roses programme.

One of the key elements of the programme was to use sustainable, seasonal flowers from British growers. As growers and florists we provided our own stems weekly, alongside incredible blooms from Liz at Pipley Flowers just outside Bristol.

What struck us was how amazed the participants were at the range of foliage, flowers and herbs on offer. We had fascinating discussions about the scent, colour and memories of home it evoked in some of them. This was all conducted in English and it was noticeable how everyone’s confidence in communicating grew throughout the course.

In the very first session we came together as a group to write out a shared Team Charter. Each participant suggested positive ways we should all behave in the space. It was important to set out boundaries that everyone agreed to, so that we could create a safe, warm environment for this group of women to bond.

The course then moved on to the basics of identifying different parts of a flower, quality control and conditioning of stems, and every week new English vocabulary was learnt. It was wonderful to see how enthusiastic the group was when we said they could go and get creative with the flowers. The hall we were in had such a lovely vibe – calm, uplifting, and engaged, with moments of hilarity. As the bond between the participants grew stronger, the phones came out and everyone took it in turns to pose with their floral arrangements and new friends.


A late summer bouquet of dahlias, asters and grasses from the Bread and Roses floristry programme

A participant’s autumnal bouquet of dahlias, asters, and grasses.

We built on the learning week on week, recapping on vocabulary and fundamental principles whilst introducing new techniques. To ensure we were providing valuable context we decided to hold the penultimate session at Elsie’s plot at Bridge Farm, so that the participants could see where some of the flowers they used were grown. This was one of the most inspiring sessions we had, and we suggested the idea of connecting with other growing groups in Bristol after the course ended.

Overall, the course covered:

  • Cut flower care
  • Basic elements and principles of design
  • Spiralling stems
  • Packing and wrapping
  • Introduction to small, medium and large hand-tied bouquets
  • Arrangements in jars, vases and vessels
  • Making a wired arrangement (flower crowns) and visit to Elsie’s plot at Bridge Farm, Bristol
  • Table-scaping

We were very lucky to be able to use beautifully designed handbooks created specifically for Bread and Roses courses by Sarah Diligent and William Mazuch of Floribunda Rose Studio and creators of A Guide To Floral Mechanics.


The handbook created specially for the Bread and Roses floristry courses by Sarah Diligent and William Mazuch

The bespoke Bread and Roses handbook, created by Sarah Diligent and William Mazuch.

For our final celebration we created an autumnal, seasonal table-scape and had the joy of sharing a freshly prepared meal from a local chef with all our participants, alongside the teams from Borderlands and Bread and Roses.

We both agree that this was one of the highlights of our careers so far. It was quite amazing to hear from the women about how much they valued our weekly sessions; how mindful, relaxing and creative they found it; and how they’d made lasting friendships along the way. On top of this they all came away with a new-found love of floristry, and a connection to the beautiful seasonal flowers we grow here in the UK.

We are hoping to have funding to run more courses with Bread and Roses and Borderlands Bristol in 2023.

All growers, florists and floral studios mentioned are members of Flowers from the Farm.

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