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If you think flower arranging is just a hobby for bored housewives, then think again. Learning to be creative with flowers is now the height of fashion, thanks to a group of exclusive books

THERE CAN BE few more agreeable ways to spend a day than at a flower school. Fortunately, London is home to three of the best in the world, run by Jane Packer, Paula Pryke and Kenneth Turner. These names are synonymous with all that is new and exciting in floral decoration, and at each of the schools amateurs and professionals are taught something of their founder’s philosophy while learning how to create spectacular arrangements.

Flowers have been used for decoration throughout history, but it is only comparatively recently that these new practitioners have themselves become style gurus, dictating trends which we all follow. Now they have brought their art so far from the chintzy world of flower arranging and high street florists that it almost needs a new name.

Kenneth Turner favours the term ‘floral artist’, and as he more or less initiated new wave floristry in this country he should be allowed to call it what he likes. He has been running his own business for 25 years, creating floral extravaganzas for the rich and famous all over the world: a Venetian carnival; an orchard of almond trees inside a French château; flowers for Lauren Bacall — these are all in a day’s work for Ken.

Despite his long association with flower arranging, the Kenneth Turner Flower School was actually the newest of the three schools I visited. Centrally situated in South Molton Street, W1, the school offers one-, two- and three-day classes at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. The subjects on offer are extremely broad and include seasonal entertaining, dried flowers, weddings, the art of grand entertaining, and the kitchen garden.

The one-day class I attended was entitled Garden Flowers. I was led into a room with sofas, a long pine table, a dresser with a display of blue and white china, and, of course, masses of dried and fresh flowers. Over coffee I got to know the rest of the group. Of the nine of us, three were British, while the rest were overseas visitors. I was surprised to find that almost everyone else was already in some way involved professionally with flowers — they had come to acquire some of the Ken Turner finish.

We soon got down to business in the airy studio next door. Our instructor was Sharon Melehi and she outlined the Ken Turner philosophy: ‘Go for instant magic. Make it big, dramatic and imaginative. Use natural materials and bring the garden inside.’ All the while she demonstrated how to condition flowers and prepare the containers.

After lunch, which was served at the pine table, we had a go ourselves and made wreaths decked with apples and an arrangement of flowers in a basket. I was also given an apron and scissors, as well as a smart canvas bag to take my arrangements home in.

I did not meet Kenneth Turner himself until the following day as it is de rigueur to have completed a one-day class before attending a masterclass. This was well worth doing as Ken is a fantastic showman and gave entertaining and instructive demonstrations of his ideas with great speed and artistry.

Add more and more,’ he urged, putting lilies into a huge urn already bursting with foliage and flowers. ‘Keep plenty of movement in the arrangement and don’t be afraid of colour.’ To prove his point, he inserted a mass of bright pink roses into an arrangement he was working on which clashed violently with their red neighbours. The result, however, was so inspiring that when I got home I created a similarly dramatic arrangement.



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