Learn to Create Peony Arrangements with Judith Blacklock

At the end of a charming flower filled cobblestone mews in Knightsbridge, one of London’s most glorious and prestigious neighborhoods, you will find the wonderful Judith Blacklock Flower School which has an exceptional reputation for teaching classic flower arranging skills and cutting edge floristry methods. 

In the early twentieth century, the mews houses that surround the school, served as the stables for the mansions behind them on Wilton Place. The horses were stabled on two floors and if you look around the cobblestone mews, you will see the stairs (which back then was a ramp) that enabled the horses to walk up to the second floor. The houses that surround the mews used to belong to the groomsmen, but are now glamorous and desirable mews houses worth millions.

As you reach the Judith Blacklock Flower School you can’t help but notice the buckets full of beautiful and different varieties of flowers in all sorts of vibrant colours and fragrances. The flowers are used for the students.  Most are delivered from Holland and some are bought from either the flower market or local sources. As you enter the school, you will immediately feel a sense of calm and serenity. It’s impossible to believe that this tranquil environment is just a few minutes away from the hustle and bustle of the famous department stores and boutiques of Knightsbridge.

The Judith Blacklock Flower School is widely acclaimed as one of the UK’s most renowned institutes for giving excellent flower arranging courses. The school offers a large selection of fascinating courses for all abilities. Judith takes pride in giving every student a personal learning experience in a warm and happy environment. She encourages every student to develop and reach their own potential.

Judith Blacklock is the author of 17 bestselling books. She is a Fellow of the Institute of Horticulture, for whom she designed medal-winning stand at Chelsea Flower Show. She has taught floral design in many continents. She organised Flowers@Chicheley and Flowers @Oxford, the largest contemporary cut-flower events that have been staged in the UK. She has appeared frequently on television and has taught at Chelsea Flower Show, Bahrain, Canada, China, Dubai, Ireland, Japan, Kuwait, Turkey, UAE and the USA.

Presently, the Judith Blacklock Flower School is closed due to Covid-19 but will re-open on July 21st. However, Judith is offering a 10% discount on three online courses. If you are looking to brighten your home and bring joy to your surroundings, why not learn a new creative skill with Judith. You don’t need to go out and buy your flowers, the courses can be completed with an order from the supermarket or an online local florist. Do contact the school if you would like more information at judithblacklock.com

Why not start a new career. The Judith Blacklock Flower School also runs an accredited two-week professional business and events styling course enabling students to start their own flower business and make money with flowers. 

 I recently had the honour of interviewing Judith. She is a warm, friendly, and highly inspirational person. If you want to give yourself or someone you know a special treat, I greatly recommend you sign up for one or more of her courses. 

Below is my interview with Judith along with a few videos she has put together on how to arrange peonies in your home. A beautiful flower arrangement is the perfect way to enliven and beautify a room or a table. Enjoy!

How did you begin your career and where did you learn your talent?

My mother was in inspirational amateur floral arranger. She won gold medals at Chelsea Flower Show and was founder President of her local flower club. She is 100 in July and still arranges flowers beautifully – far better than I will ever be.

What inspired you to begin your career and when did you start?

I had been living in Europe for 12 years where I met my husband. I returned to the UK with two small children and not sure of the route to take. My husband had been to INSEAD – the European business school at Fontainebleu. All his friends were seriously clever. I found I had to do something I could do well, and it was not being CEO of BP! My mother persuaded me that flowers could be the route. Until I started I didn’t realise just how much I loved it and had found my passion.

Were there many women in business at the time?

In my husband’s year at INSEAD there were 214 men and 6 women. Things have changed so much. My generation were brought up to be secretaries, nurses and teachers before getting married and becoming housewives. You had to be really clever to step outside this mould.

Can you tell us about the Judith Blacklock Flower School?

After studying floristry, I taught in a college part-time for ten years whilst I brought up the children and wrote my first book ’Teach Yourself Flower Arranging’. I knew location was extremely important, so when I was offered the premises in Knightsbridge I accepted despite being the grand old age of 50. The site is wonderful – I knew I would never have a second chance of finding somewhere so charming that is centrally located, pretty, safe and calm.

How many books have you published?

Seventeen – I keep vowing never to do another and am scared to tell my husband I have a suspicion of an idea for number eighteen!

Can you please give some tips on making a flower arrangement for the home?

Of course I can. These are my favourites:

  • Find the right container for the flowers. One that is half the height of the stems always works well.
  • Try and find a source of greenery to add to your flowers, it softens the looks and fills out the arrangement.
  • If you are choosing flowers that you want to work together always include one type of flower that is round such as a dahlia, peony or rose.
  • The cooler your room the longer your flowers will last.
  • Always cut the bottom ten percent off the end of the stem immediately prior to putting in clean water.

What kinds of charity events have you put on at Kensington Palace and have you met the royals?

I set up two major charity events at Kensington Palace for cancer charities. I was fortunate that one of the sponsors was the most prestigious lady in flowers in America – Deen Day Smith whom I admire without reservation. Kensington Place was decorated as it had never been before. As an unseen consequence I was invited to arrange flowers in the Palace for two years. The security system was a nightmare but I loved working in such a wonderful venue! I met several of the royals. Princess Margaret was in residence but I never met Diana – something I will always regret.

What association do you have with the Flowers@Oxford?

I set up an event in one of the Oxford colleges, Lady Margaret Hall, which was filled with tens of thousands of flowers.

It is truly impressive that there is a Judith Blacklock rose! Can you tell us how that came about? What the rose looks like, does it have a fragrance, and where can we purchase it? 

The rose is lovely but is incredibly thorny (that makes me wonder!). The smell is gorgeous and the flower a lovely red-pink. Just out of the blue I was asked if I would like a rose named after me! All the money from the rose went to the charity Alzheimer’s. 

When did you become the publisher/editor of Flora magazine and how do you find the time to do everything?

No-body can do everything but I am lucky that I have energy. I need to lose weight and get fit but find they get put to the back of the pile – that and the filing. With lockdown I have immersed myself with getting my house in order but still need to find that incentive to lose weight! I had been editor of another flower magazine for many years. I retired and was then offered Flora without charge. How could I resist! I simply love editing a magazine.

Have you exhibited at the Chelsea Flower show?

Yes, many times. I have never won Gold but I assisted at Gold winning stands. My best effort was building the stand for the Institute of Horticulture, of which I am now a Fellow. I got a bronze medal (and yes, no-one at Chelsea is satisfied unless they have got Gold). I met the Duke of Edinburgh on preview night but I don’t think he quite got his head around my automated apple tree. It was the first automated device at Chelsea and maybe before its time. However, it was much imitated in the years that followed.

Is there an important lesson that you have learned along your career journey that you can share?

You need to work hard, be passionate about what you do and have a little bit of luck. Luck on its own doesn’t work.

Is there anything else you would like to tell the readers?

Can I do a bit of selling here and say that I believe I have the best on line courses ever to enable you to understand flowers and to become a professional if you so wish. And when life is back to normal I hope you will come and see me at my school in London.

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