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Florals by Swallows & Damsons

by Sabrina Smelko

For me, October came and went in the blink of an eye this year. Fall really has been a frenzy so far — in the best way possible. I’ve been undergoing a kitchen renovation (of which I’ll be sharing a before & after post in a few weeks), and work and life are both heading in a direction that I’m pleased as punch with.

Ironically, the destruction and chaos happening under my roof has inspired the opposite in other areas of my life. Autumn has been a time for streamlining, and I’m trying this new thing where I put in effort to make my life easier — who would have thought? As a freelancing, jack-of-all-trades creative type with dozens of avenues I dabble in, simplifying my not-so-simple elevator speech, if you will, has led to many realizations about what I should do more of, and what I should do less of. I’ve been consolidating my life in general; I revamped my website to reflect this, and I’m quickly learning the importance of putting my efforts and energy into the things that feel right, versus trying it all and exhausting myself.

Taking a moment to pause and redefine my goals and efforts seems to be a regular, almost-seasonal happening for me, and perhaps it should be for others as well. Personal spiel aside, I hope you all take a breath of fresh, fall air, enjoy watching the last of the colorful leaves change and fall, and look around you (figuratively and literally): what’s working, what’s not, and what can you do to make your life easier and more enjoyable in the coming season? Speaking of seasons, we have a brand new floral arrangement from Swallows & Damsons to share today, so scroll down for the full-how to!




  • A nice breakdown on floral frogs and cages (and how to use them). (via Oh Joy!)
  • I love these tips for inexpensive curb-appeal updates for your home or apartment. (via Gardenista)
  • Photographer Samuel Zeller’s painterly series of a Swiss botanical garden is stunning.
  • These interactive “flower” shades bloom to keep locals cool in sunny weather. Such a great idea. (via This Is Colossal)
  • Celebrating various periods of Brazilian history, Brasiliana is a line of wooden tiles that would bring personality in any space. (via Design Milk)
  • At Yale’s 2015 Emotion Revolution Summit, Lady Gaga gave a refreshing talk about why she almost quit music a few years ago (which came at the perfect time, as I can relate regarding my own work as mentioned above)!
  • This amazing typeface by Pentagram designer Natasha Jen stretches like an elastic band.
  • And last but certainly not least, Anna Potter from the England flower shop Swallows & Damsons pays homage to autumn with a beautiful essay and photography on floral arrangements for the season (which you can read after the jump)!




Is not this a true autumn day? Just the still melancholy that I love — that makes life and nature harmonize. The birds are consulting about their migrations, the trees are putting on the hectic or the pallid hues of decay, and begin to strew the ground, that one’s very footsteps may not disturb the repose of earth and air, while they give us a scent that is a perfect anodyne to the restless spirit. Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.

– A letter to Miss Lewis written by George Eliot, 1st October 1841

Without a doubt, autumn is my favorite season, perfect for foragers and where everything is so beautiful in death. Orange and yellow glow against the cold, blue skies and equally against stormy grey clouds. Nature becomes a subtle shadow of its former, bold summer color. I never look up as much as I do in autumn — and down for that matter, I’m surprised I don’t fall over more, wandering around, dreaming of a world where it’s October forever.

For some reason, when India Hobson and I are in a room together, our instinct is to order the color around us. In this instance, when presented with Kojo & Lee’s huge Belfast sink, the inevitable happened. We filled it with an ombre rainbow of flowers – it was the perfect way to begin, organizing the scrappy jungle of floral and foliage.

There is an impressive stash of old pottery vases hoarded at the shop, ones that I’ve been drawn to for years, and only rarely use. I chose three different style containers for three different styles of arrangements. I was intending to try and channel my inner “Spry” with branches and autumnal bounty.

Vase 1


Working with this shape of container can often prove tricky. The elegant, solid style of the vase neither suits a wild and scrappy arrangement; or a neat, dome-like design. The balance lies somewhere in between, an asymmetrical arrangement, with focused areas of flowers complemented by gentle touches of natural texture. I used all my willpower not to be too untamed with the shape. The oversized blooms followed the simple form I had just created with foliage. The smaller zinnias and achillea filled the gaps and added density to the base of the design.


Vase 2


I felt way more comfortable and freer with the next pottery vase. The taller shape would allow for something wilder and unkempt in style, where I could be much looser with foliage. The deep olive green of the vase, and murky toned foliage, evokes a darker mood and saved the arrangement from becoming garish when I added richer shades in the incredible blooms. A beautiful harmony. It is the most pleasing thing when rough-beaten, weathered branches and foliage meet the smooth texture of a vase and the delicate, paper-like quality of petals. This season celebrates transience and imperfections, the fleeting nature of flowers is one their most magical qualities.


Vase 3

The third pottery vase was very shallow in depth. I had saved an enormous branch of the most intoxicating, dramatic autumn leaf, which had simple, striking, bold shapes. However, the unfortunate reality is that no matter how pretty something may be, you cannot defy the laws of gravity. Shallow bowls are light and, well, shallow! Long branches are tall and heavy! I’m sad to say that this led to the inevitable collapse of the first attempt and it was never the same again.


Subconsciously, every stem I placed was a balancing act. My simple arrangement with bold shapes became totally symmetrical and proceeded to look like a fan, or a perfectly executed church-flower-lady arrangement. I’m still undecided as to whether I love or hate it.

I’ll let you be the judge…

Photography by India Hobson at Kojo & Lee

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