Image via Jemma Keech

Riverdale Farm share a behind-the-scenes insight into preparing for autumn florals and designing with the best floral material the season has to offer. Be inspired for your autumn wedding flowers below…

Images via Jemma Keech

Mother and daughter team – Helen and Abbey Leighton of Riverdale Farm in Albany on the south coast of Western Australia – grow fresh blooms for their on-farm floral design work. As floral designers they both love the joy and challenges that working seasonally presents. There is a constantly changing palette of material at their disposal in the gardens as a result of careful planning for a succession of blooms that is carried out by Helen and her husband Jim.

In addition to providing floral design services to weddings and events in Albany and surrounds, they run Floral Design workshops using home-grown product. The gardens at Riverdale Farm also contain a potager for home-grown vegetables, a large orchard with summer and autumn fruits, deciduous trees and a pinot noir vineyard. The garden provides much material and inspiration for designing floral arrangements and bouquets through the change of seasons.

Images via Jemma Keech

In autumn the garden becomes a little wild and overgrown as it moves towards its winter hibernation. Cooler nights, as the sun sinks lower in the sky, find mists in the Kalgan River valley as warm days become rare highlights.

Preparations commence many months before one of their Autumn Garden Gathered Workshops. Seeds were selected and sown in the nursery. Some varieties were planted in late spring, others which gallop along were left till a little later.

Warm, dry summers – particularly with strong winds – always make it a challenge to get the young seedlings to establish and thrive in time for autumn. Garden beds have to be reticulated. In addition to annuals, there are a large number of garden-grown roses to look after. The colours of the roses intensify as the weather cools. Dahlias are also a popular autumn flower but production slows as the nights cool. Annuals that provide the beautiful russet tones so well suited to the season include rudbeckia, zinnia, phlox, cosmos, scabious, amaranthus, strawflower and calendula.

Images via Jemma Keech

Perennial wildflowers are a delight in autumn. The gardens include native Australian varieties of kangaroo paw and grevillea in colours that are also well suited to an autumn palette.

In the week of the workshop, time is spent each morning and evening harvesting blooms which are then stripped, conditioned and stored in the cool room. Preparation of the vessels for students with a chicken wire base for foam-free work is also completed. The highlight is displaying all the blooms ready for the students. The benefit of holding the workshop where the flowers are grown is that it provides a relaxing inspirational experience for all attendees whilst giving insight into how the flowers are produced.

Images via Jemma Keech

As floral designers, it is critical to give our work a ‘sense of place’. How does our work sit in the landscape or wedding? How does our choice of materials link in with the design? Does the work honestly reference our ‘Farmer Florist’ concept?

As the season rolls into autumn, an abundance of the most beautiful blooms and foliages in rich tones begin to appear in the garden. The autumnal palette contains gold, brown, copper, bronze and red tints. At this time of year, the fruit tree foliage and grapes vine canes in the gardens at Riverdale Farm reflect these colours and are a bonus addition to add style and elegance to the arrangements. Quinces, buerre bosc pears, medlars, pomegranates, ornamental grapes, crab apples all ripen in autumn and also reflect this palette.

Rosehips from once-flowering roses are left to develop and mature giving a wonderful display of different seasonal colours and shapes. A few of the leaves from the ornamental pears and other deciduous trees in the garden flutter from branches when picked adding a lovely seasonal dimension. Textural berries, architectural seed pods and tawny grasses waving gently in the breeze and are a perfect addition to add movement to arrangements and bouquets.

Image via Helen Leighton

Embracing imperfection is Helen and Abbey’s advice to working in autumn! Not to be overlooked is the beauty of dried, shapely seedpods on a wide variety of garden plants, sunburnt leaves, hydrangea flowers fading from their summer colour to a subtle medley of soft greens, beige and speckled reds. The seed pods of clematis known as Old Man’s Beard are a favourite. Do not forget the dried Queen Anne’s lace seed heads are a particularly lovely architectural shape for designs!

Helen particularly enjoys collecting antique and vintage vessels for their work. Rustic and imperfect urns are a particular favourite, wooden containers and antique washed terracotta goes perfectly with the autumn aesthetic.

Styling of autumn arrangements is a must. Make use of the lovely fruits and leaves in the garden and choose table linens and candlesticks to reflect the colours and textures in the designs.

Ms Zebra Says: I love all the colour and flowers used to create these interesting bouquets and table settings. Very clever use of seasonal produce!

About Riverdale Farm: Bespoke bouquets and arrangements made with care from our locally grown seasonal flowers from Riverdale Farm.