Cheltenham Photo shoot

We had an amazing time shooting our first ever photo shoot for our company this week. We travelled back to the beautiful Cotswold town of Cheltenham where Jessie grew up to make the most of the gorgeous scenery in the surrounding areas. 

We went to the Covent Garden Flower Market the day before we left to buy tons of flowers in bright pinks, limes, oranges, peach and whites. As this Indian summer seems to be lasting forever we wanted some gorgeous blooms that reflected the amazing flowers you get in English gardens in the summer. 

Our first thoughts were roses, peonies and hydrangeas -  flowers you get in nearly every English garden that we knew would look stunning in bridal bouquets and head pieces. We chose the standard Sarah Bernhardt peonies (pale pink with masses of petals) and couldn't resist the fabulous Coral Sunset peonies which open out almost completely flat like a garden rose – stunning! To fit with the coral theme we also picked asclepia (Gay Butterfly), orange gloriosa, stocks in both peach and fuschia, David Austin roses (Juliet) and the amazing Vuvuzela roses. 

We also found some amazing light peach hydrangeas at Dennis Edwards in the market which we just had to have – we only realised when we started the shoot that they were painted – the fact we couldn't tell that they weren't naturally peach really says something for how well they were done. Another amazing find at the market that morning were some peach delphiniums from Zest – again a shade we hadn't seen before and simply couldn't resist. If you get a chance to go to the market in the summer you really should, the huge variety of colours and flowers is breath taking, and totally worth the early start! We also knew we wanted to do lots of gorgeous trailing shots so splashed out on 40 stems of amaranthus (also called love lies bleeding) in lime and burgundy. Our flower haul was completed by some cerise celosia, white hydrangeas, pink roses (purple power), gloriosa and white scabious (which we found out are called scabious because they used to be used as a cure for scabies!). Some berried eucalyptus, poppy heads, brunia, alchemilla mollis (lady's mantle) and freshly picked greenery from the garden added the finishing touch. 

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Once we had loaded up the car we set off on our mini road trip in the glorious English sunshine – unfortunately with the air conditioning on full blast to keep the flowers fresh! The continuous blaring sun may have been a welcome change to the usual English summer, however the heat proved to be a constant battle throughout the shoot! A word of warning – the coral peonies had fully blown before we even got out of the market car park so if you're considering using them for a wedding or event buy on the day, keep as cool as possible and spray liberally with Crowning Glory!!

We had pretty firm ideas about what we wanted to achieve from the weekends shoot so once we arrived at Jessie's childhood home we set about creating our first look – a relaxed table setting suitable for a garden BBQ or summer party. We spend A LOT of time on Pinterest researching ideas, looking for inspiration and getting carried away looking at stunning table layouts so really wanted to go all out! We used paper pomanders and fairy lights on the underside of a large garden umbrella teamed with gorgeous trailing amaranthus dripping from the centre. Our colour theme for the table setting was coral, orange and lime – three of our absolute favourite colours! We used the orange and lime flowers we had bought as well as some fresh fruit to add a further splash of colour. One of the rules we always try to live by at Okishima & Simmonds is to reduce, reuse and recycle as much as humanly possible. So, instead of buying new vases for the set up, we got our hands dirty and rummaged through the glass recycling bins (very carefully!) to find a miss-matched collection of brown and green bottles. This really helped to give the setting a more relaxed, homely vibe and with just a few stems in each bottle we achieved a 'freshly-picked-from-the-garden' kind of look which we LOVE.

Day two was time for the pink and white flowers' time to shine! Another gloriously sunny day called for another garden set up - this time we were going for a buffet table at a wedding kind of look. Using the celosia, white hydrangeas, roses and peonies we created a dome on top of a huge glass urn and then completed the look with salix twigs and tall stems of gloriosa. We do love twigs but they also served a second purpose here – the gloriosa stems are fairly flimsy and would not have stood up as neatly as we liked without the support of the twigs. Whilst the glass urn is GORGEOUS it is also massive and filling it with oasis would have been difficult, expensive and wasteful. so instead, we used chicken wire inside and just fed the stems through – quicker and, as we can reuse the chicken wire, better for the environment. 

A good buffet table wouldn't be complete without pitchers of cocktails and cake. Jessie has always loved baking so any chance to make a delicious cake is one she will undertake in a heartbeat! A gradient cake in pink shades seemed like the perfect choice to compliment the different pinks we were using in the floral arrangements. With a huge Purple Power rose and some raspberries on top and plonked onto a crystal cake stand it looked good enough to eat! We decided that we wanted to use lots of cut glass in this shoot and again not buy new vases so raided the dining room cupboards to gather a selection of decanters, cake stands and bowls. Most people don't realise that your house is probably full of bottles and bowls that could double up as an impromptu vase – instead of letting that china gather dust in a cupboard where no-one sees it, try putting it on display with a gorgeous bunch of summer flowers to match.

We then donated them to St Faiths nursing home in Cheltenham also, on behalf of the Floral Angels take care of event flowers and donate them to charity, even allowing you the option to specify where you want to send them. This is such a great way of re-using flowers and foliage that would normally get thrown away. Their goal of re-purposing flowers is such a fantastic thing so please look to them if you would like to volunteer, help out, and most importantly - if you do want flowers to be repurposed if you do have an event!

On the third day of the shoot we really wanted to concentrate on a summer garden wedding. One of our favourite parts of the job is getting to be a part of the most special day of a couples' life.

- C & J