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Candide's Personality of the Week: Brigitte Girling

Published on May 4th 2021
A close up of a flower

Candide Festival of Flowers is a month-long celebration of plants, pollinators and people! From dainty blossoms on cherry trees to dazzling dahlias, join us in celebrating all the benefits gained from flowers, gardens and nature.

We thought there would be no better person to speak to than floral artist Brigitte Girling. Brigitte is a woman of many talents, her art influenced by the seasons, nature, scent and what's growing in her garden!
Based in Suffolk, the plants used in her arrangements are grown by herself, in her garden. She describes her garden as her "muse and inspiration", helping her design and articulate her romantic and nostalgic style, depicting the beautiful and wild Suffolk countryside, where she's from.
We wanted to get to know Brigitte a little better, especially in light of Festival of Flowers!
A person standing in front of a fence
Pictured: Brigitte with her plants

1. Describe your gardening style in 3 words.

Wild, loose and haphazard!

I am not a planner, so beds just get thrown together higgledy-piggledy and tended to as and when time allows. I love wildflowers, or as some would call them, ‘weeds’. I feel my garden belongs to nature, not me, so letting nature have its head and encouraging wildlife is very important. Consequently, I can’t be tidy; the birds, insects and invertebrates like the overgrown muddle I nurture. Anyway, that’s my best excuse, and I’m sticking to it!
A group of giraffe standing on top of a grass covered field
Pictured: A photo of Brigittes garden in Sufolk

2. What first propelled you into cultivating plants?

I grew up surrounded by a family of amateur gardeners, and my childhood was spent roaming the fields, woods and lanes of Suffolk, so I think it was always going to be a part of my life. As I left home, I began gardening, making huge mistakes, but learning because of them. I've always loved having my hands covered in soil.
A pot with a plant in a garden

3. What's your favourite nifty gardening tip or plant fact?

I try to be as environmentally aware and sustainable in the garden as I can. A couple of years ago, I swapped plastic plant labels for wooden lollipop sticks. I soon discovered that this was a great idea in theory but utterly impractical in reality because they rotted and became unreadable within weeks! Now, I cut up my plastic waste into reusable labels: yoghurt pots, ice-cream tubs - they seem to work a treat!
A bench in a park

4. What is your favourite gardening memory, moment or triumph?

Walking through my Granny’s garden as a very small child with flowers towering above me, being astounded by the number of butterflies and bees surrounding me. I also remember visiting the botanical gardens in Sydney, Australia and absolutely loving the signs which stated: "Please walk on the grass". That kind of encouragement to enjoy space and feel welcome is simply wonderful. I would like to see more of that!
A close up of a flower

5. From pests to propagation, planting and design, what has been your biggest gardening nightmare?

Probably the worst thing you can bring into a garden is a young enthusiastic Labrador puppy. I have done that four times now! Plant labels are removed and destroyed, holes are dug with wild joy, and young freshly potted seedlings are danced around the garden. And the worst thing you can do is chase them for that pot because it turns out that this is the best game EVER! I never learn, but I wouldn’t be without them either. Those we have loved and lost are buried under the apple trees because they have all successively relished bringing in their own freshly foraged windfalls from the garden.
A dog sitting on a chair

6. What’s your favourite flower and why?

This is the hardest question…in fact, it’s impossible to answer because as each season morphs into the next, I fall in love with something else. I am horribly fickle! But on the list would be Hellebore, Snake’s Head Fritillaria, Scented Garden Roses, Dahlias, Ranunculus and Chocolate Cosmos. But if you forced my arm, I would have to say Shepherd’s Purse. I love the looseness it gives to my design work, its delicacy and ephemeral nature. So often, the wildflowers I use in my work are the elements that get noticed first. I have been asked so many times, ‘What is this? It’s so pretty, but I’ve never seen it before!’. Inwardly amused, I think of the countless times that week they have probably walked past it and just not realised!
A close up of a flower

7. Tell us a fun fact about flowers!

Flowers really seem to have magical powers…they somehow bring a space to life and are wonderful mood enhancers. Even if you don’t consciously notice them, a room with flowers always seems more appealing than a room without. Even in the depths of winter, there is always a little sprig of something you can bring in to enjoy on your kitchen table. It will lift your spirits no end!
A close up of a flower

8. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received in your gardening world?

I can’t think of a specific person who said this to me, but one of the best bits of advice I have gleaned over the years is that a garden is never finished. It will always change and develop. This isn’t a failure; this is the joy and pleasure of gardening. Oh, and take time to sit and enjoy it sometimes too!

9. If you could choose any holiday destination to visit right now, where would it be?

I would go back to Gravetye Manor in Sussex. I have only ever been once, in July, and I am desperate to revisit it in all seasons. The gardens, the setting, the restaurant are all beyond sublime. And to top it all, my favourite artist is Claire Basler, and her paintings feature on every wall in the restaurant. This is my favourite hotel anywhere!
If you want to get to know Brigitte, her thoughts and see more of her floral art, head to her Instagram.
Brigitte also has a series of online courses, where she'll teach you how to use garden-grown flowers to create beautifully natural displays in a bowl, as a bouquet or for an event. The latest course, A Year Learning from Nature, is available to purchase now and will begin in June. You can find more information on this here. If you'd prefer a 1:1, Brigitte offers these too! Learn more about what these involve and when you can book here.
All photos in this article belong to Brigitte Girling.
A pink flower on a plant

Enjoy this article? Stay tuned to hear more from the wonderful Brigitte! You can follow us on social media @candidegardening to stay up to date with flower frivolities or find out more about what's happening below:

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Candide's Festival of Flowers: What's On?


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