On the eclectic high street of Hastings Old Town there’s a wonderful shop called Shirley Leaf and Petal Co.. It’s been in business for over a hundred years and sells the most amazing collection of velvet and silk flowers, petals, leaves, foliage and artificial plants, most of which are still made in their working flower museum.
Step inside and you’ll find an indoor Eden where old fashioned cabinets house sheets of velvet waiting to be cut, drawers are filled with tiny stamens, bright feathered birds perch on the counter tops and floral garlands hang from every available space. Days here are spent busily supplying flowers for national theatres, petals for fashion designers, chiffon leaf trails for the National Ballet and dahlias for Glyndebourne.
My favourite collection is the antique bridal crowns and tiaras made from tiny white, ivory and pearl waxed flowers dating from the 1920s and worn by the brides of RAF airmen during the war. There is so much to take inspiration from you are guaranteed to leave with a head full of ideas and at the very least a small bag of petals and flowers to turn into something pretty. If left unsupervised by a good friend, the boot of your car may end up looking like the secret garden.
Image courtesy of Victor Galnville on Flickr