Bex Partridge's beautiful dried flower creations
Bex Partridge’s dried-flower creations preserve the fleeting beauty of flowers, foliage and seedheads. Words Lia Leendertz, photographs Andrew Montgomery
Bex Partridge’s studio is an ethereal, grotto-like space. Rack upon rack of dried flowers hang down, the petals puckering and twisting as they dry. Xeranthemums crowd one window while single dahlias dangle in front of another. There are delicately hued plant-dyed ribbons draped from a branch, and vases of dried flowers on every surface. But perhaps the most surprising thing is the almost overwhelming scent.
“Most people don’t expect the scent,” says Bex. “It is a bit like opening a spice drawer, if more floral. At the moment I have lots of artemisia drying here and the smell is divine.”
The studio is in the half-acre garden of the house on the Devon-Dorset border where she lives with her husband and two sons, and overlooks her flower patch. But she started her dried-flower business when they lived in Surrey. “I had always worked in corporate office-based jobs, but I always gardened.” When her second son was born, she found that life had slowed down. “I was noticing things. I began growing more and shifted our allotment to flowers. And then I left a bunch in a vase until they dried out and my interest was piqued.”
I don’t particularly love fresh dahlias but when you allow them to dry, they are stunning
She started putting together wreaths and bouquets, and selling them via a website and Instagram, and now she is often commissioned to create dried-flower installations for people’s homes and for retail spaces: delicate curtains of floating single flowers or floral boughs dripping with amaranth and hops. She loves the subtlety of dried flowers. “I know it’s not a popular opinion but
I don’t particularly love fresh dahlias. I find them exuberant and hard to work with. But when you allow them to dry, they are stunning. It’s the muted tones, the softness, the textures, the intricacies. Dried flowers draw you in.”
Her beautiful creations certainly look like an artfully curated slice of countryside. “The aesthetic qualities of my work reflect my life now,” she says. “I’m so immersed in the natural world here, it’s in tune with the seasons, it’s organic, it’s wild, and a little bit magical.”
Everlasting wreath Bex makes her wreaths in a half-moon shape, which has become her signature style. Here she has used a base of woven and twisted vine stems to create the shape, and then has woven in pink and white dried baby’s breath (Gypsophila), fluffy seedheads of old man’s beard (Clematis vitalba), and dried heads of Achillea ptarmica ‘The Pearl’. The result is an airy, almost cloud-like, wreath.
Floral artist Bex Partridge picks fresh Xerochrysum bracteatum from her garden on the Devon-Dorset border. These she dries in her studio to create her beautiful dried bouquets and wreaths.
As well as being practical, hanging bunches of flowers upside down for drying also makes a stunning display in Bex’s compact work space.
Dahlias and asters hang from a magnolia branch to dry out in Bex’s studio
An everlasting floral display, featuring winged everlastings and sea lavender alongside ethereal dried dahlias, held in place with a vintage metal flower frog nestled in a hand-crafted ceramic bowl.
Dried flower bouquet “Dried flower bouquets can make beautiful gifts for friends and loved ones,” says Bex. “It is a way of extending the best of the summer blooms.” Here she has combined lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis), with strawflower (Xerochrysum bracteatum ‘Silvery Rose and White’), quaking grass (Briza media) and white larkspur (Consolida ambigua).
Flower crowns Bex uses coated wire to create the bases for her flower crowns, which are popular with brides as they can be kept for many years and hung on the wall for decoration. Here she has used the winged everlasting flower Ammobium alatum combined with Origanum ‘Kent Beauty’, an astrantia and Cupid’s dart (Catananche caerulea) seedheads, finished with a natural-dyed ribbon. Bex only uses plant-dyed ribbons, which tone in with the soft muted colours of her pieces.
Bex prefers the muted tones and textures of dried dahlias, seen here with hellebores and peonies, to the freshly picked flowers.
Bex’s studio with hanging dahlias mid drying and others stored in crates. She also plant-dyes her own ribbons and strips of fabric.
See more of Bex’s work on Instagram @botanical_tales and find details of her online and in-person workshops at botanicaltales.com For sources of dried flowers for your own projects, Bex recommends looking for dried flower growers on the Flowers from the Farm website, a resource for UK flower growers
This feature appeared in Gardens Illustrated magazine. Subscribe here
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