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Floristry Retreat: Arranging a painters garden with Aesme Flowers £895 inc VAT




A five minute stroll up the lane from Charleston Farmhouse, Tilton House is a handsome Georgian property nestled beneath the South Downs and was once home to economist John Maynard Keynes and ballerina Lydia Lopokova, friends of the Bells and fellow members of the Bloomsbury set. With beautiful gardens and characterful interiors, Tilton is the perfect place to relax and be creatively inspired.

There are plenty of private corners for privacy and curling up with a book in the library, artist garden room or beneath the trees in the garden, and meals are freshly prepared using local ingredients and seasonal vegetables from the kitchen garden and orchard. Tilton is a short drive from the charming historic market town of Lewes, which offers a number of stylish boutiques and antique markets.


The country home of post-impressionist artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant from 1916 until Grant’s death in 1978 and for decades a hub of artistic and intellectual activity, Charleston Farmhouse was frequented by many of the most eminent artists, writers and thinkers of their generation, including Virginia and Leonard Woolf, E.M.Forster, Lytton Strachey and Roger Fry. The rooms and garden of Charleston have been painstakingly preserved, as has its storied atmosphere. Rife with colour, painterly expression and character, it is the perfect source of inspiration for the floral artist. We will take inspiration from the work of the Bloomsbury artists for our floral designs, starting with a private curator-led tour of the interior of Charleston as well as a countryside walk to see the painted murals of Berwick Church.


In 1936 Vanessa Bell wrote, “The house seems full of young people in very high spirits, laughing a great deal at their own jokes… lying about in the garden, which is simply a dithering blaze of flowers and butterflies and apples.”

Taking cue from what is in season in the walled sculpture-dotted gardens of Charleston, we will use an abundance of blowsy June roses, flowers grown especially for the Retreat at our own cutting garden, seasonal materials from local suppliers and wild flowers and foliage foraged from the surrounding fields and hedgerows. Mark Divall, the recently retired custodian of the Charleston gardens for over a decade, will give us a short talk on its history and the role he has played in preserving the essence of this painter’s garden.


We will focus on evoking a sense of place through floral design, of capturing the essence of a painter's garden in June and a sense of the surrounding environment.

Weather permitting, our floral design class will take place under the trees on the lawn at Tilton House. Covering our approach to floral design including materials, mechanics, form, colour, texture and composition, we will teach attendees how to create a wild, romantic centrepiece cascading with garden roses, seasonal flowers and foraged branches in a bespoke ceramic vessel. A professional photographer will capture atmospheric images of our creations and surroundings throughout the day. In the late afternoon we will collaboratively style a midsummer tablescape with flowers, vines and candles before enjoying a feast of summer dishes. 


Aesme was founded in 2015 by sisters Alex and Jessica. They deliver flowers to homes and businesses in Central and West London, create arrangements for weddings, events and special projects across the UK and teach floral design classes throughout the year at their studio in Shepherd's Bush.

Their work is informed by the seasons and inspired by the history of the English garden. A shared love of old fashioned flowers - wild foxgloves, heritage roses and scented sweet peas - is matched by our approach to flower arranging, favouring the flower frog and chicken wire technique. They aim to elevate and update traditional methods, drawing on contemporary influences of colour and form to create floral designs that are both nostalgic and refreshing.

They grow their own flowers, herbs and foliage in a cutting garden in Hampshire. Scented daffodils and narcissi, striped and fringed tulips for spring; translucent, silky Californian poppies, clouds of wild carrot and Ammi majus in summer with cosmos and foxgloves; autumnal Japanese anemones and richly-coloured dahlias; scented English roses from June to October. Inspired by a revival of small-scale flower farming in Britain, we predominantly use our own and British-grown flowers whenever the seasons allow, sourcing beautiful blooms from flower farms in Holland, Italy, Japan and Kenya in the colder months. Growing enables them to use flowers and plants that are not readily available to florists, and to add unexpected elements to our arrangements in their natural state - intricate tendrils of a vine, an over-arching briar, the movement of a foraged branch.

Arranging flowers, much like cooking, starts with the ingredients; an assembling of the freshest, highest quality materials. It is both a craft and an artistic medium. They believe in designing without the restrictions of rules, respecting the natural shapes of the elements we work with, and combining them to create arrangements that encapsulate the atmosphere of a season or a landscape. Flowers are ephemeral. They are fleeting, tangible objects of ancient beauty in an increasingly fast-paced and online world, and we strive to arrange them in their purest, most romantic state, bringing the wild tangle of nature into the city.


£895 (includes VAT)

To book a place on The Bloomsbury Retreat, please visit


Places for this retreat are limited. Bookings are non-refundable and non-transferable. Includes: two nights' shared-room accommodation, supper on Tuesday and Wednesday night, lunch on Wednesday and breakfast on Wednesday and Thursday morning at Tilton House, Curator's Tour and tea at Charleston Farmhouse, floral design tutorial and demo, flowers, foliage and vessel to take home. Not included: transport to and from the Retreat, transport to Lewes.

*Please Note: This Retreat is open to all, from complete beginners to professional florists seeking inspiration and we will be on hand to provide as much or as little advice and encouraging instruction as you may require. Our aim is to promote an atmosphere of collaborative learning and openness to sharing inspiration and ideas.




Arrival at Tilton House - 2pm
Private Curator’s Tour of Charleston
Talk by Charleston Gardener
Tea in the Farmhouse Kitchen
Settling in at Tilton
Informal Drinks
Seasonal Summer Supper


Home-Cooked Breakfast at Tilton
Cross-Country Walk to Berwick Church
Wildflower & Foliage Foraging
Lunch at Tilton
Floral Centrepiece Design Class
Tablescape Styling
Bloomsbury Mid Summer Supper


Home-Cooked Breakfast at Tilton
Check Out - 10.30am
Visit to Lewes Market Town