For Emma Edkins, the creative mind behind Wild & Pretty Florals, making your home feel festive is all about making the most of your environment—bringing what’s available from outside, to fit into your own settings. Emma, who provides the floral arrangements at the Roastery, runs a successful business in curated wildness, growing cutting flowers in a two-acre meadow just across from her home here in Cornwall.
We sat down over coffee to talk through her growing journey and how she embraces the wild as much as the conventional pretty in her designs, as well as her recommendations for making the most of local foliage – wherever you live – to create a festive home, from tablescapes to unexpected touches of seasonal décor.
TRIAL AND ERROR ARE NECESSARY TO GROW
If you’ve joined us for coffee at our headquarters in Porthleven, you’ve probably noticed Emma’s beautiful floral designs on the tables—you might have even seen her in and out of the Roastery, as she’s a much-loved, active member of the community, always happy to talk—whether it’s about the recent storm that wreaked havoc on her polytunnel, or what she’s just seeded. “It’s never just a vase of flowers on the table,” she told us as she sat down, unloading bundles of rosemary, eucalyptus, and bay from her basket. “It’s friendship or a memory or a story; it’s community.”
Wherever the conversation leads, she’s always happy to share progress and tips with an honest and humble approach and outlook. “I’m not professionally trained,” Emma said. “I didn’t want to conform to a structured way of creating; the rigidness of commercial arrangements has never appealed to me.” And yet a natural flair for design is evident in her work, a tactile quality built through the foliage she places together that adds to the sensory appreciation and experience of her designs —perhaps something to do with a degree in Fine Art and Textiles she completed when her children headed off to school. It’s a far cry from her background in accountancy, but one that seems a completely natural and organic fit. “Wild is most definitely a key part in the name of the business,” Emma admits. “I’ve done a couple of courses over the years, but, really, I like to work with what nature gives us—texture, form, and colour.”
While Emma didn’t take a straight route to her gardening career, it’s evident that she’s a gardener through and through—something that’s grown through her family. “My gran was a big gardener, and my mum is too. I’ve always been a gardener—it’s always made me happy.” When Emma’s gran passed away, she found herself with the opportunity to purchase the meadow and realised that she could grow in the same way that the people she followed and admired on Instagram. “I made lots and lots and lots of mistakes, of course. I went crazy mad in the beginning, buying seeds simply based on liking the look or name of something, and ending up with masses of flowers that all came up at the same time,” Emma explained. “It was a steep learning curve at times, but I’ve loved it all the same.”
VIEWING THE GOOD AND BAD OF SOCIAL MEDIA
Like many of us, Emma has drawn a lot of inspiration from Instagram—as well as forming friendships, and as such, takes a pragmatic view toward what she sees—and what she goes on to grow.
“Instagram can be amazing,” Emma said. “There’s so much that can be learnt and shared, and I’ve made some wonderful friends. But I do remember being told by a lady that I met on a floristry course, that Instagram is a lot of smoke and mirrors: you shouldn’t believe everything you see. A lot of people seem to think that growing in a meadow involves wandering around in a pretty dress with armfuls of flowers. There’s a lot of work involved; it’s not just the picking, it’s the nurturing, pruning, staking, watering. I appreciate those posting and talking about the nitty gritty and the labour that goes into those flowers, who remind you not to look at what someone else has, but what you can do with your own space.”
WORKING WITH WHAT YOU’VE GOT
Along with the trial and error of wanting to grow absolutely everything, Emma accepts – even celebrates – that nature always gets the final say. With patience and perseverance, she’s learned to work with what she’s got—from an unpredictable climate to natural visitors and making space for growing and nurturing.
“One of the joys of growing,” Emma told us, “Is that, unless you’re growing with regulated heat and light in a glasshouse, you will never get uniformity: that’s just nature. Very rarely do things fully go to plan; sometimes that seed packet won’t germinate.”
Sowing seeds and hoping they grow is just the beginning: the meadow isn’t just a place for growing—it’s a home and food source for plenty of visitors. “We have deer, rabbits, hedgehogs, slugs, and snails; the mice, for two years running, have eaten well over 150 sweetpea seedlings! I try and find inventive measures – I’m going to try sheep’s fleece around the dahlia’s next year – to help, rather than fully interfere. You accept that it’s part and parcel of nature—it’s just what happens. It’s like with the weather,” Emma added. “I don’t grow with artificial light or heat, so I’m at the mercy of the seasons and elements—my poor polytunnel didn’t survive the most recent storm! No two years are the same, either: gardening can be wholly unpredictable. Sometimes your sweetpeas will flower in March; sometimes it’s June. If I don’t get carried away looking through the seed catalogue, I make the most of my space and work with what I have that year.”
BRINGING NATURE INDOORS
Working with what you have is a motto that Emma carries indoors with her too.
“Less really is more,” she told us when asked about bringing foliage into the home for the season. “Earlier this year, for example, I placed single artichoke flowers in vases: the architecture of the plant is beautiful—often it’s best to let the individual flower sing. People tend to think you have to have a great big vase, but often it can look too heavy. If you’re able to grow just a little and celebrate that, that’s enough.”
And if you’re not able to grow? “There are so many ways to bring nature into the home,” Emma said. “Again, online is wonderful for inspiration, but going for a walk is just as useful,” she added. “I am a big believer in rule breaking. Who says you can’t have peach and lemon at Christmas, for example? Work with what you have. Find what you can, and make it shine. What looks good in one person’s home might not work in another—let your own creativity lead the way. Inspiration is everywhere.”
While Emma admits she loves trips to Colombia Road and Covent Garden market for inspiration, often enjoying picking up a cake and coffee, or a buttered hot rum during the winter months, beyond people watching, she finds everything she needs on her doorstep.
“Just go for a walk and make the most of what’s growing at the time; looking around, you can find a lot—and not just here in the countryside,” Emma said. “Plants often grow together in the hedgerows. Bay. Rosemary. Ivy. Holly grows everywhere.”
While you might be tempted to rush outdoors and get decorating, Emma does advise some caution and care when foraging. “Google is your friend. Some plants are poisonous, so if you have pets or curious children, either place things out of reach, or just don’t use them,” she said. “And always wash your hands after handling,” she added. “Also do remember to check that, if you’re on someone’s land, you’re okay to be there, and ask permission if you’re going to be taking from it.”
As well as being mindful of people, Emma is keen to stress the importance of leaving enough for nature, too. “Forage thoughtfully,” she added. “If you see holly with berries, don’t take it all. Leave some for the birds, and don’t strip an area bare, otherwise there won’t be any seeds for next year’s growth.”
DRESSING THE HOME AND TABLE—AND LOOKING TO THE SEASON AHEAD
When it comes to decorating the home, including the table, Emma encourages simply heading outdoors, getting friends and family involved, and thinking beyond the festive season with recycling and reusing.
“Once again, less is more,” Emma explained. “Nature doesn’t need to be styled—the beauty is its wildness. I always encourage to keep things simple: you can pick one feature, and then work around it—and think of new ways to use what you have.” Hallways, banisters, dressers, shelves—Emma believes you don’t need to fix anything. “Simply drape,” she said—which has us thinking of strings of dried orange slices, something Emma recommends doing, using the residual heat from the oven after cooking.
For tablescapes, simplicity is key. “Place springs of rosemary in napkins, and alongside cutlery; use vases, pots, teacups—anything goes when it comes to creating a table setting or cosy home space this season: you don’t need to spend anything or do a lot.”
If you’re looking for simple table dressing ideas, Emma suggests using a wreath base, placed on a plate – “any plate will do; there are often great ones to be found in a charity shop” – and with a pillar candle or tealights, you’ve got a classic and easy centrepiece that, with some eucalyptus, provides a little touch of scented greenery. “Cranberries from the supermarket, placed on a plate around some candles, with some ivy or holly will look lovely and festive on the table, or you could use seasonal fruit and nuts.”
With a little care, you can make your greenery last beyond Christmas, and look for ways to reuse some of those items long after the season. “I’ll let my eucalyptus dry out and place it in the shower; and a wreath base can be used all year round. Wall, table, door—a wreath is for every season,” Emma told us. “If you have moss on your wreath base, just soak it in shallow water, and it’s ready to use again: use it for herbs. Daffodils in spring; lavender in summer.”
For Emma, her table will be dressed for Christmas, as much of the day will be spent there. “The table is the centrepiece for a lot of people, including us, and it’s a great, inexpensive way to bring some greenery inside for a timeless seasonal look. For us, there will always be candles.”
You can find plenty more inspiration for wild and pretty floral ideas over on Emma’s Instagram page here.