Decorating for Christmas with Christina Strutt from Cabbages & Roses
At The Real Flower Company we’ve always tried to do things differently, growing flowers as nature intended – with scent (and thorns) – in a way that respects and works in harmony with the environment. We’ve long admired the exquisite prints and style of Cabbages & Roses but it was only when we met a couple of months ago that we realised we have so much more in common than a shared love of roses. Cabbages & Roses, in their own words, will never be a commercial brand. Set up by ex-Vogue girl Christina Strutt, they aim to run their business in the kindest way possible and cherish their close relationship with their customers and suppliers. They put quality, uniqueness and fair prices for everyone involved in the provenance of their product first, which resonates strongly with what we at The Real Flower Company aim to do.
Cabbages & Roses’ founder and inspiring creative director Christina Strutt takes us behind the scenes to reveal how she decorates for Christmas…
Q:How would you describe your Christmas decorating style?
A: Traditional. Greedy. And somehow lacking…?
Q:Do you decorate your home in the same way each year or do you vary things?
A: Usually it starts in the same way – full of promise and good intentions. I start by putting ivy over my pictures and swags of fir branches above fireplaces, which instantly generates a Christmassy impact. Then the crib is made with the help of my grandchildren, Franky and Bobbie. It’s a magical woodland scene of moss and treasures lit with fairy lights – some of its elements have served through more than 50 years of Christmases past. Then my Christmas trees –as large and fat as possible – are decorated with a million fairy lights. Inevitably the swags above the fireplaces collapse, I forget to water the trees and the ivy is dry and crispy by Christmas Day.
Q: What memories have influenced your Christmas decorating style?
A: Since I married 37 years ago I have been trying to re-create the Christmas of my childhood, but neither I nor my three sisters have succeeded in reproducing the magic my mother created. Perhaps it’s because Christmas to an adult is much different from the wonder of childhood – but somehow it eludes us.
Q: You are known for decorating the outside of your shop with wonderful swags of seasonal foliage.
A: I love using seasonal foliage – even if it’s just ivy and a few branches – because nothing is more Christmassy than natural offerings from the woods. Together with fairy lights – as many as possible – it creates a beautiful, old-fashioned, magical scene.
Q: What does Christmas smell like?
A: To me it’s cloves and cinnamon, fir trees and baking – our Cedar Wood and Spice Candle is a pretty good imitation of Christmas.
Q: How do you celebrate Christmas in the shop?
A: As soon as practically possible we decorate the window with a Christmas tree covered in a multitude of fairy lights. The fires are lit and the mantle shelves are covered in bark and moss. We have twisted willow twigs fastened to the outer wall, which are perfect for decorating the outside of the shop with flowers in summer and foliage in winter – intertwined, of course, with fairy lights!
Q: Do you enjoy hosting Christmas or do you prefer to be a guest?
A: I love both. But I have been lucky to avoid hosting Christmas for the last few years. My youngest sister has a beautiful house in the National Trust village of Lacock in Wiltshire and we all tend to congregate there as her huge and beautiful kitchen can accommodate our ever-expanding family – last year there were 24 people sitting down to lunch.
Q: How do you spend Christmas Day?
A: Since my children have grown up, we are often dispersed at Christmas. But the routine tends to follow the same pattern – the day starts with a service in the local church followed by lighting the fire at home and allowing the grandchildren to open a few of their presents. Then we go to my sister’s home and somehow she manages to feed us all with traditional fare. After lunch gifts are exchanged by the fire and then, sleepy and happy, the Strutt family returns home to exchange our gifts to each other.
The Real Flower Company is setting up a Christmas botanical wonderland, flower shop and wreath-making school in Cabbages & Roses’ light-filled shop on Sydney Street in Chelsea from Monday 20 to Wednesday 22 November. We hope you can stop by to enjoy the roses, aromatic herbs and seasonal English foliage. You’ll have a chance to preview and preorder our Christmas collection at a special price or to join one of our intimate wreath-making workshops.