Gardens

Step Inside a Floral World

“I consider myself a flower plopper,” says the designer Rachel Ashwell, the founder of the vintage-and-floral focused Shabby Chic brand. “I gather roses and hydrangeas from my garden, plop them in water, and let it be. As long as everything is beautiful, I’m not very strategic.” It’s that informal, inviting approach to beauty that sets apart the rooms Ashwell has decorated, the events she’s hosted, and the bed and breakfast she operates called The Prairie in Round Top, Texas. In the new book, My Floral Affair, Ashwell shares images from beloved gardens in her native England, as well as her properties in California and Texas. She also shares how flowers—including Southern standards like roses, peonies, hydrangeas, and wisteria—inspire her creations.

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Wellington boots for guests to borrow at Babington, a retreat in western England where Ashwell spends Christmas with her family.

photo: Amy Neunsinger

Yarrow, sage, fennel, verbena, and giant bellflowers spill over a bucket in a potting shed.

photo: Amy Neunsinger

A floral creation from the garden of one of Ashwell’s friends outside Paris, France.

photo: Amy Neunsinger

Ashwell’s vintage dinnerware pieces. “These mismatched beauties may have had a more glamourous life, but now they are put to use for humble as well as decadent meals,” she says.

photo: Amy Neunsinger

Vintage silk flowers Ashwell collects.

photo: Amy Neunsinger

Lush peonies and roses from Ashwell’s garden.

photo: Amy Neunsinger

Blue Bonnet Barn at The Prairie, Ashwell’s bed and breakfast in Round Top, Texas.

photo: Amy Neunsinger

Floral linens blow in the breeze at The Prairie.

photo: Amy Neunsinger

In Texas, wisteria blooms briefly in May, and Ashwell babies her cut flowers with plenty of water in jars and vases. “Wisteria is a gem, but it’s so fleeting,” she says. “For those moments we have it, it’s lovely.”

photo: Amy Neunsinger

Ashwell often mixes flowers from her garden with plants she picks up at markets—such as these hydrangeas in a guest bedroom.

photo: Amy Neunsinger

A salvaged lace tablecloth shades the sun at the bed and breakfast.

photo: Amy Neunsinger

Ashwell collects floral vases and bowls from the flea markets in Round Top, Texas.

photo: Amy Neunsinger

A secret to survival in Texas: “My signature Prairie barrel of flowers is proudly mostly fake,” Ashwell says, “so it can sit outside and withstand the blazing sun and heat.”

photo: Amy Neunsinger

My Floral Affair was published in February 2018.

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