Meet the flower girls
Photographs: Katy Lawrence
Flowers have always been part of Alexandra Nutting and Jessica Lister’s lives. The two sisters grew up between London and Wiltshire, and their town-meets-country sensibility underpins their floral-design company, Aesme, which celebrates unusual, locally grown blooms by fashioning them into romantic yet modern arrangements.
“I started out doing a traditional floristry course, but the aesthetic felt a little dated,” says Nutting. “So I spent some time interning with floral designers in New York, as the scene over there was so exciting. I knew that I wanted to do something similar here in the UK.” Inspired, she teamed up with her sister Jesse, and both of them gave up their ‘rather boring’ jobs two years ago to focus on Aesme full-time. Their first commissions were mostly friends’ weddings.
An early blessing was discovering the Land Gardeners, who grow an abundance of plants for cutting at Wardington Manor in Oxfordshire. “They’re wonderful,” says Nutting. “Everything is picked by hand. If you ask for cherry blossom, they’ll take a pair of shears and cut branches from the orchard.” Even so, the sisters soon realised that as their business expanded, they also needed a cutting garden of their own, so Lister has started a plot on her boyfriend’s farm in Hampshire, where she grows flowers, herbs, foliage and the old-fashioned English roses that appear in Aesme’s distinctive bouquets.
“It’s all about successional planting,” she says. “If you want to get a constant supply of flowers, you need to plant the same variety several times a year.” She has recently tripled her production in anticipation of the next few months. Her horticultural endeavours might be occupying most of her attention at the moment, but Lister is also an accomplished illustrator. Her delicate botanical drawings can be seen on the Aesme website, and she accepts commissions to embellish invitations and other projects. “The idea was to make cards decorated with the same flowers that would be used at the event,” she says.
Having provided the flowers for the launch of Jo Malone London’s new Bloomsbury-inspired range of fragrances at Charleston, the sisters will be returning to the Sussex farmhouse in June for their two-day workshop. It is a homage to their love of Bloomsbury: participants will gather flowers from the fields and hedgerows to create arrangements that evoke the art of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant.
Indeed, an artistic sensibility can be seen throughout Aesme’s floral displays – their painterly creations bring to mind Dutch still-lifes or those lavish bowls of flowers that were a favourite subject for Victorian artists. And although the sisters are mostly based in the less-than-rustic environs of west London, there’s a touch of wildness about their work that draws you in, reminding you of nature’s everchanging beauty.
MORE HOMES & GARDENS
New books for garden lovers
Inside Britain's historic homes
How to create the perfect sleep space