Flowers and emotions with Rachel Giles

When we visited author Rachel Giles’ Kingston upon Thames allotment, we were immediately transported from the busy hustle of London to a place of calm – an oasis in the city.

Like many allotment owners, Rachel has found her plot to be an escape from the stresses and strains of everyday life. It has been a place of learning, mindful creativity, reflection and, at times, solace.

There is a twist to Rachel’s allotment, however. Absent are the familiar twining runner-bean climbers, the sprawling courgette plants, the feathery carrot greens; it’s flowers that Rachel grows. Her small patch of allocated land is entirely dedicated them – making it a vibrant jewel amidst the lush green of her vegetable-growing neighbours.

It’s mid mid-September when we visit Rachel, nearing the end of the flowering season. Despite this, we’re met with a riot of candy-coloured cosmos, graphically bold dahlias standing proud like pompoms on sticks, verbenas and hollyhocks swaying in the gentle breeze.

Rachel weaves in and around her blooms, passionately explaining the character of each different variety – from the cheerful zinnia to the diva-like ‘café au lait’ dahlia. This little patch of land is clearly a huge source of joy.

A writer by trade in the fields of art and design, it makes perfect sense therefore to learn that Rachel’s latest book, Bloom, is a collaboration with the Tate exploring the relationship between art, flowers and emotion.

Written during the summer lockdowns of 2020, it seems apt that Rachel should use the book to explore the way that flowers are able to represent the entire gamut of human emotion – from joy and love through to compassion, grief and loss.

The immediacy and fragility of flowers, their sheer beauty, their touch and their incomparable scent has made them symbolic in myriad ways, so it’s not surprising that they have always held a deep fascination amongst artists.

Bloom is a curation of 100 of the Tate’s most fascinating works of art that feature flowers. The book is designed to encourage slow, mindful looking - it’s sure to bring reflection, restoration, and joy.

Sitting in Rachel’s allotment, drinking tea and talking about flowers, books and art, we feel an incredible sense of peace. Flowers dance around us whilst the setting sun casts a warm glow across the plot.

It’s a moment to savour. It won’t be long before the season is over – the last of Rachel's flowers will bloom and the soil will then lie fallow, waiting for the seed planting to begin again in the Spring. When Spring does arrive, we can be sure that Rachel will once again be creating beauty and colour on her little patch of land amongst the vegetable growers of Surbiton.

Special Offer

To celebrate the launch of Bloom, the Tate is offering 10% discount on the book using the code PalavaBloom10. Offer expires end of November 2021. Click HERE to shop. 

Rachel is wearing Ida Rust Hedgerow dress and Betty cream cardigan. Both items are part of our AW21 Collection.