The renowned florist and writer shares the stories of her Cotswolds cottage where she lives, immersed in nature, with her husband Charlie and their three sons
(LEFT) FLORIST AND STYLIST WILLOW CROSSLEY; (RIGHT) WILLOW’S VEGETABLE GARDEN AT HER COTSWOLDS HOME. IMAGE: INSTAGRAM/WILLOW CROSSLEY CREATES
How would you describe your home?
It’s very much a Cotswolds cottage, two-and-a-bit cottages built together over time – not done by us. It’s very cottagey, with walls that are completely wonky, or falling down. I can dry my hair through some of the draughts through the bedroom windows and, when it snows, my eldest son has snow inside his bedroom. Some might say it’s characterful!
Why do you live where you live?
Ten years ago we were living in London and went for dinner one night. We agreed that we’d stay for one more year, then move out. I went to bed that night and my husband, Charlie, came upstairs with the laptop to show me a picture of this house, saying, “I know we’ve just had this discussion, but…” Four months later we were here. You know when something just feels right? My parents were like, “What are you doing? It’s going to cost a fortune to run,” but our instinct took over. Yes, there have been moments when a roofing bill comes in and we’ve thought, what the hell have we done? Sometimes I long for a new build that’s warm and sustainable, but we absolutely love it here. It’s a really special house.
Your new book, The Wild Journal, is all about nurturing yourself through nature. How important is nature in your life and your home?
I grew up in proper rural Wales, so it’s engrained in me, even if it’s been a subconscious thing. When I had postnatal depression, there was very little that helped. But even when I was feeling really rock bottom, when I didn’t notice anything else, I’d go outside and I’d notice the nature of the sun, the sea and the sky, and it would give me a lift. Now, even when I’m feeling fine I make sure that it’s very much part of my daily life. And I force it on anyone around me!
(LEFT) WILLOW’S COTSWOLD COTTAGE IN FULL BLOOM; (RIGHT) HER FLOWER STUDIO IN AN OUTHOUSE AT HER HOME. IMAGES: INSTAGRAM/WILLOW CROSSLEY CREATES
Would you consider yourself to be green-fingered in the garden?
People think that because I’m a florist I’m good in the garden, but I’m really not. My mum and grandparents are incredible gardeners, but it had always slightly bored me. Then, in the last couple of years I’ve really got into it. Although I’m constantly competing with my three boys who are forever smashing tulip heads off with their rugby balls and a puppy who just bites the heads off things! I don’t know if it’s because of everything that’s going on in the world right now or it’s just my stage of life, but I want to show the boys where food comes from and be as self-sufficient as possible.
How would you describe your garden?
It has a rectangular lawn, which is mostly moss and trampled by the boys, and four borders. Although our main border has big trees at the back which means that growing anything in it is really difficult because the tree roots sap all the goodness. Then, off the sitting room side of the house, we have four little square beds edged in Box which Charlie made into our vegetable garden. So that’s where we spend most of our time and it feels manageable. A friend is helping me to plan the garden properly. I love a natural, airy, wild look – same as with my flower arranging – so we’re going for lots of Alchemilla and Astrantia and grasses, which we’re going to plant in clusters rather than in bits. I use alot of plants in my jobs which often get left behind so, rather than let them go to waste, I’ve planted them in my garden. But it doesn’t look great because there’s no pattern or rhythm. It’s a massive project and it’s going to take a long time but I’m so excited. I actually feel quite grown up!
How does your garden make you feel?
There’s nothing better, even those hours spent weeding are so good for the soul. I really believe that. It’s so peaceful, so uplifting and strengthening and it’s such a good time for thinking, in a non-panicky way. It’s becoming a vital part of my everyday wellbeing. I feel it’s like a refuge, especially at the moment. Everything that’s going on in the world right now is so horrific, and I feel incredibly lucky that I have my garden to escape to. It’s definitely my safe space.
(LEFT) WILLOW’S FIREPLACE WHICH SHE DECORATED WITH SHELLS; (RIGHT) WILLOW’S BEDROOM DECORATED BY OCTAVIA DICKINSON FEATURING A CANOPY OVER THE BED IN ‘PAISLEY PARROT’ BY SOANE AND ‘FLEUR’ BY LES INDIENNES. IMAGES: INSTAGRAM/WILLOW CROSSLEY CREATES
How important is it for you to bring the outside in to the house?
Surrounding yourself with beautiful things is so good for your soul and I find natural things, such as flowers, plants, shells and feathers, are so beautiful that they just make me feel better. I think they’re so life-enhancing.
What’s your favourite thing to cook at home that comes from your garden?
Our vegetable growing isn’t fancy, but I’m obsessed with broccoli and huge salads. We do lots of big green salads with peas and avocado and toasted seeds and grated baby courgettes. We grow lots of herbs and I have pots of them inside all along the windowsill, so I put them in tea and in salads. Everything is better with huge fistfuls of herbs in, and they smell so beautiful.
What was it like growing up in the beautiful 15th century Vaynor Park in Powys?
It was completely idyllic. I have two younger brothers and we just spent every second outside, hunting for mushrooms and playing in the rivers, jumping on hay bales and playing in the corn. It was completely dreamy and very outdoorsy. I try to bring that to my boys now, but it’s different with the lure of technology; I guess it’s all a balancing act. My parents have an incredible kitchen garden with every fruit and vegetable under the sun, which I aspire to one day. I take the boys there and they think they’ve died and gone to heaven.
(LEFT) WILLOW’S BATHROOM WITH FLORALS HAND-PAINTED ON THE WALLS BY HER FRIEND, ARTIST FIONA MCALPINE; (RIGHT) WILLOW’S KITCHEN FILLED WITH FLOWERS SHELTERING FROM A SNOWSTORM. IMAGES: INSTAGRAM/WILLOW CROSSLEY CREATES
If the objects in your home could speak, which would have the best story to tell?
Probably our kitchen table. We inherited it with the house and we live in the kitchen; it’s a kind of open-plan kitchen/sitting room and we’re there most waking hours of the day. We have dinners, lunch, breakfast there, the boys do all their homework there, I’ve written my books on that table. It’s the centre of our home.
What’s your domestic guilty secret?
Probably the fact that my bathroom lights don’t work, so I have to have a shower with my phone torch on. It’s been going on for about three months. At least it’s light in the mornings now, but in the Winter it was pretty miserable.
What are some of the most memorable things that have happened in your home?
Bringing my babies home for the first time, mealtimes all together and the boys spending hours in the garden playing football. Our home is just very happy and I feel very lucky about that. We have movie night on a Friday or Saturday night; we all sit together, the boys choose a film and we have hot chocolate and crisps. It’s the highlight of their week. It’s not fancy, but when we’re all together – the five of us – it’s so special and I’m learning to treasure it.
The Wild Journal: A Year of Nurturing Yourself Through Nature by Willow Crossley is out now, published by Bluebird Books For Life
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If you enjoyed this, you might like to learn how to create florist Anna Potter’s modern floral arrangement or your mantelpiece, or discover how to grow a garden from seeds and cuttings.