This Saturday we’re celebrating the 4th anniversary of Peony at QVC. In preparation for the big day we caught up with the lovely Catherine Huntley, QVC presenter and Peony fan, to ask her about her recent trip to Ruckley Estate, the home of Peony and its founder, Julie Bates.
How excited were you when you got the invitation to visit Ruckey Estate earlier this year?
Oh very! I am a big fan of Peony (not least because I tend to kill real plants… must try harder I know) so I couldn’t wait to go and see all of the real plants and flowers which the faux versions replicate so perfectly.
I must admit my excitement doubled when I discovered it was Craig I’d be visiting with. He’s one of my besties so that was the icing on the cake!
I just loved Ruckley so much! It’s really hard to choose a favourite part of my visit but if I have to then it was the wonderful walks we had around the grounds with Julie and her wonderful family. I think they enjoyed showing Craig and I around as much as we enjoyed savouring the experience! So much beauty and nature. It was a delight to the senses, absolutely stunning.
You saw the factory where all the flowers are made, was it very different than you imagined?
The ‘factory’ was more of an artist’s workshop. It was housed in a big old farm outbuilding, like a large barn, with huge wooden doors which were open to allow beautiful sunshine, fresh air and gorgeous countryside views to flood in.
Not a conveyor belt or chimney in sight! It’s very clear that there’s a real closeness between Julie’s family and their employees. A very close knit operation with just a few people working there – arranging the flowers, pouring the faux water, packing and so on. It was so nice to have seen this side of things.
How much fun is it working with Julie on QVC?
Oh, Julie is great. She’s very well spoken and polished but also very down to earth, generous and kind. If I had to sum her up in one word (apart from glamorous) I’d choose kind. She donates very generously to charities and always takes a genuine interest in people. A true lady.
I love the look of real flowers but they are expensive when fresh cut from the florist. They also last for such a short time and then there’s the maintenance… the water needs changing, the vase needs cleaning and polishing up, the cats have been known to knock them over and, as I mentioned before, plants and flowers don’t seem to live long in my company! I must admit it’s usually due to neglect! I kind of forget to get around to looking after them.
Peony are so incredibly lifelike and the styles are so beautiful. I tend to opt for the more contemporary designs. I never knew faux flowers could look so realistic until I discovered Peony. If they fooled Alan Titchmarsh, and the Royal Horticultural Society endorse them then that’s more than good enough for me.
Do you have any handy tips on keeping your faux flowers looking great?
They are so low maintenance. Every now and again I just turn them upside down and give them a little blast with the hair dryer to get any dust off and out of the vases then I grab my Dyson to clear up any dust from the floor below. It couldn’t be easier. Best of all, if I forget to tend to them they don’t die! The dust just waits for me to get around to it! Wouldn’t be without mine.
Tune in this Saturday at 3pm and 9pm for our lovely Peony anniversary shows.