I was never good at arts and crafts when I was younger. My sister was always the creative one and good with her hands; she’d come home with some amazing creations that any parent would be proud to display in their home. Mine on the other hand left a lot to be desired and were always classed as ‘she trieds’…

So imagine the fear I felt when the big-hearted Alice Calcasola van-der List invited me along to one of her All In One Season floral design workshops. It all sounded lovely – you are welcomed into Alice’s home and along with a group of ladies, in between mouthfuls of cake and frothy coffee, you create a floral design that you can take home or give as a gift to a loved one.

But what if? What if I created the only hideous floral design? What if the other ladies laughed at my pathetic attempts? So it was with trepidation that I accepted the challenge…

I needn’t have worried because as soon as I stepped into Alice’s home and workshop I felt instantly at ease. There was a real camaraderie amongst the ladies and zero judgement – some had been to scores of Alice’s courses, for others it was their first time. Some were on their own, others were with friends. Note my use of the word ladies; in all the years Alice has been running her courses, not one single man has dared to let his floral side out…

I was surprised at how easy it was to get to grips with the techniques and what a therapeutic experience it was – for a couple of hours at least, the constant to-do lists in my head fell silent. I was completely immersed in what I was doing and I didn’t actually need much direction to produce something I was quietly proud of.

The great thing about Dutch floral design is that it is a lot less ridged than traditional British flower arranging. Although we all had access to the same materials, by the time we finished, each design was different – the only unifying factor was that they were all beautiful.

During the workshop I also got the chance to speak to some of Alice’s ‘lovely ladies’ as she calls them and heard many wonderful stories about her as a person and why her floral design courses are so important to them. Some have high powered jobs and find it a release, others have had to deal with depression or bereavement and for them it was the one place they could come to forget for a few hours. For others it’s just the simple joy of being at one with nature and having the chance to create without restrictions.

By the end of the workshop I was a convert – I understood why some of her ladies have done hundreds of courses with her – partly because Alice never repeats the same workshop twice, but mainly because she is just such a generous, genuine and positive person who has the ability to change people’s lives for the better.

So if you’re a Doubting Thomasina or you fear you have no creative bone in your body, take the plunge and book onto one of Alice’s courses – you won’t regret it.

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