Rachel Wardley, Tallulah Rose, UK.

Rachel Wardley is the creative force behind Tallulah Rose Flower School, UK. 

She says that encouraging each student to have confidence in their own creative ability remains at the heart of Tallulah Rose.

What attracted you to floristry in the first place?

Moving from a small town to a big city I was struck by the beauty of the hand-tied bouquet, the likes of which I’d never seen before. As an office junior I would be the first to dash out to buy the required celebratory bouquet from a ‘fancy’ London florist! Years down the line, I attended a day course with Jane Packer and immediately fell in love with the concept of creating my own floral designs. One thing led to another, and a couple of years later I found myself in the city of Bath opening the doors to my own florist store!

What kind of impact has COVID had on your own circumstances and work situation?

I consider myself extremely fortunate as although we had periods of lockdown, we were also allowed as an independent training provider to continue in line with the rules of education. This meant that we were able to open our doors to those wanting to learn with us for the majority of 2020 and 2021. As people were furloughed their thoughts inevitably turned to their everyday jobs and careers. We began to receive calls and emails from those unhappy with theirs. We had numerous calls and emails from people wanting to make a career change into floristry. Seeking the positive from negative and often heart-breaking situations, we were able to both provide a new skill set and support people making a life changing decision during a difficult time.

What part of the job brings you the most joy?

What brings me joy: Teaching others sustainable floristry so that they can go on to change the world. Playing a part in the change of others inspires me. To see a person grow in confidence, develop as a florist and achieve their dream fulfils me. My day-to-day is not a job, it’s a way of life, a life I have worked hard to achieve and one I cherish.

Encouraging each student to have confidence in their own creative ability remains at the heart of Tallulah Rose. I believe it’s important to inspire whilst remaining relatable, feeling overwhelmed by others is common especially at the beginning of a career change journey. Empathy is a must too, to each other, to our industry and to our planet. If we have empathy, then we have a chance.

Guiding students through their business set up is easier than the job itself! Anyone reading this who has their own business will know the highs, the lows, the hard graft for sometimes little gain, especially in those early days. Not every business will become the dream the owner wants it to be, some will change course or abandon the business altogether. For those who realise their dream, get up early, stay up late, manage the numbers, the quotes, the people, I see you, I know how hard you work. For those who have worked in a stifling working environment with little or no autonomy, creating your own business path, although hard work, brings great reward.

What do you think the main impacts of social media have been on floristry and do you think these are positive or negative?

Social media, love it or loathe it, is here to stay and, for the most part it’s an inspiring community to learn and grow with. It’s an incredible way of sharing creative ideas from around the world daily. When used in a responsible way it acts as a lifeline for those learning with no other means. It gives us a platform in which to share sustainable techniques freely. If we all did this then we would have a more sustainable floristry industry more quickly.

We don’t however all choose to share, in fact some of us choose an opposing approach. We have all seen posts promoting the use of floral foams or worse still challenging sustainable ways. However, damaging and disheartening these posts are we must all carry on promoting and sharing sustainable floristry techniques. However small a contribution or comment we make they will form a statement, a force and, in time, an enduring sustainable industry.

The word ‘sustainability’ in floristry is getting a good run – what does sustainability mean to you in relation to your business practice? 

‘Sustainability’ equals responsibility to me. I’m teaching future florists and it’s my responsibility to ensure they do so sustainably. Whether I’m teaching a one-day workshop or a four-week course I impress on every student the importance of acting sustainably. More than simply not using floral foam (although that’s a great place to start) we encourage everyone to find alternative ways to recycle, to minimise the use of plastic, to use locally grown flowers, to reduce flower transportation and therefore our carbon footprint and to manage waste in the best way possible. We support and talk in depth about the Sustainable Cut Flower Project at the University of Coventry. We impress on our students their responsibility in educating their clients. If they have the knowledge, and most importantly the know-how, then we all have the best possible chance of living harmoniously with nature.

What’s in your toolbox?

As a teacher my toolbox is a little different.

  • Knowledge to teach both practical and business skills

  • Encouragement

  • Empathy

  • The ability to listen

  • Patience