I have always loved flowers, having them in the house and growing what I could, but as a career choice it just wasn’t on my radar.
I first got into floristry when I got engaged in 2010 – I wanted to feel more connected to planning our wedding. As a part of this, I tentatively dipped my toe into floristry on a course at Green and Gorgeous in Oxfordshire with my mum. Whilst I loved it, I wasn’t sure if I’d be any good at it, so I did a City and Guild course to learn more. I felt the designs we made were a bit rigid, but it did allow me to express myself with flowers in a way I hadn’t been able to before.
I sought out all the floristry books I could find, borrowing stacks from my local library and consuming as much knowledge as I could. I hired a small studio space and paid a florist to teach me in the evenings after I had finished my day job. Then I tentatively launched Floribunda Rose.
Covid changed everything. We had to close our studio and postpone all classes at our flower school in March 2020. We had wedding bookings postpone and, in some cases, cancel entirely. We used this ‘pause’ to concentrate on finishing our book A Guide to Floral Mechanics and get it printed. Our book kept us busy and focussed, and thankfully ensured that we could stay afloat through precarious times.
One of the things I love most about floristry is the excitement of seeing what will be available from our growers every week of the year. No two weeks are ever the same – there are always nuances and that ever changing palette of colours, textures and fragrances is thrilling. Flowers are so much more than just pretty – they encapsulate a moment in time. No two bouquets are ever the same, no tributes either, each design is deeply personal and speaks of its moment in time and place in the world. That, to me, is magical.
In the past I have struggled a lot with valuing my worth and giving myself permission to take time off, or to factor in time to create for creating’s sake rather than to fulfil a brief. These days I look at things differently. I think that if you feel valued and happy it shows through your work. You can’t pour from an empty jug. Now I look at time off as essential – I put creative days into the calendar to ensure that there is space to play and create without feeling stifled.
I think there’s a misconception that a florist’s life is easy. The reality is it’s hard to make a living, margins are relatively small, there are early starts, there’s a huge amount of manual labour involved, and there’s often more time spent on admin and prep than actually creating floral designs.
Publishing ‘A Guide to Floral Mechanics’ was a huge moment for my business partner William and me. It is brilliant to hear from florists and flower lovers around the world who have embraced sustainable floral mechanics and shared their successes!
Another huge highlight was being asked to create sympathy flowers for HRH Queen Elizabeth and HRH Prince Charles on behalf of Flowers from the Farm. It was a huge honour, and one I’ll never forget.
To be honest, it feels like a huge achievement to have stayed in business through the last eight years.
Social media has given us a ‘shop window’ which allows potential clients to understand what we are about before they’ve invested in us, which is brilliant.
The various platforms have also allowed us to find other people who share our feelings on sustainability, seasonality, and fair working practices for employees. It has in no small part played a role in the sustainable floristry movement – our Facebook group (Sustainable Florists & Flower Growers Collective) now has almost 6000 florists and growers who ask questions and share their discoveries, tips, and methods with one another around the world.
I think that social media can be a minefield too though, it’s hard not to compare yourself to other people, and it’s easy to forget that these curated pages or squares only give a highlighted glimpse of someone’s business, or life.
When hiring employees some things are a given – a love of flowers, a willingness to learn, good communication skills, and an openness to learning sustainable methods if they’re not used to working that way. What we’re really looking for are real people. We don’t want to sit in an echo chamber – we want to work with people who challenge our views so that we can inspire each other and create new, interesting, unexpected work.
I’m also looking for people who have invested in themselves and their training – whether that’s through learning at college or attending courses, volunteering, work experience or less conventional learning – maybe they’ve studied art, grown their own flowers, or they’re a gardener or botanist. So many skills feed into floristry.
Sustainability is, to me, twofold. Firstly, it’s running your business in a way that it can continue to stay afloat and create enough income to support staff (including me) and grow.
The second part of sustainability is running a business in a way that does not harm the planet. For us at Floribunda Rose, that means not using dyed or bleached flowers or foliage, using exclusively British flowers and foliage, chipping green waste, and using the resulting compost in our flower beds and flowerpots to nourish the next plants we grow and support biodiversity. It means sending as little to landfill as possible, recycling what we can and avoiding single use plastics as much as we possibly can. We use truly seasonal ingredients and drying what we can for use over the autumn and winter when flowers are scarcer.
Part of it is creating considerately, making sure designs are fully compostable – particularly for funeral work where we would be unlikely to have vessels returned to us. If the mechanics cannot be made in a compostable way, we ensure that they are reusable.
Two philosophies I live by regarding tools are – buy once, buy well. And, look after your tools, and they’ll look after you.
My top 5 tools would be:
1) Niwaki Sakagen floristry scissors – they’re the only scissors I’ve found that stop me from getting blisters.
2) A good, sharp pair of secateurs.
3) Gripple wire and fittings for larger installations
4) Ribbon scissors – my favourites are built to last by Weiss and Sauer and came from a tiny fabric shop and haberdashery that is no longer open.
5) My camera. Given the transient nature of floristry I think it’s important to document our work.
I think we need to lead by example and show that running a considerate and sustainable business can and does work. By saying here’s what we do and showing what’s possible is in my eyes more effective than telling people what they should or shouldn’t do. I’ve always found that enabling and encouraging behaviour works better than criticism to affect long term change.
Climate change is hard to argue against these days and I think that we (florists and consumers alike) are beginning to think more about what we can do individually and in business to make a difference and consider what we are doing to one another and this planet.
Many businesses talk the talk without walking the walk and prefer to use greenwashing rather than actually change their practices, but I do believe customers are waking up to this and will vote with their feet and go elsewhere if they aren’t convinced a company is doing what they’re saying they will, to be more sustainable.