WHAT FIRST SPARKED YOUR PASSION FOR FLORAL DESIGN?
I have always loved flowers and have visited numerous flower shows, courses and displays. I spent the first fifteen years of my career working in corporate retail management which I enjoyed, but didn’t feel fulfilled. I reached a crossroads and resigned two weeks before the Covid pandemic started, without a job to go to. Whilst looking for my next step I saw a florist for sale (Simpson’s Florist), so bought it and the rest is history! I’d like to say that there was more thought that went into it than that, but the truth is that it just felt right and I followed my gut. At that time I definitely wasn’t a florist but I was lucky enough to have a team around me who were. I learnt from them, and am still learning every day. It’s now been three years since I took over the business and it’s going from strength to strength.
WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF THE CHALLENGES AND LEARNINGS WHEN CONCEPTUALIZING AND CREATING FOR FLEURS DE VILLES?
I’ve found that designing the Fleurs de Villes installation is the easy part but figuring out the mechanics behind it is a challenge! For example, when we were designing the Hanfu dress for our China-inspired mannequin, we wanted the top of the skirt to be fitted to the body. However it was difficult to keep that fitted shape whilst having vases underneath as our water source. We overcame that by putting the vases further down the skirt and using longer stems so that we were able to have the shape we wanted. It sounds simple but took surprisingly long to figure out! I think that because we don’t often (or ever!) get asked to decorate a mannequin with flowers, the scale and task can be intimidating. But the truth is that florists know exactly what to do and do it every day, it’s just a case of using those techniques in a different way.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVOURITE SEASONAL BLOOMS, AND HOW DO YOU INCORPORATE THEM INTO YOUR DESIGNS?
Dahlias are one of my favourite flowers. They are so diverse - from the huge, blousey Cafe au Lait variety to the more compact and round, deep red Black Fox. They’re only in season for a couple of months in summer and early autumn so I definitely like to make the most of them while I can! Because they come in such different colours, shapes and sizes, they can be used in all different types of arrangements - from bouquets to archways and urns.
IF YOU COULD ATTEND A FLORAL FESTIVAL OR BOTANICAL GARDEN ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD, WHICH WOULD YOU CHOOSE?
Definitely the Bloemencorso Bollenstreek. It takes place in the Netherlands every April and is a parade of floats that are huge and completely decorated in flowers. The parade travels for 42km, and the creations that I’ve seen are unbelievable! Earlier this year I was lucky enough to see the Varend Corso - another annual Netherlands parade that features boats beautifully decorated with locally grown flowers, plants and vegetables that sail through the region of Westland over 3 days. Flowers are such a huge part of Dutch culture, it’s on a different scale to anything I’ve seen before.
HAS YOUR EXPERIENCE PARTICIPATING IN FLEURS DE VILLES INFLUENCED YOUR APPROACH TO FLORAL DESIGN IN OTHER ASPECTS OF YOUR BUSINESS?
After taking part in Fleurs de Villes, I said “If we can do that, we can do anything!” Showcasing designs at two Fleurs de Villes Edinburgh shows has given me a huge amount of confidence to move forward and book events that in the past would have terrified me.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB?
I know it’s the Fleurs de Villes slogan, but it’s true - flowers make us happy. Every single day we see the joy that flowers can bring - whether it’s someone who comes into our shop to browse and sees a flower that makes them smile, or when we deliver a bouquet to someone who wasn’t expecting it, or when we watch a couple walk into their wedding and see their floral vision come to life. We are also part of sad occasions in people’s lives, but even then we see how flowers can bring comfort.
HAVE YOU EVER INCORPORATED SPECIFIC CULTURAL ELEMENTS OR SYMBOLISM INTO YOUR FLORAL DESIGNS?
We smiled when we found out that we were creating a mannequin inspired by China at Fleurs de Villes VOYAGE Edinburgh because we have a lot of Chinese customers. We’ve learnt that numbers are very important in Chinese culture - some are lucky and some unlucky - so it’s really important to get the quantities of flowers right. Flower varieties and colours also have significance.
HOW DO YOU ENSURE THAT YOUR FLORAL DESIGNS ALIGN WITH A CLIENT'S VISION?
Of course, it’s important to really get to know your client and find out exactly what they like and don’t like. But it’s equally important for them to get to know you, your style and the service you offer. Every florist has their own individual style and if a client is looking for something that doesn’t align with that, it’s going to be difficult to create something that makes them happy. If that’s the situation then it’s only fair for me to be honest with them, and I can usually point them in the direction of another florist who better suits their vision.
HOW DO YOU SEE THE FUTURE OF FLORAL DESIGN EVOLVING, AND WHAT EXCITES YOU ABOUT THE INDUSTRY'S POTENTIAL?
Sustainability has been a huge talking point recently. I think that’s going to continue and florists will be pushed to design and source in a more environmentally friendly way, for example creating arrangements in vases of water and chicken wire rather than single-use floral foam. It’s exciting that the potential is there for these improvements and to make a difference.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE FRAGRANT BLOOM, AND HOW DO YOU INCORPORATE SCENT INTO YOUR DESIGNS?
I love scented garden roses and my favourite is White O’Hara. To me, they smell exactly as people expect a flower to smell. So often, people will pick up a flower or a bouquet and the first thing they do is put their nose to it, expecting to smell the fragrance and are disappointed if there’s none. For that reason I think it’s important to incorporate scent whenever possible, for example including scented roses, lilies, peonies or freesia.