When I decided to become a florist the most important start for me was to have a proper foundation by learning all the necessary skills and underpinning. A love of flowers, a creative eye, and the understanding that it really is physically hard work (yes honestly it really is!) are other important aspects, but to be able to create designs that work & last involves a real understanding of how to care for flowers (conditioning) and the study of The principles & elements of design, taught through a floristry course. I have become a total flower nerd through my journey, I could talk for quite a long time about how to select flowers for their required use based on stem length, ripeness, NPU (dont ask) as well as reel off all the latin names which believe it or not are a real necessity when it comes to ordering as flowers are listed for auctions in latin.
Take a wedding for example, a couple will show you pictures gathered from magazines, pinterest etc and to be able to create their vision you need to know if the flowers they are showing you are in season at the time of their wedding as well as rough costings - with flower prices fluctuating throughout the year due to various worldwide events an awareness of these dates is a necessity- also obviously the names of flowers and theres a LOT of different flowers out there!
When ordering the flowers you need to ensure once you have ordered them at the right stage of growth that they then open/bloom just at the right time for the event they are for. No bride would want to carry a bouquet full of tight closed roses or peonies for example, so the knowledge of how each flower works, can it be stored in water with other types of flowers?, how long it takes to open, its ability to be wired or hold up in foam is vital. Mechanics is a really important area of understanding, as when you are shown an image of a design you need to know how it has been created - is it in foam, wired, is there a hidden support system etc sometimes pinterest images are simply designs that have been created just for a few short hours of a photoshoot so the mechanics & flowers/foliages used would be totally unsuitable when the longevity of the flowers needed is more than this.
Like all fashions, trends come and go and for me it was important to learn all the traditional skills to be able to adapt for when the trend next changes rather than just have one design to offer. I think like all creatives, florists do have a "style" that they lean towards and will usually be chosen by this, however having a variety of designs in portfolio illustrates their flexibility. All this information enables you to manage expectation's more effectively.
I gained a lot of this information at a fantastic floristry school The Academy of Floral Art in Exeter where I travelled to each week from Bristol being taught by one of the academy's highly qualified and experienced teacher's. Unlike my school days I really enjoy learning and I dont feel I will ever have stopped learning about floristry! I am very fortunate to have been able work with some very talented and creative florists which is an amazing way to learn. Experiencing hands on and hearing all the different experiences they have had just increases your knowledge and confidence. I read floristry publications and many forums where incredibly experienced florists share their knowledge - yet another great source for learning.
In May of this year I decided to attend a residential course in Hereford with Sabine Darrall an internationally renowned florist & teacher. This course is attended by florists of all levels from all over the world and as well as the experience and knowledge of the teacher all the students learn from eachother and on some of the large scale designs, work together. Over 3 days we made some beautiful designs full of stunning summer blooms and with the added bonus of largely using "green" floristry techniques which are becoming increasingly important to learn as all industries become aware of their impact on the environment and how to work sustainably. From beautiful natural cascade bouquets, large tablescape's & bannister installations to Flower column's & delicate hair pieces. It was a great experience to stock up on new techniques & trends as well as see how other florists create completely different designs with the same flowers available as eachother! A fab 3 days of flowers.
Photography by Emma Pilkington