When I first started seriously considering becoming a florist, I didn't want to be "standard". No contrived bouquets of lilies, roses and viburnum for me. I wanted my flowers to be natural, have character, life, and most of all, SCENT! And I wanted to appreciate flowers for what they were, natural, and beautiful.
Having grown up in Narrabri, where the dry climate and hot summers don't allow for all beautiful cooler climate blooms, jasmine, rosemary and lavender were my original go-to. Mum was always putting little posies of lavender in my room (and still does!), geranium in the bathroom, and big bunches of agapanthus on our kitchen table.
My parents weren't "rose people" and I grew up being not the biggest fan. All I'd known were the almost fake roses we got from the local florist or supermarket, which, like McDonald's hamburgers were so pumped with drugs they never actually died!
My appreciation for softer, more "English" style flowers started when I lived in London in the early 2000's, and I'd walk through Kensington Gardens on the way to work, and raid my neighbours front yards for our flat.
It wasn't till I started going out to the Sydney Flower Markets that I discovered the REAL roses in Australia - beautiful varieties of beautifully scented David Austins that smelt like their colours! Mid pink smelt like musk, and burgundy like chocolate. And Cecile brunners as cute as a button. And I also discovered that REAL lily of the valley, hydrangea, lilac did grow in our own back yard.
Before Instagram, a friend introduced me to New York florist Poppies and Posies. And that opened up a whole new world to me, of clematis, pomegranates and wild berries mixed in with natural blooms grown by other florist/flower growers in upstate New York. Between their regular blog updates, and my trusty Grandiflora Arrangements book, I was finally on my path.
My first "event" - a dinner party in our backyard, heavily influenced by Poppies and Posies !! Photos by Elise Hassey.
Instagram arrived, and one international florist I loved above all others was Amy Merrick. She didn't post very often, but when she did, they were of the most beautiful, simple arrangements, where every flower was the hero and appreciated as much as the other.
But as quickly as I started following her on Instagram, she seemed to disappear!
Back in Sydney, as Floreat slowly grew, what started as a beautiful foray into a more creative and fulfilling life, became more about making money, paying the bills, winning work and creating what people wanted. I was stressing about getting quotes done on time, and how to design an arrangement in the corporate colours of orange and blue.
Then things changed for me last year, and I started thinking about what I really wanted to get out of this gig. Obviously I still had to pay the bills, but I needed to love my job too. We have the dream job "working with flowers" - so I decided I needed to make it MY dream job again, and make it more about what I loved, not what other people wanted.
Then, right on cue, Amy Merrick re-appears. With this book - On Flowers.
As soon as I opened it up, I knew it was something special. As soon as I started reading through the pages I started breathing slower. My mind started drifting back to 2002, when I was trapsing around the streets of London late at night with my scissors, and my first visits to Sydney flower markets. And I started remembering how I felt about flowers when I first became a florist, and even before this.
The next day at work, Beth, who had just read the book back to front, said the book reminded her why she became a florist. I had exactly the same thought.
Amy's book isn't just a lesson in flowers, it's a lesson in life. How to appreciate the simple pleasures, not just in the beauty both in flowers and nature, but in everything around us. From the pretty flowers on our teacups, sleeping on ironed pillowcases, to driving with the windows down.
Thank you Amy.