A florist is perhaps one of the most enviable professions. Working with sweet-smelling, glorious blooms; creating designs that are almost guaranteed to make someone else feel good. The details that are often overlooked are the early mornings, long hours, battered hands and the increasing pressure of documenting their work for those all-important social media channels.
Having made a film with leading London florist McQueens and its founder Kally Ellis last year, today we are marking the UK's National Flower Arranging Day by showcasing the work of seven London florists. Today will also see The National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies charity begin to distribute 60,000 "lonely bouquets" across the UK, from park benches and shop doorsteps, to well-known landmarks and surprise locations, in the hope that they will find a home and brighten someone's day. The Lonely Bouquet was the brainchild of a young florist in Belgium named Emily Avenso, who blogged about the idea after leaving flowers for strangers two years ago. The idea went viral and Lonely Bouquets have been distributed across the globe ever since.
Since opening her own bespoke flower design company, Flora Starkey has become one of the most in demand florists in London, and her romantic, sumptuous displays of rare and uncommon blooms have deservedly earned her a reputation as one of the best florists working today. Taking influence from Dutch and Flemish flower painting of the 16th and 17th centuries, her designs have all the richness and delicacy of a van Oosterwijck or a Bosschaert. And just like the Dutch masters, the abundance and colour of her arrangements is always infused with haunting sense of melancholy. Her clients include Alexander McQueen, AnOther, British Vogue and her Instagram account, which features her arrangements and flower close-ups, is standout.
"Working with flowers is not too much of a far cry from working with models: 'both hang their heads and droop if you don't treat them nicely'”
Grace and Thorn
Grace and Thorn are a florist who have brought the wildness and rusticity of the English countryside to their busy London home in Dalston. Founded in 2011 by Nik Southern, who had then just moved to London and wanted bring something of country back to the capital, Grace and Thorn have since made a reputation for themselves with their naturalistic, whimsical arrangements. They try to steer clear of over-the-top, profusive designs and prefer instead to bring out the natural beauty of flowers with simple, unforced displays. In this way they manage to get the most out of even simple blooms like daisies and sunflowers. Recent projects include an installation of succulents at The Violin Factory in south London to celebrate the launch of Whistles' men's collection.
Florence Hill founded Petalon in conjunction with her husband's bicycle brand, Kennedy City Bicycles. It's a simple business model: each week Hill posts a photo of two bouquets on her website and social media channels, customers choose between them and Hill uses a Kennedy City bike to personally hand deliver each order to a customer's door. It's a remarkable service she provides, and all the more so because it benefits everyone – because of the low cost of transportation, Hill can keep the price of her bouquets down and, as her method of delivery is entirely carbon neutral, she can offset the strain that the cut flower industry already places on the environment. What's more, she makes a donation of £1 from each bouquet to Capital Bee, a charity that helps support London's bee population. Hill's beautiful Instagram account often features her adorable Great Dane Huxley alongside her exquisite bouquets, and she is a loyal supporter of the "white border" for showcasing her images.
Jam Jar Flowers
Founded in 2010 by Melissa Richardson, the former director of Take 2 Models, and Jocelyn Lloyd, former i-D designer, Jam Jar Flowers is located in a beautiful old mews in Kennington, the perfect location for this most creative and original of florists. For Richardson, working with flowers is not too much of a far cry from working with models: “both”, she finds, “hang their heads and droop if you don't treat them nicely”. Lloyd on the other hand has talked about her floristy as a direct extension of her graphic design work, being all about manipulating shape and colour. This creative background certainly shows in Jam Jar's flower designs, which are always innovative and experimental, often displaying their flowers in unexpected ways; in Kilner jars, for example, or in vintage Campari bottles. Their displays have won them enviable commissions from André Balazs for his latest opening at the Chiltern Firehouse, to photographer and flower enthusiast Nick Knight who orders weekly blooms for his SHOWstudio headquarters.
The Flower Appreciation Society
The name says it all – this is a company that is founded on a real love of flowers. It's a small outfit, but founders Ellie Jauncey and Anna Day are willing to put in the time to ensure their bouquets are only made from the freshest, highest quality flowers. For every commission they get, Jauncey and Day trawl through the New Covent Garden Market in the early morning, hand picking their flowers from the stalls of sellers who have been working in the trade all their lives. There's a real emphasis on authenticity here: Jauncey and Day just won't deal with tacky, artificially grown hot-house flowers; the flowers they use must be natural, seasonal and, importantly, they must actually smell. As Jauncey says, “it's always really depressing when you give someone a bouquet and they smell it and it doesn't smell”. But every one of the Flower Appreciation Society’s designs come with all the benefits you'd expect from proper flowers – their approach is founded on the belief that flowers should be let alone just to be flowers, and not be manipulated too much or taken too far from their original, simple beauty, and through their own company, they're free to express their love for the naturalness and purity of flowers with more personal, quirky designs. And despite this not being their full time job (Jauncey runs her own clothing label, EDE, and Day is a midwife), they've garnered quite a reputation. Their garlands and swan vase collection deserve a special mention.
Scarlet and Violet
One of the most established names in London floristry is Victoria Brotherson, the owner of the Kensal Rise florists Scarlett and Violet. She's become well-known for her charming, country-garden style designs, often displayed in rusted jugs and ceramic pots, but what's really remarkable about her is her range and versatility. She's just as comfortable arranging expressive sprays of rich red roses as she is composing quiet and austere winter bouquets. This kind of competence only comes with experience: before setting up Scarlett and Violet in 2006, she had been working with flowers for fourteen years. Almost everyone who patronises her shop comes away beguiled by her passion, dedication and skill, and of course astounded by the quality of her arrangements. One thing that is often said about her work is how painterly it is, how every swoop and dash of colour in her arrangements is as expressive and effervescent as a brush stroke on a canvas, and how she's so skilled and assured that even her most intricate designs come off with ease. A great master.
That Flower Shop
The name “That Flower Shop” seemed an obvious choice to founder Hattie Fox, because for most of her life she'd been referred to as 'that flower girl'. Having grown up working with her father, a landscaper, she's always been thoroughly immersed in nature, always thinking about how it works and what can be done to manipulate it. This all changed when she moved to London for university and 'secretly' really enjoyed it, but her green fingers couldn't stay clean for long. She quickly got a job in a florists and fell more and more in love with the practice, until she found herself managing the company. After seven years there, she struck out alone and 'That Flower Shop' is the result and "Keepin' it real, in this flower filled world" is their mantra. The key note in their work is passion. Fox describes her style as 'organised chaos', with lots of berries, seed pods and British foliage. Every one of Fox's arrangements is brimming with enthusiasm and joy, and it's clear just how much she relishes her work. She's one of the most inventive florists working today and her designs are always fresh, surprising and unique. Her Instagram trademark is a clever arm in shot or #pavementpictures.
Text by Laura Bradley and Max Fletcher