cycle of life

floral tributeAugust started with Friendship Day (August 2nd), an idea originally popularised in the U.S from 1930 onwards, but one which has gained more international appeal over time.

Traditionally, the yellow rose is the symbol of friendship and means in the language of flowers, among other things, ‘joy’, ‘friendship’ and ‘delight’ so cards and gifts to friends often feature this bloom. Whilst I wouldn’t say that gift-giving and card exchanges are particularly common on August 2nd in the U.K, yellow roses are certainly a popular choice to express these sentiments all year round.

Customers often ask me to include yellow roses as part of a casual floral gift for a friend, whether the occasion be popping in on a sister, visiting friends during the holidays, or attending a baby shower for a close colleague. Similarly, at civic ceremonies for the government twinning scheme, set up to encourage good trade relations and international friendships (for example my home town of St Austell is in the borough of Restormel, which is twinned with Dithmarschen, a district in Schleswig-Holstein in Germany) it is customary to see yellow roses among flowers given to a visiting dignitary.

It is said that “True friendship is like fine health; the value of it is seldom known until it be lost” which is as apt, of course, for other forms of loss. This idea is not one we would wish to dwell on in happy times, but just as florists and floral designers are on hand to help mark weddings and naming-days with flowers, so we are also called on to create fitting tributes for the more sombre and sad moments at the other end of the cycle of life.

I am always honoured to be part of those ceremonies where loved ones say goodbye to a dear departed relative or friend. Floral Creations St Austell takes particular pride in the challenge of creating a design which reflects the person and celebrates the life lived.

For those of you who may be interested, there is a selection of recent funeral work over on my gallery page.

Tools of the trade

Artisans, makers and creators, from jewellers to book-binders, quilters to professional cake bakers, generally tend to have favourite tools of the trade. Florists are no different.

Such tools are designed and made to be perfect for the job, chosen because they look right, feel right, and work right on a practical level, but the ones which become special are highly personal items which mean something to the person using them, and friends, colleagues, or curious passersby meddle with them at their peril.

It’s hardly surprising that we’re protective of our favourite tools – we use them on a daily basis. They reassure us in our regular tasks and make the working day go smoothly. They are so much part of us, that sometimes we don’t even think about them, take them for granted (unless they go missing!) like an old familiar extra limb. But at other times, you’ll take a special tool in your hand and it will remind you of where you got it, or why, or who gave it to you, and a trip down memory lane will add some inspiration to the day ahead.

my favourite floristry tools

Here are some of my favourite tools: the yellow cutters with the blue ribbon are particularly good for different thicknesses of wire and I use these all the time on an average day.

Next to them are the pink snips – nifty and sharp – for foliage material. The second yellow cutters have a strong spring and make the most of a small grip – they’re good for thick stemmed foliage.

The yellow stapler is perfect for fixing tricky poly-ribbon edging to sympathy designs.

My black scissors do look ordinary, which is fine, because they are, they’re just for general cutting, but I do a lot of that, and these scissors don’t give me blisters!

The orange scissors with the cerise ribbon are favourites because they can multi-task and will cut most plant material and also wires (they have special grooves for this job).

If I have a particularly juicy plant to cut, I tend to use those yellow scissors with the red cable tie because the blades are stainless.

That long black-handled knife I’ve had from my first full-time job – I just like having it around – and now I use it to cut floral foam.

The insulation material I need to use when making some designs is tougher than foam, so that calls for my favourite serrated knife, the one with the orange handle.

When watching master florist Per Benjamin at an event recently, he said that he uses a new knife every week as his blade becomes blunt. I change mine every few months or so mainly because I do not do the volume of work that Per does!

It’s easy to see why the tools of my trade need to be brightly coloured: I love colour, I’m a florist! But colour means I can spot tools easily and grab them when my other hand is ‘tied-up’ holding bits and pieces together. Also, I don’t want to lose expensive tools in among the greenery, or accidentally stab myself. But why, you might wonder, do I add ribbon, cable ties and a wrist band to my tools? Because when working in a shop you know they’re yours. It’s a personal touch.

For example, that short yellow-handled knife I use for cutting most of my plant material has a handmade wrist band from Peru attached to it. I bought this band to support a cause I feel strongly about, to help raise funds for a charity campaigning to stop child abuse.

So, my favourite tools are there at the start of the day, and also part of my ‘clocking off’ routine. When the designs are done, the tools need cleaning. This is important to preserve their sharpness for practical (and the dreaded Health and Safety) reasons. But the ritual also rounds off the working day nicely and experience tells me looking after treasured things helps keep them around for longer.

Celebrating a life

lilies strike the right note

One of my customers lost a dear friend recently and asked me to create an arrangement for the funeral ceremony. Blue was her favourite colour and the family wanted something fresh and vivid, to celebrate her life.

I suggested these lovely crisp lilies and seasonal blooms. Sometimes it can be tricky to strike the right note with memorial arrangements, but I was glad to hear afterwards that this combination drew a lot of comments.