LBL meets Kate...
"Having started a career in residential property PR, been a full time Mum then an events organiser for a charitable foundation, the creative eventually won out. I trained over 10 years ago at Lackham college and my hobby flourished via word of mouth into a viable business. I employ a small team of freelancers to help with larger jobs and take commissions across Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire and London. I don’t have much spare time as we have quite a big garden which always needs attention and we are currently self building a holiday let... but I can sometimes be found on the sofa with my whippets!"
We spoke to Wiltshire-based florist extraordinaire, Kate Robinson about the art of the perfectly imperfect floral feature to bring a touch of wild beauty inside. Read on for an exclusive insight into the life of a foraging florist and maybe even a few of her top tips!
Kate, where do you take your biggest inspiration from when creating your displays?
"I am lucky enough to live in rural north Dorset and my inspiration comes from an instinctive habit of noticing even the tiniest detail - whether in a wild hedgerow or a manicured flower bed. Seed heads or lichen covered twigs can be just as perfect in an arrangement as a garden rose and I love how one spot can look so different from month to month. Even brambles have their time to shine."
Usually florists design what they want to create and then source the materials but I prefer to work the other way round and gather whatever catches my eye. As I condition everything into the waiting buckets my eye will already be putting certain things together or earmarking for a particular container or table for example, and I prefer to assemble larger arrangements in situ as they look much more natural in their space. My 'Garden to Vase' concept appeals to me because it is more creative, totally at the mercy of the seasons and there is no waste, no miles, no packaging and my clients gain much satisfaction from being able to showcase their own gardens. It can be done all year round even when you think there is nothing out there! For weddings and parties my favourite brief is “I like what you do so do what you like” The arrangements will always be natural, seasonal, have plenty of movement and probably something a little unexpected or quirky!
And what are your favourite blooms of the moment for this summer in 2021?
"It is almost impossible to have a favourite. Right now in high summer, not much beats a voluptuous crimson velvety rose for impact, but I love spring flowers such as lily of the valley for the scent and tulips for the shapes they throw."
What has been your most ambitious, madcap project to date?
"My craziest idea was years ago and probably wouldn’t be allowed now. For a very formal banquet I did tall martini shaped vases all along the tables with real goldfish in them, surrounded by orange gladioli and crocosmia. There was a lot of silver on the table too and it looked amazing.
My most ambitious arrangement was a floral arch in a church which was about 30 feet high and I had to hire a scaffold. I'm not scared of heights but the result was worth the challenge."
And in general, the trickiest aspect of floristry to master?
"The trickiest thing about floristry is what the customer expects. There is a world of difference between fresh garden flowers picked for an occasion or wedding flowers which must be at the height of perfection on the day, and a bouquet from a supermarket or florist shop which lasts at least a week. And from a practical point of view, particularly with wedding flowers, you do really need to train to know how to do the fiddly bits such as bouquets and button holes."
Lastly, without giving away all of your trade secrets, can you share any top tips for us budding amateurs at home?!
"Start a collection of vases and containers (one size does not fit all; charity shops are the best place to start) and NEVER leave leaves on the stems below the level of the water!"