Louise Avery profile, my working world of flowers
the story so far….
I really think that my love of flowers must have all started when I was a little girl. My first influence was my mum, who loved her garden and enjoyed nothing more than to spend time tending it. At the same time me and my sisters were always playing there in the garden, it was our play-ground. With great excitement when I was probably no more than 5 or 6 years old my mum gave me my very own little flower bed.
We planted mesembryanthemums, what a name! I couldn’t even say it, instead I called them the sunshine flowers. It is a summer bedding, low level ground cover plant and the flower is similar in character to a daisy.
The flowers are a mix of pinks and apricots and their petals have an amazing luminosity and literally sparkle. The magic of the flower though, is that it closes each night and then when the sun comes up and shines on the plants the flowers unfold and open their faces to the sun. They only open up in the sun, even in in daylight but on a cloudy day they will remain closed. They absolutely fascinated me and I loved them…still do, I was hooked!
So I was 16 in the June that I sat my final school exams. I needed to consider my future and it occurred to me………..Flowers! My school careers tutor suggested nursing or secretarial but I knew deep in me that flowers would offer me so much more. It was as though there was a secret world locked into flowers that I was so, so, so, keen to discover.
I looked at London courses but at that same time my local flower shop was in the position of taking on an apprentice, incorporating a three year City & Guilds Floristry course. I applied and got the position.
So I sat my floristry exams and was thrilled to pass them all. Working hard through these early years then took me on to the position of shop manageress. I was hungry to experience more of flowers and even though I loved my home in Haslemere, Surrey I yearned for more from my wonderful job.
I took the plunge and applied for a position with a very long established shop in the heart of London’s West-End. It was the main branch of an independent chain of 6 central London shops. It was incredibly busy, fresh flowers from Covent Garden market came in every day and orders were dispatched to every area of the capital on a daily basis. I was thrilled and excited to be a part of a vibrant and colourful new world.
In my first year working at the shop I was allowed to do one of their on-site contracts which was to create a fresh flower display in a full size fish tank for a distinguished fish restaurant. I was beside myself with excitement. This responsibility, together with assisting the manageress in decorating a Chuppa for a Jewish wedding was a new turning point. I thoroughly enjoyed all the aspects of retail shop work but I had peeled off another layer and had discovered venue flower decorating!
A couple of career moves on and I found myself applying for the position of flower decorator at a private flower school back in Surrey. The school also required a tutor and I soon slotted into the classroom teaching everything from general interest day courses, to intensive vocational courses and much more in between, I uncovered my teaching skills!
I eventually came to run the school’s decorating department and loved the new opportunity to supply flowers to venues that included No. 10 Downing Street, The Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Admiralty, through their government hospitality contract.
The pull of London once again was still too great for me. I began to concentrate on a new aspect of flower work and this time as a full time professional freelance florist. As a freelancer I worked purely on the decorating side of the business.
I freelanced for less than half a dozen London florists and in particular for the later to become Clarence House florist. We decorated for parties, high-end events and weddings throughout London and the Home Counties. This experience again gave way to a new decorating scale as we adorned the likes of the V&A museum, the Royal Academy of Arts, St James Palace, Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace.
Personal circumstances dictated the next chapter of my flower career as both my parents became quite poorly and travelling to work in London together with being available for them no longer went hand in hand. Whilst freelancing I had also picked up a little of my own work and so I decided to build on this and base myself locally again in Haslemere, where my parents still lived.
I rented a barn and used this space to prepare my flowers. It occurred to me that lots of other girls like me left home, following the call of the capital to live and work in London. However, just as I also had done – came back home to get married. I knew that there was scope for a specialist wedding florist. The level that I had worked at, the size of the events, and the years of experience that I had gained left me feeling just a little nervous of working locally as I really didn’t want to become too parochial.
The solution was obvious. My plan was to bring the standard of the West-End with me! I offered the best quality of fresh flowers and foliages, all personally sourced from the Covent Garden flower market.
I didn’t want to rely on a Dutch van that drove around delivering and might have sold the best blooms before they reached me. I also offered a fully personalised service guiding brides all through the planning stages of their big day, something that I loved to do especially without the distraction of day to day shop work.
They were aiming at high standards, we felt we could work together and they have been using me as their recommended supplier of choice since they hosted their first wedding. I was proud to supply the flowers for that very first event in July 2003.
I have since out grown my rented barn and have now moved into a studio on a small business centre.
I have done literally hundreds of weddings over the years and am still thrilled to play a role in such a big and important day. I was also delighted and honoured to have been asked to help work on recent Royal weddings at Windsor Castle and at Westminster Abbey.
The wonderful suppliers there, many that I have known and worked with for years keep me up-to date with new varieties. It’s great to have a vibrant working relationship with the wholesalers who sometimes almost bend over backwards to accommodate my exacting standards.
I still treat each wedding as though it were my own and place huge importance on getting the detail right. Every bride has the highest hopes and expectations for her big day and it’s a pleasure each time to deliver on every level.
Past brides have been very generous in ringing, writing, emailing and communicating on face book to thank me not only for the flowers and the service that I had provided but for surpassing their every hope and wish – what else could I dream of from my job!
City & Guilds ~ www.cityandguilds.com
Royal Academy of Arts ~ www.royalacademy.org.uk
Victoria & Albert Museum ~www.vam.ac.uk