HOW TO BECOME A FLORISTRY GURU (ISH)

There’s nothing nicer than a house full of fresh flowers, just ask Elton John, but we’re a little bit baffled by the ethics and rules. Can we pick wild? Should we buy British? What works in pots? Is spraypaint sustainable?!?! Luckily, at the brilliant Maltby St Market, we bumped into Jemima in the Woods – a British florist who specialises in wild and responsibly foraged flowers to beautiful effect. Here she shares her wisdom and sets us straight on all things botanical…

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Q. Is it unethical to buy flowers from outside of the UK? If so, why?

I guess it is to a degree both socially and professionally irresponsible to buy flowers from abroad when they can easily be sourced at home, both supporting local industry and eliminating significant damage to the environment. However, as a commercial florist I do have to fulfil the desires of my clients, and homegrown will sadly not always fit the brief! I think all wholesale and retail customers should endeavour to buy British when possible, grow their own and educate others of the importance of doing so.

Q. Where’s the best place to buy UK grown, sustainably sourced flowers?

If you’re lucky enough to have an established garden, then simply pick your own! If not, ask a friend, or local farmer or landowner if it’s okay to pick their wild flowers or foliage. For purchase, you can always source locally grown flowers from New Covent Garden wholesale market. To keep it very local, check out Flowers from the Farm, a nationwide collective of cut flower growers who’ll help you seek out your closest source. Last but not least, come and find me every Saturday and Sunday at the charming Maltby St Market in Bermondsey. You’ll discover plenty of wild and wonderful British stems! Plus, we also stock via farm community projects particularly in Oxfordshire and Warwickshire to make a positive social and environmental impact.

Q. What are the rules on picking (foraging) for flowers in the wild, or in parks/farmland? Is it actually illegal?

As far as I understand it, it’s not illegal to forage wild flowers under some circumstances, for example if it’s for the purpose of study or analysis and where the flower is minimally and responsibly harvested. However, it is illegal for anyone to uproot any wild plant and also illegal to forage on a commercial scale. Any foraging must be conducted with the utmost respect for the environment, and any permissions sought beforehand. So read up, and be responsible!

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Q. What should we look out for in the hedgerows at this time of year?

Berries! Now the wild flowers have disappeared, berries deliver us a feast of fruits which look wonderful en masse in any container or space. Also beautiful autumnal coloured vines and hawthorn branches (be careful of the prickles).

Q. If you have a tiny garden or live in a flat, what’s a good flower to grow in pots?

Grow bulbs (Fritallaria) and annuals (Viola), then you can continue to update your planters keeping your scenery interesting. Very low maintenance plants for this time of year would be Cyclamen, and you must get a Hellebore in for winter.

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Q. How can we make our homegrown/wild flowers last longer?

Ultimately, leave them in the hedgerows! They’re not cultivated and therefore not meant to survive cut in vases for long periods of time. Research growing flowers first to decipher which are the best fit for this purpose then ensure the stems are conditioned well by removing the lower foliage, cutting them diagonally avoiding the node (the bumpy ‘joint’), and refreshing the cut and water every few days.

Q. Any tips for aspiring florists?

Look all around you for inspiration. Textures, colours, architecture, moods, tastes, feelings, flavours, culture and nature combined all contribute to the work that we do and the beauty we conjure for our clients. If you see it as a career option, get some work experience to ascertain if the industry and lifestyle is for you.

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Photography: Andy Hill

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Jemima  Mullens runs Jemima in the Woods, a florist based in the Maltby Street market, SE1 2HQ. From today, she opens her pop-up stall selling cut flowers, bouquets (deliveries across London), plants, wreaths and table decorations outside The Refinery bar & restaurant, 110 Southwark Street, SE1 OTF, every Thursday & Friday until early 2015.

 

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