Work Experience 6: Florist
I really love the colour and fragrance of fresh flowers. If I could I’d buy a bunch or two to display in my home every week. They’re just so beautiful, and make me feel happy in the way that looking at a nice piece of art, or the ocean, or the sky does. Aah…
Unfortunately, due to my skill at killing everything in my garden except for my rosemary bush and weeds, I don’t even have any flowers growing in the ground or in pots to enjoy. The flowers in the vase on my dining table are of the very fake and very dusty variety.
So you can imagine my joy at being surrounded by beautiful blooms while working as a florist at The Soul Pantry over the past week with the lovely Katherine and her trainee Megan. It was heavenly!
The Soul Pantry fills a large warehouse at Stafford in Brisbane. The business includes a flower shop, nursery and café. It also has a retail section selling locally sourced baby clothing and toys, botanical themed homewares and books, gifts and skincare.
What did I do?
After unboxing all of the flowers that had been purchased from a wholesaler earlier in the morning and popping them into buckets of water to keep them fresh, I helped Katherine to refresh the table numbers. Instead of the usual number on a stick, the Soul Pantry café uses numbered bottles with fresh flowers and greenery for each customer to carry to their table. What a cute idea! We made new little arrangements replicating what we see in nature – taller foliage at the top, and heavier at the bottom – and returned them to the café, all ready for use.
Next Katherine demonstrated the art of arranging flowers. It was a beautiful thing to watch! She picked out a stunning variety of native flowers and foliage, and was able to remove the lower leaves of each stem as she added them to the bunch. It’s much easier said than done for a beginner! When it was my turn I had to strip the lower stems one by one before I started arranging as I couldn’t work out how to do it with only two hands.
Starting with about four stems of gum, Katherine explained that you need to spiral the stems when arranging them, so that even if you put the bunch down it won’t fall apart. She added in the flowers and some more greenery to create a truly delightful bunch. When it was complete, she was able to tie string around the bunch with one hand like a magician to secure it (again I felt like I needed a third hand when it was my turn – one to hold the bunch and two to cut, hold and tie the string) and used secateurs to trim the stems at the bottom. The bunch was then wrapped in paper, a price tag added, and put on display for sale.
After that it was my turn! It took a bit of care to spiral the stems and good grip strength to hold tightly onto the bunch as I was arranging it but I was happy with my first bunch. I was actually hoping to buy it at the end of my shift if it hadn’t been snapped up by a (very lucky) customer, but sadly at the end of the day I forgot to check!
We spent the rest of the day bunching and wrapping a variety of flowers and foliage, including roses and gerberas amongst other blooms. With the roses, I used a very clever tool which you clamp on gently and run down the stem to remove all the leaves and thorns. Scattered throughout different bunches the roses looked stunning. I had to carefully poke a fine wire into the head of the gerberas from the underside and wrap the wire around the stems. Nobody wants a droopy gerbera!
Once we were finished it was really nice to see all of the flower bunches on display at the front of the store.
Other than flower arranging, the other really cool thing I was able to do during my time at the Soul Pantry was watch Patty create a terrarium. The Soul Pantry sells terrariums in a range of shapes and sizes, using a variety of tiny plants. I love them! Best thing of all…they’re supposed to be easy to look after and hard to kill!
Patty arranged the base layers first, adding drainage pebbles as the bottom layer, then a sprinkle of activated charcoal. Next she added some sphagnum moss, which holds a lot of water much like a sponge. She shaped the moss according to what she had in mind for the landscape and added sand as the top layer as she was creating a desert scene. Continuing with the desert theme, Patty used some tiny succulents and air plants as well as some perfectly placed rocks and sticks as the top layer. Her belief is that it’s better to have fewer plants rather than more, as not only will they continue to grow and fill in some space, but you’re better able to see the tiny details on each plant.
To finish off the scene, Patty carefully added some tiny people using a long tweezer-style tool. The beach volleyball players, with their net and ball, were the perfect addition! See if you can spot them in the final picture. After hosing the sides of the glass bowl to clean it, the terrarium was finished and ready for sale. It was really beautiful!
The Soul Pantry offers terrarium-making workshops for beginners, and I’ll definitely be going back with some friends to make one of my own to bring home. If you’re a Brisbane local, check out the range of workshops they offer here.
What did I learn?
I really enjoyed learning about flower arranging – how to build a bunch from start to finish and consider which flowers and foliage to partner together. The science of terrarium creation was very interesting too. But I also enjoyed learning about the business side of things. The nature of retail has changed with competition online, and it’s the belief of the business owners Patty and Kimbra that these days you can’t just do retail, you have to do something different. This is the reason they have the florist, nursery, retail, café and workshop arms of their business all under the same roof. The thing is all of those aspects give the business a fantastic feel. It really is a beautiful place to visit…and spend your money! Sounds like a pretty good business doesn’t it.
To read my interview with Katherine regarding her career as a florist, visit the Interviews page or click here.