Hampshire florists show off skill and creative eye

Throughout history, flowers have played a significant role in social interaction, expression and human connection.

Saturday, 11th April 2020, 12:00 am
Camilla's Creations, based in Hambledon. Picture: 3 Elements Creative Media

Floriography – the language of flowers – originated hundreds of years ago as a simple way for people to communicate. Ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians and Chinese all refer to the use of flowers in their stories and myths.

Today, they are just as important. Flowers are present at every significant social occasion in our lives from awards ceremonies to weddings, and funerals to religious events. But what you may not realise is the amount of time, skill and artistic talent which goes into every bouquet, arrangement or decoration.

‘My favourite part is seeing how the bouquets come together. Each colour completely transforms how it looks,’ says Camilla Evans, the founder of Camilla’s Creations which is based at Hambledon.

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Camilla Evans, founder of Camilla's Creations.

The 27-year-old kick-started her floral business and workshops in June 2019 after ‘falling’ into the industry. And she hasn’t looked back.

‘When I was in an office job, I was really down. I didn’t realise quite how unhappy I was until I left,’ explains Camilla, who has ditched the commute and now works out of her home workshop.

‘I just thought that was what a career had to be – nine-to-five and commuting. I assumed I would have to get used to it. But then I ventured into the world of flowers.’

Like so many industries around the globe, florists are currently struggling in the coronavirus pandemic. ‘All of my weddings in April have been cancelled. I have one wedding in May and then after that, it starts again in August,’ says Camilla.

Floral arrangement by a student from 2019 floristry class at Highbury College.

‘Now more than ever, the industry has come together and offered support to each other. But we’re also supporting our clients, whose weddings or events may have been cancelled or postponed, by rearranging dates and working around them.’

The four main processes of creating a bouquet include design, ordering, preparing and creating. She says: ‘The floral design proposals are all about colour schemes and visions. But you never really know what it’s going to turn out like. Your mind and hands take you with it.’

Despite having no formal qualifications, Camilla was trained by a friend and said the skill came naturally. However, there are many courses across the country which can deliver floral expertise including Highbury College at Cosham.

Emma Gaylor is one of two floristry lecturers there and has worked in the industry since 1988. From owning Eden Florist in Old Portsmouth to dressing weddings on board HMS Warrior, Emma is a seasoned florist who is passing on her experience to those of all ages. She smiles and says: ‘I have never met a florist who doesn’t love their job.

Kelly Jordan with some of her team at Charmaine of Southsea.

‘No two days are the same. You play a massive part in some people’s lives and are there for all the big events: weddings, christenings and funerals.’

Highbury College offers three diplomas in floristry which combine practical assessments and coursework. During the emergency, the course is being taught from home.

Emma, 47, explains: ‘The theory is made up of colour wheels and textures.

‘One module is plant care which teaches them about respiration and photosynthesis so they know the science behind plant growth and how to keep them alive.

‘They also have to learn the latin name for the plants. We order a lot of our flowers from Holland and what we call a sunflower, they might call entirely different. The latin name is understood by all florists despite their nationality.

‘Floristry is a transferable skill. You can take it anywhere. I have friends from the UK who started businesses in Canada and New Zealand.’

Nowadays there is a stigma attached to practical courses, such as floristry, because some people assume they students are not as academic. Emma says this isn’t true. ‘I have taught academics, such as nurses and teachers, who want to do floristry because it’s creative.’

Another common misconception is that flower arrangers and florists do the same job, but Emma, from Southwick, near Fareham, says that isn’t the case. ‘The difference between flowers arrangers and florists is that we know technique. Flower arrangers can make beautiful things but can’t tell you how they created it.

‘With floristry, you learn the elements of design. Our florists could look at a photograph, pull it apart and work out how they made it.’

Kelly Jordan, from Gosport, owns popular florist Charmaine of Southsea with her husband Paul. She says: ‘We took over the business in December 2007 but the shop has been around since the 1960s.

‘I love the chats you have with customers. You're not just their florist, you’re also their confidante. It’s like hairdressers, we know so much about each others’ lives.’

The seven-person team has also taken on trainees to encourage young people to get involved in the industry. ‘We have had two apprentices in the past but also take on a lot of local and foreign students for work experience,’ adds Kelly, 49.

What shines though when speaking to all three of these experienced florists is not only how much they enjoy their job, but how much their job has helped them.

Camilla says: ‘I can’t put it into words how much flowers and plants have helped my mental wellbeing. Working with flowers completely calms me.’

How to brighten your own home

With most florists now closed under government guidelines, here are Camilla, Kelly and Emma’s top tips to create your own floral arrangements.

Kelly says: ‘I love daffodils and violas.

‘Everyone has got some foliage they can pick from their garden. Ivy is particularly nice.

‘You don’t have to have an oasis, a smaller vase would do.

Emma adds: ‘If you have a shelf where you can put them all together, it will provide an easy bit of impact and colour.

‘I also love adding a scent to my bouquets. If you have rosemary, mint or sage potted, they will add something,’ explains Camilla.

For more information, go to camillascreations.co.uk; highbury.ac.uk; and charmainefloristofsouthsea.co.uk.