ANNE WHYSALL – ANNE WHYSALL FLORISTS, PONTESBURY, SHREWSBURY

Being surrounded by flowers as a child led Anne into the floristry world. Her mum did a night course in flower arranging and her dad bought her mum flowers every week, just like his father did before him! After school work experience in a flower shop, she went on to qualify and then to teach. Now she has her own eponymous shop near Shrewsbury and likes nothing better than hand tying an impromptu bouquet.

My grandad always bought flowers for my gran weekly and my dad always bought flowers for my mum weekly. There were always flowers in the house! My dad would buy three lilies a week so we’d have them all over the house in different stages. It just seemed obvious to do my work experience in a flower shop and I fell in love with it.

My shop is three and a half years old now. I worked in shops then I taught floristry in FE for 7 years. I loved it but I felt I was drifting a little bit away from flowers to be honest. We decided to take the leap, sold our house and relocated and bought the shop in the village where my husband grew up. It was a good decision.

There are so many good parts to it. The creative stimulation is great and that was something that I was really missing. I get it daily now and I really really enjoy that. 

I’m from Merseyside originally and I used to work in the north west. The style is much more natural around here. I’m really adaptable so I wouldn’t put myself in a style box. I go through moods and seasons but I’ve never been really sparkly or glittery – that’s not really my vibe at all! 

I’m proud to be part of the GFG and I always tell my customers to go to the website. You know you’re definitely going to get a good standard.

ALISON HOWE – MAD LILIES, BANSTEAD

Despite having a mother and grandmother who were florists, Alison initially pursued a career in pharmaceuticals. It was only at the age of 44 that she decided to test our her creative side and see if she had the florist gene. Six years later, with a thriving business in Surrey, she’s loving every minute of her floral renaissance and is passionate about customer satisfaction and getting the best out of what nature has to offer.

I’d always wanted to have my own business and I thought I could do that with floristry. It was less of a gamble to find an established business and take it where I wanted it to go. I had to go and see this one because it was called Mad Lilies and my grandma who was the first florist in our family was called Lily! I loved the shop and the owner agreed to do a long handover so I could learn on the job.

Retail floristry is not for the faint hearted and you have to keep evolving. For the High Street, you have to offer people an experience when they walk into the store so that you can engage them. We’ve now done a Mad Lilies At Home, gift range, eclectic range of homeware. We’ve evolved the workshops so we do them every month after the store closes. People adore coming in and learning. People want experiences. Consumers want to talk about what they’ve done not what they’ve bought now, they’re not so materialistic. It also allows you to get to know your customers better and to get feedback.

I’ve never worked so hard in my life but the job satisfaction is amazing. The letters we get after weddings and funerals, you couldn’t write me a cheque for that. So special. Handing over a bridal bouquet is pretty special too. When you’ve taken a brief from the customer and you see their face when you reveal your interpretation of their brief and you’ve got that right. That’s big job satisfaction. 

 

HEIDI BAKER – THE FLOWER STUDIO, ISLE OF MAN

A boring office job was never going to be enough for Heidi Baker. Unhappy at work and looking to satisfy her creative side, she flicked through a college prospectus and a floristry course jumped out at her. After lots of training and a stint working with the National Trust in remote Scotalnd, she now runs her own floral studio in her native Isle of Man and loves to hand the bride her bouquet. She is also a partner in the island’s UNESCO Biosphere status.

My style is bohemian, cottage garden, natural. A lot of the weddings we’re doing over the summer are locally grown flowers. I have a grower just down the road from me who grows chrysanthemums, cottage garden style flowers and greenery. I do buy other bits and pieces from Holland as well. I do some contemporary aspects, the geometric terrarium style is very popular. 

The Isle of Man was awarded UNESCO Biosphere status and they encouraged us to become partners and be conscious of our environmental decisions. I only use biodegradable foam, I recycle all my cardboard, I reduced the amount of cellophane on bouquets. We’re also educating the customers about what we’re doing and encouraging them to use other companies who are doing the same thing.

I think the GFG shows a standard of florists. If someone came to me and said they wanted to send flowers to someone in Liverpool, I’d always point them in the direction of the GFG website. Tell them to have a look and that they’re guaranteed to be up to a certain standard because they’ve all been independently vetted and they’ve not just paid to be on there. 

I love installing the weddings, it’s my favourite part of job. Last week we were asked to join the wedding and opened the doors for the guests and seeing their reactions was so amazing. I always try and deliver the bride’s bouquet as well if I can because it’s a lovely part of the job to see their reaction.