Been wondering how to plan your wedding flowers? Well, hopefully my first feature will inspire as it’s with Ali from Handpicked Ethical Floristry in Castlemaine. Ali handpicks the best locally grown seasonal flowers and foliage to create considered and beautiful floral arrangements that celebrate our environment and community. She creates and delivers fresh seasonal original bouquets in the Castlemaine area on Dja Dja Wurrung country, as well as creating incredible floral installations for local businesses, events, and special occasions. I met Ali in her workshop so I could have a peak into the world of a florist…
So Ali, How did you get into the floral world?
I wanted to drop out of high school and become a florist and spoke to a dancing friend who was a little older and had her own florist shop. But, I was encouraged to stay at school, I did so and then started a nursing degree which I promptly dropped out of. This friend contacted me shortly after and asked if I was still interested in working in a florist as she was moving to a larger premises and needed another staff member. I was thrilled to get the opportunity so jumped at the chance. Since then I’ve worked at a number of Melbourne florists and worked as a freelance florist in London, and have finally started my own business after over 20 years in the industry.
How would you describe your style?
Expressive, balanced and organic. I’m quite precise in my placement of floral components, but I aim for a wildness and for my designs to reflect nature. This can be seen in the way I group elements and display them either nestled in or cascading out beyond the typical parameters of a floral arrangement. I suppose I see each of my designs as representing a little garden or wild scene from nature, utilising the form of each floral component to help it tell its story about its place in the world.
You mention on your website that you offer ethical, sustainable floristry. Why is that an important part of your business?
While working in the floral industry, I’ve felt more and more uncomfortable with the unsustainable practices that most florists employ. This includes floral foam, which is a micro plastic that we breathe in as well as it breaking apart and ending up in our soil and water ways. Over the years the use of flowers that have been grown abroad and then transported into the country is expansive. This makes no sense, in Australia we have such a broad climate and some incredible environments to grow flowers. Imported flowers are sprayed with pesticides and other chemicals as they are grown, more chemicals are used to preserve the flowers during transport, they’re wrapped in a huge amount of plastics, cotton wool, cardboards and other wrappings to protect them while travelling, and then they’re sprayed again when they arrive to the country. Some believe even after this, they present as a biohazard. And the wastage! Most florists put all of their waste in the one bin, plastics, paper, cardboard and green waste all go in general waste. And so I separate all my waste and compost my green waste, I only use compostable wrappings, avoid imported flowers, use locally grown seasonal florals, and never touch floral foam. Along with a small but growing number of florists, we’re trying to educate the community and floral industry to reduce our environmental impact.
I know a lot of work goes into floristry, from flower markets early in the early hours, choosing colour palettes and selecting plants, caring for the flowers, and styling ceremonies and events. What part of the job excites you the most and why?
I love doing it all! And having my own business, I get to! I enjoy styling and setting up weddings and events, but also love making and delivering bouquets for special occasions. I love the relationships that I have with my growers, preferring to buy directly from the experts who grow gorgeous florals. Delivering flowers is incredible, seeing people’s faces as they answer the door to me holding a big bouquet that is a gift from someone special. And I love doing funeral service flowers. For me this is the most touching part of the job, as we say goodbye to someone we love, my flowers are there to help people reflect on their time with the deceased and for them to process their feelings and start to heal.
Any tips you can give couples for when they are making flower selections for their wedding? Or for selecting the right florist for them?
Ask the venue for recommendations, and if you don’t live in the area but know someone who does, ask them who the best floral designers are. Then do your research. Check out the florist’s website and instagram pages and look for signs that they will be a good match for you personally and be in line with your ethics and style. Then, trust your florist. When people try to control the aesthetic too much they can end up with flowers that are not quite in their prime, for example, a white peony rose is beautiful, but relying on them to be in bloom at the exact right time, and for the blooms to be flawless and perfect is tricky. Or when people try to force a style that the florist isn’t comfortable with you will often end up with something that does not look like what you expected and you can see the conflict in the design. And, always go seasonal, when you opt for seasonal florals and are flexible to the exact blooms that are included in your designs, you will get the best quality and most beautiful blooms possible.
How far in advance would you suggest a couple consider booking their favourite florist?
There are some great wedding florists out there, the well-known ones who work across both Melbourne and Regional areas often book out well in advance. So you have to be organised to book with them. For me, I really like booking closer to the date so that we have a better idea about how the weather and how the season is affecting the flowers that I will be using. Having said that, leaving it too close to the date and you risk me being already booked out. Ha ha! So I suppose I’m saying book in advance, but also not to!
Any recommendations for what couples could do with their wedding flowers after the day?
Personally, I think florals are to be enjoyed on the day. Ask your florist to provide a vase for your bouquet/s to sit in at the reception so that they can sit in water for most of the day. Then afterwards, keep them in a vase until they are past their prime, and then compost them. Flowers are special for so many reasons, but particularly because they don’t last forever, they mark a specific and special time, we remember them, we have them in photos, and I think that is beautiful. I know a lot of people want to preserve their bouquets, but the chemicals used to preserve them are pretty nasty. I personally wouldn’t want those chemicals sitting in the same room as me to breathe in for years, let alone knowing the environmental impact of that practice. There’s also a fashion to opt for dried flowers, but I’m just not into them. I like using dried elements to compliment and contrast with fresh blooms, but I don’t see the point of carrying a fully dried bouquet. For me, the feel of it is all wrong, they’re dead and that feels weird, and they look dull and drab in photos. And then afterwards the bouquet will just sit in a vessel to be ignored and to collect dust, dust that you can never quite clean off because dried flowers can’t really be cleaned. That seems really sad to me. And then there’s artificial flowers. They get a great big NO from me.
I hope this feature has provided you with some handy know how to plan your own wedding flowers! To learn more about Ali’s approach and to see examples of her beautiful work head to: https://www.handpickedfloristry.com
More vendor features to come soon. In the mean time, if you are keen to keep the inspiration flowing, check out another wee blog of Mel & Nic in Castlemaine.