Many Australian florists have been hurt by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on weddings and events, but some say they have seen a positive side with customers wanting to treat themselves.

Born in the Netherlands, Anja Seebus grew up in a culture in which flowers were always on the table.

But when she opened her floristry business in Brisbane in 1985, she was surprised to learn it was not common in Australia to buy flowers for the house and that they were only thought of for special occasions.

“My grandfather was a head gardener at a castle in the Netherlands. Our whole house was decked out with flowers every week,” she told SBS News. “I beg to differ that flowers are a luxury, they are an essential item. Flowers keep us connected. They are a lot more important than what people realise.” Anja Seebus runs Flowers of the World in Brisbane. Contrary to early forecasts that Australians would cut spending on discretionary items because of a deteriorating economy, Queensland florists have reported an increase in flower sales since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

Ms Seebus said she has seen a massive shift in the local flower market as more people now regularly purchase flowers for themselves.

“What we’re seeing now is that people do buy flowers for home decor every week or they take a subscription,” she said. “We see a lot more orders online, particularly when the aged care centres closed off.” Imelda Reyes Kateb runs Brisbane Flowers Weddings in Chermside. Despite having to cancel all her wedding bookings this year, Brisbane florist and events stylist Imelda Reyes Kateb said she luckily avoided having to close her business, even at the height of the pandemic. Instead, she has seen its biggest annual sales since she began trading in 1997.

“It was supposed to be a very bad financial situation for us but surprisingly, we are one of the ‘good news’ [to come out of this] pandemic," she said. "Why? Because a lot of people are buying flowers for themselves to make them happy. A lot of husbands place orders online because they want to cheer up the whole family.” Flowers and mental health

Originally from the Philippines, Mrs Kateb moved to Brisbane in 1990 with her husband, Sam, after living in Canada and the United States. Five years later they invested in a floristry business after much convincing from her husband, who had helped a florist friend at a Valentine’s Day event.

"My husband came home that day and said, ‘I have found the right business for us. This is a happy business; it’s a flower shop’," she said. Anja Seebus says flowers in the home were commonplace growing up in the Netherlands. Psychologist Lisa Flowers of Evoke Psychology in Queensland said people “associate flowers with positive experiences and celebrations”.

“Often, when we give or receive flowers, we experience a connection with other people, and that connectedness is really integral to good wellbeing and good mental health.”

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