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ON THE LEVEL WITH NEVILLE – Change Things Up a Bit

ON THE LEVEL WITH NEVILLE – Change Things Up a Bit

Adapt to change, or wither away!

We are always in a state of evolution – whether that’s a good thing or not – and times are changing faster than we can keep up! The thing is, my darlings, we need to keep up, or we run the risk (no, promise!) of withering away like Blockbuster and porn magazines. Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and, in fact, all the “traditional” floral holidays are not the same as they once were: We order different flowers, online is a thing and trends and tastes have changed totally. I was speaking to another “vintage” florist the other day, and she was griping about how this generation has ruined holidays and how the world is a mess, etc. – which is pretty much what my parent said about my generation, as did their parents and so on.
Of course things are going to change; change is a reality and if we embrace it, we will grow and prosper a bit more.

When I first got into the industry, I learned from a master designer who worked during WWII, and she taught me all sorts of things from the old days of floral design, which I found both boring and useless at the time, but I grew to appreciate the importance of knowing these things. As we evolve, we learn from the past, and we often embrace the styles and works of years ago, which is happening now – thank goodness! I’ve been told that we are in a bit of a floral revival of sorts because we are experimenting with putting different flowers together (we all know of the great work Hitomi Gilliam, AIFD, and others have done to promote “Tropical Nouveau”), combining textures that may have been taboo a few years ago and creating combinations that are more silly than thoughtful.

I remember about 100 years ago I was asked by an old fusspot of a client to be “creative” and to do something “wild and wonderful.” “Don’t make it boring, or else!” she snapped at me, all ready to fly in on her broom to confront me. So, I happened to get in some beautiful Protea, and I made an arrangement with these beauties, willow, moss – the whole bit! “That’ll fix her!” I thought. Well, not so much, I’m afraid. I will always think of her when I see Protea and remember her calling me to screech, “Why did you send a pot of cactus and sticks?” The dear is dead now, but her memory lives on.

I think that this wonderful time in flowers might be rooted, a bit, in the fusion cooking we are seeing. Mixing different ethnicities of food together to make a whole new cuisine is exciting, and many of us are doing just that with flowers. I did a funeral piece for a family recently, and they wanted me to include baby’s breath, one bird-of-paradise, two white roses and some “weeds” along with other flowers. The traditionalist in me threw up a little, but the designer in me said, “Why not?” And you know what? It was beautiful because every flower meant something to the family. Art is subjective, and I think we need to expand our sightlines a bit – keeping, of course, the respect for the flowers we use and remembering what each piece is for and why.

Sometimes the joke is on us when it comes to making a new design concept. I was asked years ago to make what I thought was a hideous collection of flowers for a wedding, so I jacked up the price, first of all (as anyone would!) and hoped she would go away. But, oh no, she smiled and said how reasonable it was, and I’ll be damned if I didn’t get dozens of great comments afterward, more than from any of the many other “beautiful” weddings I’ve done.

People are asking for all sorts of things these days – whether its biodegradable, organic, locally sourced, sustainable or responsibly grown – and we must have the answers to these queries. Many companies are now making biodegradable floral foam (thank you, Smithers-Oasis) and containers, and retail shops are taking a lead, too, in reusing and repurposing the materials and goods they use. We do, however, need to let the public know what we are doing as an industry to help our world because most people don’t know about the farms many of us get our flowers from that are eco or Rainforest Alliance Certified and/or that grow their flowers via environmentally and socially responsible means.

Times have changed. Some of us might remember pricking our thumbs on rose thorns back in the day and having our thumbs go a bit numb from whatever was sprayed on the stems. We live in an interesting time for flowers, and I’m excited to see and embrace what the future holds for us – in the floral industry, that is! Look, there is always a place for the “tried and true” styles that have been around for years, but why not try something different now and then – because living on a daily meal of pizza and beer can get boring regardless how much you might like it.

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