How to become a top florist
Although today I am mainly involved in plants and gardens, I have always loved cut flowers, floristry and floral decoration. Learning with Experts floristry courses provide a great base for developing your floristry knowledge and floral design skills, but here's how Rona Wheeldon got into the floristry and floral design industry.
I have met Rona Wheeldon on many occasions at RHS Chelsea Flower Show and other events in the world of flowers. She has created an amazing online presence for everyone that’s inspired by flowers, Flowerona is a source of ideas and inspiration from the beauty of cut flowers; it gives us all the opportunity to see what wonderful things florists are doing all over the world; certainly techniques far beyond those that I am used to.
Could you tell us how you became interested in floristry?
Rona: I’ve always loved flowers. When I was a child, I used to admire the wild flowers in the Devonshire hedgerows like primroses, red campion and stitchwort. And I loved the anemones, which my Dad used to grow in rows in his vegetable patch for my Mum.
Ten years ago, my floral journey really started to develop when I decided to do an evening class in floristry at Southwark College.
I was working in an office in London and used to really look forward to my weekly lunchtime trip to nearby florists and flower stalls to buy my blooms for my class. I also helped out every Saturday in a local florist as a Saturday girl.
I loved the course, which took a year to complete and I managed to negotiate going part time in my job. This enabled me to study a National Certificate in Floristry one day a week, work in the florist one day a week and continue working in my corporate role three days a week.
Towards the end of the course, I was made redundant and with my redundancy, I signed up for a four day flower course at Paula Pryke, after which, I worked full-time in my local florist.
My local florist was in Esher in Surrey. I worked there full-time for a few months after leaving my City job. Then I went to work for Paula Pryke.
Half the time, I was based in the office and the rest of the week I did floristry in the Head Office in Islington or in one of their shops in Selfridges, Liberty or the Michelin Building.
I loved my time at Paula Pryke but I was commuting over three hours a day from Surrey to North London and it started to take its toll.
I decided that after all my years in the corporate world that I wanted to set up my own business. I thought about doing floristry from our garden shed but realised that it probably wasn’t great timing, as the 2008 recession was starting to take hold.
So, I set up a Virtual PA business and did that for two years. It was very successful but I just felt something wasn’t right. I decided to see a business coach. She said that I needed to do something creative and advised me to do a mood board. Funnily enough, over 90% of the pictures on my board were of flowers! It sat on my desk for a few weeks.
And then suddenly one Friday afternoon, I had a light bulb moment. I’d been reading some design blogs and it occurred to me that I knew how to blog (as I’d being doing so for some of my clients) and I loved flowers…why didn’t I write a blog about flowers?! I started writing Flowerona in December 2010.
For several months, I ran both businesses in tandem but realised that my true passion lay with my blog. So I sold the Virtual PA business and now write Flowerona full-time. I also write for New Covent Garden Flower Market, Wedding Flowers & Accessories magazine, Homemaker magazine and the Laura Ashley blog. Plus I teach ‘Social Media for Florists’ courses.
The common theme running through all my blog posts is flowers. Topics include fresh flowers, florists, floristry courses, weddings, artists, designers, gardening, shows, books, photographers and fashion.
So, you’ll find posts featuring real flowers at a wedding show, floral prints on clothes, photographs of flowers captured by professional photographers and images of shows, like the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. My aim for Flowerona is for it to be a ‘feel good’ place for people to escape to and be inspired by…
The natural, just-picked look is such a big trend at the moment. We’re seeing floral designs with a less structured look. Florists who immediately spring to mind in the UK are Jo Flowers, The Blue Carrot and Pyrus. And in the States, Saipua, Nicolette Camille and BRRCH are part of this trend.
Wedding flower trends from the States which have seen their way over to the UK include the use of gypsophila/baby’s breath en masse for bouquets, table-centres and hanging balls. Succulents are popular too, not only at weddings, but also in hand-tied bouquets.
And there’s a big resurgence in the popularity of home-grown flowers, both here and in America. In the UK, there are two big networks, Flowers from the Farm and The British Flower Collective. And in the States, there’s the Slow Flowers movement.
Everyone’s floral journey is different. Personally, I would recommend some form of study combined with work experience. You could start with an evening class initially to get an idea as to whether flowers are for you. Then, if you decide it is, try and find some work experience in a florist.
Be prepared for the fact that you may need to work without payment initially and do the slightly less glamorous jobs like washing the vases, sweeping the floor, scraping wax off candelabras and taking out the rubbish, like I did.
I have two favourite flowers - the ranunculus and the peony. They’re both such pretty flowers, with layers upon layers of delicate petals. And I think it’s the fact that they’re only available for certain months of the year that makes them so very special. At the moment, I’m in ranunculus heaven…
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