Permission to Do What You Love: Designing with Flowers
I’m Phoebe, and my ethical floral events company is called Pollendine’s. I’m based in Cumbria, in the North West of the UK, and I am entirely freelance. I work as a copywriter alongside my floristry and also look after my two-year-old.
My flower journey began when I decided to take on all of the jobs for my own wedding five years ago. I did it to save money, but I also took the work on because I was in a soul-destroying job at the time and felt desperately in need of a creative outlet. Seriously, I was even going to do the catering myself—but my mum wouldn’t let me!
From designing and hand-cutting stamps and printing up the invitations to brewing the elderflower champagne welcome drink, from doing my hair and make-up to making jam and wild seed packets as favours—and decorating the church and barn that were our venues—I took all the jobs onto my shoulders. And the one I loved the most? The flowers.
I cut 95% of the blooms and foliage I used from my parents’ garden and from the gardens of family friends who lived nearby in my parents’ village. Our late September wedding was characterised by the rusty, antique shades of old hydrangea, ruby red spikes of dahlia, and countless gathered blooms and foliage scattered in between. For my bouquet, I savoured the final few fresh, blue hydrangeas I could find. I cherished them all. The flowers told our story without words.
I fell in love.
I decided to set up Pollendine’s and focus on bringing that “here-and-now-ness” of seasonal floristry into other peoples’ weddings too. I also love that the floral designs I create have such minimal environmental impact—I use exclusively British-grown blooms now, and I try to use local flower farmers (and grow and forage myself) wherever possible. I minimise single-use objects and never use Oasis.
These are my choices and are the way I found my voice and my brand. Your journey in flowers will take the route of your own passions and priorities, too.
“Can I Do This?”
All of us began our career in flowers somewhere. And I’m willing to bet that every single one of us had at least one moment of doubt and asked this question: Can I do this? I’ve certainly asked myself that question—but are we seeking permission by asking this question? If so, who are we asking?
Unlike a career which requires specific qualifications, exam results, or an interview, going it alone with flowers makes you the only one you answer to. Ultimately, the only person who you need to ask this question of (and be able to answer it!) is yourself!
You need no one’s permission but your own.
This can be difficult for female flower professionals especially. And in a world where workplace entrepreneurship, enterprise—and ultimately success—is still male-dominated, it can be hard for women to give ourselves the permission we need. But that is a crucial first step.
Should You Work with Flowers?
Okay, so beyond giving ourselves permission, there are some needed must-haves if you want to make flowers your business.
Do you know everything there is to know about flowers? Every bloom? How to best condition every stem?
If you said yes, maybe this isn’t the job for you!
Even if you know every bloom that grows in your region, what about in another country (if you get invited to do a destination wedding)? What about how flowers respond to inclement weather? Do you know how to condition every bloom in sudden 30-degree Celsius heat? How about if the temperature drops below freezing overnight the night before the ceremony?
You cannot know everything. But you have to be able to know when to ask for or seek out help.
Imposter Syndrome is a real thing and an ugly monster that most of us wrestle! I certainly do. I am self-taught, and at the beginning, I was plagued by this question: Who said you’re allowed to do this?
No one. No one said I could—but no one said I couldn’t, either. The only person doubting me was me.
We live in an age where endless knowledge is available at our fingertips! The internet is a beautiful thing, as are our contemporaries and colleagues (the Team Flower Community is a great example of that). Not to mention, we have access to a plethora of instructive books out there. Need help? Just ask. Don’t pretend to know everything and bury your head in the sand—go out and seek that information. There’s no shame in saying, “You know what, I don’t know that, but I’m going to find out right now.”
2. The Desire to Learn
As I’ve said above, I don’t think it’s possible to know everything, especially when you’re just starting! We all grow our stores of knowledge every day. One year might illustrate exactly what happens when 30-degree heat makes a surprise entrance at an April wedding or if snow falls in that very same month!
There are also hundreds and thousands of different plants to discover. Amassing those stores of knowledge, and taking note of new information when you encounter it, means that your toolkit for work slowly jumps off the pages of books or people you’ve learnt from, and into your own mind. You begin to trust your internal library of experience—a library which will continue to grow as you seek the answers you need.
And what do you need to desire to learn beyond flowers? Business! Business nous is something not all of us naturally have (I certainly am not naturally gifted when it comes to business strategy). I’ve made a lot of mistakes and am slowly learning from them.
Marketing? I still haven’t got the hang. We need to invest time (and money, too) into social media, advertising, and keeping our site updated. I need to spend more of both—and I know that. It’ll happen slowly. Life takes the shape of our priorities, and at the moment, spare time is dedicated to my family. When my son gets to school age? Hold onto your hats, that marketing is going through the roof!
3. Problem-Solving ABILITIES
Even if you’re happy to recycle designs, no two jobs will be the same. That hanging installation you did last month that you’re planning to replicate, does this venue have hooks or nails in the same place? Will you have to use clamps? Fishing wire? Not only will you have to design your flowers, but you’ll also have to work your given space into that design and adapt, edit, and amend.
Of course, much of that comes with experience—you’ll have the foresight to visit the venue beforehand and ask those common questions (Do you have a stepladder here that I could borrow for setup? is a question I didn’t ask, and should have, for my first wedding!).
4. the ability to Handle Stress and Change
As I finish up at a wedding, I immediately feel nostalgic. Gone is the knowledge that, for a few nights before that event, I tossed and turned myself to sleep, torturing myself with “what if”s and ironing out the tiny intricacies of my floral designs. You have to have the self-confidence to know you can deal with what an event might throw at you and keep your head calm, even if you’re panicking!
You also need to be flexible. A sudden week of hot weather might take your favourite bloom over, or late cold spells might mean your chosen flower hasn’t blossomed yet. You have to be able to see these last minute reroutes as opportunities, rather than stumbling blocks—your final design will most likely end up even more wonderful than what you had planned!
Working with flowers isn’t easy. And if you’re stumbling around the business-side of things at the beginning, like I was, it isn’t lucrative either! I think you have to love being creative and love working with flowers to happily invest your time and love into a floristry business.
Flowers can reward you beyond your wildest imaginings (the look on a bride’s face when she first sees her venue dressed or her bouquet makes it all worthwhile), and working with flowers also throws challenges at you beyond what you ever thought you’d have to deal with. But love for what you do means you can grow, evolve, and become the best floral businessperson you can be.
Ultimately, the only thing standing in your way? It’s you! Believe in yourself, your talent, and your capacity to learn—and go do flowers! See you in the flowerbeds!