Sue Barnes, managing director of renowned florist Lavender Green and a Unique Venues of London preferred supplier gives us the lowdown on her creative approach, favourite floral combinations and what it takes to work with a unique venue.
How did you first get into Floristry?
Following a career in marketing I had two lovely children but found life in the slow lane incredibly, well, slow! I knew I had to get back to work before losing the few brain cells I had. We are lucky to live in between Marlow and Henley and I spent two years walking around the orchard with these gorgeous little children feeling that there was something missing. I decided to open my own business and looked around the area to see what I felt it needed, deciding upon a flower shop as opposed to a butchers! I then went back to London to a shop that sold incredibly good flowers and paid them to show me the ropes, returning to the shires to hire two top-notch floristry tutors to run a lovely big shop, leaving me in charge of design, marketing and running the business.
How long have you been in business?
What is your creative approach?
I love to start from scratch, looking at what the flower design is supposed to achieve and who it is to appeal to. I look at the whole concept, not just what the flowers should convey and take into consideration the venue, the guest list and obvious things like colour palette and style. I then sketch designs so that our arrangements are specific to the individual client and their event, contract or wedding. Clients often say that Lavender Green designs do not have a signature look, apart from the quality. This is primarily because the people who design each display are not florists but have a broad spectrum of backgrounds from fashion to graphics and they are therefore not constrained by the mechanics of each flower design, concentrating more on interpreting the client’s creative brief. What we always hope to achieve is to exceed expectations, whilst always working within to clients’ agreed budget.
Give us a snapshot of what’s coming into season?
Exotics are out, British and seasonal is in, quirky and original are great but the really difficult of straddling impressive but not OTT is the best!
What has been the highlight of 2014?
What’s the best event you’ve ever been involved in?
There are so many that I cannot single out one but there have been some sensational weddings this year. My best event will always be the one I am about to do as its creation is always a challenge but incredibly interesting.
What are the challenges or considerations when working with a unique venue?
We are so privileged to work in all of the Unique Venues of London sites that other florist’s only dream about and take our obligations to them pretty seriously. We observe all of the very different rules and regulations (and they are completely different) and have a dedicated member of staff (the very lovely Warren Bishop) to ensure that we comply. From a design point of view we love to create bespoke designs for some of the venues, using unique containers and signature displays. The part that our own transport team play in ensuring that the Unique Venues of London site rules are observed cannot be underestimated as it is these brilliant people who ensure we deliver when and where we are supposed to, install without making and mess and de-rig within agreed time constraints. We really do care about each and every venue in which we work and realise that we are only as good as our last event.
I love the sludgy, autumnal shades of Hydrangea and adore these mixed with soft, muted shades using Roses or Dahlias. Hydrangeas are incredibly cost-effective flowers and look at their best in large displays as they are so impressive – they can often be too solid a shape when all one colour, changing to a mixture of colours in the Autumn and much more attractive.
What is your ultimate floral faux pas?
I was once presented to HM The Queen and introduced to her as “this is Sue Barnes whose company, Lavender Green, produced all of the flowers for this evening”. We then started to chat about the flowers in the small bouquet she was holding and those around the room before she asked me how to dry all of the flowers she was given. I found myself answering “simply hang them upside down in the airing cupboard and after a couple of weeks, they will have dried and retained their colour as they dried away from sunlight” – she looked perplexed and I realised, and was told afterwards, that she was probably totally unaware of what an airing cupboard was or where one could be found! I received a call from a Lady in Waiting a couple of days later to ask if I would repeat the advice I had given HM The Queen about drying flowers!
Sum up Unique Venues of London in one word…