Florist to the King !

 Five generations, two continents and connections to the British Royal Family…

we’re Not you average flower shop.

 The Jennings family has been a fixture in Victoria for over 100 years, but our story begins across the sea. Brothers William and Frank Jennings came from England in 1911 aboard the steamship Empress of Britain with 10 of their closest relatives. The rest of the family including John Henry and Samuel Jennings the wheelwrights remained in England.  The family had originally lived in Alderley Edge in Cheshire. Frank was a carpenter and William was a trained horticulturist who had worked in the florist that arranged flowers for Buckingham palace. Continuing the royal connection, Frank Jennings and his wife Mary were invited to attend the Silver Jubilee celebration for King George the fifth in 1935. When Queen Elizabeth the second came to Victoria for the 1994 Common Wealth Games, William’s great grandson Rob Jennings worked on the team that provided flowers for that event. With the fifth generation now working in the family business, the story continues…..

Stunning Wreaths for all Seasons

Wreaths don’t have to be just a Christmas decoration any more. I have fabulous Fall, Spring, Summer and Winter wreath ideas for you.

In the Fall consider buying an inexpensive vine wreath and wiring on tiny bunches of dried leaves, moss and wheat. A wreath does not need a bow for the finishing touch but consider raphia or burlap strips to keep your wreath natural looking. There are wreaths of artificial fall leaves that you can add dried touches to. Consider keeping your wreath asymmetrical rather than perfectly balanced. This will look more natural and less perfect or factory made.

In the Winter try adding frosted branches to your vine wreath. Spray collected branches white or silver. You can even paint pine cones of pieces of cedar for the frosted look. Don’t spray every piece, this will give more texture and depth. Add traditional touches like bells or holly branches as Christmas approaches. If the though of dedicating an afternoon to creating a fresh evergreen wreath from scratch, buy one and add your own touches. Find interesting berries and variegated leaves from the garden and add these instead of traditional holly. Again branches will add contrast to the perfection of a circular wreath. For a special party try arranging fresh flowers in a bridal bouquet holder and wiring these flowers into your creation. People will not be expecting to see fresh flowers in a door wreath and your masterpiece will be remembered. The floral foam in the holder will keep your flowers fresh till the frost  ruins them.  Once the flowers have succumb to the frost simply pull the holder out.

Once Spring begins to arrive try using fresh moss and soft colours. A cluster of moss and twigs can be crafted in to a nest. Put a feather bird in your nest for an unexpected surprise. Try adding some fresh blooms in water vials from the florist. Put flowers in water or use flower stems that easily dry such as heather or statice. At Easter add some plastic eggs to your wreath. As the season changes so should your wreath.  You can even wire in a small flowering potted plant for additional colour. Camouflage the pot with moss or leaves and don’t forget to water. Your wreath does not have to stay up year round but it will certainly attract attention if you keep changing it with the seasons.

Summer brings brighter colours and rising temperatures. Beautiful paper crafted sunflowers with raphia will add colour without having to water. I prefer an artificial flower that has been created out of a natural material because it has less plastic and a more natural appearance. Your wreath will make a better first impression if it looks natural and fresh. Summer is also a great time to change things up. Now is a good time to retire the wreath and hang a beach pail with garden blooms and break with tradition. Test your pail to make sure you won’t receive an unexpected shower every time you open the door. You could also pop a flowering plant in to your pail.

Make every entrance a grand entrance this year !

Christmas Catch-22

 As I stroll around the big box stores I notice that Halloween is in isle 7 with Christmas just around the corner in isle 8. Long before we’ve put away our shorts and t-shirts, the stores seem to be promoting these holidays. As a shopper it can be frustrating but as a retailer it is really bothersome. You see our suppliers bring in samples of Christmas and Fall items in the late Spring and we retailers have until June to place our orders. The wholesalers then add up all the orders and if there are enough orders for each sample they go ahead and order from the manufacturer. The items that not enough orders were placed for are simply’dropped’. Independent retailers like us start paying for our Christmas stock by the end of the Summer and it begins to arrive in August. We can often ‘sit on’ paid inventory for three to four months before we start to display it. The question then is when is it appropriate to begin creating Christmas displays in retail shops!? For most of us we really like the holiday season and can’t wait to show you the amazing items we have found. So if you peek in my window in early November and see Christmas items remember that they have been waiting to be unveiled since the Summer.

Fall 2011

Wedding season is winding down in Victoria. It’s time once again for gourds, pumpkins and raking leaves. Our cooler is no longer overflowing with pink hydrangeas and white freesias. Instead of decorating wedding arches, I’m making fall wreathes with preserved leaves and raphia. Just a few more Fall wedding weekends before we turn our attention to preparing for the Christmas season. Every season as a florist holds something new and exciting! To all our bridal couples and their families, happy Fall.

Why a True Florist is Worth The Price Difference

When I was going to college in a different city, I worked at a large chain grocery store. To the untrained eye, we carried all the same products as the florist across the street. Our customers did not know or perhaps care where our products came from. They simply saw cut flowers, plants, flower arrangements and even wedding flowers at a lower price. What they did not see was that those flower arrangements were created in a wholesaler’s warehouse far away.

These fresh looking arrangements were already a few days old and had been made quickly in a assembly line fashion. I often found that the stems were barely inserted into the floral foam and were not taking up the water at all.

Our department had a wedding package that was very competitively priced. These were also assembled far away. These bouquets came the day before, boxed, out of water and we had no idea when they had actually been made. They looked very typical and not creative. In all the flower deliveries, I frequently found that the flowers were second or third grade. Flowers are graded on quality and stem length etc. I also found that flower bunches did not have as many flower stems or greenery as the ones found at the florists. I even ran across tropical plants that had not been grown in a greenhouse, but outdoors in a sandy environment. Once these plants came indoors, they were shocked by the humidity and bugs began to crawl out of the ‘soil’. We had limited space, and the floral department was not always staffed.

Because of these issues our product was often received at the loading dock by the produce department. Let’s pause to imagine what ‘loading dock’, ‘forklift’, ‘produce department’ and delicate ‘fresh’ flowers looks like at six am. Perhaps you did not know but fresh flowers cannot be stored with produce such as apples. Apples release ethylene gas as they ripen, this gas damages flowers. When I have been ‘forced’ to buy flowers from a grocery store, I look for a produce worker and ask for the fresh flowers out of the produce cooler. They always have ‘fresh’ bunches of roses, carnations, lilies, etc. in the produce cooler. I know that these flowers are at a disadvantage because of their storage conditions, bit if I am visiting out of town and my help is needed making a quick bouquet, these flowers will provide temporary colour. I also know that I am ‘getting what I pay for’.

In the case of consumers ordering for special events, I wonder if they are aware of how much better it could be. When I left the floral department, the bulk food girl was promoted to floral department manager. I had ten years experience as a floral designer and manager, but was replaced by someone with no experience. I imagine that experience as a florist was not necessary when someone else was really doing all the work elsewhere.

Dangers of Cutting Back on Wedding Flowers

A custom centre piece by The Victoria Florist

A custom centre piece by The Victoria Florist

Dangers of Cutting Back on Wedding Flowers

I have had brides who have brought me extravagant pictures of wedding center pieces. When I have explained that the image shows more flowers than is found in a typical bridal bouquet and will run seventy-five dollars a piece or more, they have nearly fainted. At this point we try to work out a way to create the same look with in their budget. The smart way to go about things, is to use a trained and experienced florist who has created lasting flowers for hundreds of weddings just like yours.

I personally enjoy finding rental containers and local growers that can help with the budget. We can even recreate ceremony flowers in to center pieces if the budget demands. Every once in a while we haven’t been able to bring the price down enough and the bride has so many tables that she really can’t afford the look she is going after. Again the smart thing is to work with your floral professional and trust their judgment and expertise. The example that stands out for me is a wedding that had twenty-five guest tables. The bride had a picture of a tall vase stuffed with a dozen orchid stems. Again this design needed to be at least sixty-five dollars a piece. Our bride had a budget of only a quarter of that amount! I would have gladly scaled the stem count back and used some grasses to fill out the vases. The client decided to use someone else who claimed they could fill the order and keep the price under four hundred dollars! Two years later I still hear about how it was the biggest mistake she ever made. She did not get orchids, she got three large garden flowers that did not take up the water and wilted before the bride even arrived to the reception. The greenery was also from a garden and withered leaving a room full of dead flowers. It would have been better to have used a large bowl or vase and floated or submersed just a few stems or heads of orchids that to have used something cheaper.

I also run into brides who have been seduced by the low low prices of chain stores. Flowers are like any perishable, grown item. They come from many sources and have grades, a low grade flower will not open fully and often will not last. Even the delivery and set up of your flowers will make a huge difference. A shift worker isn’t about to personally drive your flowers to your event and give stems a fresh cut or top up the water. An independent florist puts their reputation on the line every time they do an event. They are not simply a shift worker who has a limited time to complete orders before their shift ends. I have gained life long customers from the brides and their families who were so disappointed by inexperienced workers in these stores.