As part of our Christmas season, we are going behind the scenes with those who have helped ‘create’ Christmas at Harewood. Fiona Pickles from Firenza Flowers answers five questions here:
Where does your passion for flowers ‘stem’ from?
My love of gardening is where it all started. I adored working in my first garden, to the point of obsession! I transformed a small patch of a farmer’s field into a beautiful garden, with a wide variety of trees, shrubs and flowers. I became familiar with a huge variety of plants and flowers, their Latin names and most importantly their seasonality.
How and when did you begin your career in floral decoration/art?
I studied Print and had a good and enjoyable career in the printing industry, but I walked away from that in 2005 to retrain as a florist in London, then set the business up (named after my maternal grandmother Florence, known to all as Flo) I became a very successful wedding florist but gradually changed direction and focus, to utterly embrace my love of the landscape and seasons. I now enjoy creating large, striking designs and structures.
Where does your vision come from and how does it develop?
Everything I do is totally influenced by my surroundings and where I am working. I usually have a rough plan of the overall look and feel of what I am about to create, but the actual shape and style only comes as I work on each piece, they are totally dependent on the shape of each branch, flower, leaf and root that I use, meaning that every single thing I create is a one-off, never to be recreated or reproduced, no matter how hard anyone tries!
What skills are needed to create your designs?
I do have an ability to know what shapes are needed where, to elevate a design from something predictable and ‘samey’ to something totally striking, unexpected and dramatic. I also seem to be considering more engineering type issues as well as the obvious floristry considerations; weight, balance, attachments and fixings, which i actually relish. Fixings and stability are huge considerations, I am rather obsessed with hardware shops bizarrely! I try to work without floral foam too, so the main consideration in any design is ensuring everything that needs it has a water source. This is not always straightforward and I offer workshops and classes to other florists keen to understand this way of thinking.
How have you adapted to this changing world of online?
Having established a business pre-social media, I can recognise and appreciate the value of social media – believe me, it is so much easier, more pleasant, less times consuming and more focused to post an image on instagram with good photography and considered hashtags than driving a three hour round trip to attend a networking meeting, during which I might meet one person who may want flowers at some point in their life! I utterly embrace the effectiveness of social media and have met many fabulous people from around the world through it. If you have a business and want to find your ‘tribe’, you HAVE to make time for social media.
Firenza Flowers has created two large-scale wreath installations in the Terrace Gardens of Harewood. Visitors can see these as part of the Christmas experience.
Fiona is hosting a full day Stately Botanicals workshop, which includes a private, tailormade tour of the festively dressed House, making a bespoke wreath and a Festive Afternoon Tea.