Think floral designers spend their time wafting around glamorously fragranced workshops? Welcome to my reality! I’m often asked what being an event florist involves, so decided to list out what I do in a typical day.
It’s true: I do work with gorgeous flowers and jaw-dropping venues in London and Kent, but the hours can be brutally long and stress levels high.
Yet despite this, just like many other florists I know, there’s no other way I’d rather spend my time…
4am: Wake up early to go to the flower market. No time for breakfast, but I grab a coffee to drink on the way.
4.10am: Head out in the work van from my home in north Kent to New Covent Garden Flower Market in Battersea, south London.
4.45am: Make a beeline straight to my usual wholesalers, sipping another coffee on the way. I’ve been using the same florist supplier for 15 years, as they know what I like. Today there are two events to buy for: a corporate dinner that evening and lunchtime awards ceremony the next day. I also stock up on flowers for my shop, Karen Woolven Flowers at Greenwich – there are some gorgeous British spring flowers in season.
7.15am: Load up the van and drive to the shop to drop off the stock. My manager needs to condition the flowers before we open at 8.30am, which means stripping, cutting and putting them in fresh water.
8.45am: Arrive at my workshop in Bexley and unload the rest of the flowers, which we also need to condition.
9.10am: By now I’ve been up for five hours, but there’s no time to sit back. Mornings are hectic as a lot of orders go out at the same time. First on the list is checking the 25 tulip table centrepieces for an awards lunch we prepared yesterday afternoon.
9.20am: Thanks to my smartphone, I keep an eye on what’s happening on Twitter and Facebook wherever I am. Most of my friends work in events and floral design too, so it’s a good way to keep in touch.
9.30am: Start on one of the many cups of tea that I leave half-drunk and cold around the workshop as I check a restaurant order. Every day we supply contract flowers to different businesses in London. Catering venues need their flowers before lunchtime service, so timings must be exact. This client has requested bright, colourful arrangements to suit their vintage theme.
10am: Once we’ve safely waved our van driver off, I start on emails. Some days I receive up to 300 – from corporate event planners, venues or caterers asking about upcoming events, or florists finding out about our event prop hire service. I also have lots of brides enquiring about weddings.
Today is a quiet email day – only 150 messages to respond to! Make a mental note to find out about getting a PA or a VA to help me…
11.45am: My tummy’s rumbling, but there’s no time for a proper lunch. I nibble on snacks in the workshop and down more cups of tea. Sometimes people assume that because you’re working with beautiful, natural fresh flowers your lifestyle will somehow be healthy, fresh and natural too. If only!
12.15pm: Start preparing the flowers for tonight’s event – a dinner and awards ceremony at the exquisite Cutty Sark in Greenwich. As an event florist on its recommended supplier list, I’m lucky to spend lots of time there.
1pm: Sip coffee during a phone catch-up with my marketing consultant. I’ve built up a huge collection of floral props over the years – anything ranging from gorgeous vases to birdcages and trees – and now hire these items out. We’re spreading the word to smaller florists who provide flowers for events but have no space to keep props on-site.
1.20pm: Brief the team on tomorrow’s orders. There’s a corporate lunch event and flowers for a new boutique hotel to prepare for. I find a bag of crisps and chocolate bar in my desk drawer to keep me going.
1.30pm: Back to tonight’s job: floral centrepieces for 25 tables at the Cutty Sark. They’re for the 2014 London Awards held by non-profit organisation London First to celebrate the people, activities and projects that have done their bit to make London the best city in the world.
The Cutty Sark is always a wonderful place to work, but especially tonight as the event will be held under the ship’s copper hull. I’ve chosen red gerberas to complement the hull’s gorgeous gleaming tones.
2.30pm: Jump onto Twitter and Facebook quickly. I’m often told I need to show off more, so allow myself a small boast: we’ve just been accepted as a recommended floral supplier to Hever Castle in Kent, and are doing our first wedding there soon.
4pm: Tonight’s arrangements are perfect and ready to go. Next step is to load the van up and drive to the Cutty Sark for 5pm, when it closes to the public. I have another sneaky chocolate bar on the way.
5pm: There’s just one hour to set up before guests start arriving. The event caterer Harbour and Jones asks me to decorate an extra last-minute table. Luckily I have my event florist emergency kit handy: a spare vase and flower!
7pm: The venue has been transformed, and my work is done. I can head home for a breather and a meal. It’s a case of whatever’s easiest – either a takeaway or something from the freezer.
8pm: My husband is a chef whose business is also open seven days a week. We catch up this evening as he has a rare night off.
If the event I’ve worked on is in a public space, I usually need to head back after it’s finished to clear away so things can open up as normal the next morning. But the Cutty Sark has resident restrictions on noise so I won’t need to return until 8am tomorrow.
11pm: Collapse into bed, shattered. Same again tomorrow…