This week on Florist Friday, I’m delighted to feature an interview with Zara Reid of Zara Reid Floral Design. Zara is also the resident florist at Chatsworth House.
Could you tell us what prompted you to become a florist?
My great grandparents owned a plant nursery in Bradwell, Derbyshire and regularly won prizes with their award-winning chrysanthemums. I didn’t know that until I became a florist. So I guess you could say it was always in my blood! Like many teenagers, I had no idea what I wanted to do after leaving school. It was after dropping out of A Levels that my mum brought home a course leaflet for a college and sat me down, made me go through it and choose something I’d actually enjoy doing! I didn’t really know what floristry entailed then, but I’m so glad I pointed at that course in the brochure (although, not always after 15 hour days!!). I loved my year at college, doing the same course I teach now, and I met some brilliant people whom I still keep in touch with. I left full-time floristry to pursue a career in the design industry, gaining a degree in Graphic Design and an MA in Authorial Illustration from University College Falmouth in Cornwall, although I always worked part-time with flowers to pay the bills!
I worked as a graphic designer and had a few illustration commissions, but I hated working in front of a computer for 8 hours plus a day and I craved my Saturdays in the florist surrounded by beautiful flowers. I was sitting in front of the computer when I received an email from a friend to tell me about a fantastic job opportunity and it was then that I made the decision to leave behind the office completely, which changed my life and career forever.
Could you tell us how your floristry career has progressed?
I was lucky enough to get the job my friend so kindly sent to me and I’ve been a florist at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire for 3 years now. It’s my dream job and I didn’t even know it existed. I have a wonderful appreciation and affection for the estate and the surrounding countryside. Working in a house and gardens like Chatsworth becomes a part of you. I’m also hopelessly romantic, so I’ve fallen completely in love with the place. Every day is different. I see all sorts of weather…dusky winter evenings, snow-covered lawns, crisp autumn days where the colours take your breath away and hot summer days where I can be found picking sweet peas in the garden. The history of the house and grounds seeps into your being! I often say it’s very, very good for your soul! I never take it for granted and feel so lucky to be able to do such wonderful work, in the most beautiful place and with the most stunning flowers. We don’t buy anything in and I have over 100 acres of garden to choose from. The cutting garden is 1.5 acres and is best seen between April (first tulips), May to Sept. We grow enormous delphiniums, alliums, peonies, iris, dahlias, lupins and roses amongst other things. It’s a must-see if you’re visiting Derbyshire. Highlights have included preparing flowers for the BBC, Alan Titchmarsh and of course being part of the team that prepared the flowers for the visit of Her Majesty The Queen to Chatsworth in July 2014.
When did you start your business and where are you based?
I started Zara Reid Floral Design last year (which is run independently and not affiliated with Chatsworth) and I’m based where I live, in the beautiful spa town of Buxton, Derbyshire. The business allows me to create bespoke designs with imagination and creative flair for clients on an individual basis.
What kind of floristry services do you offer?
I specialise in weddings, bespoke funeral pieces, floristry workshops and I’m beginning to focus on more creative projects that allow me to combine my arts background with flowers. I do flower arranging parties at home for both adults and children, who love making floral cupcakes! My themed hen parties are proving very popular for those who want to do something different to the norm. I find they appeal to people who have mums or grandmas in attendance or who want something alternative and creative. I’ve done both Alice in Wonderland and Great Gatsby themed flower arranging parties, which are fabulous fun and there is always plenty of bubbly involved!
Where do you get inspiration for your floral designs?
Definitely the countryside in which I live and work. I’m all about seasonality. I appreciate every flower…even the carnation and chrysanthemum (a pet hate of many florists), when you see it growing naturally in an English garden, each holds its own special merit. I adore Pre-Raphaelite art which is an enormous inspiration to me, as are all paintings with flowers and/or symbolism in them. Many have links to English literature and folklore and satisfy the romantic in me! I’m in the process of recreating some of my favourites pictures with props, models and real flowers. One bride has asked me to do something similar for a photoshoot, which will form part of her wedding photos. I’ve always followed Miss Pickering. I love her blog and I also have a very similar hound! Vic Brotherson’s books are beautiful to look at and very reminiscent of my style.
How would you describe your style?
Seasonal, natural and romantic. I like groups of one thing together to create impact. I like to imagine my arrangements have come to life from the pages of classic novels, poems, fairy tales or paintings…so bundles of English scented roses in glass bowls or huge vases of hydrangea and dahlias. I like to imagine what Sleeping Beauty would have had on her wedding day or what many an Evil Queen would have had on their dressing table! Foliage is massively underrated. I LOVE foliage! The textures and colours can really make an arrangement. The beautiful autumnal red of cotinus, the soft texture of lamb’s ear, the wonderful scent of eucalyptus and philadelphus, fluffy panicum grass and cow parsley, even bull rushes. I love using berries and fruits, blackberries, raspberries, pears and apples, whatever is in season. Let the flowers speak for themselves.
Could you tell us about your workshops?
I do floral workshops for all abilities throughout the year. These are always being updated and can be found on my website.
What are your plans for the remainder of 2014?
I’m currently in the process of producing a book documenting a florist’s year which will focus on the seasons, promote British flowers and hopefully be visually, very beautiful! I don’t expect it to be ready until 2015/16 though! I’m also looking forward to re-creating some more of my favourite Pre-Raphaelite paintings, fingers crossed for a good autumn! Next year, I would like to explore ways in which to combine my arts/ illustration background with my appreciation of flowers and do some more creative projects with perhaps an exhibition of my work.
What is your favourite flower?
Such a hard question! If there was only one I could ever have again I think it would be the scented English rose, anything by David Austin or similar. Although I also love the Coral Charm peony. I’ll finish there or I’ll go on!! On a side note, I’d love to own the national collection of dahlias, just for the sheer fun and enjoyment they bring!
Thank you so much to Zara for all her help in compiling today’s blog post. If you’d like to see more of her floral designs, please do pop over to the Zara Reid Floral Design website. You can also find Zara on Facebook and Twitter.
(Images : Zara Reid & Chatsworth House)