Today, I’m delighted to feature an interview with award-winning florist Mandy Alberry of Sonning Flowers, together with images of her beautiful floral designs.
Could you tell us what prompted you to become a florist?
My father is a very keen gardener and my mother has always enjoyed flower arranging, so when I was growing up we always had flowers around the house.
I think I’ve always had a talent for making things. When I was young I used to make all of my Aunties’ Christmas presents and they usually involved something flowery.
Later when I had a house of my own, I would always have a vase of flowers bringing life and colour into the room.
When did you start your business and where are you based?
When my father retired, he closed his office which was a small, but very pretty, wooden building with leaded light arched windows in the middle of Sonning.
It was full of old furniture and umpteen years of correspondence. I asked if I could clear it out and turn it into a flower studio.
That was in February 2004 and since then I’ve moved three times as I ran out of space.
What kind of floristry services do you offer?
We offer all kinds of floristry but my passion is really in weddings and events.
There’s something very satisfying about helping a client create the image they want for their special day.
I love the build-up, making sure I completely understand the client’s requirements, and then the excitement on the day to make sure everything is ‘just so’.
Congratulations on winning National Best Wedding Florist at the National Wedding Industry Awards! Could you tell us what this means for you?
For me it’s recognition that we’ve understood the client’s brief and we’ve worked with them to create their perfect day.
We pride ourselves on attention to detail and the quality of service that we offer. To me, the award means we got it right.
I understand that you have a flower school. Could you tell us more about the courses you run?
Yes, we run a range of different courses, for people who want to learn the basics of flower arranging so that when they’re given flowers they can be decoratively arranged in a vase, to students who are considering a career change and want to fully understand the pros and cons of running your own floristry business.
We also run courses for people who want to do their friends’ wedding flowers. Plus we’ve provided flower arranging as a team building event.
We’ve run more specific courses, for example, a dozen things to do with a dozen red roses.
And we often have a ‘challenge the tutor’ section where we ask the students to bring in that really unusually shaped vase and the tutor will come up with some ideas on how to arrange flowers in it.
Recently it’s been very popular for hen parties to come along and learn flower arranging.
Your new Wedding Flowers Moodboard app sounds great. How does it work?
Quite a long time ago I realised that most brides would come in with their own version of a moodboard.
It may be a proper board of photographs, fabrics and colours, or it may be an envelope with a few photos that they’ve ripped out of magazines.
When iPhones became popular, quite often they would have a range of photographs in the gallery and even a photo of them trying on their dress. So my app is an enhancement to that.
The app gives them many different galleries of photographs in different sections and the bride can choose the photos she likes and add them to the moodboard, adding a comment at the bottom.
Then she can take it to her florist and show them the photos she’s selected.
Could you tell us about some of your commissions?
I’m very excited that we’re currently providing prices and designs for some of the hospitality areas at the Olympics.
How would you describe your style?
I like natural-looking arrangements, letting the flowers speak for themselves. Not contrived or architectural arrangements. Naturally beautiful.
What is your favourite flower?
I have lots of favourites, but at this time of year it’s probably ranunculus – in bright and vibrant hot pinks and yellows. But I also love the white ones.
What are your plans for 2012?
We’ve recently opened a shop in Reading town centre. Previously we’ve always worked in an out-of-town studio, so for 2012 I would like to continue to build our local reputation here.
I would also love to be involved in providing flowers for the Olympics, so fingers crossed, my opportunity comes off.
I’m also launching a mentoring system for new and existing floristry businesses.
And I have plans to develop the app for the iPad. I have my portfolio on an iPad – they’re great!!
Many thanks to Mandy for her help in putting the blog post together and I’d like to wish her the very best of luck with her Olympics application.
(Images : Sonning Flowers)