Today, I’m delighted to feature an interview with the very talented florist Nicole Liew who owns The White Orchid in Weybridge.
Some of you may remember that a few years ago I used to work for Nicole when she had her shop in Esher, right when I was first starting to learn all about the world of floristry.
Could you tell us what prompted you to become a florist?
Some years ago, I did a course with Jane Packer during one of my summer holidays from work because I was planting up a garden at home and wanted to know all about flowers and plants.
I was working at a Montessori nursery teaching very young children who are always enthusiastic and quick learners. As part of the curriculum, I did a lot of activities related to nature with them and often remember their expressions when they were allowed to cut the flowers from the planted patch and afterwards arrange them in jam jars to take home on Fridays.
Owing to the structure of the examining authorities, the things we do with our little charges have to be rigorously planned and recorded and I found that quite stifling in terms of creativity. Children are spontaneous learners and with that, the love of discovery comes from within them. My career as a teacher sadly ended there.
When did you start your own business and where are you based?
I started off with working at The Wild Bunch in Richmond with Ronnie de Konig, a Belgian florist who ran the small shop on the hill. I was there on a one day a week basis while I was plotting my exit!
I worked there for a year and that gave me the confidence to set up my shop in Esher in November 2002. I’ve never looked back.
After five years in Esher where I gathered a portfolio of regular clients, I moved to Weybridge, which is where I’m based now, serving our loyal clients in the Burwood Park and St. George’s Hill areas. Of course, the Esher clients are still with us, but we tend to deliver to them these days.
What kind of floristry services do you offer?
We can create anything from a posy to decorating a whole venue for a wedding or birthday party. So, the usual funeral, wedding, corporate and gift arrangements are available at the shop.
We also provide an overnight delivery by courier service to anywhere in the UK, except the islands, which means customers can order something to be made up by us and have it sent directly to their friends or loved ones for a small delivery charge.
Could you tell us about some of your recent commissions?
Other than the usual weekly arrangements we do in peoples’ homes, we’ve done mostly parties. Parties for children featuring floral cakes made up with tiny spray roses, mimi eden being a favourite, lollipops for a table centre, and various Christmas wreathes featuring salvaged ribbons, toys and haberdashery items.
I also enjoyed decorating a home using only twiggy, dried vine and berries recently for a family who has moved from South Africa and had their home decorated with craft items like native dress and accessories all framed and adorning the walls…quite Kelly Hoppen but with a bit more personality and warmth.
How would you describe your style?
The move is now to produce bouquets or arrangements which look natural and interesting in terms of texture and detailing. The use of unusual foliage, berries, twigs and seed heads for example are very now.
It’s almost as if the bouquet is composed entirely of material collected in one’s own garden and more importantly reflective of the seasons.
So, no peonies and tulips in the depths of autumn/winter! Constance Spry has always been a source of inspiration and of course, Jane Packer’s approach to decorating a church for a wedding or funeral had never let me down.
What is your favourite flower?
I love every one of them. What I like about working with them is the discovery of the new varieties and colouration which the growers come up with these days.
Certain flowers lend themselves to specific projects and therefore any good florist should learn how to use them appropriately.
What are your plans for 2012?
There are plenty of projects currently on the table.
One of the more interesting ones would be that of finding a space which is big enough for classes for many interested clients, a showroom for wedding events which can also double up as a venue for wedding receptions… the list goes on. Watch this space…
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my interview today. If you’re in the Weybridge area, do pop in to her lovely shop on York Road.
(Images : The White Orchid)