I hope you had a lovely weekend. Today I’m delighted to feature an interview with Wendy Black, designer florist at The Dorchester in London.
Could you tell us what prompted you to become a florist?
I was working as a restaurant manager and our florist kept increasing her prices, so my boss asked me to do the flower arrangements instead.
I enrolled on a flower-arranging class to learn the basic techniques. This class lasted one year. My tutor thought I had a natural flair and encouraged me to continue my progression by enrolling on a full-time floristry class.
I couldn’t really afford to pay my mortgage and simply be a student, so I did an NVQ class which took two years.
During that time, I also continued managing the restaurant, as well as gaining experience in a local florist.
Towards the end of my NVQ, I was fortunate enough to get a Saturday job in Harrods as a junior florist.
How has your floristry career progressed?
Once qualified, I kept on pestering my boss in Harrods for a full-time position.
After three months, I was taken on as a full-time junior florist. But sadly the company I worked for didn’t have their contract renewed in Harrods and I was made redundant.
I looked on the internet for London’s top 100 florists and went to visit them and leave my CV.
I was offered a position with London Flowers in Grays Inn Road, which was a busy contract florist in the City.
This was a great learning experience and although my job was very junior, I did occasionally get to help with the contract vases and was also responsible for the smooth running of the shop.
Six months later, I decided to move on and worked at an Interflora shop for seven months. This really helped me improve my speed and mental arithmetic, plus made me aware of budgeting.
During this time, I saw an advert for Claridge’s hotel who were looking for a full-time florist. I applied and was offered the job as junior florist.
This was a real step into another world of floristry, working with top grade flowers and top grade budgets.
Within three months, I was fortunate enough to be promoted to a florist position through the guidance of my manager Yvonne Howard, who helped me to perfect my skills.
A year later I was approached by The Dorchester and offered a position as a florist. It was a hard decision to make but I saw the potential to progress my career, so I decided to take on this new opportunity.
I was also thrilled to find out I would be working with Belinda Bowles, who was a great inspiration of mine when she was my manager at Harrods.
The following year, I was promoted to assistant florist manager. A few years later, Belinda moved on to The Savoy and encouraged me to apply for her job as designer florist, which I did.
It has now been two years and I’m still constantly learning. I have a wonderful team of seven dedicated creative florists and every day is different.
Working at The Dorchester, could you tell us what your role entails?
My role entails so many diverse roles. I oversee the direction, profitability and expansion of the floristry department, but also am in charge of payroll, in-house training and development of my team.
I’m responsible for client consultations, but also in charge of organising promotions and Christmas for both The Dorchester and 45 Park Lane.
The team brainstorms a lot to come up with new creations, as we design the flower displays at both hotels. Having a happy and bonded team is key to me, as we have to work together throughout the day.
What kind of floristry work are you and your team involved in at the hotel?
At The Dorchester, the team and I are responsible for creating all the flower arrangements in the public areas and guest rooms. We also handle flower orders from guests and from our online shop.
We’re in charge of floral displays for social events such as weddings, bar mitzvahs and corporate functions.
Additionally, we offer a home decoration service for clients who are hosting dinner or garden parties. We’ll go and arrange the flowers in their home for them.
Could you tell us about the masterclasses that you run?
At present, we’re running four masterclasses a year. These are all unique and seasonally-themed.
In June, we ran a Bridal Masterclass where guests learnt how to make a wedding bouquet, buttonhole and wrist corsage.
Our Autumn Tumble Masterclass will involve hollowing out pumpkins and gourds, and arranging flowers inside them…great for harvest, Thanksgiving and Halloween themed parties.
The Christmas Masterclass will involve making a lovely door wreath, with a few simple Christmas table designs.
All our masterclasses include afternoon tea and a file and polish nail treatment…a real girly treat (although the men that join my classes seem to equally enjoy it).
Could you tell us about the range of bouquets that people can order online?
Our summer range varies from country garden style to a planted bowl of hydrangeas. The prices start at £50.00 and we’re able to deliver throughout the London area.
We change the arrangements on the website seasonally.
How would you describe your style?
Wild country garden with an opulent twist.
What is your favourite flower?
I love all flowers but a firm favourite are anemones. I also love wild flowers like poppies, bluebells and camomile. I always use herbs and mixed foliages in my arrangements to tantalise the senses.
I work a lot with the seasons. In the summer, I’ll use peonies, sweet peas and lavender.
In the autumn, I’ll go for deep rich red and orange roses, proteas and anthuriums, combined with nature’s offerings like horse chestnuts, oak leaves and wild berries.
And winter isn’t winter without amaryllis, poinsettias and sparkling twigs.
I never dismiss carnations, chrysanthemums and gerberas as they can look equally elegant and amazing if used in the right way.
What are your plans for the remainder of 2012?
We’ll continue running our series of masterclasses in the Spatisserie.
And we’ll also be launching a masterclass programme for a group of friends, which can either be held at The Dorchester or hosted at the client’s home.
This will be a great idea for hen parties or simply a girly day out.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about Wendy’s role at one of the top hotels in London.
(Images : The Dorchester)