Up next in our vendor series is one of the funniest ladies we know in the biz – Rita who runs Blooming Brides in the Dandenong Ranges.
We first became aware of Rita’s work when we started shooting weddings in the Yarra Valley. Wedding after wedding, Rita’s work left us wanting to know more about her. Upon discovering she was based right by where I (Sarah) live, we decided to catch up at her brand new floristry studio in Emerald and find out how Rita does what she does!
Love Katie + Sarah xo
Who are you and where are you based?
Rita from Blooming Brides. I’m based right in the heart of the most heavenly flower growing region in Australia: Main Street Emerald (formerly ‘Paradise’ until a name change in the 1920’s)
How long have you been doing floristry? How did you get into it?
Since I was about 2. I have worked for as long as I can remember. My parents have always had flower businesses and my mum was a gun florist in her day. My parents started out in the early seventies selling flowers off the back of a horse and cart in Toorak Road South Yarra. Then mum became a florist and had a number of accounts with 5 star hotels. Then they had shops. I had no choice really. I was working from when I could point a hose in a bucket.
Did you always want to be a florist? What was your path to floristry like?
Actually I wanted to be a vet and went to uni to do so, but realised I didn’t have the stomach for it, so I ended up studying botany. I was heading down the research path when I decided I couldn’t handle being trapped in a lab every day so I ended up doing post-graduate studies in writing. I then worked as a freelance writer for 11 years while working part time in floristry. I started Blooming Brides in 2006 when the family retail business was sold, with the idea that doing weddings would work well with raising a family. As it turned out, the business grew at the same rate as my son and things have worked well. But the plan is to return to writing one day, probably when my body starts to fail.
Favourite kind of bride/groom/wedding?
Those who say “we trust you”, and give me some sort of theme to follow. That means I can relax, buy the flowers that really catch my eye, and have fun. These clients tend to be a little older. I think slightly older couples are generally more confident in making decisions, they know what they like and they know that every industry has people who are good at their job so they are more likely to say “we’ll leave it to you”. That’s one of my favourite parts of the job, being entrusted to get it right. The best flowers always result from having a loose rein with regards to flower varieties.
Best career moment?
I reckon decorating the stage for The Dalai Lama last year was pretty good. When I went to pack up, security pounced on me because I forgot my photo ID. So they told me to wait in a dark doorway out of the corridor until I was told otherwise because the Dalai Lama was exiting the stage and needed to go straight to the waiting car and everyone needed to be well clear. As it turned out, it was the exit door to the stage and the door opened and out walked the Dalai Lama with an entourage of about 20 and although he was being ushered away, he broke away from his minders and came over to me and shook my hand and had a quick chat. That was a bit special.
Worst career moment?
The ones where the day starts out with pouring old flower water in my shoes and finishes 16 hours later and includes forgotten lunch, cut hands and knowing my friends are at parties and picnics and luxuriously long lunches on the beach etc. The worst part about doing weddings is that it robs you of a social life.
Favourite flower or season?
Autumn for colour, Spring for beauty.
Favourite flowers: wallflowers, nasturtium, magnolia, rhododendron, helleborous, daphne, pansies, garden roses, sweet pea, foxglove, orchids, poppies, green goddess lilies, tulips, hippeastrum, gardenia, bearded iris, wisteria, banksia, boronia, azalea, salvias, heleborous, flowering eucalupts, herbs… I can keep going…
Stones of the Yarra Valley. I do most of my weddings there. Not only is it absolutely breathtaking to look at and truly a delight to decorate, but the crew is awesome. When wedding pressure is on, it’s on. Everyone needs to work together as smoothly and supportively as possible, especially when things don’t go to plan. I feel very much part of a professional team there, and this is important because we are putting on a production that requires input from a lot of people for everything to go really well. I also love Zonzo in Yarra Glen. The food is sensational and they are really terrific to deal with also. And I love a wedding at home…
What do people think floristry is like versus what it is really like.
All the time people say to me “oh it must be wonderful working with flowers all day” and I’m sure their idea of what a florist does is from the banks. Every few years one of the banks makes a TV ad for small business loans using a 30-something florist as a protagonist. In the scene she is all crisp and tidy, cheerful and calm. After a friendly transaction with a handsome man who doesn’t want his change, she leans back against the wall sipping a cuppa while she surveys the floral vista she has created with said bank loan. A warm smile of satisfaction crosses her face and her delicate, creative hand is placed across her heart, as if the beauty is all just a bit too much…
Unfortunately, the truth is way less romantic. For starters my partner calls my hands my “cabbage picking mitts” because they are so knocked about from handling cold, wet flower stems and thorns all the time. Then there is the heavy lifting – the loading and unloading and loading and unloading of vans. Heavy buckets, spilling over, manky water, up to ankles in mud picking up flowers etc. Then there are the early markets for city dwellers, fortunately not for me as I buy from the growers and avoid early mornings. I can’t cope with early mornings. Then there are the 20 odd hours of computer work I do a week – communicating with clients, phone calls, ordering etc. The actual arranging of flowers is about 10%. Everything else is hard physical labour and planning. Really, it is a mug’s game. But once it is in your blood, it is hard to kick. I guess it is true – we all live for that heart-warming, caffeinated moment of clean aproned floral satisfaction in the bank ad.
Any other projects that are close to your heart at the moment outside of floristry?
MY garden. We bought a house that had been vacant for 6 years, and the garden was a quarter acre of 4 metre high blackberries. After lots of clearing work we discovered all these established fruit trees and gorgeous old roses and a couple of massive snowball viburnum trees. I’m currently putting in a vege patch, tanks and shaping, pruning and planting the rest out. And we are getting chooks. It is heaven.
Thank you so much Rita for being this week’s featured vendor! Isn’t it amazing to read what it’s really like behind the scenes when all you ever see is the stunning end product?