The Life of a Florist – by Lucy Ashton

Have you ever wondered how it would be to work as a florist? You probably have this romantic image in mind of how it would be… Working with flowers must be a lot of fun, always! But is the life of a florist all about sunshine and roses? Unfortunately not always, that’s why we thought it would be very interesting to give you a peak in the life of a florist.

Written by Lucy Ashton – The Dandelion Clock

The Dandelion Clock

 

“Ooh what a lovely job to have, you must be so creative!” is the usual response I get when I tell people I am a florist and have my own shop (The Dandelion Clock in Sheffield). And it is a lovely job, it is wonderful to be surrounded by beautiful flowers and plants every day. My “office” is a very pretty place to spend my day. This is the impression, that you, the customer is supposed to have. But there is an awful lot of hard work which goes into creating this image and into presenting the gorgeous “front of house” shop that you see. So here is a little insight into some of the behind the scenes work which takes place. Be prepared, you may want to borrow a pair of gloves and an apron!

 

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The start of my day

8am I’m up and getting ready to go to my shop, and planning my day’s activity. Today is Saturday, so a busy day initially which will go quietly in the afternoon if it’s like a normal Saturday… We’ll see. Happy days, the sun is shining and it’s not too windy which is great as I can have my display of plants and flowers outside. People will be pottering along doing their shopping, and not rushing by with their heads down against the rain. The weather can make all the difference in a day’s takings – us florists really are working with nature!

9am and its time to open up the shop. I have to get my selection of tables and benches outside, carry the baskets and trays of plants out and make sure they are displayed and priced up – so it’s already a physical job. A couple of customers are impatient to come in – “Just give me a moment, you literally can’t get inside until I get all this out!”

One customer orders a 50th wedding anniversary bouquet for in a couple of weeks’ time – I know this is golden so can suggest a gorgeous autumnal mix for him. While another customer wants something for 10 years – tin. “A locally made scented candle in a tin, and a pepper plant in a zinc container?” Perfect. There are all sorts of knowledge required to be a florist – and sales and marketing skills too.

From conditioning the flowers to bucket washing

I have a delivery to sort downstairs in the shop. My flowers come from an online marketplace directly from Holland or the growers. So no, the bad old days of going down to the market early in the morning are not necessary anymore – another assumption people make. The flowers need “conditioning” – since they have travelled while being out of the water. I need to remove the greenery, cut the stems and place the flowers into clean buckets with a particular flower food to let them have a drink and perk up after their journey. This is always a time-consuming part of a florist’s day and another physical job. After my first 3 years as a florist, I discovered some gloves I could work in so my hands don’t look like Shrek’s anymore – result! I have however had a tennis elbow twice and a particularly unpleasant eczema thing. Pretty and dainty job? Nope! It’s also a messy job, and we constantly need to sweep up and keep the shop and workroom tidy, safe and looking good.

10am and my Saturday helper arrives to get on with the conditioning. So there is also a chance that I might get a cuppa too – not before the flowers get a drink though – and I can carry on serving customers upstairs in the shop. The orders for today were made up yesterday, ready for collection or delivery, and are marked up with the customer’s details on them accordingly. Every bouquet that leaves the shop is checked or made by me, so I know the quality of the flowers is the best it can be.

Trade is brisk and part of the skill of the job is to be able to make up a bouquet, chat, do mental arithmetic and talk to the next customer waiting at the same time. That cuppa’s gone cold, as usual!

12pm and every florist’s favourite job! Or rather, every Saturday helper’s favourite job. Bucket washing. Bacteria are our enemy, it shortens the life of the flowers. So all the buckets and vases used to store and display flowers must be thoroughly cleaned, bleached out and rinsed well at least once a week. Omar gets on with that for me, so I can grab a few minutes to pay a couple of invoices and check my email.

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Omar, Lucy's Saturday helper
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Wedding preparations

12.30pm I have a consultation with a bride that is getting married in a few weeks’ time. So we go through all the details of her designs, and also confirm the logistics – what flowers are to be delivered where and at what time so the day is seamless. Wedding floristry is enormously complex – from the technical skills to the create a design, the in-depth knowledge needed to order the perfect matching colour rose, the creativity to design bespoke and beautiful bouquets and venue décor, to getting the stock and costings right and having a great supplier who you can trust to make sure the flowers you order are perfect for a couple’s special day. The worst part for me is transporting the flowers to the venue. Don’t road-rage me please, I’m driving so slowly because I’m a florist!!

1.30pm My bride has left and is happy. Now I need to write up the final details and email them over to her, while Omar brings me another cuppa after his marathon bucket-washing session.

My planning for next week

The shop is pretty quiet now, as usual on a Saturday, so I can start to look ahead at next week and get my online flower order done. I check any customer orders for the following week and make sure I’ve got the stock ordered I need. Florismart’s online platform is great for this. I know what I’m buying is top quality and fresh, and is also well priced so I can give excellent value for money to my customers and also make a profit. I am running a business after all, and although yes it is a lovely job, I do have to pay the bills!

We take the opportunity to change the window display. It’s the end of summer now, and I love the new colours and textures of autumn. So I’ve made a big wreath in artificial foliage, wheat and grouse feathers, which looks great as a centrepiece with some seasonal plants in the window.

We do an end of week final clean and tidy – I do a really good line in cobwebs! – and make sure all the plants are watered inside and outside the shop. Then I do a final end of day till reading and sort out the day’s takings to be input into my spreadsheet of daily sales.

And the end of a lovely busy Saturday…

5pm The shop is closed and we bring in all the tables and displays from outside including my vintage bike – there is a method in it. It’s like shop Jenga to fit it all in and its time to go home… Where I will do another hour or so of bookkeeping and paperwork.

So yes, being a florist IS a lovely job, and you do need to be creative. But you also have to be physically fit, financially astute, sociable, out-going, sales and marketing savvy, bucket-washing, floor sweeping, spreadsheet-loving, logistics managing, tissue-offering, celebration sharing, endure the cold in winter?!!, work until midnight at Valentines and Mother’s Day and really quite like the taste of cold coffee!

 

Have a look at Lucy Ashton’s designs in our Florist Finder. Go check it out!

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