Thursday, June 10, 2010

When Flowers make a Home

Nine years ago, when Amanda Bates stepped off a plane in London, England she had no idea she was about to head down a completely different career path. Having given up her banking job in New Zealand to move overseas with her partner, Amanda assumed she would continue in the same industry once settled in their new home.

Arriving at 6am and in an effort to ward off jetlag, the couple took a walk around the south-west London streets. It was a sunny, Spring day and Amanda was struck by the stands of bright flowers, particularly tulips, on every corner. ‘I couldn’t believe I was surrounded by all these beautiful flowers and it occurred to me that perhaps I didn’t have to go back to banking at all. I could become a florist instead.’

She did return to banking for just one year but during that time worked at a local florist some Saturday mornings. She quickly moved to working full-time as a florist after that first year and has not looked back. ‘Being a florist doesn’t feel like work; how can it when you’re surrounded by beautiful flowers every day? I remember wondering why I had waited so long to do this.’

Flowers have always played a role in Amanda’s life. Both her grandmother and mother were keen gardeners, ‘Mum always grew freesias and Nanna had the most amazing flower garden and grew lots of hydrangeas.’ While staying with her Grandmother as a child, Amanda’s fondest memory was being given the responsibility of going into the garden and cutting fresh flowers for the house. ‘Collecting flowers from the garden was such a part of growing up and it still feels like a real treat to have them in my home.’

Working in London gave Amanda the opportunity to learn about the many different flowers that come from Amsterdam, ‘the seasons for softer flowers are much longer in Europe and those flowers have now become my favourite.’ Peonies remain her favourite flower despite the season being so short in Australia. ‘They remind me of my time in England; they’re old-fashioned and so British.’ Such a popular flower, Amanda found that many people would book weddings according to the peony season.

For Amanda a home without flowers feels sad; even a single bud in a glass jar lifts the mood of any room. She has found, since moving to Sydney with her family and not working, that she is drawn to flowers in other ways too, ‘I sew felt flower brooches and I’m always attracted to clothes with floral designs before anything else. Flowers are a huge part of my life.’ As they are for her children, with sons who regularly bring home fallen frangipani flowers for her and a toddler daughter who can’t walk past any flower without sticking her head into it and sniffing loudly.

Flowers do not only create a luxurious atmosphere in any room, they surround us when hit by the highs and lows life throws. They lift all moods, whether celebratory – weddings, new babies, congratulations – or more sombre occasions – illness, funerals, sympathy. They are used as a way to express many emotions but as Amanda says, ‘flowers are a common denominator in all happy occasions’.

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