When Auckland mum of four, Richelle Leahy-Mullins, decided she wanted a career change in 2012 from the hectic life of an event manager to become a florist and open her own business, she dreamed of whimsical, soft, romantic, country styled flowers which appealed to French country lovers.
Inspired by her grandmother’s creativity Flourish Floral Designs is based out of a studio at Richelle’s home in the leafy suburb of Epsom and it’s fair to say it’s her happy place.
“I have the best office in the world,” she says looking around a room filled with fresh and dried flowers, as many of us pivot from working in grey offices to working from the dining room table.
Richelle is after a distinctive wild and whimsical, almost Renaissance, feel which she has acquired from her travels in France after visiting numerous French florists to study their style and return home with a definite French Country vibe about her designs.
A day in the life of a florist
“The floral industry is pretty competitive in Auckland,” Richelle tells Auckland Scene. “There’s a lot of florists out there, however not many with the style that I create at Flourish.”
A typical day starts at 7 o’clock when local florists descend on the markets in Mt Wellington to buy fresh flowers from growers from all around the region.
Richelle gets most of her orders via her website the day before and can order what she needs from her buyer who gets it ready for her. The next morning she makes a bee-line for the markets letting her imagination run wild looking for the extra special pieces she can either dry or incorporate into a design.
She uses a wide variety of country garden flowers that are in season. Strong favourites in the summertime are peonies and roses, especially the big country garden variety, along with white oriental lilies.
Classic white and green arrangements are always popular but Richelle mixes in a variety of beautiful foliages like eucalyptus, stock, pierus, manuka, protea and whatever berries are available such s hypericum, and viburnum into her arrangements.
Trend towards dried flowers
Richelle loves the trend of dried flowers in bouquets and wall hangings, wreaths and dramatic arrangements. She dries a lot of them herself from her own garden as well as what she finds in the markets, and friends who let her come and pick.
“What I really love about dried flowers is that you can just go totally wild with your arrangements as they have a real strength about them and they’re not too fragile. They last virtually forever and there’s so many different ways of arranging them.”
“I am loving the dyed hydrangeas and fan palm and especially New Zealand natives. The toi toi, wheat, banksia and dried protea are so gorgeous and so very New Zealand. Every home should have a little bit of Kiwi dried fauna – it’s so uniquely us!”
Richelle’s dried arrangements might have a mix of dried, fresh, preserved flowers and even a sneaky little silk flower popped in occasionally.
She usually wraps them in brown paper and delivers them by hand, but as a keen second hand store shopper, has plenty of little vases to complement the right look.
How to keep dried flowers looking great
• Definitely keep them out of direct sunlight so they don’t fade, says Richelle.
• If you place them upright in a vase they stay looking fresher for longer.
• A really handy tip is spraying them with hairspray which helps to retain the colour. Also they prefer to be in a cool and dry area.
• Give them a little fluff up every so often – just blow on them to remove dust or if you have to, use a feather duster just lightly.
• And definitely, definitely do not get them wet! So absolutely do not put them in your bathroom!
Other than that, it’s plain sailing! 🙂
What’s coming up?
Richelle will soon be running dried arrangement workshops. Details on the Flourish Floral Instagram page. Be quick though as numbers limited to 4 per class with a glass of bubbles.