Woven into most elements of She Made Me and used in many of our shoots, It may come as no surprise that I love flowers.
Since 2017, we have been working closely with Azzmin and Georgia from Braer. It started with our fortnightly studio arrangements, then the set for our Wild Flower collection with thousands of blooms and everything else in-between. All while upholding incredible ethics and mindfulness to their approach within their industry.
I spent some time with Georgia recently to talk about 'slow flowers' and how they are changing their retail practices to reduce waste and support local growers.
Georgia, can you please explain ‘slow flowers’ and why it is such an important concept.
The 'Slow' movement across different industries - such as Slow Food, Slow Living - is a philosophical approach that brings mindfulness into business, attitude of 'less is more' and the consideration of how goods are used and enjoyed. Most significantly, it is about a considered, ethical supply chain that is as locally sourced as possible. Slow Flowers are flowers purchased in the country they are grown in and a revolution against the trade of imported flowers. In Australia, the majority of cut flowers bought and sold have bloomed overseas under unknown pesticide regimes from places as far away as Kenya, Colombia and Israel. They're then flown in refrigerated cargo planes, often via additional major flower markets, and fumigated at the Australian border before being sold to wholesalers, then florists, and finally the customer. The Slow Flower movement aims to reduce these 'flower miles' by sourcing flowers as locally as possible, ideally from a nearby flower grower, or at the very least the commitment to purchasing only Australian-bloomed. By focusing on the country of origin, the industry is becoming more accountable to the right of the workers who toil in industrial flower farms.
Slow Flowers reminds us to pause and bask in the beauty of flowers and the joy it brings to care for them in your home.
Being based in Byron Bay, we are very fortunate to have many growers surrounding us. Please tell us about your favourite flower farmers.
We are very lucky to have so many wonderful growers nearby, which isn't the case for a lot of florists or a lot of regions, as we have a 12-month growing season here on the East Coast. Briana & the Atkin family from Jumping Red Ant have become our dearest friends and we spend our weekends on their Duranbah property picking roses, lisianthus, proteas, serruria and eating all of their delicious vegetables. Briana is leading the flower production on the farm and it's inspiring to be around another young woman, all of us having a go, learning and leaning on each other for advice. It's one of the most special business friendships we've made. Hannah from Our Little Flower Farm has a wealth of knowledge we're always calling upon and she creates a stage for many local growers to come together at the Newrybar Merchants. Popping up there on a Friday for a coffee and a haul of local blooms from around the Northern NSW is a kind of heaven everyone should experience. Redlands Fresh Flowers are contributing an important role by growing at a larger scale to provide local Australian-grown options at the Brisbane market. Their roses and amaranth are second to none.
Based on the seasons, what are your favourite flowers?
Playing favourites is too hard for florists but here are my instinctive answers.
In Winter, the humble yet magical Australian Flannel Flower - native to NSW and name for it soft, flannelette-like petals. Its white daisy shape with tiny sage-green tips floats delicately atop furry grey stems and to my surprise it's scent is faintly like melon confectionary.
Spring brings the Ranunculus in their tissuey, ruffled skirts bloomed in every colour from burgundy-black, true scarlet, gold, peach and the faintest water-colour pastels. Our favourite variegated and shaggy-centred varieties get truly psychedelic. They aren't known for their scent - they just have a fresh, sunny buttercup smell to them - but they get really stinky in the vase if you don't keep that water clean!
Over the summer we love waterlilies! There is a local grower we visit when we need lots, but mostly we love the excuse to visit our friend Zana and collect them from her dam. No better summer activity than stripping off, wading out through the cool water and emerging arms laden with lilies like some kind of water-siren. The waterlilies here are a bright flame-blue with a yolky yellow centre and they smell like melons too!
Autumn brings the Dahlias to Byron Bay - as big as your face and sourced in roadside buckets purchased for cash for the lucky ones driving past at just the right time. We adore the classic, feathery pom-pom varieties but we've such a soft spot for the pointy spider one in peaches and pastel yellow, and the collarette types with their painted faces looking as if they're about to break out in an Alice in Wonderland song. Not famous for their scent, but when you're cutting them their stems a savoury, peppery smell that kinda makes me hungry.
What are so things we can do to prolong the life of our cut flowers at home?
It's true every type of flower is a little different, but a good general rule to follow is - fresh cut, fresh water. The stem ends seal up very quickly - about 9 seconds for roses! Recutting them and immediately placing them in water allows the water to travel up in the flower head. Always re-cut flowers when you receive them, and then again every second or third day. My hot tip is after one week, cut the stem length in half and place into a smaller vase. It's brutal, but the flowers will get such a rush of hydration that they often push on another week. Secondly, the water needs to be clean as dirty water also prevents hydration and can rot the stems before the flower has faded. At least just a rinse and refill every time you recut or when the water is looking cloudy. Taking the time to care for your flowers is very much a part of Slow Flowers - don't see it as a chore, but an opportunity to commune with your flowers and connect with nature. A chance to see the intricacies of each individual stems on its own before returning them to the vase.
Favourite songs written about flowers:
Lotus Flower - Radiohead
Les Fleurs - Minnie Riperton
The Garden - PJ Harvey
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds "Abattoir Blues / The Lyre Of Orpheus' album just for the bluebells and the daphne on the cover.
The Thorn in Her Finger - Dirt Hand
Lilac in Hand - Amen Dunes
Garden Song - Phoebe Bridgers.
Braers sustainability practices:
Since Covid-19, we've taken the opportunity to pause and align even further with our values. In addition to our considered 'slow' approach to events and installations, we're also changing the way we do retail at Braer. On the first weekend of the month, we will be bringing our customers masses of locally grown blooms, always something soft and special, paired with something long-lasting and sculptural tied off individually into two bouquets. They can be enjoyed together in a vase to make an arrangement, or as two separate moments in the home. This first winter month features pastel cottage roses & tall protea foliage, all grown by Briana at Jumping Red Ant.
Bringing this approach to retail flowers allows us to support our local growers as well as bringing the best of the season to our customers. Over the coming months, we'll also be launching some inspiring additional options as well as teaching people more about flower care and preparation. We feel like that more we can educate our customers about flowers, the industry and the supply chain, the more we can continue to build the Slow Flower movement into the way flowers are bought, sold and enjoyed in Australia and around the world.
Georgia wears the Maya Dress throughout.
If you are in the Byron Shire, pre-order your flowers for their next delivery here.