TALKING FLOWERS ... with Colin Gray, MD of Lavender Green Flowers
Renowned as one of London’s finest florists, Lavender Green Flowers has been creating innovative and imaginative floral artworks for weddings, parties and corporate events for more than 30 years. In the fifth installment of our TALKING FLOWERS interview series, we spoke to Managing Director Colin Gray to find out more.
ECT: You joined Lavender Green Flowers four years ago. What led you there?
CG: I come from a little bit of a unique background – food and beverage rather than flowers. But I have always been involved with events and that’s how I got to know Lavender Green Flowers. About four years ago, the owners David and Sue asked me if I would like to come on board. I’ve always been excited by design and anything floral, so I said yes, and it’s been the most incredible time.
ECT: Do you get hands-on with the design?
CG: Yes, I work very closely with the design team. The benefit of Lavender Green Flowers is that we have both florists and a design team. Our designers have a great knowledge of flowers, but they come from an interior design and window dressing background and the blessing of that is that it helps us push the boundaries of design. A florist would probably never say ‘let’s do 52m of foliage walling and underplanting with open lilies because they’d be thinking about how they could keep it watered.”
ECT: A 52m foliage wall – is that something you have done?
CG: We have - it was the last really big event we did pre-Covid.
ECT: It sounds amazing - tell us more!
CG: We were asked to create a design for a gala dinner at the British Museum. The main challenge of decorating a venue of that size for a dinner for 160 people is making it feel intimate – that’s why, after a lot of meetings and playing around with the art of the possible, we came up with the idea of the foliage walling. The actual installation had to go up in about 45 minutes, but there’s a lot of prototyping before you get to that point. You have to think seasonally and start talking to suppliers right at the start of the design process – we had the idea of using 1,600 delphinium stems, but we had to be sure we’d able to get our hands on them before proposing it to the client. Then there’s the issue of making sure all the flowers are blowing on the night – we use a hot room to get them to the right point – and, of course, the logistical challenge of putting 52m of wall together. That takes a big space. We cleared out a couple of our warehouses to make it and then hired large, articulated vans to transport the sections to the museum. It was a lot of work, but the end result looked sensational.
ECT: Do you use British blooms or imports?
CG: Both. It’s difficult to use 100% British-grown flowers for events and contracts, but we want to champion British flowers – it makes sense from a sustainability and a CSR perspective. For our business, the one good thing that has come out of the pandemic is that we’ve been able to focus on our retail side. We have a lovely shop in South Kensington and when Covid-19 stopped events, we started delivering bouquets to local customers, using flowers from a selection of really first-class British flower farms. We got these incredible peonies and, at a time when we all really needed a bit of joy in our lives, people absolutely loved them. The local delivers were so successful that we’re doing nationwide deliveries now.
ECT: Do you think the pandemic will affect flower trends?
CG: Yes. I think the fact that the garden has become another room in lockdown means that plants are going to be more popular, not just in retail where plant sales have already risen hugely, but in events too. It also makes sense from a sustainability point of view – using planted designs rather than just cut flowers means that the journey of the flower doesn’t end on the night. In terms of flowers, because so many people haven’t been able to get out into the countryside to see flowers, I think the next 18 months will be all about celebrating flowers and the seasons.
Enjoy watching our video of Colin, who shares some background on his floral business, the seasonal bloom he loves, and walks you through the door of his charming floristry shop in South Kensington.