When I host my colour workshops I need the venue and the flowers to really pack a punch as it’s a full-on creative day. My last Ban the Beige course back in June certainly stood up to my criteria – held at The Regency Town House, I enlisted the help of creative florist Kate Langdale. Based in Brighton, Kate caught my attention on Instagram and I just knew that she would help me create something amazing. So many of you were blown away by her colourful creations I was itching to find out more about the lady behind the flowers and how she started her journey into floristry.
I’ve been a florist for 35 years, it was actually an accident, my mum’s friend was a delivery driver for a local flower shop and she got me a junior position at 16years old- I decided to leave college to carry on working because I enjoyed earning the money – much to my mother’s dismay. Luckily I loved it, I’d always been arty and creative at school, and as it turned out I was a natural and I’ve never looked back.
Funnily enough I took my job as a florist for granted for quite a while – I was actually really interested in interior design, my friends used to ask me to help decorate their homes, we were all just getting our own flats and I would go to Greenwich market, London, on a Sunday looking for vintage lace curtains and old Victorian furniture, I would always add loads of flowers to finish!
Then friends and family started asking me to dress their houses for Christmas, I used to go mad decorating my tree and making door wreaths, they all booked me to do theirs. Then word got around that I was a florist and they started asking me to do wedding flowers too – I remember saying yes and not really knowing what I was doing but did it anyway! For my first wedding I filled the church with bright colourful anemones, I made garlands, flower crowns and posies on the pews, I copied a Pre Raphaelite painting. I loved that it was similar to planning an interior so I just combined my passion for both. I always loved art, design, styling and just making places look lovely and homely – my nanny, mum, and dad all influenced my love of vintage style and homemaking.
From the age of 19, I was self-employed working from a spare room in my shared flat, I used to rope my flatmates into helping me do buttonholes. I landed a big commission to do all the Christmas decorations in the South London branches of McDonald’s, it was a massive job and I loved it and got paid properly. I was hooked.
I worked on and off as a florist mainly in London and Ibiza, where my father lived, then I moved to Brighton when I was 25 I found a job in a small flower shop and got creative I made loads of beautiful dried flowers arrangements – they’d never seen anything like it and their customers went mad for them.
Then I opened a little vintage clothes shop for a couple of years, from which I landed a commission to restore a large derelict, regency townhouse up for a friend, it was a dream job and I closed my shop to take it on it took the best part of 5 years on and off. When I finished I was at a loose end a friend had opened a flower shop in Hove called Amaryllis and offered me a job, so I went back to floristry it was amazing such a different style of shop, I was in my element and got me so inspired – we did flowers for all the hotels and big beautiful weddings. The owner was an artist and left me to be creative, I took commissions for huge wreaths, and decorated peoples houses for Christmas which I loved doing and met lots of new clients.
I went on to open my own studio/shop at The Seven Dials, in 2006 just after my father died. I realised then that life was short and I had a feeling I wanted some stability and to just do everything I loved doing. The shop was a real mix of old French vintage furniture, I made lampshades from old lace I’d collected and made flower wreaths and posies at the weekend. Lots of my clients from Amaryllis followed me (they had closed down) and at the time it was unusual to see such a mix and I wasn’t sure people would get what I was doing but the locals loved it and my flowers too. So slowly my love of floristry just took over- there’s still hints of my vintage collection and lampshades around the shop and we use loads of vintage props and vases too. I’ve been there for 14 years now!
I love, love choosing the flower selection for jobs, and hate looking at the stock bill! I loathe being on budgets, however! But it can make you more creative. I just love having beautiful fresh stock around me. Makes me so happy. I love it all really, never ever been bored or uninspired by my job. I live in a flower bubble most of the time!
Go for it, be prepared to work hard it’s 90 percent graft, try getting a job in a florist if you can or offering to freelance on big jobs for florists, to see if you will enjoy it, then ask friends and family if you can do their weddings and events for costs until you feel confident. Keep up with flower trends, follow florists on Instagram for ideas and inspiration, if you can’t get any work experience try lots of different floristry workshops, we do one-to-one and group workshops so you can experience lots of different styles, and take lots of snaps to keep you inspired.
Set up your own Instagram gallery so you have a portfolio, for clients and other florists to see too And just practice loads, until you get your own style. My number 1 rule is never give anything out you wouldn’t love to receive – if you don’t love it, then the client won’t either, re-do it till you do!
I enjoy being in nature, love watching the change of seasons, seeing what colours are around, how things grow naturally. I trained under an Interflora florist and we had to do everything by the book, I always made everything a little bit different – I couldn’t help myself! Now it’s so great to see so many creative florists around and I’m always inspired by so many on Instagram, from around the world.
I’m glad I learned to do all the traditional styles though- I am from London and I found that people there are quite traditional, for weddings and funerals, floristry definitely has trends and fashions and I’ve been around long enough to see everything come back around again. I’m loving the trend for neon, tropical leaves, and painted flowers, that’s definitely new to me.
But if I feel I need more inspiration I usually head to the countryside with my dog and breathe!
Philippa Stanton commissioned me to decorate her book launch at The Regency Town House, in Brighton. It’s a great venue and I’d been holding floral installation workshops there for a while, so I knew it well. We both loved flower clouds, so I made a huge cloud from ‘old man’s beard’ (Clematis vitalba) it was so effective and I got inundated with people wanting to learn how to make them. So, we held a ‘flower cloud’ workshop in the semi-derelict basement of the townhouse, which was great fun. Flower clouds are easy once you know how and very popular for weddings and events as they make quite a statement. We will be hosting lots more too, check out my Instagram @katelangdaleflorist for latest workshops or email me firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to our workshop mailing list.
It’s often too hot in the summer for flowers as they tend to die quite quickly, so unless money’s no object or your lucky enough to have a cut flower garden, fill the house with scented garden roses. Otherwise, save your pennies and go on a forage – wildflowers are great in the summer and are in abundance in the countryside – I always bring a posy home – grasses, wild thyme, and daisies look so cute in little jugs or jam jars. Dried flowers are fab in the summer too- and making a big come back.
Try drying you own – roses, poppy seed heads, lavender, gypsophila, hydrangeas, can be enjoyed fresh and dried, and come Christmas when they start to look faded you can spray them gold or silver!
I only love beautiful flowers and they’re usually expensive. I’d actually rather have one huge beautiful rose by my bed, than a bunch of cheap ones with droopy heads. I can’t bare cheap flowers. When I was between jobs I’d spend all my money on flowers and live off beans n toast – nothing’s really changed, I still spend all my money on flowers. I guess dried flowers are a good way to get your money’s worth, I have a large vintage crystal vase full of pussy willow and cotton wool sticks, at home. They look lovely all year round and I just add fresh flower stems and foliage’s to the display when I know I’m going to be home to appreciate them.
I’m so lucky I get to do amazing weddings, and funeral flowers, dress beautiful venues, and create bespoke ceremonies, for some really lovely customers and clients it can be quiet magical being part of someone’s special day, all so personal and emotional. I’m sure any florist will tell you, it’s all a high when you get paid to create with gorgeous flowers on a weekly basis. I have done a few famous people’s flowers, to name a few, Elton John, Tony Blair, Nick & Susie Cave, and of course Sophie Robinson! It’s exciting but not the same as a really personal job just maybe with a better budget, but usually though agents and you’re rushed in and out.
I used to dress the Austrian Embassy in Belgravia for Christmas and loved it such a stunning building to dress. I’ve also done big budget weddings in top London hotels such as The Savoy and destination weddings in glamorous homes, with a whole team of florists, it’s a mission and there are sleepless nights and a lot of pressure, so I don’t choose to do many, but great to experience once in a while.
I love love love roses, but there are loads of others I love too, anemones were my first favourite and still love them, but something about roses they do it for me, I always have them by my bed. But it can change daily! and definitely changes with the seasons. As do my styles, it really depends what and who I’m creating for – I love a challenge, I guess my style is usually very seasonal and natural, and relaxed, I do love an English country garden. But then I can go funky and tropical too. I love it all. I design for people to so if a client likes something simple, classy and modern I can go with that style, it’s all part of being a good designer.
Interior designer, I did it for a while and still enjoy it.
I work through seasons, at the moment it’s full-on wedding season so it’s usually a day off on a Monday, unless there are funeral flowers to make. I tend to do what I call the boring things like emails, invoices, banking, sundry buying and accounts all from home or my local cafe.
Tuesday my fresh flowers arrive, I buy things in that last and flowers I need to be open for the end of the week. Wednesday my foliage arrive, I do a bit of prep work usually it’s an easy half day. Thursday more flower deliveries arrive and need conditioning, and sorting. Often on a Thursday the shop can get busy with local customers, but I’m mainly a ‘work’ studio in the summer so depends how big a wedding I have, I can’t always do both, I do usually knock up a bunch for my regulars though and I’m very lucky they are all very understanding if I can’t. They’re amazing and always come back. I’ve had people rearrange events to fit in with me! And even hold off funerals till I came back off holiday just so I could do the flowers for them, I have very special and loyal customers.
At Christmas it all changes again and it’s 8 weeks of madness, Christmas wreaths, workshops and decorating clients homes, and usually a wedding in the mix too, I do open up as a shop too, we spill out on to the pavement and along the street. We sell Christmas trees, wreaths, garlands, flowers and planted gifts. It’s all go until Christmas Eve when I drop! Then from January up until May, I will be holding lots of floristry workshops including My Wild at Heart foraging walks, my Ibiza Flower Spa Retreat, and an I’ll-de-Rey Flower Spa too, as well as one-to-one’s and installation workshops. I do workshops with Kew at Wakehurst too, which are great.
My life as a florist is always exciting, along with commissions, corporate events and styling photo shoots there’s something fun to keep me on my toes always.
Featured image at top: Photo by Katie Spicer