Penny of Down The Garden Path Botanical Studio loves to create ‘wild and whimsical design’ letting nature do the talking. And talk it does – with blooms at the point of perfection, greenery spilling in seeming disarray from the arrangement, and colours and shapes in harmony. A lot of us see a bunch of flowers and they are just that – beautiful and a fleeting pleasure. But combined in unusual ways in the hands of a skilled person with an eye for the unusual and beautiful, something magical happens and a transformation takes place. From a tumble of leaves and flowers grows a work of art, worthy of any bride’s dreams on her wedding day.
Where is your store front situated?
In Freshwater Village on the beautiful Northern Beaches of Sydney.
What attracted you to Floristry as a profession?
I always knew I had to do something creative with my hands – I’m not a sit-behind-a-desk kinda person, so when a friend suggested it to me one day as we were walking past a florist shop I was instantly convinced – but the beauty of the flowers is really the main attraction – the colours, the shapes, the scent just pleases me and has always kept my interest. Even now after nearly 20 years in the industry I am still discovering amazing new flowers and foliage that I haven’t come across before.
Please describe a typical wedding work day?
I’m up early on the day of the wedding – all the wiring work has to be done on the day so I’m usually making flower crowns, buttonholes and corsages in my pyjamas at 6am. Then I’m just finishing off all the finer details, adding silk ribbon to the bridal bouquets, giving every single flower some love, be it picking off a bruised petal or prising a bloom open – I make sure they look perfect. Then I’m on the road delivering the bridal party flowers and setting up the ceremony/ reception flowers. I try to do as much as possible in the studio so that the set up runs as smoothly as possible.
How would you describe your floral/botanical style?
I was classically trained for several years then went on to work for a place where all the rules were made to be broken, so I like to think I can ‘do’ every style of floral design – but I am happiest when working with garden style flowers – big blousy roses, with layers and layers of petals combined with their heavenly scent, trails of jasmine, bundles of lilac and wild and wispy sweet peas – that is my happy place! I’m also a huge fan of the colour pink so a lot of my designs have a feminine and romantic feel to them.
We can all go into the garden and just pick flowers to plonk in a vase. But what is that special something that sets your style of ‘wild and whimsical’ apart from us ordinary flower pickers?
Being a floral designer – you are dealing with the same principals as an artist – form, colour, space, texture – every placement of every stem is carefully planned to show the flower in its best light. I am very particular about my colour combinations as well and always give a lot of thought to this element before I start each design.
How do help the bride decide on her floral style? How do you guide her decisions, allowing her to understand what you wish to create for her?
After discussing all the details of the dresses, the location and the overall feel of the wedding I’m able to get an idea of what type of floral style will work. Our initial consultation lasts about an hour and it generally takes about a week for me to put together a quote for the couple as I include loads of imagery of the kind of thing I would like to create so they get a really good visual on what I intend to do. I always give my honest opinion on their ideas and make suggestions that will enhance the look they are trying to achieve.
Are you all about using what is in season?
Absolutely – it just makes sense for everyone – in saying that, if there is a particular flower the bride loves or has a special meaning I will do my best to try and get it in for her.
What do you love about creating bouquets and ceremony/reception arrangements for weddings?
Everything! When you’re doing flowers for a wedding you want the flowers to be looking their absolute best on that day as opposed to bouquets for gifts or flowers for the home that you want to last a while – so roses should be fully open, peonies almost on the verge of shattering- no closed blooms allowed!
Weddings are such a joyous occasion – the room is filled with love and I am thrilled to be a small part of creating that love.
What is your main challenge or focus when planning and creating flowers for a wedding?
I would have to say timing – I always draw up a timeline of what needs to be done in the days leading up to the wedding, always allowing time to fix up any issues that may arise – you only get one shot at it so there really in no room for error. A key part of this is when to get the flowers so that they are in peak condition for the wedding day.
Do you also offer a wedding styling service? How does this fit in with the floral side of your business?
I have done a lot of wedding styling in the past – it works really well for the bride as she only has to deal with one person for everything -I can source props, decorative items and provide a full set up on the day, taking care of all the little details that make up the big picture.
Does this ensure that the whole look throughout the wedding is cohesive – right down to the containers you use and finishing touches such as candles?
Exactly right ! All those little details are so important to the overall feel.
When you see your finished work just before a wedding is about to commence – do you pause a moment to take it all in – what do you feel?
It’s always a proud moment when you can stop and admire the scene – I breathe a huge sigh of relief and give myself a high-five!
What do you like to do with the flowers after the reception is over?
I always encourage the bride and groom to offer them to their family and friends at the end of the night – it’s a nice token for those people special to the couple, to have them afterwards.
What are your dreams for Down The Garden Path?
For it to be successful – and by that I don’t mean “to make lots of money” – if I am happy, content and challenged in my work every day then I believe that is success.
Creating flowers for weddings is something I LOVE doing, so if can continue to do that then I’m so happy.
How do you like to spend your spare time?
We are very fortunate to live right across the road from the beach so my down time in summer is spend there- reading, swimming, resting and rejuvenating.
I love scouring markets and vintage shops for treasures to put in the studio (or keep for myself if I can’t bear to part with it!)
And I’ve always got a crafty project on the go – wire sculptures, sewing, paper maché.
What do you love (and miss) about living in New Zealand?
My garden – Sydney is the first place I have lived in without a garden – and I didn’t realise how much of an important role it played in my daily routine – being in the garden, seeing things you have planted growing and flourishing is incredibly pleasing to me, it’s almost therapeutic.
And of course my family and friends!
Image by Paul Tatterson
What have you discovered about living in Sydney that has been a surprise to you?
I love everything (besides the traffic) about living in Sydney! I feel incredibly lucky to have ended up here and feel very content calling Sydney home.
The beaches, the tropical feel in summertime, the friendly people, and especially the variety in the flowers year round is amazing!
Thank you Penny for sharing your story. Beautiful and magical flowers to perfume your wedding day. To find out more about Down The Garden Path Botanical Studio visit the website.
Headshot by Down The Garden Path Botanical Studio.