We recently had the chance to catch up with florist Hazel Gardiner Design at home, and get to know a bit more about her business. Hazel's beautiful home is full of creative inspiration, and her garden it filled with homegrown, seasonal flowers. Read on to get to know Hazel.
Can you tell us a bit about how you started your business, and the inspiration behind it?
I previously ran a vintage clothing business specialising in ‘70s – ‘90s fashion called Rag & Bow. After 6 years, the business was predominately moving online, and after many years running fashion events, I missed interacting with people.
I was diagnosed with cancer before this in 2007 which fundamentally changed my relationship with nature. Gardening became my solace and grounded me during a time full of uncertainty. My relationship with flowers started much earlier in my childhood; my mum is a keen gardener with an impeccable eye for colour and designing flower schemes. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by countryside at home in Hertfordshire watching her work.
Ready to move on from my vintage business, I knew that I wanted to remain self-employed, and I kept coming back to floral design. It was the only career I felt excited about, so I took the plunge and retrained in 2016 with the intention of working on editorials and events.
I believe that everyone should have the right to access green spaces and experience flowers as it is so important for our mental wellbeing. Diversity and inclusivity on many levels are values behind what I do and how I create.
What advice would you give someone looking to start a business in the floral industry?
I don’t believe in working for free so never advise people to do work experience. Everyone should be paid to make this industry accessible. You can ask your local florist if they have any junior positions. With the popularity of floristry, I’ve seen so many online tools become available to those starting out such as the Team Flower or Botanical Brouhaha podcast and resources. There are also many self-taught florists that have been hugely successful. I still look at YouTube to learn new techniques. I would recommend the Real Flower Business with Alison Ellis who demystifies the daunting business and creative sides of the industry. There are also fantastic college courses and private courses if you have the financial means.
My ultimate tip would be to get your hands on some flowers and just start playing. There is quite a difference between the perception of working with flowers and the reality, which includes lots of manual labour and admin. There are many avenues you can pursue such as working in a shop, arranging wedding flowers or providing a delivery service. Find out what would be right for you and your lifestyle, balance is always key.
What are some of the ways you are seeking to live more sustainably?
The immediate changes I have made have been both personal and professional. The business does not use floral foam blocks which act as stem supports. Foam is a harmful substance that can take over a thousand years to fully decompose, contaminating marine life.
We work with British flowers where possible which means our product is not imported or grown on large-scale farms with pesticides. They are also full of fragrance whereas many imported flowers have had their scent gene removed to prolong longevity. We use lots of dried flowers in our work, so we minimise waste by preserving leftover blooms.
We have also looked at all our processes from incorporating recycled packaging to using reusable cable ties.
Anyone who follows me on Instagram will know about my personal love of make-up and beauty. I love discovering clean beauty brands. I use products from Haeckels, Rhug Estate and The Afro Hair & Skin Co. As I’m obsessed with gardening and am currently planning a cutting garden, I’ve been learning lots about permaculture and rewilding. Aweside Farm are a huge inspiration in how to work the land ethically and sustainably.
What is one of your favourite things about getting to work with flowers each day?
That they are ephemeral. I have a fast mind, so I relish the challenge of working and creating with a perishable product. Every year, there are new cut flower varieties that emerge. Going into London’s New Covent Garden Market to see what the British producers have grown, especially during the summer months is constantly inspiring. I’m a people person so I’m lucky to have found some like-minded fellow designers who always offer support and encouragement.
It’s a small world with lots of incredible pinch me moments but it also has its challenges. Having these relationships is vital to help us all keep going. On a simple level flowers are beautiful; you are bringing joy, a positive act that lifts the spirts and creates smiles.
How do you think the business will change with the lifting of lockdown?
There are many changes we’ve made over the last year which have forced our hand in moving the business in a digital direction quicker. I am really excited to get back to running in-person workshops but will continue digital classes as it makes learning so much more accessible.
Teaching is a passion and we’re programming classes for all levels, for those wanting to learn how to create the ultimate bouquet in a group of friends to 1:1 classes for individuals looking to work in the industry or those already in it seeking a refresh.
I predominantly work on brand events for many incredible fashion, lifestyle, and beauty clients. I’ve missed creating jaw-droppingly gorgeous installations, which are coming back. The ultimate dream is working on briefs that transform spaces with flowers. My work is often called floral set design as I relish this storytelling. I can’t wait to get back on a ladder creating mammoth hanging installations. One thing that has changed is that huge numbers of people have also been drawn to the green world during lockdown. There is a new appreciation and renaissance for buying flowers, gardening, and enjoying the outdoors. I feel like people more than ever understand my botanically obsessed mind.