Petra designs and arranges flower-displays, using mostly local and seasonal flowers. With her business Pomp and Splendour she supplies weddings, events and restaurants. Having decided against a shop, the florist instead works from her home in tranquil East Brunswick.
Janis: How did you come up with the idea to focus on selling seasonal flowers?
Petra: I had noticed, that I was more attracted to seasonal and local flowers, than the ones with a very produced look, or a “perfect” finish. When I moved from Byron Bay to Melbourne seven years ago, I was also very impressed by all the beautiful colder climate flowers, foliages, unusual berries and seed pods. There is such a big variety!
And I had heard the horror stories of imported flowers from countries where people are subjected to really ... poor conditions. It has never interested me, to support that kind of industries.
Do people demand for a certain flower, or you just offer what you decide to buy?
Because of our seasonal and sustainable aesthetic and ethos, we're attracting clients that are interested in that. So I don't get a lot of pressure from people to get something, that doesn't fit with our ethics. And I would say no, or guide them in a different direction.
Generally, a new client comes to you with a certain idea?
Depends. For our restaurant clients, we'll go and have a look at the space, considering it with diners and movement that is happening in the environment. Obviously the flowers have to last for a week, and we have to use something that is low fragrant, so it doesn't interfere with the senses of the kitchen.
But for weddings, the clients often know exactly what they want, or what colour they like. Then it's a matter of listening to everything they tell me, assessing their colouring and the kinds of things they're attracted to. From that, I come up with a creative brief that is more intuitive, based on the interaction.
Are you surrounded by people who do similar things?
Definitely! In our friendship-group are a lot of people working in their own business, with their own vision and focus. Having lived here the last few years, I found in Melbourne is a community that supports that. A really nice way of everyone supporting each other.
So you wanted to become a florist from when you were little?
I grew up outside of Sydney, on a big property with lots of bushland and have always felt at home in nature. After studying and travelling, I wanted to work somewhere beautiful and started doing some floristry. I thought, if I'll work as a florist part time, I can pursue other creative interests part time as well, which is what I did for many, many years. So floristry was only a part time thing until a few years ago, when my life took different twists and turns. I found myself wanting to do things my way, and to have a really nice lifestyle in doing that.
Working from home, working with beautiful people, and not putting up with customers that expect or demand a corporate level of behaviour, but a much more relaxed and easy-going feel. Feels like all people, whether it's floristry or any other kind of small businesses of design, are moving in that kind of direction.
What did you study?
I studied acting, but was always really shy (laughing). It was good for me at that time, but it doesn't really suit me. I love the theatre, but I was also interested in set-design. In a way, setting up big events and installations with flowers and plants, is kind of doing that! And also marrying my love of nature. So it has worked out in an interesting way.
Something you would have done differently?
Good question - probably wouldn't have stressed. I was short of money for the first year or so, and I guess that's just the fear of failure, but I was full of self doubt, like: I'm working hard and nothing's happening! Nobody knows who I am or where I am! How will they ever know?! (smiling)
What is the most difficult thing to manage so far?
Trying to manage myself some relaxation time. The girls [her two assistants] are excellent and can do everything, but yet I feel like I need to be involved. I can be better at giving myself a day off and letting them take care of things. Slowly, I am making progress (smiling)... but I would love to be able to switch off a bit more.
So you are a team of three and for special occasions you get in more helpers?
Yes. Friends in the industry, or people who have done work experience in the past.
And my partner is actually a massive part of the business - I could not have done this without him. He's been there from the start.
Your most beloved part of your everyday workings?
There is more than one (smiling), and I don't always like them (laughing)...
I have to say, it is wonderful to rediscover from season to season a flower that's around! But then of course, getting that experience, I am at the flower market and it's 4am. So as much as I love that, it also has it's shadow side.
Really nice is also the human contact side. The clients we attract are always so beautiful, and when you've genuinely made someone's day and they tell you - often very emotionally - it is so rewarding!
Please tell me more about the produce, was it tricky to find good suppliers...?
At the flower market I'd say a good ninety percent is local, because the Dandenong area in Victoria grows most of the flowers in Australia! So we are lucky already, but over the course of the years, I've also got to know different local wholesalers, who don't sell at the market. Some of them are growing the old varieties of beautiful heirloom flowers, that you don't see so frequently.
How do you benefit from selling locally and fairly produced flowers?
The flowers seem to last longer. Obviously if they're in season and local, they haven't had to travel so far. We get the best of what is available at the time and a chance to celebrate, what is in season! Also, a lot of these suppliers I deal with are small scale farms. They're family businesses and I love the interaction, it's fun!
What is your bestseller?
The most popular request is a David Austin Rose, a popular summer wedding flower! These come from a grower in the Geelong area at a beautiful farm, where old varieties of roses are growing outdoors.
What will be the next big investment for your business?
We need more space! Yeah, we might have to move out of the home studio, sadly, but we'll move nearby.
And if you're not here, you enjoy being....?
..anywhere in nature, far from the city!
Daylesford is beautiful to get out into the country, especially in the winter months. And I love going down to the Mornington Peninsula in summer time. Merricks beach is probably my favourite beach down there.
In Melbourne I love the area around here, we're so spoilt for choice in terms of cafes and restaurants! Mankoushé is probably one of my favourite restaurants at the moment and just around the corner. Pope Joan or Green Park are pretty good for coffee. And we like to go for walks or bike rides down the Merri Creek.
What's on your agenda for the rest of the day?
We're going to finish the arrangements for our clients, and then Asha and I are going to do some creative brainstorming.
Thank you Petra Cremming for the interview! To find out more about her work visit her website here.
photography, interview & text: Janis Manini Claudia Kanga