Lockdown, learning and peeking into people’s homes

As I write this, we are still in lockdown but I love the idea that at some point, in the not too distant future, I will be able to look back at this blog with a sigh of relief that it is over and that a new normal has been established.

For this ‘new normal’, my current self has been, well, reimagined: I am now an absolute pro at Instagram Live, proficiently creating Oscar worthy videos on social media in ten minutes flat. I saunter down the street with a newfound appreciation for freedom, feeling nothing but love towards my fellow citizens. I meet up with new industry friends introduced to me via the medium of YouTube and InstaLives. My hair is stunning, my nails perfectly manicured, and my abs… well, let’s just say, all those workouts with Joe Wicks have had the desired effect.

The Real World

Of course, that is a complete fantasy, we have a long way to go before we can safely say that this is over – if indeed we ever can. And whilst we are still in lockdown, it is, of course, the scientists, doctors, health professionals, policy makers, food suppliers and civil servants (to name but a few) who are out there working; undoubtedly feeling the pressure to both do their job and keep themselves and their nearest and dearest safe.

As florists, it won’t surprise you to learn that we aren’t considered in any way to be “key workers”, but still, like many others, we are trying to ‘do the right thing’. We have battened down the hatches and are keeping indoors. We are also feeling a bit guilty that we cannot be more useful.

Lockdown and Learning

When we were required to close the Hybrid studio in March, we needed to do something with the flowers we had left in stock and so we brought them home with no real plan for their future other than to give them away to people who we felt most deserved them. I consider myself a bit of a ‘creative introvert’ and struggle at the best of times to put myself centre stage, however after a chat with a marketing friend, Keren Lerner at Top Left Design on a Zoom call, she convinced me to bite the bullet and make a video of what we did with the flowers. So, I did (it can be found here…) and, actually, it was fun! Since then, I have encouraged others to do similar and have participated in InstaLive interviews and ‘how to’ videos.

We have seen lots of amazing initiatives within the creative industry where people have used their talent and skills to keep others entertained and enthralled; dance classes, art demos, book readings, the fabulous “One World: Together at Home” virtual concert, organised by Global Citizen. And for those of us whose creative yearning is greater than their desire to keep out of the limelight, there is unique potential here to be creative on your own terms.

I am willing to bet that those creative people who have stayed home have tried at least one new thing to keep themselves inspired and entertained and have probably shared it by the medium of the internet. We have given it a good ‘go’ and this, we think, is good for the soul. In our house we have become great fans of Channel 4’s Grayson’s Art Club with artist Grayson Perry encouraging viewers to paint whilst challenging them to do something out of their comfort zone.  Perry believes that ‘art can help us get through this crisis’ and that ‘creativity is a way of dealing with what’s going on in your life’ and we wholeheartedly agree.

During lockdown many of us have gone back to activities we used to love as kids. We have got creative with the items we have had to hand and completely embraced the idea that nothing needs to be polished and infinitely orchestrated so long as you have made a bit of an effort! But I have to admit that one of the best things about the programme is that we get a glimpse inside Grayson’s art studio…

Having a Peek!

Come to think of it we would never have had this candid peek in to these homes of people on TV before lockdown?! I’m pretty sure we are all fascinated by the live interviews on our screens that give us an insight into people’s real-life homes!

Sometimes I have to ask myself: am I watching this for what the person has to say, or because I can have a nose at what’s on the person’s bookshelf? A layer of mystery has been removed and we can see people in a new way. And for that matter we are even seeing our friends, clients and work colleagues in a new way whenever we have a Skype or Zoom call with them.

When the country first went into lockdown, Hybrid set up a WhatsApp group for our team and other floral friends and called it “Let Hope Bloom” (which has been the #slogan for the flower industry throughout the pandemic). Every day since we have shared creative ideas and images of our surroundings with each other, sending photos of nature waking up across London and the Home Counties. We have documented the rise and fall of daffodils and tulips, witnessed the stunning varieties of blousy blossom on London streets (the best place to see blossom is on a suburban street!), bluebells, lilac and clematis. We are now onto poppies, peonies and roses and each day, we admire these and share them with each other. I don’t think that we appreciated British flowers in quite the same way as we do now.

And yes in ‘old normal’ times we would spend every day with each other, completely accepting of each other’s skills and talents as florists but somehow through or our WhatsApp group we have become even more creative and got to know each other even better. We have been making things to please ourselves and sharing these (and our other talents and skills) with pictures from our own homes. And we have become so much closer as a result.

Working from home, with my children off school isn’t always easy! But immersing myself in my children’s world has provided much needed escapism! We have painted images of flowers, made floral headdresses, decorated hula hoops, filled jam jars with wildflowers, painted Easter eggs and made paper flowers (not that you require children to do any of these things!) We have rediscovered hobbies from yester-year and taught ourselves new things too.

It’s all about connecting

So, whilst we may be feeling guilty and sad that we are not in our studio right now we know we are doing the right thing. We are staying home and finding new and exciting ways to communicate with the outside world. We are sharing what we are good at whilst learning new tricks too. We are thankful that our minds are being kept occupied and we can share our creative take on floristry from the comfort of our own home.

If you have any questions you’d like to ask about arranging flowers, floristry in general or the industry, we would love to hear from you. Please also share any pictures you may have of flowers you have grown or arrangements you have created.

15 Years into 15 Minutes: The Christchurch Creative Interview

This month we celebrate our fifteenth birthday. In fact, we can’t quite believe that we have been creating Hybrid floral designs in this amazing city of ours for fifteen whole years! We couldn’t think of a better way to honour the occasion than to re-post an interview our Caroline gave to Christchurch Creative earlier this year.

When the lifestyle and interiors journalists asked us to take part in their famous ‘15 minutes with…’ piece we were overwhelmed.  Not only does their Style & Decor blog celebrate floral design, they also cover the creative industry as a whole, featuring some of the UK’s most successful independent furniture, interior and fashion designers, photographers, bloggers, stylists and retailers.  To be one of their chosen few has certainly been one of our highlights! 

So here it is, the past 15 years in the UK’s creative world, condensed into 15 minutes….

15 mins with…Caroline Ball of Hybrid florists

We catch up with Caroline Ball, co-founder of one of London’s leading florists, Hybrid Flowers, who created the florals for the St Paul’s Cathedral wedding of TV presenter Ade Adepitan and singer-songwriter ‘Elle Exxe’ last year. In this exclusive interview, Caroline reveals her favourite seasons for flowers, the latest floral trends and more here:

Tell us a bit about yourself and the team?

After studying Communication and Animation at Goldsmiths College, I was unsure of my next step. I thought it very unlikely that I would be paid to stand in gardens all day painting flowers. So I took a job working for a florist on Fulham Road. It didn’t take me long to realise that this was true happiness.

I could never wait to see the results of my work. However, in floristry, impatience is a perfect attribute as the flowers will not wait for you! You must make something beautiful quickly, before they die.

Whilst working in London, I kept bumping into this extravagant mad (and highly talented!) guy, Alan Simpson. He then become my best friend and business partner. Together, we started Hybrid and now employ 14 people from around the globe.

How and when did you set up Hybrid?

Call it “youthful optimism” but in my 20’s I decided I only needed few pounds a week to live on. So, with little to lose, I began my own corporate contracts for offices. Back then, I didn’t even have a driving license!

At the same time, Alan was asked by a gorgeous Anglo-Italian couple if he could create their wedding flowers. In fact, they were struggling to find someone who would work between Christmas and New Year. He conscripted me and together we worked non-stop over Christmas. So we created the most amazing Art Deco-inspired glamorous ‘Italian meets East End’ wedding in the Park Lane Hotel.

Following on from this success, I somehow convinced Alan that he didn’t need much money to live on either and he should come and work with me! He agreed (phew!) and, in 2004, Hybrid was launched. We have never looked back.

How would you summarise the work you do?

Alan and I are proud to be one of London’s top flower companies. In addition, it’s a great privilege to create beautiful arrangements for an astounding array of events, parties, weddings, hotels and offices.

Our team is magnificent; their knowledge, training and unique perspectives challenge and inspire us every day. Our work is custom-designed to the client; one day, we may create wedding flowers in Holland Park. Then the next day, a huge reception piece for a large bank in Canary Wharf.

Where are you based?

Nestled in the railway arches of London’s Vauxhall, our flower studio is the florist’s nirvana: space for props, vases and work benches; a cool temperature that flowers love and a creative office space for client meetings and team brainstorming. What’s more, it’s just a stone’s throw from our favourite suppliers at the Flower Market.

What types of floral arrangements do you make?

We turn our hands to making anything. Once, a client called to ask if we could create a laurel chaplet (like Olympians are given on the podium). They had been calling florists all over, but none knew how to make one. However, we knew exactly what to do owing to our training in traditional floristry techniques.

Can you tell us about some of your recent commissions?

A few months ago we created the florals for Ade Adepitan and Elle Exxe’s wedding at St Paul’s Cathedral and Queens House, Greenwich which was covered in Hello! Magazine. It was a wonderful brief covering Ade’s background from Nigeria and Elle’s Scottish roots. We could use any flowers as long as they clashed!

Recently, we created the table centres for Brockman’s Gin. These featured beautiful deep coloured black branches strung with candlelight, decorated with rich red foliages and our current favourite: beautifully patterned begonia leaves.

We also design and install Christmas décor for hotels and work with the most amazing festive colour schemes. Last year’s favourites were nude colours with caramel, apricot and silver.

How does a commission for a wedding or event vary from a corporate commission?

For weddings, most people have poured a lot of time and thought into planning this once in a lifetime event. We keep this understanding at the forefront of our minds and help our clients find the best way to achieve their dreams whilst keeping within their budget. Our aim is to be realistic and creative in equal measures.

For a corporate commission, the idea is for florists to use flowers to represent a brand or identity. But, more and more, an amazing corporate event is all about creating truly memorable experiences for the guest in which they may be transported to another world.

Do you have a favourite type of project to work on?

We love working on events which have a quirky element. Often our clients spend hours planning a major annual event and conjure up the most amazing brief. We love discussing their and our ideas and creating sample designs for them to view. It helps when the event is held at a amazing venue as we are then given access to view the most amazing spaces from behind the scenes.

Tell us about some of the buildings you have dressed?

As London florists, we have dressed many iconic buildings: from Parliament, The London Eye, The Gherkin, Tower Bridge, The Shard, Shakespeare’s’ Globe, Canary Wharf and anywhere in between. Our work has included dressing strip clubs in Soho, hotels on Park Lane, Castles in the country side and boats on the Thames. We are also on the suppliers list for The British Museum, the Museum of London, Queen’s House, Cutty Sark, Merchant Taylor’s Hall, The Royal Observatory. We will always be proud to be a floral supplier to St Paul’s Cathedral which, for us, is the most iconic building in London.

What are your favourite flowers to work with?

Honestly, we do not have favourites. Each flower has natural qualities that can be used to create something amazing. Some flowers are easier to work with than others. Some are perfect for long lasting installations whilst others are wonderful for an instant ‘wow’ factor.

Roses, if opened to perfection, will always look stunning. However, our studio will particularly appreciate any flower which appears delicate whilst having longevity!

How many different types of flowers do you work with?

On any given day, our suppliers have access to thousands of varieties of flowers from all over the world. Ecuadorian roses are stunning, Italian agapanthus are massive and British sweet peas are divine. As leading florists, we are constantly on the lookout for new varieties in unique colour combinations or shapes. Last year, we worked with the cymbidium growers Cy More Flavour and Marrewijk Amaryllis growers in Holland. It was so fascinating to hear all about the passion these family businesses put into creating new breeds of flowers.

What is your favourite season for flowers?

We love either early or late summer. Early summer brings the most beautiful fresh foliage and seeing fresh buds gives us the feeling of anticipation and joy – there is a reason that Chelsea Flower Show is in May. The colour of flowers becomes more intense in late summer: dahlias and chrysanthemums look like they’ve stored up the warmth of the summer sun in their petals, which are deep and rich. It is possible to source most flowers all year round. But, if they’re out of season, they can be expensive and never seem as vibrant and flavoursome (strawberries in February anyone?).

What is your preferred colour combination?

Some flowers look great on their own in a vase. For example, a big bundle of blue iris in bright, daylight-filled room can look stunning. However, sometimes you can create the most amazing combinations of colours by spotting a tiny fleck of colour in the throat of, say, an orchid, and placing a colour matched flower or leaf next to it that will really bring that out.

Which projects do you have in 2019?

We have some really exciting projects on the horizon. One in particular is a ‘Sustainability’ event showcasing planted elements, recycled containers and locally grown flowers combined with a fantastically kitsch leaf motif.

Any floral trends we should look out for this year?

People are becoming more and more aware that flowers, plants and foliages can be used to create a vibe, feeling or atmosphere – think more ‘installation’ than flowers in a vase.
Be on the lookout for dried flowers, quirky grasses, funky plants; there is nothing off limits and there never will be!

Where do you get your inspiration?

Often our aim is to recreate the great outdoors, inside. Perhaps a client’s childhood memory of a calm woodland filled with bluebells. It is so often about nostalgia. We also get our inspiration from other creative industries such as architecture, interior and graphic design and other iconic eras from history.

Do you have any top tips for wannabe florists?

We recommend finding out what being a florist is really like and being open to hearing the bad stuff. Floristry College is one option as is work experience: both training and experience are essential to getting a foot in the door. Many people only want to be events florists but you can’t only be a party florist without knowing how to do the less glamorous things.

Search the internet for blogs and articles on floristry or speak to local florists. When people say it is hard work, it is really, really hard work. Back-breaking, hand-ruining sleep-depriving and stress-inducing. There are no short-cuts, but if you’ve still not been put off, enroll in a floristry course that will give you work experience too. Choose a good course that will teach you the boring bits too. You need to know it. 

….Spring 2019 

So that’s it.  Fifteen years in 15 minutes from the perspective of our Caroline.  We cannot quite work out the precise date of our 15th Birthday (as how do you mark the very beginning of something any way?) but all we can say is that sometime in March 2004, all those years ago we started on our journey.  We met some amazing people in that time and built the best network of wonderfully talented and dedicated people from suppliers, clients and florists who have come together over the years to make our little world go round…. here’s to the next 15! 

How to style a wedding the perfectly imperfect way

There is a school of thought which argues that Western ideals of beauty are based in symmetry and perfection, whilst in the East, aesthetic value can be found in the damaged or imperfect.  For this particular wedding day, we were asked to create florals for our perfectly named couple Emily and Emile, who wanted beauty conveyed in an utterly imperfect way!

Not only did our clients eschew typically ‘perfect’ flowers, they were also into the aesthetic of broken things. To clarify, Emily and Emile are great admirers of the ancient and very beautiful Japanese art of Kintsugi.

The inspiration:

Kintsugi, which literally means ‘golden joinery’, is the art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer which has been mixed with powdered gold, silver or platinum. Dating back to the 15th Century, it has evolved into an art form by which utterly unique and beautiful objects are created from once broken pieces.

In promoting repair as an intrinsic part of an object’s history, Kintsugi has become a metaphor and philosophy for life: for some it demonstrates human resilience and how we as people develop from negative experiences, taking the best from them and owning them, which in turn makes each of us who we are.

The brief:

And with this in mind, our challenge; should we choose to accept it, was to piece together a very relaxed look, with simple, unassuming flowers but in a very careful, impeccable way.  We would need to incorporate wild, rambling natural foliage into very formal and historic London buildings: St John’s Church in Notting Hill and Merchant Taylors Hall in the City.  Our clients wanted us to make everything look effortless and unaffected, whilst at the same time paying every attention to detail.

No problem, we accept!

We briefed the team that the look was to be disordered, but that we need to be meticulous about how we created it! We agreed to avoid using typical ‘flower-shop’ flowers –so no dahlia, tightly spiralled roses or trendy succulents – and turned our eye to using branches, foliage and simple, elegant flowers that could hold their own without shouting ‘everyone look at me!”. Through the usage of symbolic thistles and olive, our floral designs were to look very natural and gratifying.

The details:

September is the perfect time of year for wild looking late summer flowers.  Using a floral palette of white, along with touches of red and blue to complement the venue interiors, we incorporated masses of stunning eucalyptus with lots, and lots, of candlelight.

We worked with wedding planner extraordinaire Knot and Pop to create a beautiful look for the bridal party, ceremony and reception.  A loose and flowing bouquet for the bride was made from eucalyptus, dill, the most heavenly mix of garden roses and white scabiosa and astrantia, together with thistle, wild blackberries and twigs. The simple, delicate and timeless button holes for the gentlemen were made from the roses and thistle for Emile. With the cool tones of blue found in the thistle highlighting the stunning bridesmaids’ dresses and the tiles of the St John’s Church, the look for the ceremony was one of pure elegance.

The venue:

For Merchant Taylors’ Hall we created a feature entrance design to look as if it were growing around the formal grand stair-case. Simple white delphinium, hydrangeas, grass-like red sanguisorba, garden roses, blackberries, eucalyptus, olive and ruscus all combined to compliment this stunning historical hall.

The Parlour, with its 18th Century original Chinese wallpaper, was simply dressed with a rambling, but not over-the-top, mantel design of matching flowers which perfectly complimented the collection of elegant furniture.

The courtyard, a hidden gem within the City of London, was beautifully set with white dressed drinks tables tied with swags of foliage and dressed with a smattering of key flowers.  Later in the evening the courtyard became alive with the dancing, flickering flames and shadows from candles which combined to create an atmospheric and befittingly romantic space.

Rambling eucalyptus and olive garlands were laid along the stunning guest tables in the Great Hall, interspersed with blown roses, blue thistle and deep red juicy blackberries. The nodding seed-like heads of sanguisorba and scabiosa were entwined amongst lots and lots of candlesticks and perfectly set tapered candles.

No detail was missed from the perfectly positioned tables, the stunning dining chairs and exquisite place settings which were styled by Susie at Knot and Pop.  And as for that reference to the beautiful art of Kintsugi? Well, everything that Susie touched that day, definitely received a dusting of gold!

All stunning images courtesy of M&J Photography

Christmas styling … why you don’t need to throw loads of flowers at it!

In case you’ve not noticed, soon it will be Christmas; that most wonderful time of the year! A time to relax, be merry, deck the halls! With social media awash with images of the perfect Christmas, from opulent flower walls to entire buildings covered in decoration, you may be forgiven for thinking that to create a Wow, you must GO BIG!

Of course, insta-images of 12 foot high Christmas trees swamped in bows, candles and glitz create a real impact, but, as a rule, at Hybrid we abide by the “less is more” adage; we believe that the essence of Christmas can still be captured using a few, well chosen, beautifully styled flowers rather than a tonne of sparkly birch trees. 

For our designs at this year’s London Christmas Party Show we were asked to create a design within an alcove at the largest Livery Hall in London, Plaisterers’ Hall, which backs on to the remains of the original Roman London Wall. In this unique venue, we wanted to create a lush Christmas atmosphere without going too over the top; we wanted the warmth, the magic and the feel of Christmas but didn’t want to chuck glitter at everything.

The essence of Christmas style:

To achieve this, we decided to go back to basics and asked ourselves what is the essence of Christmas? What are the most Christmassy colours, scents, textures around, and which little touches can we add to our design to make people feel the magic of Christmas?

We challenged ourselves to create a timeless design that would be in-keeping with a Christmas scene from when the original Plaisterers’ Hall, was built back in 1556, as well as combining the essence and spirit of a contemporary 2018 Christmas. Our solution: a colour scheme of red, amber, gold and emerald green mixed with velvety textures and lots of shiny things.

And so we set about creating a bit of an optical illusion within our curved alcove.  Appearing as if a rounded table was set into the wall (when really it was half a table making the most of the deep curved alcove behind) we filled the space with lots of Christmassy details.  We used two different textured velvet cloths sourced from our friends at Borovick Fabrics in Soho and a beautiful lace edged chargers.  We used brushed gold cutlery, tumblers and goblets and added beautiful, rich, warm coloured fruits like pomegranates, oranges and grapes.

And of course, no Christmas table would be complete without a scattering of cinnamon sticks and candlelight.  Our key flowers were scarlet coloured roses, opened to perfection, combined with traditional poinsettia flowers and glossy green foliages.

Bearing in mind our “less is more” philosophy, the next question we asked ourselves was quantity: we knew these lovely festive details would speak for themselves but what if – What If – we went BIG, just this once? We ‘ummed’ and ‘ahhed’ for all of 5 minutes before deciding that whilst a smattering of Christmas details would hit the festive spot perfectly well, should we not throw caution to the wind and really indulge in the joy of Christmas?

And with that, we were off! We ordered ourselves not one, but two types of velvet red rose, ‘Red Naomi’ and ‘Freedom’ which we set amidst the shiniest, deepest green aralia leaves we could find, contrasted with touches of Cupressus foliage and combined with the most beautiful faux silk poinsettias. There was no holding back as we sprayed pomegranates gold and studded the oranges with different patterns of cloves, finished off with a red ribbon.  And what Christmas table isn’t complete without a full-on floral arch full of red flowers and winter foliage completely surrounding the festive setting?!

Looking back, we feel a little giddy! Those glass-urns, the goblets, That Arch! All adorned, stuffed, embellished with hundreds of breathtakingly beautiful roses. Was our flirtation with opulence worth it? Well! We think it might have been, especially as we won the award for Best Stand was as voted by the visitors (a delightful surprise).

Our top tips for creating the look:

But truly and honestly, we feel that the same effect can been created with a lot less, our ideas for decorating your own Christmas party without breaking the bank are below:

  1. Red

Use red, sparingly, in the same way as a movie star may use a dash of scarlet lipstick, to create a hint of glamour and colour without drenching the senses. To do this, you must find the most vivid red flowers you can afford, but here, less is definitely more, don’t get too many: roses or poinsettia plants are perfect (you can cut poinsettia flowers and place in vases of water for a more delicate look).

  1. Green

Combine with green shiny and textured foliage.  Deep green glossy leaves, such as evergreen camellia, laurel or aralia leaves from a garden are perfect, and combine these with common or garden stems of conifer (yes, we said conifer!) or, if you are bit posh, stems of rosemary.

  1. Gold

Add a touch of Gold: buy yourself a can of gold spray paint and spray pots, tumblers, little vases or candleholders deep, rich opulent gold (pears also look gorgeous touched, but not completely covered, with gold).

  1. Orange(s)

And last but never least, our most favourite Christmas decoration of all time will always be clove studded oranges.  They. Are. A. Must. Easy to create and heavenly to smell.

Image courtesy of the great guys at Splento 

Easter floral styling with four understated spring stars

When we were asked the other day to put together a few Spring floral collections to echo the essence of Easter 2018 we set about creating something that combined innocence, awe and wonder with a sense of new beginning. We wanted flowers that would excite and combine childhood fun and brightly wrapped eggs with something more delicate and subtle.

So far, this year has been besieged by cold weather and I’m sure we’re not alone in feeling that Spring is long overdue. We wanted our floral designs to hint at the arrival of Spring and thought what better way than putting these gorgeous, often overlooked, paler coloured flowers centre stage.

The understated floral stars

For us, the colours associated with Springtime and Easter are a mix of yellow, white, blue and pink. For this shoot, we wanted to focus on quirkier versions of these traditional shades.  The stars of our show were undoubtedly a cast of cute faced, butter yellow primroses; the pure white, lime flecked bells of the snowflake flower; the glowing blue rounded pods of muscari and the flamingo pink, tutu-petalled ranunculus. However, the show would not be complete without a luscious backdrop of vivid woodland ferns which were given a helping hand by a few super hardy chrysanthemum, rose and orchid flowers.

The styling details

The wonderful lodge style details of our venue, Amber Lakes such as the antler and horn inspired dining chairs and mirror frames added perfectly to the feel of the shoot.  Combining these with our own bark covered props and containers plus the most stunning branches of magnolia created the perfect setting to display the unsung heroes of the spring floral world. Add a few hanging glass globes, touches of moss-bound kokedama and succulent heads and we were in our venue styling element!

The treats

We are delighted with our enchanted Easter extravaganza however, for me the overwhelming memory associated with this shoot, is the wonderful scent of chocolate.  Chocolate mixed with fresh earth and woody foliage; chocolate mixed with delicate blue grape hyacinths and lemony primula; chocolate mixed with the delicately scented snow flake flowers.

Working on a shoot with stylist and event planner Daniella Pittorino is always an absolute pleasure and she commented on the day:

Always going above and beyond, Hybrid beautifully styled the venue… bringing the egg hunt to the table, they even tucked Easter eggs into the wonderful centrepiece!

And we didn’t eat one! This amazing Monannie cake complete with hand made Easter bunny ears on the other hand…… well that’s another story!

All images courtesy of Pearl and Pear

Three things all Zero to Hero events entrepreneurs have in common

When Clare McAndrew, Marketing Director of Story, invited us to speak on an expert panel at the London Summer Event Show, we thought to ourselves:

Well, we always love a chat, especially with other event industry creatives… but are we really that fascinating?…. and would our collective experiences be enough to inspire and advise a new generation of startups?

Clare reassured us:

Our audience would LOVE to hear your stories, especially as all of you brilliant suppliers started from nothing and went on to create something great… ! I guarantee that people would find what you have to say inspiring….. Oh and by the way the seminar is already fully booked!

It turns out, Clare was right!  Alongside our Alan (Simpson Co-Owner of Hybrid) was Peter Gibbons, the dynamic owner of Lux Technical; Susannah Mountfort, the innovative Founder & Director of Gingerline & Flavourology and Taran O’Doherty the super cool Founder & Sales Director of Yahire.  Despite each of these companies contributing to the events industry in very different ways we all had so much to say and all shared remarkably similar backgrounds and experiences.

And here are just three of them:

  1. Having that Eureka moment!

Take Alan. Alan kind of fell into floristry, and I mean that quite literally! As a teenager, rehearsing for the local am-dram production in the Church Hall, he somehow managed to topple over one of two identical floral arrangements put there for a funeral due to take place that afternoon. Embarrassed and shocked, he did his best to reassemble the arrangement and amazingly, and somewhat to his surprise, he succeeded! No one could notice the difference between the original and the one he’d recreated!  That was his calling! He enrolled himself on to a YTS and started his floristry training and the rest as they say, is ‘Zero to Hero’ history.

It would appear that we weren’t alone in local theatre acting as a catalyst for success. Peter Gibbons started his journey as a teenager volunteering for a local theatre where he developed his passion for lighting and sound. This led eventually to him buying the assets of a company whose owner was about to retire and Lux Technical was born. He now employs 10 full time staff and creates events for the most amazing clients including Google and War Child.

Susannah Mountfort’s unique idea was to fuse together art, performance, food, drink and design. On The Gingerline, guests are sent to a secret location for an evening of extraordinary performance, narrative, set design and amazing food. She has since created Flavourology and Chambers of Flavour, both offering multi-dimensional dining experiences. She even wrote her own piece of software which monitors dining guests moving through the interactive events space, this was later adapted for Starbucks.

After working for an event furniture hire company for a bit, Taran O’Doherty decided to set up his own business with his best friend from school. One night they both got drunk, pulled out a notepad did some rubbish drawings (his words not ours) and hey presto! Yahire was born. With no business plan or experience, very little money and no way of knowing how to would gain customers Taran and Ben bought 300 folding chairs and 30 trestle tables which they stored in Ben’s mum’s home. Yahire now employs 80 people and is the stand-out name in the industry.

  1. Not giving a monkey’s

So! Sounds simple? Have an idea and hey presto, you’re an entrepreneur. But stop press… all is not as it seems!   When asked about challenges along the way we all agreed on these:

#1: Getting people to take you seriously

Youth can be on your side, but if you’re starting up your own business, sometimes it can prevent people from believing in you. Peter came to London in his early 20s and agrees that ‘coming to London when not one of us were over the age of 25, was a challenge.  You need people to know that you and your company were utterly capable and able to deliver no matter what.’

Susannah took it as a challenge when working with other non-event industries as some did not take her seriously. She wanted people to recognise an ambitious plan and believe in her idea. Fortunately, ‘the desire to prove anyone who said we couldn’t do it wrong was hugely motivating’.

#2: Being motivated

Having self-control and keeping focussed can be extremely challenging. As Taran explains: ‘As a leader, remembering your goals, and not get distracted is very challenging. After a couple of years, your new company becomes a job, and it can be tough to keep focussed and move in the right direction’.

#3: Loneliness

Setting up your own business can be lonely, even when there are two of you setting out to conquer the world.

Peter advises to ‘Build yourself a support structure: my family, friends and business mentors have been key as it is a very lonely place at the top, and it feels as if you are the only person feeling it’.

At Hybrid we’ve found that as our business has grown, our clients, suppliers and staff all become as precious as our own families, so before you know it you’ve created your clan of like-minded people!

  1. “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” Yoda, Jedi Master

When Clare asked the panel what it is you need to set up your own business within the events industry: for Alan the answer was simple:

‘Passion.  So many people come to us and say:

Oh I would have loved to have done that!

I say either go and do it, or stop talking about it!’

Taran agreed: ‘So many people deliberate or say they are going to do something and find excuses not to, but you have to believe you are capable of doing anything.’

Peter adds ‘Surround yourself with people who challenge you, if you are always hands on, you are never going to be able to scale it up, so bring people in who are better than you. The key to our success has been people, there is no two ways about it.’

So if you have an idea that you think rocks, go for it! What’s the worst that can happen?

With great thanks to Splento for all images

 

The two flowers that make a florist’s life worth living over the winter months: Part Two

As florists buying from London’s biggest flower market, at Hybrid, we know for certain when winter is on its way when we spot the Dutch flower trollies neatly stacked with slim, yet surprisingly heavy, rectangular boxes full of an indispensable floral hero.

Like children opening long-awaited-for presents, we feel a genuine sense of anticipation and awe as we lift the cardboard lid to one of these boxes. Similar to a box of toy soldiers from another era, we are met with rows of individual stems: fresh green, chunky, and topped with full-to-bursting buds of giant flowers resting on pillows of foam. And we rejoice! Our beloved amaryllis has returned!

Without a shadow of doubt, the amaryllis is up there as one of the top two “Florist’s Life-Saving Winter Flowers” (and yes, that is a Thing). We looked at its partner, the cymbidium, in an earlier post, but for this piece, my aim is to create within you the same sense of wonder, respect and admiration that we feel towards the amaryllis. I shudder to think where we would be at winter time without these beautiful, powerful blooms.

Funny How Flowers Do That

To create something spectacular, you need the best, most versatile materials you can find and the amaryllis come up trumps here, giving us the option to use their amazing height and presence to create real impact. We have positioned them in giant fan-shaped vases for high-end hotel lobbies and bound together in ‘wands’ to look like a giant lollipop, which is perfect for corporate reception areas.

Their magnificently bold open blooms look fabulous used completely on their own or when placed alongside other winter and spring flowers set into all manner of simple or striking vases and vessels.

amaryllisinfo.eu

With colours ranging from the purest of whites to the most shocking of candy pinks, with oranges, peaches, reds and almost-blacks, in between, the amaryllis ticks all the boxes.

Marrewijk Amaryllis

As with the cymbidium, in our view, the best amaryllis are cultivated over the water in Holland. Our Dutch friends, Lisa and Arno van Marrewijk have run a family business growing amaryllis since 1994. Despite being growers of the most beautiful varieties of amaryllis, they like to keep the company small so Arno can remain in his beloved greenhouses and not be confined to the office. Lisa also works with amaryllisinfo.eu to promote amaryllis growers in the Netherlands. Together with their three daughters they maintain an inspiring Instagram account: @marrewijk_amaryllis
I asked them a few questions:

Why do we think of amaryllis as a winter flower?

Years ago, most amaryllis were produced in November and December because the flowers were only used at Christmas time.

An amaryllis bulb will stay in our glasshouses for the whole year and, a bit like tulips in the garden, bulbs will only flower when they have been kept for two months at a temperature below 15 degrees. One bulb can grow two or three stems within a year, so we have 6 sections in the greenhouse, each with a different cooling temperature. This enables us to produce amaryllis from September until March.

Just how popular are amaryllis in Holland?

They are popular, but there are still people who don’t know what an amaryllis is! I tell them about the bulb with big flowers at Christmas time in their grandmother’s house. But I really think that their unique selling point is that when you buy them they are completely in bud, and then they change every day and almost quite magically, become vibrant and beautiful.

Perhaps the boldest of all the amaryllis is the red variety but the wealth of colour variation for this flower is truly spectacular. Lisa van Marrewijk loves all varieties of amaryllis, but whenever a new variety is produced it goes to the top of ratings.

In my house I always cut the stems short and arrange them with some foliage from the garden, but in churches and hotels they should be tall to create impact! Amaryllis will open sooner in a warm environment and so to keep them lasting longer, place them in fresh, clean water. Every time you change the water, re -cut the stems.

At Hybrid, it has to be said that the amaryllis can inspire some quite eccentric behaviour in our florists, who may otherwise, on the whole, be quite normal (although who wants to be normal!). Our Creative Director, Alan, adores the satisfying echoey-crunchy sound made when an amaryllis’s hollow stem is cut. I find that painstakingly picking each individual fresh anther from the opening flower bud is just too irresistible (I like to get them just before their pollen turns yellow and dusty!).

However, the effect the flower has on us at Hybrid is nothing in comparison to the Greek myth which tells the story of the amaryllis’s creation! Our resident Greek florist, the gorgeous Sofia, loves to tell the tale of how the amaryllis came to be:

In Greece, the amaryllis symbolizes pride, determination and glamorous beauty.

The story goes that a beautiful maiden, Amaryllis, fell in love with a shepherd called Alteo. Alteo was as beautiful as Apollo, and mighty as Hercules and he had a passion for flowers. He insisted he would only fall in love with a girl who could bring to him a new type of a flower, one that he had never set his eyes on before. Amaryllis was determined to bag Alteo for herself (and wouldn’t you be with those attributes?) and so she turned to the great Oracle of Delphi for advice.

The Oracle told Amaryllis that in order to win Alteo‘s heart, she must wear a white dress and sacrifice her own blood for him. Amaryllis stood in front of Alteo’s house for thirty nights piercing her own heart with a golden arrow (they did things differently in those days – no I guess we’d just right-swipe?). The drops from Amaryllis’s heart fell into the soil and on the thirtieth day, a crimson flower grew where the blood had fallen. In return for this horrific, and no doubt painful, sacrifice, Alteo fell in love with Amaryllis. And maybe they all lived happily ever after!

At Hybrid, we want you too to rejoice in the beauty of the amaryllis and appreciate all the possibilities it has to offer. You won’t need to sacrifice your blood either, amaryllis bulbs can be bought from most reputable florists and garden centres now.

Hybrid Top Tip

As corporate and event florists, often, we want amaryllis to open up as quickly as possible. Key to achieving this is room temperature and we abide by a tip from one of our, now retired, flower market trader friends, who started his career in the original Covent Garden flower market as a barrow boy back in the seventies:

  1. Turn the flower upside down and cut the end of the stems
  2. Fill the hollow stems with warm water
  3. Seal the stem with cotton wool
  4. Quickly turn the flower back upright and place in more warm water
  5. Leave to open in a warm room

Trust us: it works!

With thanks to our friends, the wonderful Marrewijk Amaryllis, amaryllisinfo.eu and Funny How Flowers Do That.

The journey, the detail, and the interaction: how Sarah Kay creates “other worlds”

There is something to be said about being the last to arrive at the party.  Alright, alright we don’t mean the actual party (we get up far too early for that), we are talking about the wonderful world of event planning.

We florists, the providers of the finishing touches, often find ourselves presented with unique themes and impressive event briefs around which to create bespoke floral designs. It really does mean that no two events are ever the same.  In the last few months alone we have created floral arrangements to accompany all manner of amazing themes including Vintage Circuses, Luxury Summers, Tiki Bars, Secret Gardens and Maritime Wonders but to name a few!

Now of course it goes without saying that choosing the right floral design can be absolutely key to creating impressive event. But in order to make these occasions truly immersive it calls for a crack team of events professionals from catering, entertainment and lighting to scent and virtual reality providers . All of these industry experts have one mission in mind; to come together and create an experience for the guests that will resonate far beyond the event itself.

Ask the expert

Sarah Kay is one of the most inspired, energetic and knowledgeable experts on the UK events scene. Through her company, The Edit, Sarah organizes and consults on a broad spectrum of amazing events which transport her clients’ guests to exciting new worlds.  Ever eager to gain some exclusive insights from an industry expert, we decided to ask Sarah to some key questions on how to create an amazing corporate event. Enjoy!

What do you love most about your job?

What I love about events is that it’s creating another world for the day or evening. Guests step into a space and they’re transported – worries are forgotten and it’s all about having a good time, socialising and enjoying the moment.

Does an event always have to have a theme?

Themes certainly help to create ‘worlds’. Nowadays everything feels so fast paced and serious that a really fun theme that creates something so removed from your day to day life is hugely appealing and has maximum impact. But a ‘theme’ doesn’t mean ‘themed’. For example, we recently provided conference styling for a bank where the brief was black and white with the conversations of the day adding the colour. We added ideas that encouraged audience participation and created fun moments such as black and white balloons that were popped to reveal colourful confetti. It was about adding a fun touch without detracting from the concept of the day.

How do you create an engaging corporate event?

When you think about the journey, the detail and how guests will interact with the space. Just having huge props isn’t enough for people to feel that they’re in another place or world. It’s all about thinking how your guests will respond, what will make them smile, what would they Instagram and how will they walk away feeling. It’s more than a look, it’s a concept and should run through every element of the event from the invite through to the food, the entertainment and the atmosphere. We’ve even introduced event scents before as they evoke such powerful memories – that really helps to immerse people.

What are the three key aspects that you cannot neglect when working to a theme?

Detail, food and the journey. We design an event so that people walk in and think ‘wow’ but then as the event continues they notice the detail again and again. People remember the atmosphere and the detail. The food is something most events have and it’s missing a trick to not incorporate this into the theme. It’s such a small cost to do so therefore we think it’s essential to consider.

What has been your favourite corporate event?

My favourite event is definitely the festival theme we did at Sushi Samba with Story. It was such a fun brief and we totally transformed the space. Guests arrived and were given a lanyard with a stage schedule, wristbands and a phone charger. The journey saw them taking in four different bars, all styled to a theme, the main space which has been covered in grass, and if they were lucky enough to discover it, a secret garden (with Hybrid’s designs!) complete with liquid nitrogen cocktails and ice creams. The theme was so much fun and we really ran with it, creating a totally unexpected space at the top of a skyscraper.

Any predictions for future events themes?

I think immersive events will continue to be popular, so any theme or world but just totally all consuming, very theatrical and full on. People are exposed to so many stimulants that event themes have had to keep up and the immersive concept overtakes to create impact.

I also think natural. As the world becomes more digital people crave nostalgia, nature and relaxed atmospheres so I think we’ll see lots more of this.

Having said that technology is huge especially virtual reality which is definitely one of the event buzz words of the moment.

Any pearls of wisdom for the corporate events planner?

Always consider what you are trying to achieve. What are your goals? How do you want your guests to feel before the event, during and after? Thinking about the guest journey and experience as this really helps you plan. Also find the best suppliers as they help you create the best events – I couldn’t do it without them!

With thanks to Story for the Festival Event at SushiSamba images and The Edit for all other images.