Between the Foliage with Homegrown Florists Jo Mann, Vanessa Prockter and Eden Hessel

Three individuals who find their trade among bunches, take 4am starts in their stride and who know what words like nosegay, candelabra and topiaries actually mean.
Joanna Gibbs
December 07, 2016

In New Zealand's shimmering city of brick and steel, businesses seem to be sprouting out of the ground, but among the chaos of concrete, a diverse group of individuals subtly reside, dedicated to complementing this concrete with an abundance of foliage and flowers.

With the unsung pressures of foreign imports into the flower market and the ever-increasing competitive nature of the business, the New Zealand flower industry needed a little loving. So earlier this year Auckland hosted the first of it's kind, NZ Flower Week which saw likeminded florists arm themselves with secateurs, double knotted aprons and creative genius showcasing their individuality and their talent and promoting local buying.

Concrete Playground chats to Jo Mann, Vanessa Prockter and Eden Hessel, three of these creative individuals who find their trade among bunches, take 4am starts in their stride and who all know what words such as nosegay, candelabra and topiaries actually mean.cp-line

Eden H2

A household name around the tables of floral and foodie families, Eden Hessel is the brilliance behind the floral assortments found at the Botanist, a café, florist and bar nestled into its own little nook at City Works Depot.

Excuse the cliché question but we would love to know what first inspired you to work in the florists industry?

From working in a cute boutique florist at the age of 11! The fast pace, hands-on, never sit down environment thrilled me along with the mysterious and love-filled reasons flowers were being sent. And then my obvious passion for the beautiful flowers.

From my experience and occasional stalking, The Botanist is a café, bar and florist. By the looks of things these trades often overlap. Have you ever dabbled in floral food styling? If so, what flowers work best with what foods?

What a good question! Well I sure as hell love to eat all the food. I'm a huge fan of garnishing dishes and edible flowers, I've done a bit of food styling when working as a florist in Europe and would love to do more here. But you can use any flower you like as long as it doesn't overpower the main dish.

From my understanding you created a subtropical floral throne from New Zealand rose varieties, where in the world did you come up with that wonderful idea?

To be honest I firstly wanted to create an actual flower-bed, but the logistics around it were to hard. I tend to use props that I already have access to so I grabbed my bedroom chair and dressed it up with the beautiful roses envisioning a gorgeous bride on her throne. I prefer to use everyday items and enhance them with the chosen product.

Last question and a significantly irrelevant one but one that non-flower enthusiasts will thank me for. The bouquets in dairies, chain supermarkets and chain florists, do you have any idea why they are constantly using bright, purple, orange and yellow wrap, which are, for want of a better word 'horrendous'? Is it simply me or does this cause your heart to die a little inside?

Thank god for them otherwise people wouldn't come to us! It baffles me, I think they are under the impression that more colour is better and people still fall for it. A lot of the chains are not actual florists and buy whatever is the cheapest and most "cost effective" with all sense of taste out the window. The customers will eventually be educated by all the great and creative florists we have in NZ. Fingers crossed.cp-line

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Vanessa Prockter is a lover of foliage, refuses to settle on a favourite flower, gives new meaning to the idea of being a morning person and runs a sweet florist and gift shop in the petite and prettiest city in New Zealand.

Can you tell us a little bit about what you created for NZ Flower Week and what flower you worked with?

I worked with stock and created a headpiece as well as a few floral designs. The stock grown in NZ gives off the most amazing scent. I just really want to help promote NZ grown flowers. We are so lucky to have the quality and variety here in NZ so it really needs to be celebrated.

I can imagine the florist industry to be at times frantic, competitive and fast-paced, is it hard to find harmony within the chaos? How do you ensure that you continue to love what you do? 

Yes, there can be chaos. But I have a great team and we all work well together and have lots of laughs. It is not hard to love what I do. It is ever changing and there is always inspiration around. I always feel very lucky to be in such a creative environment.

I understand you also have a gift shop as part of your florist, what is your personal favorite item on the shelves at the moment?

We have these gorgeous porcelain houses that hold tea lights. We have a wee village in the window. The perfect Christmas scene.cp-line

Jo Mann

Jo Mann is the owner and director behind The Wild Bunch Florist and is a fan of both peonies and pooches creating a collection of crowns and collars with the first for the latter, and finds beauty in both the calm and the chaos.

What does a typical working day for you look like?

Depending on the day of the week my days can start at the flower market sourcing beautiful NZ grown flowers and foliage, to designing weekly floral installations for our corporate clients, then as the weekend nears it's wedding and function time, nothing typical about a working day at The Wild Bunch!

Do you find your roots or stems (pun intended) for floral inspiration close to home or from some other place/individual/company in the world?

Inspiration is both far and wide, from nature, individuals, brainstorming with colleagues in store, we are lucky in this industry to have an abundance of inspirational material including the seasonal nature of the NZ grown flowers.

Would you describe your floristry as spontaneous or organized?

I would have to say spontaneous, I love this aspect of the job.

I have just spoken to my neighbors Dalmatian Basil and she thinks your floral dog collars and crowns are an awesome idea. What are the breeds and names of dog models you used and how did you pick them? 

My original idea was for one dog I had trained Cutie (my dog) to sit with a floral crown at home but then after talking with Rebecca the NZ Flower Week coordinator we decided to use her dog Rosie as well…and then it just snow balled I ended up with six pooches— Cutie, Rosie, Lily, Louis, Juno and Rocco!

The dogs were a mixed variety of breeds from SPCA specials to a pure breed Westie Terrier! I now know why they say don't work with animals on a photoshoot needless to say they all ended up with dog collars as they were way too busy meeting new dog friends to sit still for a crown! Your neighbors Dalmatian would have looked gorgeous with the red charm peonies!


Published on December 07, 2016 by Joanna Gibbs
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