Love it or hate it, Valentine’s day is on its way and beloveds from all over will be expressing their undying adulation with bouquets of fragrant flowers. We recently stopped to smell the roses at The Flower Studio on Military Road. Our interview with Lisa Simms gets to the heart of arranging flowers.
How did you get interested in floral design?
My grandmother was a gardener and my parents liked having a garden, so I think that’s where it all stemmed from. I remember the lilacs and peonies. It was such a short season for them so when they did come out, they were especially beautiful.
I started out just after high school working at Shady Brook Farms, planting flowers. I would transplant and nurture them. I think I appreciate the process, starting from the seed, watching it grow into a plant, and then turning into a beautiful flower. I did a night course in floral design, worked in Halifax at a flower shop for seven years, and went to design shows.
What do floral designers do, exactly?
When people think of a floral designer they may think that they just put flowers in a vase and that’s it. But to me it’s definitely artwork. It’s living art. It changes. A tulip will grow an inch or so after they’ve been cut and put in water, so you even have to consider the height in floral arrangement and prepare for it. The work requires a certain amount of premeditation to consider how the arrangement will look at that perfect moment when it’s in full bloom.
Each flower has different characteristics you can manipulate. Calla lilies bend quite easily, for example, so you can massage their tissuey stems to wrap and twist them. You have to know the make-up of the flower, how it grows. The restrictions. It’s not just an arrangement, it’s an expression, but I’m not painting or using a canvas, I’m using flowers. I really like working with the texture. Even with different greenery, whether it’s a fern or a large, flat tropical leaf, you have these amazing textures. I really connect with that. It’s like, I feel the texture with my eyes sometimes!
What is Valentine’s Day like for you?
It’s definitely a busy time. But unlike Christmas, which is also busy for several weeks, Valentine’s is just one day. You can’t send flowers on the 15th. People won’t be happy. [laugh] Everyone just thinks of red roses automatically, and, of course, they are very beautiful. But it’s nice to steer away from the ordinary, whether it’s a rose of a different colour or a tropical flower. I think orchids are amazing for Valentine’s. They are more expensive, but they’re stunning and they last so long. But, really, it comes down to making it personal.
What is at the heart of what you do?
To me it’s not just a job. I need my senses stimulated! The interaction with people adds to the work. You can arrange flowers just for the sake of it, but when you put the emotion into it, considering the people and the occasion, it makes it more rewarding at the end of the day. Flowers are tied into very emotional moments in people’s lives — whether it’s sadness because of a loss, or happiness and love because of a wedding, or the birth of a new baby. So I try to put my heart and soul in every piece.
And I just love flowers. Unpacking the flowers to see what has arrived is so exciting.
And as the seasons change, so do the flowers. So you look forward to the peonies and lilacs in June, and then come the sunflowers in the summer. It’s never-ending change, really.
Interview and photo by Ryan Davis