Rosie and posies
Top Surrey florist Rosie Orr has one very impressive CV which includes creating floral arrangements for the Royal Family and some of Britain's most loved telly shows. We caught up to find out more...
Rosie Orr is the Surrey-based florist who’s designed floral arrangements for hundreds of clients including the Royal Family. She’s also created flower arrangements for top TV series like Downton Abbey and The Crown, among others. And not only that, she’s a wonderfully lovely person, and the 2019 Muddy Award winner for Best Florist. Let’s meet her…
It must be wonderful to work with flowers – to be surrounded by their beauty and scents. Do you have a favourite flower?
I often get asked this question and I usually ask which season?! I just love the simple delicate flowers like lily of the valley, primroses, violets and sweet peas. But my favourites have to be roses especially now there is such a huge selection of stunning perfumed garden roses. It may change next month!
You’ve created the flower arrangements for many many weddings – including Royal weddings. How many have you done? Can you spill the beans on the Royal weddings you’ve done?
I couldn’t begin to number the weddings I have done, my first was at Westminster Abbey in 1979, for a couple who were blind from birth and this was a first for the Abbey too. I average about 30 a year so over 40 years that is quite a few. The Royal family appreciate discretion but I will say they like to do things beautifully without being extravagant and always like to use plants where possible so they can be reused.
You’ve had some pretty impressive clients – like Vogue, Hardie Amies and Le Gavroche – were you creating floral arrangements. How does this differ from creating the flowers for an event like a wedding.
These clients were having weekly flowers so I needed to use flowers with longevity and impact rather than the softer blousey wedding flowers which only need to look stunning for a much shorter time.
You’ve also worked on TV programmes like Downtown Abbey and The Crown – how did that come about?
I have a lovely florist friend of 30 years whose business is in the industry and who works in a similar way to me being basically a one man band. We help each when we need extra hands and I am able to run her business when she takes a much needed holiday. She was away when Mrs Hughes married Carson and I was delighted when my bouquet was on the front page of The Times. Do keep an eye out for the blooms on the new Downtown film and the next series of The Crown has some spectacular florals too.
And do you have a particular style you like to create the most? Favourite flowers to use in an arrangement?
Yes I love big dramatic displays such as arches and mantles with plenty of mixed foliages Ken Turner style. I love to use delphiniums and hydrangeas for their drama with of course roses.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging is the weather with either frosts or heat which both will ruin flowers very fast. It will also effect the supply of some seasonal flowers whether a mild winter which brings on varieties early and then are finished before you wanted them or cold and wet which effects the quality and can cause damp. This wasn’t great for the peonies this year.
Also I have to mention the hours. We only have a small window to produce all the arrangements from buying, prepping and clearing up afterwards. From 5am starts to working well into the evening the night before, and then sometimes having to return after midnight to clear out a venue. A lovely wedding planner once told me that the florists are the hardest workers of all the suppliers and would not want our job!
Is it tricky to get the flowers that you or a client wants?
On the whole it isn’t too tricky as long as you know what is available that season. Every bride wants peonies nowadays and they are only good in May and June. But finding the flowers you want to use at the right price is key so I can offer really good value for what I do. If I preorder you tend to pay top prices as they will buy at the top price to get what you want. Flowers are sold on a Dutch auction i.e price starts high and lowers, and their prices fluctuate everyday depending on demand and supply so it can be hard to predict. USA Mother’s Day always catches me out every year! We also have Brexit to worry about as this is likely to hit us with the value of the pound and import duties. We can’t stock pile!
What’s the best part of the job?
Well where do I start? I love seeing the first of a new season in the market, whether it’s the sweetly scented narcissi or a bucket of mixed sweet peas, I still get excited. But the best part of my job are the people. I love seeing the expression on a bride’s face when they see their bouquet for the first time or how grateful a bereaved family are for giving some solace on a tough day. I have a great team to help me and we have great fun and laughs especially in the van travelling on my ‘magical mystery tours’ to great venues. My suppliers are like great friends too and are always so helpful and cheerful at 5 in the morning. It makes it all a great pleasure to do.
Advice for brides when they’re planning their wedding flowers?
My ideal bride is someone who is happy to leave it to me to be creative. I just need a colour scheme a few likes and dislikes and style for the day. Please think of flowers like the food, they are there to make the day exceptional. You don’t need to list the ingredients or budget for McDonald’s when you expect restaurant quality food. There is a lot that goes into arranging a wedding and so don’t think the flowers are just an add on but bring the wow factor. My best compliments come from the grooms when they say I now see what you meant and appreciate all the hard work.