Jane Packer is a floral designer and founder of a global flower company with shops in London, Paris, Tokyo and Seoul.
How did you become a florist?
I started to work in a little flower shop where I grew up in Essex, for pocket money, and I just fell in love with it. I ended up spending my spare time and holidays there, and after school, I took a job there. I opened my own shop at 22, signing a 25-year lease without really thinking of the consequences. It was very naive, but luckily, the press became interested in the shop early on.
What's a typical day like?
Working in a busy flower shop, you have to go to market three times a week, which means a very early start, often loading your van by yourself and then driving to your shop. Most florists have done a day's work before they even open the shop door. You shouldn't even think about floristry unless you are strong and fit - it's very hard work and there's a lot of heavy lifting. Nowadays, I'm busy with managing the brand on a global scale, which is quite different from just having a flower shop. It's more structured - like a fashion designer, we have a new range for each season. Now, I need to ensure that our florists in Japan know which flowers we're using.
Have there been any downsides to your job?
When I started out, I would often have to go to the flower market by myself. I remember getting back to the shop one morning, sitting down and bursting into tears because I was so exhausted. But then I opened up a box of flowers, and the fragrance floated into the air. And I thought: this is why I do it.
What skills do you need to be a top-notch florist?
Certainly, you've got to be creative, with some artistic talent. You've also got to have a business head. You need to really know what you're doing if you want to open a flower shop - you need to know the life span and the quality of the product you're buying, for example. You should either get experience by working in a flower shop, or take a horticultural or floristry course.
When I started, floristry wasn't a fashionable thing at all - it was something that little old ladies did. Now, all that has changed. You need to think about what your flower shop has to offer, and what will set it apart.
How's the salary and career progression?
The starting salary at some London florists would be around £14,000; the most you could earn if you were running the shop as a manager would be about £35,000. People want flowers to be affordable. If you go outside London, wages are lower. You could spend three years as a trainee, learning how to look after flowers, cutting them and doing arrangements. I spent the first year of my training putting foliage into water.
For details on floristry courses at the Jane Packer Flower School, go to www.jane-packer.co.uk/
Lantra, the Sector Skills Council for the Environmental and Land-based Sector, has more information on floristry training at www.lantra.co.uk; as does the Flowers & Plants Association at www.flowers.org.uk