Meet: George Low, David Jones Sydney flower show designer
Goerge Low at work. Photo - Robin Powell
George talks about 20 years working with the iconic David Jones flower show in Sydney.
You’ve worked on the David Jones spring flower show for more than 20 years. How has the show changed in that time?
Fashions change so we use different flowers now than we did then. Where we might have used chrysanthemums and umbrella fern, now we’re more likely to have orchids and magnolia foliage. The show is also so much bigger now.
The flower choice must have a lot to do with what lasts well as the show is in place for 11 days.
We use a lot of orchids. This year there will be 6000 vanda orchids, 4800 phaelenopsis orchids, and 3000 cymbidiums. Then we will also have some soft flowers like roses and snapdragons.
Do you need to replace the flowers through the show?
There’s a team that looks after the displays and sprays them and waters them every day. The window displays are replaced as often as every second day if necessary and we do refresh all the displays half-way through
Tropical imports. Photo - Robin Powell
Is it a busy weekend putting everything together before the opening?
We work on the 16 windows during the day and then go into the store when it closes to work on the displays in the ground floor. The flowers go in at the last minute.
Where do you look for inspiration?
I draw pictures if I see something that inspires me – a painting or a sculpture maybe, and think about how that might be done with flowers. I might see something from a photo shoot that looks fantastic but it only has to last for a moment. The challenge is creating something that lasts through the show.
Where did you do your training?
I’m a self-trained florist. I’m from Malaysia and my first job in Australia was as a kitchen hand. But I’m left-handed and every time I turned on the tap I’d turn on the hot instead of the cold and burn my hand. Really that wasn’t the job for me! So I went to a flower shop and asked for a job. They asked if I had experience and of course I said ‘yes yes’ - what else do you say when you need a job! They wanted me to make some arrangements as a test. I just copied what they had there and they gave me the job. So I just learnt along the way, asking lots of questions and making lots of mistakes. But that’s the way you learn, from making mistakes.
Banksia beauty. Photo - Robin Powell
Do you have any tips for home flower arrangers?
It’s the same thing. Don’t be afraid to experiment and make mistakes so you can work out what you like and you can see flowers and leaves in new ways.