Peonies and hydrangeas at a garden party. Photo - Andrew Lehman
Saskia Havekes is the owner of Grandiflora. Her recent book, Grandiflora Celebrations is a behind-the-scenes look at 60 themed events, from weddings to fashion shows.
Every floral event described in your book is so different, where do you find you inspiration?
My inspiration comes directly from Mother Nature. Having grown up in Dural in Sydney’s north-west, I was surrounded by the Australian bush, in an artistic
and eclectic home and garden. The elements of composition – line, texture, form, colour, and pattern – provide the springboard for my creations. I
am amazed by the endless possibilities one can create with natural elements of flowers, buds, leaves, stems and bark. Inspiration comes in many forms
such as scent, colour, conversation, poetry, films, a child's mind, fashion, the way things grow in nature or an artwork on a client’s wall.
The events you write about in your book are massive. How do you manage it?
A large-scale event takes days and weeks of planning. A team of positive, creative, and hardworking people is my most valuable weapon. Certain preparations
can be repetitive - like stripping roses. This is where team spirit turns a tedious job into a fun one. Music is essential!
How does a normal day go?
Three alarms go off over five-minute intervals from 3.45am. I leave home at 4.20am, zoom along Parramatta road, the roller doors at the markets peel open
and it’s on. Talking and buying is a rush, checking on orders and loading the van back and forth then I’m on the road again as the sun comes up. The
light is mesmerizing and the fragrance in the car is just sublime. It’s here at the dawn flower markets that I keep in touch with what’s in season.
I am enjoying the last of the peony; elusive, exclusive and reclusive! The season is short, flowering from late October to early December, if the season
remains cool. Unfortunately the peony is one of the most impossible flowers to grow. The only way those of us who love with her ruffles and romance,
can enjoy her fleeting seasonal beauty, is a visit at the required time to a good florist.
A collection of peonies. Photo - Andrew Lehman
If they are so elusive, where do you find them?
I met Felicity Langley, a peony grower in Tasmania. Felicity was an army wife so was always on the move and never able to establish a garden. She vowed
when she retired, she would grow flowers, and her commercial peony business in Tasmania is flourishing.
What do you do on a day off?
I like to be in the garden with my daughters, Ginger and Sunday. It makes me feel wholesome; and the light seems to nourish my bones.
Saskia Havekes is the owner of Grandiflora, http://grandiflora.net. Her recent book, Grandiflora Celebrations is a behind-the-scenes look at 60 themed events, from weddings to fashion shows. Published by Penguin $59.95.
Gardeners in cool climates who are keen to try their luck with peonies, can order root stock from Felicity Langley at www.43south.com.
Text: Linda Ross