“When I was 16 years old, I remember seeing someone receive a box of fruit that was nicely packaged as a gift and thought how nice it would be to do something like that but with flowers,” Jackie from my local florist, Jackie's Floral Gallery says to me as we headed out in her van to Sydney Flower Markets. I stepped in her shoes that morning to discover what it was like to be a florist in Sydney.
We headed out to Sydney Flower Markets in her van at 6am on a very wet Friday morning. 6am was actually late to be heading off to Sydney Markets in Flemington and normally Jackie is there by 4am selecting her flowers for her shop.
Everytime I need flowers for product styling for photography or just to have something pretty in my home on the dining table, or for some occasion, I would always go to Jackie’s Floral Gallery because she has such an intuitive eye for detail and colour. I love her rustic, country style too which is reflected in the décor and displays in her shop. I think Jackie’s shop has taken the lead in giving Kingsgrove a much needed facelift too. Having her flowers in my home looks like a luxury, but the prices at which I buy the flowers are still fair and reasonable.
“My philosophy has always been be fair and reasonable. Be fair and reasonable on the prices as I prefer to have you come back 10 times because the prices are fair and reasonable than charging a premium and you only come once in a blue moon.” Jackie says to me after I made the observation flower bouquets in the city seem to be getting quite expensive these days and getting them feels like a luxury to have every week in my home.
Jackie, a mother of two, told me her story on the way to Sydney Flower Markets. Originally from Melbourne, Jackie moved to Sydney with her father and brother when she was very young after her mother passed away. “I had a rough upbringing. My father was unsupportive generally speaking.”
“I was never good at school so I left school and I needed a job. I use to sweep floors at the florist I did work experience at and asked my supervisor at the time, Glynis whether she could offer me a job.” Glynis said she would need to check with her boss David at the time before offering Jackie a job. At 18 years old, David said Jackie was “too old” to have her hired, but with a bit of persistence and backing from Glynis, Jackie got her first job in a florist. “If it wasn’t for Glynis, I wouldn't have got my first job in the florist”.
David turned out to be the man who significantly influenced her life in a positive way, a fatherly figure and career mentor. Jackie would go with David to the markets every morning to make their floral selections for the shop, building on her experience under David’s guidance and eventually Jackie became David’s right hand in his florist. David became a valuable mentor to Jackie and showed her the way to run a floral business. After many years running the florist he took over from his mother, David decided to sell up his shop.
After parting ways with David and his floral business, Jackie decided to set up partnership with a lady who was a courier and that became another life lesson learnt for Jackie particularly about going into partnership in business with someone. It was the first partnership she entered into with someone. “That partnership was a real eye opener. I went into partnership with someone who wasn’t honest. It started with missing cash from the till, the accounts not reconciling and eventually the lack of communication”. After this falling out, Jackie stepped away from the floral business altogether.
A corner shop in Kingsgrove was advertised for lease, and Jackie decided to call up the agent to see what the property was renting for, out of curiosity. After that one call, the agent kept calling her and dropping the rent each time and it was a sign for Jackie to set up her own florist which we now know it as Jackie’s Floral Gallery.
We met many of the growers and vendors at the Sydney Flower Markets and thankfully I wore my gumboots as there were a lot of puddles and sloshing around. I learnt how to handle flowers at the Sydney Flower Markets too so I didn't bruise the petals. Jackie said to me, “Just by lifting the flower bunch up and dripping water on the flower petals directly on another bunch can bruise the petals.” So be gentle when you're at the Sydney Flower Markets and handling the flowers. Some of the growers don’t only grow flowers but also provide other goods like fresh free range farm eggs in the case of T & G Flower Growers and rustic fruit boxes or breakfast trays from Walls Nursery, which is handy to know.
I also learnt from speaking to many of the growers that some of the flowers are imported whilst some are locally grown. Take roses for example, the roses that are locally grown are often smaller or petite in comparison to the imported ones. There is less mileage in travel in getting to the Sydney Flower Markets when they are locally grown and therefore may be fresher than imported ones, ensuring they last longer in your homes. Still, imported flowers have benefits. One of the growers told me there is just not enough domestic production to meet demand and the seasonality issue where some flowers are unavailable all year long, which is why florists source flowers both locally and imports. The imported roses can be larger than the locally grown roses as the climate conditions overseas is conducive to larger roses being grown. It can also be cheaper to import roses.
“Did you watch the World’s Largest Flower Market on Foxtel the other day?” I didn’t at the time but now I have and it was really fascinating documentary to see the flower market trade in The Netherlands, which is home to the world’s largest flower markets with its huge trading room for flowers known as the Floral Wall Street. The flower market is over 100 million acres in The Netherlands. Now that’s one place I hope to visit that one day.
The Sydney Flower Markets is only part of the journey for some of these roses. Some roses have come a long way, as far as Kenya, Columbia and Ecuador.
"What are your tips on how to best keep the flowers, Jackie when you have taken them home?" I asked. Here are Jackie's tips in keeping your flowers longer at home:
- All flowers need to be recut on an angle to allow to drink fresh clean water
- Remove any foliage that will be under water
- Replace water in the vase every second day and re-cut stems
- Some types of flowers such as sunflowers and hydrangeas can benefit from scalding so this is when you recut the stems and place the flowers in boiling water for a few minutes. This allows the water to rehydrate the flower
- If you receive lillies hopefully they haven't opened. As they slowly do open gently remove the stainmens that can make a mess if you do this also on as the lilly opens you should have no problems with the staining of the blooms
- Place flowers away from heat or air conditioning fans and in a cool spot in your home
- And finally, the most important thing you must do is enjoy your flowers.
Jackie also discovered that Instagram has become a powerful marketing tool for her too and connecting people. She asked me “Where did you get those edible flowers I saw on your Instagram post the other day? I have a few customers who decorate cakes that have been asking for them and I don’t know where to get them.” I replied, “I got them from Mouhamad Dib of MD Provodores who I met recently after I wrote a story about him and Sydney Markets. Let me introduce you to him so that you can get the edible flowers from his warehouse the next time you are there.” After we finished purchasing flowers from the Sydney Flower Markets, I introduced Jackie to Mouhamad of MD Provodores and we had coffee that morning so that Jackie and Mouhamad got to know to each other. This is just another example where Instagram has made a connection, via my blog, to hopefully allow one to help out another and vice versa.
Jackie is an excellent example where you don’t have to be good at school to be a success in life. She has a passion and that passion is for flowers and plants and making her clientele happy by bringing beautiful arrangements to their homes. Jackie’s courage from her experiences throughout her life, persistence and attention to the little things like transparent pricing, honesty and friendly persona has ensured her business is popular amongst many locals - I know because by both word of mouth and the comments people leave on my Instagram on my posts about Jackie, people have nothing but praise for what Jackie does and what she brings to her clients.
296A Kingsgrove Rd
Kingsgrove NSW 2208
(02) 9150 9010
This blog article is a finalist in the 2017 Sydney Markets Fresh Awards.