The modern guide to giving flowers

Choosing flowers as a gift can be a relished or rushed affair. You might know your lily from your lysianthus but some people really struggle to make a choice, when faced with so many stunning options.

The beauty in buying flowers—aside from the flowers themselves—is that there’s usually an expert on hand ready to share their knowledge and finely-honed aesthetic. You only have to ask.

For Emily Bradbury, the owner of North St Botanical in Melbourne, many customers say: “I’ve got no idea, but I like what you do.” She starts by asking them to tell her about the person they’re choosing flowers for.

“You can gauge quite a lot this way,” Emily says. “There are definitely specific styles of floristry that suit specific styles of people. We ask about the person receiving the flowers because that’s why the customer is buying flowers in the first place.”

“We used to sell flowers mostly as gifts, but now people are gifting flowers to themselves, which I think is really nice,” Emily says of a trend that has only recently taken root. “It’s become popular and fashionable to have flowers at home now.”

While there are some traditional floristry rules, most customers have probably only heard of things that are a social faux pas, like taking Arum lillies to a wedding as opposed to a funeral. For Emily though, if someone loves lillies, she’ll always add them to their bouquet.

“We don’t have set rules—only that we hope the customer leaves happy,” says Emily. “But it’s really the person on the receiving end we need to know about. That’s why we prefer people call rather than email or order online, so we can tease out what they’d like.”

Originally from Canada, Emily moved to Australia 13 years ago and started studying floristry. She credits her mother, an avid gardener, for gifting her with an early love of flowers and plants.

“When I was very small, my mother used to take me around the garden and ask me to name all the flowers,” says Emily. “She’d point at a sprig of green coming out of the snow and ask, ‘What's that?’

“It was an early passion for me,” she says, laughing.

But it’s not just flowers being delivered anymore. In the past year, the number of plant sales at North St Botanical has doubled.

“I think it’s great because plants change people’s lives,” Emily says. “It makes such a difference having greenery around and some plants even help with air purification.” If this sounds appealing, Emily suggests choosing a Philodendron or a Peace lily.

When it comes to native flowers, Emily is effusive. She also points out that many of the plants we think are native to Australia—like King proteas—are actually from South Africa. Whereas blooms like banksias are definitely native to Australia.

“Maybe it’s because we didn’t have these in Canada, but I think native flowers are the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. Each one is as different from the next.”