Meet Mr Cook (AKA Sean) one of my favourite florists. There’s nothing this man can’t do with a ball of twine. He loves roses as much as I do – garden ones, full blown in white and pale pink but it’s his knack for simplicity and volume that gets me every time. He’s the man behind the flowers at everything from Lara Bingle’s 25th birthday dinner to Sydney’s coolest events (and weddings). Here he shares all of his bloom wisdom – how to make them last, what to buy when – and takes us inside his workshop.
You may want to turn these images into postcards.
The Flower Man.
Describe your personality in three words.
Calm, extravagant, energetic.
How would you describe your store and floristry style?
My store is a good reflection of what I love and mixing it all up. Lots of texture, mixing different elements-recycled Oregon timber, chunky cut crystal vases, pink neon rope, oversized shell pots and pandanas pods all have a home in my store. In regards to my floristry style, I call it “organic luxe”. This could be a big bunch of Lilies of the Valley or fragrant garden roses or an eclectic, unstructured mix of flowers and foliages.
Tell us about your path to becoming a florist, and opening your own store.
My first job was as a visual merchandiser for DJ’s back when they did interesting windows. I then worked for a production/events company working on large scale corporate gigs travelling around Australia. I did this for quite a few years but then I started looking for something more creative. I had done some floral work with the event company and had followed and read about Saskia Havekes and Grandiflora. I thought if I was going to pursue my interest in flowers, this was the place to work. I just happened to walk in one day when they were looking for someone; right place, right time. Saskia preferred to hire people from creative backgrounds rather than trained florists. In those early days, sometimes it was just Saskia and myself in the store and I had the best teacher possible all to myself. I had an amazing time working with Saskia as her right hand man for 14 years. I worked on the three Grandiflora books and some of the most incredible jobs here and overseas. Finally the time felt right and after the third book had just come out I thought it would be a good place to close the Grandiflora chapter of my life. The store came about pretty quickly and Mr. Cook opened September last year.
Describe a typical day for you.
No such thing as a typical day but it could involve waking up at 4am to get ready and arrive at the flower market at 5am. I then collect all my orders and shop around for anything special. I load up the van then go home and walk my schnauzers, Arki and Oskar and grab a coffee at St Judes in Redfern, my new fave place. Then I arrive at the store and unload the van and prepare any morning deliveries or corporate work. I then might have a site inspection regarding an event, a bridal appointment or a trip out to the wholesale nurseries to find some unusual plants for the store. I often spend the afternoons in the store to fulfill more orders that have come in and write up quotes and proposals.
What inspires you?
The Australian landscape. I am about to go on a trip to Thredbo for a big birthday party where I will be creating an installation and I am really looking forward to seeing the countryside around Cooma. This area really inspired one of my favourite artists, Rosalie Gascoigne.
Tell us about one of your (recent) favourite arrangements that you created?
It would have to be a suspended installation I did for Watson X Watson at fashion week. It was a river of driftwood hanging above the catwalk with fluoro pink rope. Attached to the driftwood were huge clusters of white Colombian roses, which I then sprayed with a glow-in-the-dark spray. I have never worked with the spray before but Watson X Watson loved the idea as they had some fluoro in the parade. It sounds weird but it really worked in this occasion.
Any trends you’re currently noticing?
Definitely colour. Brides are surrounded by so much inspiration now with blogs and Instagram that they are not afraid to go beyond a rose. I had a client the other day that saw a picture of a bride carrying some wheat and decided this is what she wants for her big day.
What’s your favourite flower combination?
At home I only have flowers en mass- one type of flower per vase. I prefer tonal combinations of flowers to mixed arrangements.
What combination of flowers do you think should never been mixed together?
You will never find an iris in my store- except for bearded iris – which are beautiful. I can’t stand blue and yellow combinations or red and white flowers together.
Is your home constantly filled with flowers?
I wouldn’t say filled but there is always something. The ironic part is I can’t take anything home with a scent as my partner is allergic to the slightest fragrance. No gardenia, tuberose, frangipani, lily, ginger- nothing!
What is your favourite floral aroma?
The Floral Tips.
What’s the best flower to buy in:
February… Lotus flower.
March… David Austin roses.
April… Vanda orchids.
May… Parrot tulips.
November… Coral peonies.
What’s your best tip for using flowers to fill a large room?
At this time of year I would suggest japonica or quince blossom. It is elegant with beautiful pale pink white or red flowers and they can last up to one month.
What’s your number one tip for creating the perfect arrangement?
If you are not sure if certain flowers work together, choose flowers that are tonal.
What are your tips for picking an arrangement for a girlfriend/wife? Friend? Work colleague?
If it is November or December, choose peonies. I don’t know any girl that does not love them. For other occasions always ask your florist what is good that day. They might suggest something you may not have that of. If you don’t know the person very well, I usually recommend white flowers; you can’t go wrong.
Best piece of advice for those on a limited budget.
If you are on a budget I advise a mass of one type of flower. They will always look more generous and elegant than a small mixed posy.
What are your best tips for prolonging the life of your arrangement?
Always re-cut the stems before you place the flowers in a vase, even if they have been set packed by your florist; the stems will have sealed over. Change the water every second day and re-cut the stems if you can. Remove any foliage that is below the water line. Don’t place the flowers in direct sunlight or near air conditioning.
The LifeStyled List.
Tea or Coffee? Flat white, no sugar.
Favourite Flower? This week, the anenomes have just started becoming available.
Best moment of your day? Coming home and being greeted by my dogs and partner.
Favourite City? Istanbul.
Most treasured item? An artwork that was a collaboration between Gary Carsley, Gary Heery and myself.
Guilty pleasure… Kylie (Minogue).
Obsessed with… Gelato Messina.
Reading… ‘The Great Gatsby’ and lots of blogs.
Listening… ‘Magic Hour’ by Scissor Sisters.
Wearing… Wonderwood by Comme des Garcons.
I need… A holiday to somewhere warm.
I want… Our renovation plans to materialise.
Postcards From The Store.
Photographer: Erin O’Sullivan.