Hampshire-based wedding and events florist Jay Archer, whose signature style and dedication has garnered awards and nationwide recognition, organised an enchanting cocktail evening in celebration of British Flowers Week last month. We spoke to Jay to discuss the importance of the cause, the impact events like this can have on a florist business, and what went into creating such a magnificent floral setting.
Jay's sold out evening of blooms and botanical cocktails took place at Winchester's River Cottage Canteen on 15th June, in association with Winchester-based Cabinet Rooms, a food and drink events company owned by Gary Whiter and Marcus Roe.
Nestled under a canopy of moss and English roses sponsored by Hampshire growers The Real Flower Company, Jay regaled flower crowned guests with an enthusiastic talk about British flowers, where to buy, how to grow, seasonal varieties and tips on foraging, while Gary and Marcus served three of their cocktail creations – Alresford Collins, Winchester Rose and Mint Meadow – mixed and muddled using locally grown flowers and herbs.
Jay explained what went into creating the evening's spectacular scenery; "It took five of us about six woman-hours each to create, so 30 hours of work! The hanging ceiling was the biggest challenge, but we got there in the end. Scent was particularly important, and the ingredients we used worked with what Gary and Marcus at Cabinet Rooms added to their cocktails, creating a multi-sensory experience. We used all British-grown flowers too and, where we could, local to Winchester so all the roses and herbs came from Real Flower Company and the lavender from Long Barn."
Jay's chosen flower varieties, which created the fairy-tale scene, featured; peonies, lysimachia, elderflower, hops, sage, mint, lavender, delphinium, allium, stocks, alstroemeria, sweet williams and lots of foliage.
THE BRITISH FLOWERS CAUSE
British Flowers Week took place from 13th – 19th June, and as a florist who uses predominately seasonal and UK flowers, Jay was keen to support growers and spread awareness to a larger audience. She explains, "British Flowers Week is an important date on our calendar, and thanks to Gary and Marcus from Cabinet Rooms, we were able to create a truly memorable event that reached a whole new audience.
"I think it's important for florists to support British flowers because many growers are one-person bands, and we should do all we can to support them and help raise their profile. And if you believe in something, why not?!"
THE BUSINESS OF FLORAL COCKTAILS
Whilst Jay's event looks absolutely beautiful, and as she tells us, "The positive feedback from guests was overwhelming", we asked whether she reckons it was a valuable experience from a business perspective. Not just a creative designer, Jay also offers training and career courses through her JAFD Flower School, so with her other hat on she explains why an event like this is well worth the leg-work.
"It depends which way you look at it, but I do believe it's worthwhile. Did it get me direct wedding enquiries? Not yet – but who knows! But did it raise my profile with local suppliers and events hosting, plus give the team a wedding-break to do something creative? Yes.
"We've also seen an exciting opportunity as a result, to take the event 'on tour' so in revenue terms, it could well be something that really works for us in future. It also gave me some fantastic 'event' images for my portfolio and caused quite a stir on social media. At JAFD, we always like to switch it up and turn our hands to new things and experiences that make people gasp and inspire creativity. With Some Enchanting Evening we certainly achieved this!"
Stunning photography credits go to Ria Mishaal, riamishaal.com