Amanda Austin’s bijou flower shop just off London’s King’s Road belies the size of the floral empire she has created over the past 18 years. The lavish floral decorations she and her team create for weddings and events in some of London’s most prestigious venues are prepared in a cavernous railway arch at London’s New Covent Garden Flower Market, where Amanda now buys all her flowers, foliage, plants and sundries.
Word of Mouth
“We love a wedding!” says Amanda, which is just as well, as they decorate a wedding every single weekend of the year. “We limit ourselves to booking just one large scale wedding a week so that we can give it our full attention. I prepare every single bridal bouquet. As long as it is beautiful, we will go anywhere.”
One such extravagant wedding also turned out to be an extraordinary challenge. The venue in St Moritz was subject to a sudden freeze: the van froze in the car park and they had to hire a horse and cart to take both flowers and florists to the venue.
The introduction for the St Moritz wedding came through a personal recommendation like 85% of Amanda’s work. The groom’s bodyguard would come into Amanda’s tiny shop every week without fail and buy just a single rose for his own girlfriend. Little were they to know that he would recommend Amanda to his boss for one of their largest ever weddings. “I have a rule here,” explains Amanda. “We treat everyone the same. You never know where opportunities will come from.”
As well as weddings, Amanda specialises in events for private corporate clients, big banks and hedge funds. “As our clients have grown and become more successful, they are involving us in bigger and better events.”
Amanda runs her flower business of 5 full-time florists and 15 regular freelancers with her twin sister, Lydia, whom Amanda finally persuaded to join her from her successful interior design company five years ago. “Lydia is the most incredible florist,” says Amanda, “and we are are the best of friends. We row occasionally, but it’s over like that. We wouldn’t function without each other.”
From Silver Screen to Floral Queen
For her part, Amanda came to floristry through an early career as an actress in theatre and on television. It was whilst playing the title role in Lady Windermere’s Fan in the West End that Amanda met a fellow actress who supplemented her income as a florist. When the theatre run came to an end, Amanda was five months pregnant with her first child and looking for a more child-friendly career. Having always loved flowers and with a Puritan work ethic drummed into her by her father, Amanda called her friend Jenny to ask whether she could come and learn. Sixteen weddings later, Amanda had the bug for floristry.
Amanda Austin & the Flower Market
The first time Amanda visited the Flower Market was with Jenny. “It was pretty intimidating in those days,” recalls Amanda. “Some traders didn’t speak to me or refused to deal with me. I think they thought I was just playing at it. Eric was always lovely, and I have bought from him forever. I followed him to John Austin and then to Zest Flowers, where we buy almost everything now from Terry.”
“Terry always does what he says he will do, and I trust him absolutely. If he can’t do it, then I know that it can’t be done. I’m in the Market every day. I love it and the people. It’s still so exciting when the first sweet peas or the first tulips come in. I have to buy them to mark the start of the season.”
Amanda buys her foliage from Porters and GB Foliage on Foliage Row, her flowers from Zest, Deanos (“to support Brad who was at E Four), Alagar, D&G Wholesale (they have two unique suppliers of ranunculus and hydrangeas), plants from Quality Plants, Arnott & Mason and Evergreen (they have beautiful pots of lily of the valley at Easter) and her essential sundries from Pollards. “I buy from C Best too, obviously,” says Amanda. “They are two years ahead of anyone else, and they are great for inspiration.”