We hear from Sophie Bayliss from Tallis.
Why did you get into floristry?
I was working as a director for a digital marketing company when I decided to retrain as a florist. I left my job and worked with a couple of successful florists to learn the skills. It was incredibly hard work and very long hours but the experience was amazing. I was involved in some extraordinary event decorations in some incredible locations. I remember installing some flowers for Madonna’s dressing room at Wembley and sneaking out to watch her practise. Once I had gathered enough skills and courage, I decided to set up on my own and I ran a flower stall outside Vogue House where many famous magazines were based. From my stall, I met a number of editors and was lucky enough to be featured in magazines such as Brides and House and Garden. For a number or years, I would do the decorations for the front cover of the December issue of House & Garden and I was featured in an article about the top London florists.
I managed to get some notoriety but I never made a lot of money and the hours were very long. I would get up at 3 am to go the flower market and I would usually finish about 6pm. The sleep deprivation certainly prepared me for having babies!
What sustainability considerations do you take into account when decorating your home?
While working in London, I learnt the seasonality of flowers and which flowers were at their best when. I would get so excited at the arrival of ‘Paper White’ narcissus in late winter or sun flowers in late summer. When I was doing flowers for weddings, I would try to only use flowers that were in season. It not only cost less for the client but it made the effect so much more powerful. Now, when I use flowers in the house, I only like to use seasonal flowers or plants. After Christmas, when all the decorations come down, I love filling the house with the fresh scent and clean colours of narcissus. I also like to plant hyacinth bulbs in bowls. There’s also nothing like the sight and scent of a jug of daffodils on the table to herald the arrival of Spring.
I grow my own flowers and foliage as much as possible and I have a beautiful selection for most of the year. At the moment, I’m still enjoying some late-blooming dahlias and some russet-coloured hydrangea.
I never use floral foam as it is so harmful to the environment. I use a ball of chicken wire in vases to help support stems and I only use re-usable wreath bases such as straw, wire or home made from twisted vines.
Where can I go to forage if I live in a city and don't have a garden?
If you live in a city, foraging opportunities are limited. It is illegal to take greenery from parks but you could find pine cone, twigs and acorns on the ground and use those for decoration. Perhaps you have a friend who has a garden and would allow you to have a few cuttings. Look for moss growing on shed or garage roofs or ivy running amok on a wall. Always ask first before you help yourself!
How can we all be more sustainable around Christmas?
- Make your own reusable wreaths and natural decorations.
- Make your own gifts – chocolate, preserves and biscuits make lovely gifts or get creative and paint a beautiful picture.
- Wrap gifts in brown paper and tie with string. Decorate with sprigs of holly.
- Turn the lights off when you’re not there and if using fairy lights, keep them on a timer.
- Eat less meat but the meat you do eat, make sure it’s organic.
- Invest in reusable ‘honey wraps’ to cover and wrap food.
- Take your own reusable shopping and produce bags when you go shopping.
- Sort out your larder so you can shop smarter and buy in bulk to minimise packaging.
- Invest in a 'soda stream' and make your own sparkling water and fizzy drinks. 'Soda stream' do really nice glass bottles so you can fizz your own tap water and put them straight onto the dining table.
- Compost all of your fruit and veg peelings.
- Turn the heating down and wrap up warm. Invest in some good quality, ethically sourced wool and cashmere clothes and snuggle under some beautiful blankets. It’s better for your health and the environment.
What's your favourite Christmas recipe?
It’s not really a food recipe but I absolutely love mulled wine. Everything about it screams Christmas to me. The smell of it warming up infuses the house with the scent of Christmas and there’s something incredibly nostalgic and comforting to be holding a cup of it.
What's your favourite part of Christmas?
Christmas Eve. There’s something quite magical about it. I love the anticipation of the next day and we usually are gathering together with family. This year will be slightly different as we probably won’t be able to reach our families but we will still make it magical.
One of Sophie's House & Garden covers!
With one of her stunning Christmas wreaths, for how to do this at home, read our wreath making blog.