Greenery-loving, flower-obsessed Margaret gives a lesson in romantic, garden style floral design for your wedding, party, or event.
A week in the life of…
Margaret and her team start preparing for the weekend’s weddings and events each Monday. It was such a treat to be taken behind the scenes by this talented, passionate florist. “It's a week-long process to pull a wedding together (not including the months of design work and collaborating with the bride and other vendors), so we like to start early in the week. We prep vases and buckets to get ready for the flowers and pull any extras we may need like lanterns, mercury compote dishes, and arches.” Over the years Leaf + Petal NOLA has collected so much styling décor that Margaret opened a décor rental company, House of Modern Vintage NOLA.
Once “the flowers arrive, we prep and hydrate them, and get them in the cooler to sit overnight”. This is where the real fun begins. Especially for someone so in love with blooms! “It takes a couple of days to create the bouquets and centrepieces. Then, the morning of, my assistant designer Leah or I arrive early to go over the finishing touches, like boutonnieres and flowers crowns.” The team keeps up the pace throughout the week “so if we run out of certain flowers, we can quickly get something ordered, or pop over to the wholesaler to pick up more”. The big day arrives and “is usually a flurry of deliveries and venue set-ups … but once you see the entire event come together, it's incredible. Then I usually go have a glass of wine and mentally prepare myself to do it all over again the next day”.
Choosing your floral style
Margaret’s success owes a lot to her delicate, wild, and seasonal floral style. “I've always tended to veer toward a more romantic, garden-style aesthetic. I don’t know how many English garden coffee table books I have, it borders on obsession!” While starting out, Margaret worked at a local florist that specialised in traditional bouquets. She says she couldn’t shake a desire to add greenery to every arrangement. “I've noticed my clients also love a more natural style that’s loose and freeform. I always hear, 'just not stuffy' which is, I think, a great way to describe the work we do. I think it's a design approach: not stuffy.”
Once a booking is made Margaret works closely with her clients to create their floral décor dream. “Weddings are typically more romantic in style, while corporates tend toward clean, chic styling.” New Orleans is a popular tourist destination and hosts a regular stream of destination weddings. “Often people can’t visit town beforehand to meet in person so a lot of our work is done via email and phone. That's one of the reasons we think it's so important to have a lot of our work so readily available. We have several portfolios and I love seeing our client’s Pinterest boards, they always help create a vision to springboard from.” While Margaret’s design process is client-centric, her clients contact Leaf + Petal because they love her romantic, garden-style designs. Planning sessions are often about applying that romantic aesthetic to a client’s personal style, palette, and venue. “We love creating an atmosphere where you can feel relaxed and comfortable, but able to enjoy the beauty of your surroundings.”
Setting your date
Wedding florists like Leaf + Petal are best booked six months to a year in advance to secure your date. This leaves plenty of time to plan your occasion’s florals. Corporate events are often booked closer to the date, but Margaret says Leaf + Petal are well practised at balancing a constant stream of weddings, parties, and corporate events. “The whole process of wedding planning can be so overwhelming, the last thing you need is to be constantly second guessing if you made the right decision. I want our clients to feel like a giant weight has been lifted from their shoulders. They shouldn't worry about flowers anymore, because it’s now our concern.”
For the love of blooms
Leaf + Petal’s beautiful use of texture, varying heights, and different varieties of blooms create breath-takingly romantic arrangements. We completely stumped Margaret when we asked her to name a favourite bloom. “It's hard to say, I've noticed it's seasonal. I really can't say enough about a flower that's in season. I get really excited about flowers! I will say, garden roses and purple Lepto are regular favorites. Oh, and the smell of fresh cut dahlia stems; so peppery and fresh.”
“I was ecstatic when I saw the Pantone color for 2017 was green! Every year our couples are really influenced by that. Last year we did tonnes of Marsala weddings. I love burgundy and chocolate dahlias, so I was completely ok with that!" Leaf + Petal’s bold use of greenery helps to create their signature garden-style floral arrangements. “I love greenery. There's a freshness to it, and I love the dimension it can add to florals … but there's a fine line between being natural and organic, and being a hot green mess. We use greenery to accent the natural beauty of our florals. It’s used to enhance, not to detract.”
Décor bringing it all together
With hundreds of brass candle sticks accumulated over the years “We ended up starting a décor rental company, House of Modern Vintage NOLA, because with every wedding we did we acquired more and more pieces, such as lanterns and mercury dishes”. Margaret’s quick to give generous credit to her fellow New Orleans event vendors. “There are several amazing vendors in New Orleans who offer unique and gorgeous decor items. As a floral designer, it's always fun to play around with their inventory. I think one of the more incredible aspects of working in this industry is collaborating with other vendors.”
On the Big Day
Here’s a peek into the level of commitment required in the events industry. “It's a hard industry to be in, in that most of your events and weddings are on the weekend. So, if we start at 7am on Saturday we aren't finished until we pick up when the event is over, usually around midnight. It's long days and during the busy seasons, long weeks. We start prep work Monday morning and basically work through Saturday and Sunday night with events.” Of course, with a team the pressure is alleviated. “I've been extremely fortunate that Leaf + Petal has been able to hire some amazing people … it makes all the difference in the world.”
“While it can be an extremely stressful job, I can easily say I am one of the fortunate people that truly loves their work. You spend so much time creating a vision, and when you finally get to see it come to fruition, it's an incredible feeling. I also love making centrepieces.” Margaret swears she could sit in her studio making centrepieces all day, every day. “Especially when flowering jasmine vine is in season.” Creating florals for a wedding, party, or event also means working with other vendors to pull it all together, both in preparation and on the big day. “A major aspect of my job that I love are the people I get to work and collaborate with. It’s so incredibly inspiring to see what people can create.”
“We typically receive similar requests for natural, garden-style weddings … But I can easily say the most unique wedding we've done was one of my favorites. Their aesthetic was Frida Kahlo meets Studio 54 with a mix of Southwestern 70s thrown in. The bride and groom provided antelope skulls that we made flower crowns for, and Dali-esque plastic anatomy hearts on brass candle sticks that we decorated with greens and vintage glassware.” With any unique request like this a lot of research is involved to make sure that the style created suits the mix of styles being referenced. “When we finished setting up I remember thinking ‘wow, this turned out amazing’. But I think it's to be said that when you work with clients who have a fun and interesting vision it makes what you do more fun and interesting. It makes you see a different side to something you wouldn't have normally seen. So, while garden style weddings and events are totally my jam, I really love the opportunity to flex my creative muscles. It's extremely inspiring!”
As for last-minute requests and managing them on the fly, “we recently did a major corporate event during Essence Fest but the client had to change the table counts the morning of. We took the extra flowers into the bathroom of the Roosevelt, broke down what we had, and created 16 additional arrangements using the hurricane glasses we intended to use for candles. It looked great!”
Margaret had a career in fashion public relations before becoming a floral designer and opening Leaf + Petal NOLA. She loves gardening, antique shopping, and interior design. These influences are clear in the romantic, garden-style floral designs created by Leaf + Petal NOLA, along with House of Modern Vintage NOLA's décor.
VENDOR CREDITS (in order of appearance)
Header Photography: Leaf + Petal NOLA
Photograpy: Hannah Pickle
Photograpy: Hannah Pickle
Photograpy: Lance Nicoll