On a mission: sustainable floral design

With a background and training in industrial design, sustainability and environmental management, Aga offers the full package of gorgeous and sustainable floral design.

“Flowers are an organic, biodegradable organism that should be respected and once their beauty has been enjoyed, composted back into the ground where their journey began.”

With the help of a George Alexander Fellowship, Aga is on a mission to innovate, educate and connect florists to more eco friendly practices, read more about the fellowship at the end of the article.

How would you describe your style / philosophy. 

My philosophy is based upon the flowers I use being as close to nature as possible. For me this entails holistically grown, chemical free, safe to handle, local and seasonal flowers. My style is inspired by nature and all that is present each season. It could be said that I like the wild, rambling, unstructured and colourful. 

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Image: Ash and Elm Studios
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Image: Ash and Elm Studios

Can you talk a bit about your approach and process to creating a piece / arrangement. 

My approach to flower arranging is quite untamed and loose, rather than perfectly manicured.

I allow the dynamic nature of the flowers to dictate the shape and style of an arrangement or bouquet. 

The composition of each piece is second nature to me, for which I can largely owe credit to my former bachelor of industrial design at RMIT. I visualise the finished product, based on the botanicals I have in front of me. I consider placement, colour, texture, height and flow. I then select my vessel and ensure all is cohesive and off I go. 

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Image: Ash and Elm Studios

Where does your creative inspiration come from? Floral heroes, trends, seasons, art? 

Inspiration to me is found outside in my garden and the great outdoors. Beautiful flowers from local growers and yes, from Instagram too! I love the unusual, textural and bold. My favourites include the following social media handles:
@bloomandplume @ruby_marylennox @ponderosa_and_thyme @looseleaf @doctorcooper @hattiemolloy 

Your flowers / suppliers? Where do you source your flowers? 

The majority of my flowers are sourced locally from legends such as Crofters Fold, The Rook Blooms, Fleurs De Lyonville and Acre of Roses to name a few. I’m always on the lookout for local flowers!

I grow some myself too, but I wouldn’t go calling myself a micro flower farmer. I’m more of a backyard gardener with a passion for interesting blooms, herbs, edibles and natives… so everything really! 

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Image: Ash and Elm Studios

There’s much change and enthusiasm in the industry for more local, field grown flowers. What are your thoughts on this and what other changes are you seeing in the industry? 

Who wants flowers that are imported, flying thousands of miles, sprayed by a myriad of chemicals when grown, sprayed again by biosecurity upon entry to Australia?! Aside from flower miles, these chemicals aren’t being considered by quarantine as hazardous to humans as they aren’t being applied to consumables; ie the food we eat. 

What’s really on our flowers? Its chemicals like glyphosate! 

Essentially what florists and then their customers are handling and smelling are shadows of flowers.

I work from home with my children around, so it is imperative that the flowers I bring to the studio are safe for them to sniff (and touch)….which they do all day long! Aside from chemical use, the flowers imported mainly from Ecuador, Kenya and Colombia, workers undergo terrible conditions, low pay and exposure to toxic chemicals which have been banned in countries such as Australia and the US. 

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Image: Ash and Elm Studios

Another important area that is getting more traction is floral foam. This is essentially a toxic, non degradable micro plastic known as phenol- formaldehyde (also known as phenolic resin). By soaking it in water, (to prepare for use) it dislodges tiny pieces of microplastics which will end up in our waterways, being consumed by marine life. It is unsafe to handle and will sit around in landfill for hundreds of years. It just is not the companion for flowers. 

Flowers are an organic, biodegradable organism that should be respected and once their beauty has been enjoyed, composted back into the ground where their journey began.

We, as an industry can do things so much more ecologically and creatively if we just give it some thought.

It’s not about reinventing a process, its about making conscious decisions. 

Red roses and twig bridal bouquet
Image: Dan Brannan

Tips to brides who are in the planning stages?

Spend your money wisely and where it matters most. Spend your money with businesses who care about what matters to you (if you are still reading this then that would be the environment, locally based, and seasonally available flowers).
A great place to start is Less Stuff More Meaning, they have a great wedding e-guide called Mindfully Wed all about eco wedding options.

Enjoy your day and remember it’s about the love you share not about all the fancy cars, expensive dresses and cocktail canapes. Although they have their place too!

Red and white roses, native gum and grasses bouquet
Image: Dan Brannan

Was it always flowers for you? How long have you been a florist?

I came to flowers quite late. For a long time I was very focused on learning and working with culinary plants and native vegetation. It seems I bypassed one of my greatest creative passions, arranging and designing with flowers.
Floral work is an extension of who I am today. They are my go-to happy place.

Trained in design, sustainability and environmental management, floral design blends my qualifications, love and respect for nature and composing sculptural 3D forms. I have been working with flowers for 3.5 years and have recently rebranded my business to be known as Aga Jones Flowers.

Bridal bouquet: red, white, gum
Image: Dan Brannan

Most memorable gig? 

This would have to be my own wedding!
It was very low key, small and full of creativity held near Birregurra, Victoria on a beautiful historic property. I was adamant about doing my own flowers, despite having a 2 month old baby glued to me 24 hours a day. I still laugh about how stubborn I can be.
It was hot and dry, the caterers were late, the dress didn’t quite fit (after baby!) but we pulled it off and had a blast doing so! Oh, and the flowers were beautiful! 

Can you tell me about your George Alexander Fellowship? 

In the words of the George Alexander Foundation; The aim of this fellowship is to promote the acquisition of higher-level skills and an appreciation of international best practice particularly in the areas of environment and sustainability and alternative energy. This fellowship is intended to examine innovative approaches that demonstrate potential benefits for, and application in, Australia.

The George Alexander Fellowship has given me the opportunity to pursue my passion in
sustainable floristry, an area that I feel needs more investigation and application.

My aim is to make the floral industry more environmentally friendly by
1) Providing florists with world best practice in order to eradicate floral foam from their
designs.
2) To enable strong relationships between flower farmers and florists in the Macedon
Ranges and beyond by connecting, supporting and increasing local purchasing of
seasonal flowers and to empower sustainable business in our community and industry.

Whilst overseas in the USA, I aim to learn from industry leaders about sustainable
practices in floral design and innovation in foam free design. I also endeavour to study
successful farm-to-florist networks, which I hope will enable me to ‘plant the seeds’ to be
able to implement similar networks back home.

Back in Australia, I will share my knowledge via a series of workshops, presentations and conversations with the focus on foam free design and in collaboration with Consortium Botanicus design a framework to connect and support sustainable business between florists and farmers.

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Image: Ash and Elm Studios
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Image: Ash and Elm Studios

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