Florists can’t help but feel Christmassy. They are snowed under with festive foliage throughout December.
But for Katie Peckett, this time of year is all the more poignant. It was one Christmas past that she met the love of her life.
Former Sheffield United and Doncaster Rovers footballer and Moloko Andrew Peckett walked in, looking for decorations to trim up the little fir tree he’d bought from a rival florist down the road. Romance blossomed and they married four years later.
Katie (41) is one of the city’s most successful florists. Her arrangements grace South Yorkshire and Derbyshire’s top clubs, restaurants, businesses and weddings - they have been admired everywhere from the reception at Coutts Bank to Elton John’s dressing room.
Q. Does Andy ever surprise you with flowers?
A. Andy will say he brings me thousands of flowers every week from the wholesaler’s, but I’m NEVER bought a personal bunch. So every Thursday I take something special home from the shop. I like the “pick of the bunch” – not whatever’s left! My last lot were first of the winter season’s amaryllis, massive and a deep burgundy red. They lasted 10 days. In spring I take home tulips and daffodils, in summer I can’t resist purple delphiniums and in autumn I love bright orange gerberas and oak leaves. Jolly flowers cheer me up. They are like the ’lipstick effect’.
Q. Do you always have flowers in your home in Whirlow?
A. After I’ve cleaned the house each week I HAVE to have fresh flowers. But I don’t do an Elton John and have flowers in every room. I have them in the dining, kitchen and family room. Sometimes, if there are wilting roses in the shop, I taken them home, chop them right down and put them in a fish bowl in the bedroom.
Q. What occasions do you most enjoy creating arrangements for?
A. I love doing funeral flowers, maybe because my dad died when I was only 18. When grieving families come in, and I can make a connection and help them by making them lovely displays, it feels very rewarding. Recently we did a stunning display - all orange tiger lilies, the favourite flowers of a dad who had passed away. A woman came in the other week to talk about the flowers her mum, who was dying of cancer, had specially requested for her funeral.
Q. How did you learn to arrange flowers?
A. My dad had a thriving floristry business. He imported blooms from all over the world but I left school at 17 and trained to be an estate agent with Lewis Wadsworth. Just as I was about to start full time dad died, leaving my mum to run seven flower shops and the wholesaling business. I helped mum in the shops, thought may as well do it properly and spent three years at college training for City & Guilds. At 18 I opened my first shop, The House of Flowers. In recent years I’ve been on courses with famous London florists Jane Packer and Paula Pryke and five years ago I launched my own flower school. I still teach flower-arranging from the room at the rear of our Ecclesall Road shop. We’re doing Christmas table arrangement classes on December 7 and 14.
Q. Andrew was a professional musician when you met him. How did he come to join the business?
A. After we got engaged, my brother asked to help out at their wholesale base for a while - and 12 years later he’s still there. He is now my business manager, handling all our sales, marketing and accounting- plus his share of the childcare - we have two young sons - which gives me time to be creative.
Q. What are the common mistakes people make when arranging their own flowers?
A. When you’re making an arrangement, the foundations have got to be right, but people cut things too short or too long, don’t have the right container, or don’t attach the oasis properly. And they don’t know some of the basic rules, like not mixing tulips with other flowers because sap leaks from the stems.
Q. What are the most popular wedding flowers?
A. Roses and orchids - the symbols of love and romanticism. Vintage colours are very much the fashion at the moment. Jessica Ennis chose them for her wedding in Hathersage this summer. We were honoured to do them for her. She came to us because she has received bouquets created by us from one of her sponsors at high points in her career. We took Jessica’s dream of creating an ‘outdoors indoors’ look.
We made the bouquet, a simple, hand tied, compact posy created from roses in soft pinks and white, plus rose buttonholes, arrangements for the pedestals, columns and pew ends at the church and reception at Thornbridge Hall and it took Andy three days to install the location flowers. He had to shimmy up ladders to dress the church’s six stone columns with beautiful swathes of gypsophilia and ‘dress’ a 50-foot tree in the hall’s gardens with lanterns, diamantes and baubles.
Q. Jess isn’t the only celebrity to have received your flowers, is she?
A. No - we have done commissions for the likes of Tina Turner, Elton John, Katy Perry and The Rolling Stones when they staged concerts locally. Their promoters got in touch for flowers for their dressing rooms. We hope they liked them! We also did flowers for Marti Caine back in the day.
Q. What flowers do you wish people wouldn’t ask for?
A. I loathe chrysanthemums and carnations! They make me think: petrol station forecourt. Making 3D arrangements can be tricky. We have done the car from Only Fool and Horses in flowers a few times. Once the hearse actually drove past the shop and we spotted our floral Reliant Robin van perched on the top of the coffin. It made us smile. We created a floral 3D golf bag and a Stones pint pot recently, too,
Q. How many bunches have you made during your career?
A. When it was the family business we were selling 40,000 bunches a week and over the last 25 years, me and my team must have made millions.
Q. What would you do if you ever got hay-fever?
A. Actually, me and my manager Emma both DO have hay-fever! We’re always at the ear, nose and throat clinic with sinusitis. Our problems could be down to chemicals in the leaf shine solution florists use, but most likely it’s the flowers themselves that cause our allergies. But we love our job so much, we just can’t imagine doing anything else.