There is nothing quite so wonderful as one’s children’s success. I’m still glowing from Thursday’s evening’s The Flower Appreciation Society book launch.
Dalston Eastern Curve Garden is a jewel, hidden away from busy Dalston Lane behind a high wooden palisade. Named after the curve in the railway line that encloses it, it’s a community garden with a rough and ready bar and café, trees and shrubs and open spaces, all enclosed in an area about the size of a couple of tennis courts. That such a lovingly tended oasis as this should be under constant threat from developers is a sad reflection on our times, though that’s another story …
On Thursday evening it was crammed with more than 200 people, a jazz band, a perfume stall, drinks and canapés, and flowers everywhere – in pots and vases, on tables and counters, in the drinks (edible), and in people’s hair from the little headdress-making stand. There was a long table, flower laden of course, groaning under sunny yellow stacks of the book. And it was a balmy, cloudless summer’s evening.
Five years ago, as I mentioned last week, my daughter Ellie and her business partner Anna Day were both working in a Hackney pub, The Scolt Head. A textile designer by university degree, Ellie had abandoned her attempts to get into the world of textiles after a string of dreary production jobs, followed by a final lucky break – the dream job it seemed – which promptly fell through. Anna had a degree in illustration and was then about to start a midwifery course, which she has since completed and has also now put to one side.
The journey since then has been swift and one propelled by hard graft, a clear and original vision, and a gift for networking. They’re up at dawn most mornings to go to New Covent Garden – there’s a section in the book affectionately devoted to profiles of the traders, most of them from families who have sold flowers for generations, and a couple of whom were at the party – and then back to their studio in Hackney to prepare for whatever events are coming up.
A distinctive feature of the brand is Anna’s simple, colourful illustrations which say at once that they’re ‘not your average florists’, as their strapline goes. It’s evident too the minute you open the book, over which they cleverly retained full creative control. Flowers are depicted in simple line drawings, along with intricately cut-out photographs of full arrangements, there’s copious white space on the pages, and the text reads almost as if you’re present at a workshop they’re running; for it’s a practical book as well as a beautiful one, full of hints and tips on what to do with flowers and how to do it, a true A-Z Of All Things Floral, as the subtitle says.
By the time they got up to make their speeches on Thursday evening, the large crowd was in appropriately appreciative mood. Apart from family, these were mostly their friends, thirty-somethings doing their own thing in London, not publishing or media people. The atmosphere was warm and full of goodwill towards the two girls. Taking turns, they read a short section of the book to much whooping and cheering. At the end they said they were going to sign copies for ‘15 minutes or so’. An hour-and-a-half later they were still there.
I’ve done the odd book signing in my life, but never one like that. I eventually wandered off into the London evening with the noise of the party still drifting out into Dalston Lane, feeling as if I’d swallowed a balloon of pride.
I would say this, of course, but the book makes a truly beautiful gift. You can find it here (currently Amazon’s #1 bestseller in floral crafts).