above: a stunning display from the Garland's website
On a recent trip to Sydney one morning I was wandering through Surry Hills when I noticed some things of interest out the front of a florist shop.... old bottles and baskets of seedpods. Curiosity lead me to wander in and begin a conversation to find out about these collections of seedpods. The florist shop was Garlands at 423 Bourke St and it was the charming owner/executive florist Ferdinando de Freitas who took the time to engage warmly with me when easily he could have been too rushed and business like to be drawn into conversation. Instead he was quite the opposite - and quietly interested to see what had piqued my interest.
Ferdinando with Tamara - senior florist - in the background.
The sight of these bunya nuts - an indigenous species (which I have mentioned in previous posts) are not so common and are found in a rather limited area of Queensland to my knowledge. It was explained that the Bunya nut cones had arrived at various intervals when available and the seeds had been saved each time. Why I asked?
It seems Ferdinando is in the habit of saving all such pods and seeds whenever he possibly can. Sometimes these are used in his work or they are kept in baskets on display. Not content to leave it there I asked if he had grown up in close contact with nature as I had a strong inkling he had. This amazing store seemed to celebrate the world of plants and hint at the plant's life cycle by presenting so much more than rows of pretty cut flowers ( which of course have their appeal). In the spectrum of contemporary merchandising of flora it was heartwarming indeed to see a distinct absence of shiny plastic balloons, teddy bears, and things manufactured in China and instead be knocked over by the abundance of alive-looking branches and stems of a wonderful range of plants that still seemed connected to nature... a true feast for the eyes.
A fascinating story came from this dialogue. Born on the Island of Madeira into a farming family and surrounded by others similarly occupied meant learning to save seeds from the harvest, propagate plants and cultivate next year's crops was the common currency of people's lives. Seeds were not purchased but rather saved and shared amongst the community, with attention given to what seed produced best and such matters. His father concentrated on bananas and grapes but grew all sorts of food to feed the family.
Ferdinando spoke quite passionately about the land he grew up on, the cultivation practices and common species. Googling the island's flora I was able to look at indigenous species like Yellow Fox Glove, Madeira Orchid and Pride of Madeira. Introduced species like Bird of Paradise, Agapanthus and Hydrangea are just some of the mentioned ones - all with common names. Avocados seemed to have been introduced for an agricultural crop.
above: Island of Madeira flora biodiversity from Wikipedia
below: 1. Flora from the Island of Madeira
2. view from the Island with agave plants - an introduced species from Mexico it is widely thought..
The plant-life from the years growing up in this Island location have influenced Ferdinando's aesthetic and appreciation for nature and cultivation quite considerably it would seem. Although there is a vast range of flowers and plants in the store the evidence of one who is preserving plants as they go through the entirety of their life cycle by continuously saving seeds, pods and interesting forms adds another whole layer to the store and the work being done there.
The strong organic statement to his signature pieces created for hotel lobbies, events and commissions includes these other elements that betray a deep interest in forms and stages of growth.
Installing a work in a Hotel lobby nearby in the city. Guests are so taken with these floral works that the Hotel has the talented Ferdinando produce a typed sheet for framing each week that specifies the names and details of all species used.
This small bunch of herbs olds certain appeal.
a magazine shoot by House and Garden Australia using items found at Garlands
An in-store dinner at this wonderful setting.
With much gratitude to Ferdinando for his wonderful hospitality on my visit to his vibrant corner of the world.
View the excellent weblink for more information: www.garlands.net.au