Ruby Barber at Mary Lennox
Ruby Barber is one half of Mary Lennox – a florist shop located in The Store x Soho House, Berlin. Here Ruby and her colleague Olivia sell cut flowers from Thursday to Saturday and offer a range of services, from plant styling to events and large-scale installations. Originally from Sydney, Barber made the move to Berlin three years ago. Drawn to its laidback lifestyle and sense of opportunity it was here that Mary Lennox came to life.
Flowers used in the arrangement
- Cherry blossom
- Flowering currant branches
Why did you choose these flowers?
The choice was fairly impulsive! The flowers reflect the best of what is available at the moment, and the type of mood I am in. These flowers were sourced from our personal collection of clematis plants, the flower market and the blossom came from a local farm.
How long did this arrangement take?
Including processing all the flowers, no longer than half an hour.
How do you go about arranging?
I start by using branches to establish the full shape and then I bulk it out with flowers at the base. The final touch was the clematis, the feature flower for this arrangement. In terms of theory, I just take it one flower after the next! Each stem’s natural shape and form guide its placement.
What tools did you use?
This old, concrete urn is actually full of holes, so a bucket was used inside to hold the water. I then used small vials to hold water for the stems that couldn’t reach the bucket, which were tucked into fuller clumps of flowers. Of course, nothing can be done without a sharp pair of scissors, especially when working with woody-stemmed branches.
So who is Mary Lennox?
The name came from Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel The Secret Garden, one of my all time favourite books. Coincidentally, my first flower studio was on the corner of Mary and Lennox Streets in Sydney. The building holds a lot of sentimental significance for me, as it housed my father’s first photography studio and my mother’s first art gallery, so it goes beyond my love of the story of Mary Lennox and her secret garden.
What first drew you to working with flowers?
An interest in flowers and plants is contagious. The more people I met in the industry, the more excited I felt about working with flowers, but it is hard to pinpoint what drew me into this line of work initially. I liked the thrill of waking up in the middle of the night and driving to a big warehouse full of flowers, and hunting down the most beautiful things there. It was an adventure. That initial excitement eventually wore off, but the nature of the job still invigorates me. I spend almost no time at a desk and on a daily basis I am surrounded by the beauty of nature by the bucket-full. It is so rewarding to work with a medium that brings people so much joy. I also really like that I spend so little time with what I create. Working with perishable produce means that there is a point where it has to be finished and after that you never see it again. Creative work without this time pressure is really difficult for me, as I can be very indecisive.
What’s the flower scene like in Berlin?
It is with some regret that I have to say I’m not really involved a scene here. I hardly know any other people working in my field outside Mary Lennox. My ‘scene’ extends to people who have reached out to me from other fields, who want to know more about what we do at Mary Lennox. In terms of the natural landscape, however, Berlin is endlessly inspiring. The overgrown streets are filled with flowering plants. During the past weeks, Berlin has been bursting with blossom, lilac and magnolia. It’s the best.
What are the popular flower choices in Berlin today?
What I think is special and what I consider popular are two different things. Popular flowers here are fairly generic - imported roses, lilies etc. We try to find ways to incorporate unusual flowers and work with produce that people aren’t used to seeing in floral arrangements. The biggest challenge with this approach is that it is really difficult to get your hands on unique flowers. This takes us on all kinds of crazy sourcing trips, and they have become one of my favourite aspects of my job.
What changes have you seen in floristry since you have been there?
I wish I could say that I’ve seen more changes in floristry as a whole! Mary Lennox, however, has changed quite a bit. At the moment, we are working much more closely with plants and gardening. We now offer full plant styling services and installations and we have a collection of seeds for sale. We have big plans for this side of the business and I’m so excited to put more of our ideas into action in the near future.
What’s your favourite green space in Berlin?
My favourite spot changes from week to week, depending on what is flowering! Of course, the botanical garden is spectacular and the surrounding areas of Brandenburg and Potsdam are extremely beautiful.