Sophie Wolanski at Muck Floral
Sophie Wolanski is the founder of Muck Floral – a flower studio and shop located in Grey Lynn, Auckland. Here Sophie sells cut flowers and plants as well as a carefully selected range of home and garden wares. Originally from Australia, Wolanski moved to New Zealand several months ago and has quickly cemented herself as Auckland's most interesting new plant related venture.
Flowers used in the arrangement
- Narcissus double roman
- Mandarins on the branch
- Wild Rosemary
Why did you choose these flowers?
I love using fruit on the branch in arrangements; I think it offers a really different texture and shape from the flowers. Plus, a customer had offered for me to come and cut her fruiting tree so I jumped at the opportunity. I also just love that even though Auckland is descending very quickly into winter, nature is still putting out these vibrant colours. The rosehips symbolise a complete change of season. The lush layered rose may be gone, but their little fruit is left. And those romans - I can’t go past the buttery smell. Even though it’s an image, I imagine just by looking at them the scent will transcend and jump off the page!
How do you go about arranging?
I work very instinctually. I had all these amazing rosehips so I created a base shape with these. Then I filled it in with the blue delphinium and moved onto the hydrangea. Like everything in my life, I tend to go through stages of doing things one way and then switch it up. At the moment I like to keep individual flower types quite separate so I guess that’s one approach reflected in there.
Where did you source these flowers?
I have a variety of places I get my flowers from and I’m constantly searching for more. I got the rosehips from my boyfriends parents house. They had a bounty of roses throughout the season and they let me hack away at all their hips!! I have found a few really amazing ladies growing beautiful product that sell to me directly, but they are few and far between. I’m constantly talking to people in the shop and that sometimes leads to other sources – hence the mandarins and rosemary.
Where do you get your inspiration? Is there a particular period or style that you are drawn to?
I draw my inspiration from books and the nature that surrounds me. I like to get out and look at trees. I’ve never really assessed my own work to a point of drawing any conclusions in regards to periods or painters. I know a lot of florists now resonate with impressionism or ‘the Dutch Masters’, I just don’t associate myself with these labels – when it comes down to it I work very intuitively and follow my instincts.
What first drew you to working with flowers?
Growing up I was constantly surrounded by an appreciation of flowers. My mum did an Ikebana course when she was young and always kept the house full of flowers and weird foliage – you can say that shaped my style pretty early on. My dad, on the other hand, loves giving flowers! He has always given us the most amazing wild bouquets on any big occasion. He will go to his favourite florist and choose all the flowers himself and then hide the bouquet in the garage until he’s ready to surprise you with it, with a tear in his eye. I didn’t quite realise how much this had influenced me though as my aspirations were never really headed towards a career in floristry. I always thought of it as my fantasy dream job - I don’t quite know why I only thought of it as a fantasy though. When I finished university (studying sculpture) I was working as a set builder, but I always liked to keep exploring. I would assist on random jobs in other industries just for fun. It wasn’t until I spent a day working for Lisa Cooper of Doctor Cooper Studio that my interest was really piqued and nothing was quite the same after that.
What’s the flower scene like in Auckland?
There are very keen gardeners in Auckland. It’s lovely, many of the older style houses have their yards in the front, so the streets can be overflowing with a huge variety of flowers and citrus. And while people are getting creative in the garden, the flower scene is still quite conservative. People are happy to spend cash at the supermarkets on some very generic flowers wrapped in plastic, yet they aren’t quite ready to pay for a nice bunch for the house. I think flowers are still looked at as a luxury item.
What are the popular flower choices in Auckland today?
That depends on whom you are asking. Judging by what you see in every shop window, lilies are very popular, as are lisianthus. And then there are the big seasonal hitters, the dahlias, hydrangeas and peonies. At the moments it’s tulips. There are some crazy incredible parrot tulips being grown locally, which is a nice change.
I heard that the flower market is run by auction in Auckland – how does this affect what you buy?
Yes, it is an auction and it affects how I buy in a huge way, I am still really getting used to it. The main thing I don’t like about it is how separated the buyers are from the growers. It turns the flowers simply into a commodity. It is an extremely commercial market. There is no foliage, no branchy stuff. There have been two or three bunches of rosehip a week for a couple of weeks – and that is for every florist in Auckland to fight over. It drives the prices up. The Auckland flower market is more expensive than New York. It’s insane. I really believe it’s set up for the much larger scale buyers. The supermarkets and the dairy’s. There is the same thing basically every week. The same product, same colour, same height, same sameness. And unfortunately the growers have been doing it this way for such a long time, they are happy with it. They drop their product off, and they get paid. There’s no room for anything different, there’s no conversation.
With New Zealand having a large horticultural industry do you find most of your flowers are grown here or does it still get flown in?
Due to the strict biosecurity laws, it is very hard to import product, and when it is imported, it is so highly sprayed. So yes, most of the stuff is grown in New Zealand. But this doesn’t really mean much when ‘locally’ grown flowers have no face to them, are intensely sprayed with insecticide and just appear on a shelf. The nature of what I do, sometimes I want an extra long stem of something, or a tulip on the bulb, for example. Or even a little bunch of citrus. It’s very nearly impossible to do any of that through the auctions.
What changes have you seen in floristry since you have been there?
It has still only been a very short amount of time that I have been living here, let alone having the shop open – only two months! So that’s not a huge amount of time to see change. However what I have noticed is that people are excited about what I’m offering. It has become apparent that I am offering something quite different for the flower scene. Focusing less on traditional shapes and flower types and working more with emotion and nature. And people are responding to this. Also, taking flowers out of their expected paradigm – hanging installations, photo-shoots where people aren’t just simply holding a bouquet, making things that are a bit messy or wild. These are all new concepts here. I’m not in any way claiming that I invented the style, but perhaps I am introducing it to fresh eyes.
What’s your favourite green space in Auckland?
An obvious choice would be the Winter Gardens at the Domain. They are something truly special. At the moment the mums are so huge and colorful they look like dahlias! But my favourite garden is on Wellpark Ave, the street I moved into when I first landed in NZ. It is very much like an English or French countryside. Overflowing with all sorts of purples and soft hues, wild rose bushes spilling over smaller shrubs and climbing up walls. And you just watch it change and transform with the seasons. It’s so refreshing. She let me have a little peek around the back once. It wraps around the side of the house into the backyard and continues into the most beautiful vegetable garden. Completely deconstructed – peas climbing up here, tomatoes trawling over there and lettuces all around.