In a career spanning 20 years, the floral designer Elizabeth Marsh has worked with everyone from Mary Portas at Harvey Nichols to Marcus Wareing and the Roux Brothers. Here, she talks about the power of flowers to excite the imagination and to galavanise a brand
Did you always want to be a floral designer?
I fell into floral design really after university. I had a language degree and was working in hospital radio, but then took a day job in a friend’s florist, and from there I began working for Kenneth Turner and learning the basics. After moving to a shop in Knightsbridge, I set up on my own.
What was your first commission?
I was very fortunate to have Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge as my first big commission, working with Mary Portas. I created wacky 15ft sculptures with a Caribbean theme for their Sloane Street windows, then I moved on to the main windows, with a 40ft log that I had constructed at Elstree Studios, studded with 48 little trees. Within six months of setting up on my own I had secured weekly contracts with The Ivy and Le Caprice, with carte blanche to do whatever we wanted. It was a very exciting time back in the early Nineties. In the early days I also worked with the Telegraph owner, Conrad Black.
What kind of service do you offer?
We do everything from floral designs for hospitality, including Marcus Wareing and the Roux Brothers, to hotels such as The Four Seasons, Ten Manchester Street and Pestana Chelsea Bridge Hotel. Our corporate clients include Watches of Switzerland and Mont Blanc, and we also do weddings, Bar Mitzvahs and private lunches.
How would you describe your style?
Our USP is that we don’t have a brand style – we galvanise a company’s own brand through flowers.
What do flowers bring to the party?
The only value in flowers is the impact on one’s guests and customers. Some people want to create an atmosphere of affluence and don’t want people to be necessarily talking about the flowers. Others might have a little less to say and need to make the flowers less of a background piece and get everyone’s attention. Flowers have a different function depending on the event. We look at the whole picture: the business, the occasion, the environment, the remit and the budget, and as a company come up with creative solutions by thinking outside the box.
Are you inspired by current trends?
Although we are aware of trends, we are not slaves to them. We are much more likely to look to the art and fashion world for inspiration. As a company we subscribe to, for example, ID magazine and I make my team read it – it’s all about shaking things up and bringing in random elements. I also make sure that the whole team is involved in the creative process, including the drivers. Their input is just as valuable, as they might suggest something nobody else has thought of.
What next for Elizabeth Marsh Floral Design?
This year I will be doing more events and talks on floral design. I am also working with Corbin & King and Spencer House to raise money for Floral Angels, a charity that takes leftover flowers and gives them to old people’s homes, bringing a huge amount of pleasure in the process.
And, finally, we have to ask: do you have a favourite flower?
I am more excited by the right flower in the right place, but if I had to choose one it would be coral peonies. The way they start off a rich coral pink and, as they bloom, double in size and turn cream. Let’s just say I have a soft spot for them!
For more information, visit Elizabeth Marsh
Orchid image: photographer James Barber