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The magnolia grandiflora has been a muse and a mascot for Sydney florists since day dot, and the Macleay Street store has been a mainstay since 1995
After 25 years in the business, Saskia Havekes is considered a rock star in the floristry world. She’s garnered international success from her series of books, including the 2015 Flower Addict, and her fragrances are stocked in 50 stores in Italy alone.
“I love the magnolia grandiflora so much I just wanted to bottle it,” says Havekes. “I had an impulse to somehow lasso that flower; its beauty never fails to please me.”
Havekes tells us she and her former business partner Eva Seltner built the business up from the Art Deco curved window. What was once a Lawrence Dry Cleaner is now filled with tall pots of sculptural stems and dramatic, oversized flower heads from whatever’s in season at the time. The central station, dominating the small space, has been there since the beginning – as has Havekes’ addiction to her work. Even now, as the head of a busy flower business, Havekes still visits the Flower Markets herself three times a week.
“Once I’m there I think I wouldn’t miss this – just to be around my growers. To have that relationship with my growers is essential. It’s truly like family.”
What sets Grandiflora apart is Saskia’s fastidious commitment to detail. Her cards are all handwritten, each bouquet is styled with a ribbon, and there has to be “a generosity of spirit”, she says. A ‘curated gesture’ costs from $120 up to $450, so it’s important that “when the person receives it they should have a sharp intake of breath.”
She still gets a kick from hearing locals comment on the beauty of her window displays, and she’s proud of the loyal clients who’ve been trusting Havekes and her team to pick out consistently breathtaking bouquets in ever-changing flowers. On our visit, there’s slipper orchids, camellias and anemones – all with a certain wow factor.
“I think they like it because it hasn’t really changed, but the flowers always change,” she says. “People come here straight from the airport, because it’s that sense of familiarity – they walk in and feel like it’s a nature home. It’s intoxicating.”
The Grandiflora founder is looking at how to minimise waste in the floristry industry at large, and she’s keen to work with people like Ronni Kahn from OzHarvest to create a business that will see junior and trainee florists repurpose flower waste from events and weddings into bouquets for other people – such as nursing homes and women’s shelters.
It’s a welcome move from someone with such influence in the industry. Havekes has worked with many rising florists over the years, some of which have gone on to open their own shops in Sydney and overseas. “I’m a pretty good teacher,” she admits. “I wouldn’t have always said that, but I think that’s my legacy.”
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