One Poppy – Auckland Wedding Florist
Welcome to the first of our series to feature many wonderful wedding vendors around New Zealand. Renee Harris is the founder and owner of Auckland wedding florist One Poppy Auckland Florist – operating since 2018. She has been in the floral wedding industry on and off since she was 16, but after seeing the world, moving out to rural Kaukapakapa and learning of the detrimental effects the floristry industry can have on both people and the planet, she realised that there was no other option but to operate ethically and sustainably.
My love of flowers started when I was small and I have memories of telling people I was going to be a florist when I grew up. I fondly remember picking flowers with my Mum when I was little for a flower sand-saucer and marveling at how amazing my Nanas roses smelled.
Never formally trained, I was lucky enough to work for some talented New Zealand wedding florists after high school.
I continued to do this even while studying furniture design at uni. But 2 years later, I’d paused the studies that were making me positively miserable, realised that my part-time job made me really happy, and decided to have “a gap year”. To summarise, I never went back to uni, instead working until purchasing a floral business at 23. Five years later I sold the business to go travelling.
Even though I did try other professions while travelling for the better part of 4 years – office work in London, catering in Cardiff, Stewardessing and Cooking on Yachts in the Mediterranean and Caribbean and in Chalets throughout Europe, I always found myself telling people I was a florist or working it into the conversation. It was like Tourette’s. I couldn’t help myself. I dabbled again, and the floral fire came back. Burning more than ever once I’d finished travelling and came home.
Sustainability in my wedding flower business grew from taking care of my personal wellbeing and nutrition. That then branched out into living a more natural, low waste, low plastic lifestyle when we moved out to semi-rural Kaukapakapa. We are by no means perfect – packets do occasionally enter the house, kid’s parties are a minefield, and yes, I have witnessed my husband sheepishly trying to sneak a takeaway coffee cup into the rubbish bin because he’d forgotten the reusable… but it is rare, he always gets a stern look, and we do more good than not. As there was so much effort in being “greener” in our personal lives, it was only natural that it extend to the fledgling wedding flora business I was putting together at the time.
I am extremely proud of and work very hard to keep sustainability an integral aspect of my floristry. This has not been an easy road. The amount of times I’ve thought “If only I could use a piece of floral foam for this arrangement!” There was and still is a lot of research and trialing. I’m discovering more and more wedding florists are providing advice and instruction on how sustainability is possible in our industry, but it is still pretty uncommon here in New Zealand.
Of course, the journey in the sustainable floral industry has had it’s up and downs. There are massive wins when you create something for the best clients which is not only gorgeous but local and completely compostable. There are big failures when a delivery of materials arrives covered in plastic because you forgot to check or request no packaging. The fails are important too though as it’s a harsh way to remember to never do that again that way. No one is perfect and you have to learn and move on. Integrity is a must – there have been honest but hard conversations with future suppliers and clients about why I cannot use floral foam, or why I can’t use THAT rose because it’s imported. But I’ve found some amazing suppliers and growers now who know my deal, and sticking to my guns has resulted in far more satisfying and enjoyable briefs, without compromising my values. More joy, more pride and more learning in this extremely niche field.
A big hurdle is people reading eco or sustainable to mean economical – One Poppy is all about luxurious and innovative florals with a conscience. I liken it to how imported fast fashion is detrimental to so many people and resources, but far cheaper than New Zealand-made garments from ethical and sustainable sources. It takes a lot of research and effort to go out of your way to buy from the few people who have those same best interests in mind. But I hope this will change. Another is becoming completely plastic free. A lot of blooms sold commercially are still sold in soft plastic wraps– and while I avoid this as much as possible and it is kept to a minimum, logistics (it does protect) or pricing makes it hard to avoid. Growers such as Van Lier and Blooming Hill are leading the way with their fantastic paper sleeves so I will prioritise my buying to include them or any other product or grower with no sleeves at all.
Aside from getting quality ethical florals to work with, there is a lot of behind the scenes organising that takes place for each wedding. It’s a very detailed, personalised service that results in a folder full of spreadsheets, stem-counts, images, checklists, instructions and run sheets for on the day. And that’s before we even liaise with suppliers, fellow vendors or your venue for any requirements they might add that we need to work around.
I floral seasonally and sustainably while supporting local and little, making the effort to support local growers, forage, and encourage seasonal choices. All green prep waste is composted and paper packaging is recycled – all to prevent as much as possible from entering landfill. No toxic floral foam (a carcinogenic microplastic) or single-use items are used in the mechanics, opting instead for natural biodegradable alternatives, reusable materials or just clever re-jigs of less-sustainable techniques, and I also encourage people to repurpose those event flowers and give them to guests or someone in your community who’d appreciate them.
I am always interested in actively being involved in our own community – this is an important part of connecting and supporting the immediate world around us too. If there is something local or green happening please let me know. The idea is to support sustainability across the board and create beauty, not waste.
Despite being an industry of “natural beauty” it’s important people are aware of how floristry can be unethical and eco-unfriendly. There are flowers being imported that come from ethically questionable sources where people are exploited and natural resources depleted on a grand scale. Not using imported product also means less miles, less preservatives, less stress on resources and the environment. And more than ever our economy and our own growers need our support. Ask questions of your florist and (with kindness) state that you’re looking to buy local – what are the options? The more you ask, the more people will become aware that it’s important.
I really enjoy the wedding planning as much as the execution – dreaming up ideas, spread-sheeting, doing up proposals and then delivering the goods at the end. The couples are so lovely to work with, and while there are often challenges mechanically or trying to work in with a tricky space in a venue, I’ve thankfully never had any unreasonable couples. Most people just want something they see as beautiful that fits their style and their venue – but not really able to put their finger on what exactly. My favourite time though is when I deliver the flowers to the couple – and I nearly ALWAYS tear up and say something corny because I’m so overwhelmed by the big day finally arriving after many conversations over many months.
If you’d like a personal approach to planning your wedding flowers – and you’d like gorgeous locally grown blooms on your day that you know are ethically and sustainably sourced – please get in touch. 2021 has filled up faster than usual due to 2020 weddings having to be postponed, but we’re here ready and waiting to floral your day (with contactless delivery if that’s the Level we’re at). If you check your date via our website we can get the ball rolling.
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