You could almost feel the flowery cliches cracking back in 2005. That spring, the tight little bouquets and formal arrangements that had been so critical to the art of floristry for decades were – pfft – suddenly rendered old-fashioned. The disrupter was Joost Bakker, son of Dutch flower farmers and a radical, young self-taught florist with an eco-warrior’s heart, the soul of an artist and an aversion to anything imported, chemically-treated and out of season.
When Joost suspended hundreds of (in-season) peonies in recycled wineglasses in the air above revellers in one of Flemington’s swankest Melbourne Cup marquees – a sort of glorious, glassy peony “chandelier” – enough people remarked on it to spark a revolution that’s still rocketing today. “I saw the florists then all following European trends with glasshouse orchids and imported flowers,” Joost says. “And I hated it. They didn’t use some (foliage and flowers) because it might make a mess, or it mightn’t fit a particular style and a particular height. So I did the opposite.”
Joost imposed no rules on his art; every flower and leaf and blade was “honoured for its beauty”, weeds included. And if the petals bruised or the blossoms dropped, so be it. “It is the life-cycle of the flower,” Joost says. “It seems to me such a simple idea to appreciate that, and the seasons, to use stuff that’s locally grown, and beautiful, exotic stuff you find on the side of the road.”Joost’s wild aesthetic rippled across floristry so quickly that a new breed mushroomed.
Flower works by “floral artists”, as they are known, such as Katie Marx, Melanie Stapleton and Wona Bae, are now commissioned virtually anywhere a spectacular or uber-cool visual impact is needed, particularly Melbourne’s fanciest bars and clubs, hotels and restaurants, weddings and fashion shows. “Joost was the game-changer,” says floral artist Katie Marx. “He showed how you can use just about anything to create these amazing arrangements: tomato plants hanging upside down, trees pulled out of the ground with their roots hanging down …”
No plant of worthy texture, colour, silhouette or evocative power is now off-limits to the passionate floral artist, from wild-picked fennel, garlic, thistle, clover and grasses, to branches of plum blossom, magnolia, dogwood, vibernum and guelder rose pruned from neighbours’ gardens with snips of daphne, lilac and jasmine. “You can also use any big and odd-shaped things,” Katie says. “Like, say, that quirky branch covered in lichen that’s too bent the wrong way to stand up in a vase. That’s beautiful.”
Melbourne’s top floral artists use flowers and foliage as they would brushes and paint or chisels and stone. Among their dreamiest recent innovations: heart-stoppingly lovely “hover wreaths”, giant swirled circles of blossom and feathered grasses, or trails of jasmine that “float”(via near-invisible suspension wires) in the air.“There’s so much in season now,” Joost says. “It’s a crazy-beautiful time of year.”
● Joost Bakker \ @joostbakker
● Katie Marx Flowers \ butterland.com.au, @katiemarxflowers
● Loose Leaf Botanical Design \looseleafstore.com.au, @looseleaf_
● Cecilia Fox \ ceciliafox.com.au, @ceciliafox
● Flowers Vasette \ flowersvasette.com.au, @flowersvasette
● Badlands & Co. \badlandsandco.com, @badlandsandco
● Tori Allen Events \ toriallen.com.au, @toriallen_events
● Pollon \ pollonflowers.com.au, @pollonflowers