Dalton & Bloom Our Perfect Professionals
The brilliant Karen Dalton from Dalton & Bloom has the wonderful (and somewhat stressful!) job of making weddings and events look breath-taking. Karen is renowned for her luxurious weddings, her extremely entertaining personality, and her ability to go above and beyond what is expected of her for any client or event. She is Zimbabwean at heart, studied floristry in London, and has settled in Joburg for the last 6 years (much to our luck). And if you have ever wanted to learn more about bouquets, flower crowns or everything to do with the floristry business then you are in luck – as Karen runs the most informative workshops (more details below).
We chatted with Karen about the industry, her own postponed wedding, and how COVID has affected things. Dalton & Bloom Our Perfect Professionals for the month of August.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how Dalton & Bloom came to life:
At heart, I’m really a Zimbabwean outdoorsy farm girl who’s happiest in the sun floating around on any body of water. I owned several boutique lifestyle stores in Zimbabwe and gradually I found myself styling weddings. I would always outsource the floral design but would inevitably re-style the arrangements and soon realized that this was my happy place and so I decided to move to London for a couple of months to study floristry and work in the industry there. Little did I know that this adventure would change the course of my life. On my way back from the UK I had a meeting with one of my Jhb suppliers who convinced me there and then to move to Jhb and start my floral design company there in her shared studio space. Yep, I’m spontaneous and I like change.
What is your favorite flower to work with and why?
My favorite flower to work with is the hydrangea. They are huge and therefore cover a large surface area in arrangements but mostly because they offer a cloudy soft aesthetic and come in a wonderful array of colours.
Where should a bride prioritize her flower budget?
Your bouquet is the most photographed floral arrangement and you must be in love with every bloom in there and so I always encourage my brides to keep a healthy budget for it. I love adding scented blooms to the bridal bouquet. From there I think it’s best to put the budget where you and your guests will spend most of their time. It’s never really at the ceremony or the buffet table is it? I like to focus on the bridal table and large interactive floral displays in and around the reception venue. And yes, you need flowers in the bathrooms!
Some bridal couples think that the floral set up is just an “on the day” thing. Can you tell us a bit about the typical process for a wedding set up and how much work actually goes into creating the masterpieces you are known for?
When people learn that I’m a florist they always respond in a wonderfully whimsical way because they have completely romanticized the profession. The reality is that it is a very stressful and physically challenging role for which one has to be passionate otherwise you won’t last too long (I’m sorry to say). I’m yet to find a florist who doesn’t invest personally in each event, especially weddings. We are in the business of making dreams come true and that’s a lot of responsibility and pressure. Because we don’t get no dress rehearsal y’all!
The truth is that we stay awake many nights dreaming up inspired floral designs for weeks, sometimes months. We then spend hours on end with our suppliers sourcing the right product. Even longer preparing the design brief doing everything in our power to stick to budget and manage expectations. We then don’t sleep a week before the event worrying about whether the flowers we ordered will actually be available and arrive in perfect condition. Not to mention the many other balls we juggle with each event.
And this is all before we even discuss tablecloths and candlesticks.
The packing of décor starts two weeks before the event. Five days before a wedding we start preparing our floral arrangement mechanics and get ready to receive all the flowers. When the flowers arrive it’s crucial we spend hours conditioning them to ensure each stem is blooming perfectly on the day. A lot of time is spent on logistics and don’t forget we have a team of people working on each event who also need transport and meals. Assuming the event is on a Saturday, Thursday and Friday tend to be 17-hour workdays with obviously no sleep on Friday night as I scroll through the to-do lists and obsess over the tiny details in my mind.
Depending on the venue, we may have to strike the night of the event or the next day. Monday will have us unpacking, washing, re-packaging, and returning hire stock. As much as I’ve tried, one can’t skip all of the admin and paperwork that comes with each event either.
Karen, you were set to get married in June of this year but COVID had other plans for the brides of 2020. We have so many brides affected by this ☹ What have you learnt from this and what advice can you give to other brides?
My fiance is writing a book on radical acceptance. I’ve learnt that I’m not good at this – due in part I’m sure to the fact that I’m nearly 100 and was really really hoping to get married before I turned 50 (Karen is much younger than this 😊). I’ve learnt that celebrations and flowers are more important than ever and my advice is to brides is this: You got the guy, he’s not going anywhere so take the extra time to fine-tune your wedding day with all this new perspective we have and add more flowers (and champagne)!
The flower industry has been severely affected by the global pandemic. Why is this and where do you see wedding floral trends going for the rest of the year and 2021?
The industry has been decimated because demand abruptly ended. I am deeply concerned about the events industry and especially floristry because experience has told me that floral budgets are the first to be cut even without a pandemic. The trend I believe will be to have smaller more intimate events where couples choose to spend very carefully and this I respect entirely. I think florals will be dictated by availability and affordability. I do see dried & preserved stems arranged alongside fresh flowers with the idea that they can be kept after the event and that’s seen as a saving. That said, I have so many brides who are happy to wait until the world is less broken and celebrate just the way they had originally intended! Like me – on a boat – on the Bosphorus.
Please may you tell us more about your flower school? Our colleague, Suzy, attended your hand-tied bouquet morning course and she loved it! She learnt so much and she has really loved creating her own bouquets since then.
The Dalton Bloom Floral Academy is something that I am very proud of. My early intentions were very specific. I wanted to offer skills-based training that was relevant to the Southern African student that taught not only technique but also how to run a successful floral business. Furthermore, it was and still is very important to me that I offered mentorship to the vocational training attendees. And this formula has worked and is seen so clearly in the success of it graduates.
All of my classes are hands-on and no student leaves without mastering the particular technique that class has offered. Too often I have students with prior floral training who have not nailed down the technical skills of a certain arrangement. I focus heavily on technique, mechanics, flower conditioning, and all-round preparation.
But I don’t just teach floristry for those who want to start a career. I also run workshops for flower enthusiasts who are eager to learn how to create masterpieces at home for private events or for gifting. I offer a full day Floristry 101 workshop. Two-morning classes where one learns to create flower crowns and hand-tied bouquets. In July and December, I also run Christmas wreath workshops which are always an immense amount of fun – mostly because we hydrate ourselves with bubbles while we work!
It’s important to me that learning floristry is always unintimidating, simple, and fueled with laughter. So I ensure that my style of teaching is approachable with open dialogue – often reminding students not to overthink it and to remember that they have never done this before.
Our next 4 Day Introduction to Floristry course will be taking place on the 20-23 October 2020. It is our most popular training appealing to people of all ages from all walks of life and no – you do not need any prior experience. It’s for complete beginners and who knows – it could change your life!
Please watch our social media for all updates to our class schedules:
For last month’s Perfect Professional, click here.