Travel agent, event manager, wedding planner, Nazneen Jehangir is all three of these and happily so. This is because each of these roles involves her two most favourite things: planning and flowers. Last month, Jehangir added full-time florist to her list of occupations after she opened her first store, Libellule (French for “dragonflies”) at Le Mill. Unless you’re a hard-core flower junkie, there are very few varieties you may actually recognise at her 300 sq. ft. glass box store as 97 per cent of her stock is imported. “There is a dearth of florists selling imported flowers and I certainly wanted the store to have the wow factor,” said Jehangir.
Her fetish for flowers blossomed in Paris, where she lived between 2000 and 2004. There, Jehangir would divide her days between a travel agency where she interned and flower markets where she spent most of her free time. When she returned to India seven year ago, Jehangir took over her father’s travel agency, Meridian Holidays and soon added wedding planning and event management to their list of activities. The idea of becoming a professional florist germinated from a conversation with her friend, renowned French florist Christian Tortu back in Paris. Though she has no formal training, she interns with a different florist in France every year and keeps herself up to date by reading voraciously on the subject. We spoke to Jehangir about choosing and maintaining flowers in Mumbai. Edited excerpts:
What flowers are in season now?
It’s spring in most parts of the world so it’s going to be a good month for flowers. It’s a season of peonies, hydrangeas, daffodils, tulips, sunflowers, ranunculus, proteas and pussy willow.
Where do you import your flowers from?
Holland, France, Australia, Argentina, Columbia, Brazil and Canada among other places. Our focus is on seasonality and we get limited supplies of each, so we encourage people to place orders two days in advance.
What kind of care do the flowers require?
Most of the flowers that we stock have a shelf life of 10-12 days if cared for well. Few people know that hydrangeas drink from their petals and the stem. As soon as we receive a fresh batch, we immerse them head first in water. You need to trim the stems every alternate day and change the water in the vase daily; this applies to all flowers. It’s best to keep flowers out of direct drafts and sunlight. Flowers survive on carbohydrates, which we give away in powdered form with each purchase at the store. In the case of tulips, if they start bending you may assume that they are wilting, but they’re still in growth; we call them live installations as they change form everyday. We prefer to buy the flowers in bud form as it helps the customer get maximum longevity. To make them bloom once you’ve purchased them, you need to put them in tepid water.
What’s the best way to choose flowers?
By season first and then by occasion. The Indian consumer is finally understanding the worth in paying for design. Like an architect, every florist has a style, mine for instance, is a very Western aesthetic, I like cleaner, more modern arrangements. Orchids are a very abused flower here. My picks for weddings would be hydrangeas and tulips; for a baby shower, I’d recommend a bouquet with blue and pink hydrangeas with baby’s breath (gysophila). If you wish to woo a girl, black calla lilies are stunning purely because they’re so exclusive, unusual and unexpected; [you could] even [give] a long-stemmed white rose. I believe flowers have personality and so we’ve come up with themed bouquets that we’ve given names to; like “hortensia eats macaroons”, “hortensia visits the ’80s”, “hortensia removes her make-up”. Each is indicative of a mood. I also encourage people to purchase single flowers, it’s untrue that only bouquets make for grand gestures.
What’s the deal with the coloured flowers that we’re seeing these days?
They’re a travesty. Florists are in the habit of dyeing flowers, which only damages them and makes them age faster. Everything in our store is completely natural. Our hydrangeas are naturally tinted, they get that hue from the PH level in the soil. Growers can alter the alkalinity in the soil and that is an acceptable way of doing things.
What about floral arrangements at weddings? Is the decision left to you?
Unfortunately, “more is more” is the trend here at weddings. Marigold is a common favourite, whereas I tend to lean towards white flowers; they have the shortest shelf-life though. Again, hydrangeas are my favourite for weddings, as are tuberose and jasmine. What most clients tend to neglect is the conditions in which we have to set up the flowers. You have to consider factors like [whether the flowers will be] outdoors, indoors, how many hours between the setting up and the event and so on.
Prices start at Rs2,000 for signature bouquets and at Rs50 for a single stem.Tags: Florists, Flowers, Le Mill, Libellule, Nazneen Jehangir