The first thing you notice when you cross the threshold at Grandiflora is the palpable wetness: a feeling of freshness that springs you awake, followed by the aroma and abundance of flowers. Then you notice the size: it’s tiny. For a floral institution of such profile and influence in Sydney (and beyond), this is surprising and immediately charming. Of course, for the regulars who have been coming to this Potts Point spot since Saskia Havekes set up shop here in 1995, this is not surprising at all. More surprising for them might be that Grandiflora has remained – in essence – unchanged for more than two decades.
It’s from here that Havekes and her team work cheek-by-jowl to fulfill daily orders and to plan and prepare for the many engagements they create floral installations for; from photo shoots for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, to events for fashion designers and luxury brands the world over. “People walk in here and expect to see some massive workroom,” says Havekes, laughing. “And I’m like, ‘No this is it!’” The passion she still has for the store outweighs the spatial challenges it poses. “I love being here, I feel like it’s literally grown on me – like it’s my shell.”
She also enjoys that the store is consistent for those who have been customers from the beginning, ordering flowers for all the milestones in their lives. “That’s the ultimate compliment to me, you really feel part of the community,” she says. “Even though people are bouncing all over the world, it’s nice that you can offer some kind of thread in somebody’s life. Some will come into the shop – honestly – straight from the airport because they like to be hit by something that’s quite unique and overpowering. That’s where I feel like I’m part of the Sydney tapestry, in a way.”
Wherever she is in the world, Havekes will make a beeline for the local florist. For her it’s a touchstone: a way to connect and understand more about the culture of the place she’s in. Floristry is its own language, she says. “I just love to get that feeling of wetness from the shop, the smell and to engage with the people because florists are different all over the world, like chefs. There’s a thread of similarity, but there’s that lovely difference to whatever they’re working with – what they love, how they wrap, and how they engage with you, too. And that’s really precious.”
“It would be a shame to shut all of that down,” she adds, acknowledging the pressure shopfronts are under as the world becomes increasingly digitalised. In the face of this, Havekes likes to keep things analogue where she can. “We’re very old fashioned that way,” she says. “All of our orders over the phone are written with pen and we still do our special handwriting on the cards.”
The personal touch extends right through to the fact that Havekes herself has – in 25 years – never missed a flower market. “I think it’s actually crazy,” she jokes. “I’ve never asked anyone to fill in for me at 4am. But if I do feel really ill and I get out there, it truly is like a tonic – it picks me up. I don’t know what it is – the collective colour and scent … the people and camaraderie … the light … There’s so much I love about it and I still enjoy it.” Receiving new blooms from the market three times a week means that while the store’s bricks and mortar are a constant, inside “it changes all day, every day”. “Nothing stays stagnant, and everyone who works here gets a real lift from that.”
Havekes’s favourite flower is, “without a doubt the Magnolia grandiflora”, she says. “It’s really hard to work with because it’s so transient, but you could give me 10,000 and I’d never get sick of it. The store was named after this flower – in part because the street outside is lined with Magnolia grandiflora trees, which start blossoming around this time of year. And both the store – like its namesake tree – are so ingrained in Sydney that they might as well be part of the natural landscape.
Shop 1/12 Macleay Street, Potts Point
(02) 9357 7902
Mon to Fri 8.30am–4.30pm