Meet the creative duo behind The Botanist, Diana Pan and Eden Kersten, who are changing the way we think about a beautiful bouquet
Here’s why The Botanist duo say floral rules are meant to be broken
“When I’m making a bouquet, I’m looking at it and thinking about the people receiving it and I feel like I’m helping them. It gives me goosebumps when I talk about it because I can feel it. It’s helping people. Helping them overcome,” says Diana Pan, the new owner of leading Auckland florist The Botanist.
Believing that the best bouquets come from those given the space to grow, her business model centres on support and inclusivity. “Happy florists make beautiful flowers,” she continues. “Florists are creatives and you have to treat them with respect. You have to give them room to create.”
Diana only met The Botanist’s head florist, Eden Kersten (who has built the brand up from day dot), earlier this year, but the duo have forged a strong working relationship already. Sitting on the cafe side of The Botanist’s original location in the central City Works Depot, they complete each other’s sentences.
“I think we totally complement one another,” says Eden. “Diana is open and willing and very supportive.” “She’s a great support to me,” adds Diana. “Whatever she does, I learn from her – floristry wise as well as the business side, as she has so much experience in running the shops.” Eden started learning her craft at 11 years old and owned a florist’s store in Auckland’s Viaduct at just 16, during the excitement of the America’s Cup in 2000.
When it was time for her overseas experience, she signed up with a high-end creative agency in London, which led to her becoming a personal florist for Sting and the Queen – she was in charge of the monarch’s private chapel arrangements. There were royal weddings and over-the-top celebrations to be decorated all over Europe, including one in Zürich, where thousands of 9-carat-gold-dipped roses hung from a six-star hotel’s chandeliers.
Diana, on the other hand, has a background in hospitality, business and psychology, and it took her some time to turn her hand to floristry. As soon as she started learning the art in 2012, however, she knew she’d found her niche. Her experience in helping others, especially when working for a victim-support service, is continued in this natural calling.
Together, the florists call their working style “controlled madness”, as Diana’s husband can attest: “My husband was at the store the other day and he was like, ‘You guys are fast! I didn’t even know what you were talking about and then it’s done.’ It’s funny that we are quite similar in that way. We just get it done.”
Getting it done involves hundreds of fresh floral designs a day, from small bouquets to installations for weddings and events, including the marvellous creations for Simply You’s Spring Ball. The Botanist forges the way for floral arrangements; whimsical, lush and always unique, the flowers are of premium quality and presented in a luxuriously laidback style with just a touch of trend.
Head florist Eden likens floral trends to her take on fashion: she is aware of the latest looks as seasons change but has her own evolving style. For summer, peonies are most coveted, and the current trend is to strip the foliage of large blooms like these for maximum effect. On the other end of the spectrum, an all-foliage arrangement is natural and charming in an interior space.
Of course, there are rules in floristry, but some are made to be broken. The traditional, tightly bunched bouquet is out, and looser arrangements, where flowers may raise their heads at different heights, are much more interesting. While blush, dark red and burgundy blooms have been the preferred colour palette of late, now there is room for more colour variety – Eden’s shades du jour are mustard, yellow and other burnt tones.
At the end of the day,you have to love your bouquet.
At the end, or start, of the day, The Botanist will create with almost any flowers, so long as they look beautiful and suit the occasion. Eden attends the United Flower Growers auctions three mornings a week, where 95 percent of the flowers she picks up are from New Zealand growers; the others being Colombian roses, which last well in our climate.
The creative will intuitively know what’s worthy of a centrepiece. “I tend to buy something that I think is really amazing and different and I buy everything else around that,” she says. “You’ve got to keep really open-minded.” The florists are on the same page when it comes to trusting their instincts, and finding enjoyment and balance in their work is also paramount, given they both have young children.
“It’s really important that we feel comfortable and enjoy what we do every day. That’s why Eden and I keep a good relationship with one another,” says Diana. “We don’t want to work for the sake of work,” adds Eden. “At the end of the day, you have to love your bouquet because if you don’t love the arrangement that’s been sent out then your customer won’t either.”
While Eden continues to set the benchmark for mood-boosting blooms, Diana has a close eye on the running of the business to ensure a welcoming experience is had all round. This involves the nurturing of their second store at Orakei Bay Village and a new pop-up store on Upper Queen Street. “Initially, we are working out how we can make our foundation more solid,” says Diana, “so we can work back to back and help each other.”
The botanist on how to care for cut blooms:
Roses: Cut on an angle and change water daily.
Peonies: Purchase when in bud but showing a little colour.
Anthuriums: Keep out of direct sunlight and make sure you don’t touch the heads as they bruise easily.
Hydrangeas: If hydrangeas get soft, submerge them in water for 30 minutes to perk them back up.
Take a peek inside head florist Eden’s home and see how she continues her creations in her indoor plant paradise.
Words by: Jessica-Belle Greer. Photography by: Meek Zuiderwyk