WILD, romantic, untamed. That’s how Tattie Graham describes the flowers and foliage she wrestles from hedgerows and fashions into showstopping decorations for parties, weddings and events.
It’s also an apt description for the 26-year-old florist whose business has been blooming since she launched in Edinburgh this year.
“My favourite plants are from woodlands and meadows. I love things that are seasonal and untamed and I love a challenge,” she says, surrounded by foliage at her workshop on the Dalmeny House Estate.
Not for Graham the minimalist single gerbera on each table at a wedding reception: she’ll go for the huge ball of flowers over the dance floor or an oak tree shooting out of the table, complete with acorns, foxgloves and the odd pheasant feather every time.
“I think people who meet me know they’re going to get something romantic and free,” she says.
“I have an arrangement with the local farmers who are happy for me to have a go at their beech hedges and also I’m happy to knock on someone’s door and offer them money for their flowers. Sometimes they slam the door in my face, but you’ve got to try. I’m quite determined; to start a business in a recession, you have to be a bit gutsy.”
Graham’s floral designs have burst on to the Scottish scene since she launched, adorning the VIP box at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo and the Blair Atholl Horse Trials, and she’s looking forward to a forthcoming ‘wreath-making extravaganza’ – all game feathers and pinecones – some of which will no doubt end up in her Hogmanay designs for the Assembly Rooms on George Street.
After a peripatetic childhood on account of her army family background, there’s something of a footloose spirit to Graham, blown dandelion clock-like wherever the prevailing wind takes her along with her Jack Russell Tinker, but her decision to set up in Edinburgh was deliberate.
“We moved around so much it became normal and I suppose I’ve always been restless. When you don’t come from anywhere, nowhere is home, but my parents met here and my dad was stationed here for a while, so all of us feel Edinburgh is a part of us. I didn’t want to be in London because it’s saturated with florists. Here I can be in my workshop in 15 minutes, surrounded by the things I use.”
Always a free spirit, the confines of the classroom weren’t to Graham’s taste and she admits she spent most of her time gazing out of the window imagining herself escaping for walks.
“I went to lots of schools, including boarding school. I was a bit naughty because I was homesick and also can’t sit still. People saw me as wild, not in a normal teenage way, but in a just-get-up-and-go-for-a-walk-outside way. I just don’t like rules and couldn’t work for anyone else. So I left school at 18 with a bit of a dark shadow over my head and wasn’t sure what to do.”
Through friends she landed a summer job with Dorset-based Miranda Fairhurst, who’s blooming huge in the flower world down south, and embarked on her current career path.
“At first I was a bucket girl but one day she ran out of time and told me to do the font. I said, ‘I’ve never touched a flower in my life,’ but I did it and then she took me on as her protégée. That was when I was 18 and I stayed until last year,” she says.
In winter, when bridezillas go into hibernation, Graham would take herself off to Udaipur in India where she had set up a workshop of women making up brightly coloured textiles into skirts and scarves, which she sold back in the UK.
“Udaipur was very friendly and safe but after three years the clothes business started to get serious and I realised I didn’t want to do it for ever. That’s when the flowers took over.”
Now there’s a little bit of India in her workshop: enormous pink and turquoise umbrellas dangling from the ceiling and faded cushions on the day bed. “I’m always rushing around setting up flowers, but in my workshop sometimes I’m so happy I go into a complete dream world,” she says.
A dreamer perhaps, but one with a talent for business as well as blooms.
“I never know how it’s going to go from week to week, but so far it’s been better than I dreamed. It’s physically hard work and you will never get wealthy doing flowers, but I love it. You do it for the love of it.”
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: South west