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Finding our souls in flowers and plants

Liz Marsh reveals some of her ‘secret ingredients’

What defines the personality of a space, the identity of a home? We recently sat down with Liz Marsh, founder and CEO of Elizabeth Marsh Floral Design, whose bouquets, arrangements, and breath-taking installations are ever-present in hotels, restaurants, events venues, and in the private homes of individuals, all with wildly varying tastes and personalities. Touching on her different services and ability to embody spaces in unique ways, and shedding light on upcoming trends for the winter season and for 2022, Liz Marsh opens a window into her world of floral design – and the metamorphic role that it plays in the worlds of others.

With clients and partnerships from Caprice Holdings to the BBC, to the Garden Museum, to Vanity Fair, to Mick Jagger, to the Foundling Museum, to individuals and enterprises in and outside of London, each space’s personality is amplified through unforgettable flora.

Some time ago, I was walking through the home of a woman – now a client – who led me into her drawing room that, splendid as it was, needed a desperate burst of life. As sunlight flooded through the windows with nothing to catch onto but the furniture, whose amalgamation made it difficult to know where to look first, it was evident what was required of me. “It needs flowers and it needs lots of them,” the woman said of the room, “But I don’t know how to arrange flowers. And I don’t want my drawing room looking like a flower shop either.” And so, as I do with every hotel I set foot in, every restaurant I enjoy a meal at, every home I enter and every individual I encounter, I began to put together a recipe, listing ingredients from the client’s dreams, to her wants, to the aura of her home – ingredients for an elevated yet familiar atmosphere, that would capture the soul of its inhabitants.

Anything that can be imagined can be achieved

Just two deckchairs: but suddenly so much more

“Anything that can be imagined can be achieved” has long been my motto, and one that I have brought to hotels, corporate offices, events spaces, museums, weddings, and homes of all shapes and sizes. Over two decades of working in floral design has not only provided me with the necessary experience to bring environments to life, but to what extent flowers can connect us to one another: clients, colleagues, family, friends, first acquaintances and beyond. I’ve maintained a lifelong interest in what flowers really say about us, and how they can be tailored to tell stories – of individuals and spaces alike. Each project starts off as a challenge – in the best possible way – and seeing it come to fruition reminds us to never underestimate the power of flowers and plants.

It is indeed this approach that has brought our team together with some of the most prestigious names in both the corporate world and in the hospitality sector, which has consequently allowed us to narrow our focus to private homes. The secret ingredients that I bring to each project are creativity and structure – and the realisation that one cannot successfully exist without the other, at least not in the world of Elizabeth Marsh Floral Design.

My uncle always said that everything starts in science and ends in art. So while the embodiment of a place or person is the goal, mastering the technical side in order to express those ideas and that creativity is non-negotiable. Do I let my imagination run wild? Absolutely. Do I still need to nail down the logistics in order to let those fast-running ideas end up in a successful place? Undoubtedly. If a restaurateur requests a new display for their restaurant, or if a building wants our team to adorn a sweeping staircase – it is my responsibility to ensure that the natural materials used to create an installation emphasise a space. The last thing we want is for our installations to look like an addition to a room: the goal we set ourselves for every single project is to give viewers a kind of inability to disentangle the flowers from the environment. As if the environment would be unimaginable without the plants.

A better future

Now that the world is bouncing back from a long interlude of uncertainty – where the spaces we loved to work our magic on had their curtains closed – we are ready to embrace all that those around us have to offer, and all that they have to ask. And as we begin to restore, reintegrate, imagine, and create, keeping an eye on what trends are likely to be in the winter season and in 2022 is top of mind. One current ‘trend’ – though in our eyes the right term is more along the lines of ‘responsibility’ – is that of sustainability, which we were delighted to see more of in this year’s 2021 RHS Chelsea Flower Show. The need for companies to be prioritising sustainability is increasingly coming to light as the severity of climate change increases at an alarming rate, and the ongoing damage to the planet becomes increasingly impactful – and in some cases, irreversible.

Flowers can tell magical stories

Our team At Elizabeth Marsh Floral Design firmly believes that change and action happens with education and awareness, which is why we’ve launched the Golden Leaf of London, our sustainability-focussed project centred on creating a green pathway throughout the city. With an objective to raise multi-generational awareness on biodiversity and climate change, this project is our biggest yet, including allowing animals to safely cross motorways, spreading the word on the need for our collective environmental focus and, above all, allowing humans and nature to coexist harmoniously in the heart of a metropolitan city. In addition to this trending issue that we urge our global cohort to prioritise, we eagerly anticipate new trends in design for the coming winter and new year, as doors open after almost two years of closure, with the excitement of inviting others into our spaces.

As companies begin to reconvene, and as workforces are urged back into their office spaces and out of their homes, it is perhaps more important than ever before to create a warm, inviting atmosphere, which largely explains the comeback of plants.

Our friend and colleague Matteo Bianchi, interior designer and founder of Matteo Bianchi studio, states: ‘’Connecting people to the natural environment is increasingly becoming more evident and necessary.

“Plants provide an easy way of updating and keeping spaces engaging and ever changing as they grow – we are seeing tropical leafy plants and generally larger-sized species becoming increasingly popular, with clients preferring less in quantity and more in quality and impact. In terms of the future, we believe that the future of interior design will centre on the natural environment through the use of plants as the starting point of a design.’

Caring and sharing

Plant maintenance is going to be a key growing sector, particularly as hotel staff will struggle to adequately look after larger plants themselves. With this in mind, we have launched a new company called Plantlight, which uses grow bulbs that work for plants of 6ft and higher, so you can decorate those corners away from the windows with a discreet, elegant, slim light, or an overhanging one to help your plant thrive in equally beautiful and sustainable planters.

UK-grown flowers will also increase in demand, and our team is increasing our efforts to help Londoners grow flowers in their gardens and allotments to sell back to us – thus adding to the new circular economy. With this, foliage arrangements are enjoying a renaissance; and while we have been offering them since the 1980s, a wider audience has realised their quiet power to create engaging atmospheres in their special places.

A magical display ready to greet guests of a wedding at Syon Park

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