Angela Brinn, the woman behind “Lady Garden Flowers” lives on Dangar Island but that doesn’t stop her going to Sydney Market to buy her flowers.
The Dangar Island Ferry is just pulling into the public wharf, as Angela walks sleepily down the jetty to meet me. She was bitten by a bull ant during the night (a hazard of Island living) and had little sleep last night.
Getting to Sydney Market by Public Transport
While most florists get to Sydney Flower Market by car or van, Angela has a more complicated journey. With neither a car nor a driver’s licence, she relies on public transport or the generosity of friends.
First, we take the Dangar Island Ferry across the Hawkesbury River and then the train from Brooklyn to Flemington. I wonder how we’ll manage the homeward trip.
There are only a few orders this weekend and Angela knows that “what I need will be there, so I don’t have to leave too early”. We are on the 6:15am ferry (the first of the day) and will get to Sydney Markets a little before eight.
When it is too early for the Dangar Island Ferry
If she does need to get to the markets earlier, Angela has a number of options. She may get a lift across the Hawkesbury River with a friend or stay overnight in Brooklyn to get the 4:22am train. This train is often full of tradies sleeping across three seats. Once, Angela ended up sitting on the carriage steps as she “wasn’t going to wake a sleeping tradie to get a seat”.
Following a Dream
Ever since spending time with her mum in the garden as a young child, Angela has loved flowers. Over two years ago, as a newly single mum, she decided to follow her dream and signed up for a floristry course with TAFE.
Juggling two to three part-time jobs in local cafes and on The Riverboat Postman to pay for her course and to keep food on the table, Angela worked hard to hone her skills. Today, she still works a number of jobs while she establishes her business, Lady Garden Flowers.
Chelsea Flower Show
Always on the lookout for opportunities to broaden her knowledge and skill base, last year Angela successfully applied to be part of a team sent by TAFE to work at the Chelsea Flower Show. She spent two weeks “prepping” installations for “Belgravia in Bloom” as part of the Chelsea Flower Show. In the process she gained priceless experience under award-winning London florist, Neill Strain.
Rivendell Flower Show
Last year, Angela was involved in the inaugural Rivendell Flower Show as part of a course run by the Sydney Flower School (based at Sydney Markets). The display so impressed the Sydney Markets that the Flower School was contracted to do the flower arrangements for the Sydney Growers Ball later in the year.
Orders for this weekend
The orders for this weekend include a wedding bouquet, three button holes for the wedding party and a bunch of flowers for a neighbour.
Angela tells me that if she had two weddings a month, she could stop her other part-time work and focus fully on developing Lady Garden Flowers. Until then, she goes to the Sydney Markets every Friday no matter how small the order and works on promoting her business when and how she can.
Angela chats freely, sharing stories and tips. I learn that drastic measures are sometimes necessary to ensure flowers all peak at the right time.
She once ended up with buckets of lilies, some in cold storage, some in the shade and others in hot water to ensure that they were all perfect for a particular wedding. When the flowers opened, she painstakingly removed each stamen to prevent pollen dust getting on the precious bridal dress.
Angela describes how flowers (a bit like music) evoke strong responses in people, “People have strong likes and associations, and I am starting to know what my customers like”, she says adding that honeysuckle is her favourite as it reminds her of her childhood.
Warning: Coffee while shopping doesn’t work
As neither of us have had breakfast or coffee, I suggest we start with a coffee. Angela is too nice to refuse, and we enter the Sydney Flower Market, takeaway coffees in hand. It becomes obvious that coffee was a bad idea.
I struggle to juggle my camera and the cup while Angela doesn’t have enough hands to hold her coffee, inspect the flowers and hold onto the growing pile of flowers balancing on her arm. We drink up quickly and dispose of our cups.
Advice: Know what you are looking for
Angela picks up some greenery at one stall and lovely scented white freesias at another. With a flutter of her fingers, she describes that she is looking for a wiggly flower, as she wanders up and down the rows.
Suddenly she exclaims “I’ve found it! Perfect” as she reaches down to a pull a bunch of Veronica from a bucket. They will work well with the green and white theme the bride has requested. We wander around some more, looking for white roses. Angela will use the rose petals in the buttonholes together with the Veronica.
Taking the Train home with Flowers
With six minutes to get to our train we quickly walk back to the station where Angela hands the flowers to me and then takes the bunches back one at a time, arranging them in a way that is easier to carry. She has been known to ask a fellow passenger to “just hold onto these for a minute please” as she gets herself sorted. On days when she has a big order, she will have a large back pack and sometimes even a trolley.
On our way home, Angela tells me that her son, Elliott, recently drew a superhero for school. He drew a woman in a cape flying across the page, holding a bunch of flowers in her outstretched hand. Trailing behind her were the words “Super Lady Garden Flowers”. He understands that what his mum is doing is for them both.
Back in Brooklyn, Angela stores her flowers in the cool room of a local café before signing on at the Deli for an afternoon of making coffees and lunches.