By Kristen Wagner
Photos By Rebecca Siewert Photography
Melinda Murovec was a florist right from the beginning. She just didn’t know it.
“When I was a kid I used to cut the cedar from my mom’s bush and make Christmas trees wreaths every year,” she recalls. “I used to climb trees and be outside as much as I could. I grew up around gardens.” But after those promising beginnings, it took Melinda years to fully embrace her passion for flowers as a profession. She began a career in business and raised a family, and it was only after her children were grown and she was preparing to return to full-time work that she looked to the world of floral design.
“I’ve always loved to do creative things,” she says. “I knew I did not want to be in an office setting. And I knew I needed to nurture something creative, so that’s why I went back to floral school—because it was something I did as a kid and I wanted to return to it.”
In 2011, Melinda completed an intensive month-long course at Toronto’s Canadian Institute of Floral Design. The course covered everything from flower identification to composition and colour, but what Melinda loved most was the opportunity to indulge her creative side. Armed with the knowledge she needed, Melinda returned to her home in Kelowna and set up her business, A New Leaf Floral Design. Next came the hard part: building a clientele. “It’s a slow process to get going and be out there,” says Melinda. Fortunately, she was armed with years of experience in volunteering her floral design services for friends and family before tackling it as a profession. And training in business doesn’t hurt, either. “Artists have to do so many different jobs,” says Melinda. “You have to be creative and you have to be able to work on web design, you have to know how to look at a spreadsheet.” Currently, she is working on building a website for A New Leaf.
Melinda provides floral services for community events and fundraisers as well as personal orders, but weddings make up the bulk of her business, and they often demand the most preparation. The planning process begins months before the wedding takes place. At an initial meeting, Melinda works with the bride to determine what kind of floral design she’s looking for. Using items like pictures of venues or fabric samples, Melinda develops an idea of the look and feel of the wedding, and works out how flowers will best complement it. “I gather a lot of information from [the bride], do a lot of listening,” she says. “Then I describe my style, and try to relate my style to what they want in their wedding.”
Hearkening back to her childhood in the gardens of her mother and grandmother, Melinda’s style draws a lot of inspiration from the natural landscape of the Okanagan. She grows some of her flowers and greens in her own garden, and creates her designs in a home studio looking out on it. The remaining flowers come from wholesalers in Kelowna and Vancouver. “I like to keep things as close to nature as I can,” she says. “If I can source things within the Okanagan, I’d much rather do that. It’s a lot more natural to this area.”
A trend that excites Melinda is the return of garden roses, a more fragrant variety than their long-stemmed cultivated cousins. Garden roses are part of a larger trend of more retro garden styles incorporating natural elements—garden-variety flowers like roses and peonies, moss-covered branches, and a more asymmetrical design that doesn’t strive for perfection. Regardless of the trends or styles incorporated into flower design, Melinda believes that the role of flowers in a wedding is to highlight the bride, and not overwhelm her. She has filled orders running the gamut from elaborate to minimalist—one order even saw her taking flowers to the bride’s home the night before her wedding and helping the wedding party construct their own bouquets.
But orders that start small often grow once the client sees the floral design. “Once people start wanting flowers, they keep going,” she says. “To see someone embrace the beauty of nature is the best part of being a florist.” Client reactions to her creations often surprise even the clients themselves; one bride said she was ordering flowers because her mother expected her to. But when she saw a mockup of her bouquet, “She just about started crying!” Melinda says. “These flowers mean a lot more than what [she] said before.”
“They really have an impact.”