We had a lovely chat to florist extraordinaire Ruby Barber, the create soul behind Berlin-based Mary Lennox. This Australian-raised creative has art in her blood and a head for bespoke blooms. You can fall for her Instagram here and learn more on her website. For now, prepare to ponder her floral words (and perhaps pencil in your next trip to the German capital).
Why Mary Lennox - just a die hard Secret Garden fan or did the story mean something more to you?
I’ve always really loved The Secret Garden by Frances Hodges Burnett. In my first year of primary school I dressed as Mary Lennox for book week. Coincidentally my family also owned a building on the corner of Mary and Lennox street in Sydney. It was a pretty special address - it housed my father's first photography studio, my mother's first art gallery and then my first flower studio, so the name has personal significance that goes beyond liking the story.
What do you love most about your job?
I love the flowers the most, obviously! But I also love the significance of flowers as an exchange; people send flowers to express the most beautiful sentiments and every special occasion in life is celebrated with flowers. I love being involved in these passionate moments of human emotion.
Is there a florist community - in Berlin and beyond?
I’m still discovering the florist community here in Berlin but I am connected with florists all over the world. Every time a florist is passing through Berlin we make a point of meeting up, and the first thing I do when visiting a new city is get in touch with local florists and farmers. It is a really welcoming and supportive community and a love of flowers is a powerful bond.
What has been the most exciting project to work on to date?
I’ve had lots of exciting ‘firsts’ since moving to Berlin. Last June I worked in collaboration with Kentholz, a carpenter, to build a greenhouse for the Mercedes Benz Lobby. This was a really exciting project because it was plant based and the exhibition ran for two months. It was fun to create something that had a life span longer than cut flowers and to see it grow and evolve over the duration of the exhibition.
What would be your dream collaboration?
At the moment I am dreaming of having a cutting garden. I love Julie Newmar’s garden. Perhaps it’s a little far fetched to get the original Catwoman to design a garden for me, but one can dream.
I’ve also always loved the idea being involved with set design. I always pay careful attention to the flowers in TV shows. Shows like The Nanny and Gossip Girl always had the most extravagant florals and I would love to design flowers in this context one day.
Do you have any winning tips you have for aspiring florists?
Approach and work with as many florists as you can. In my experience the most inspiring have always been willing to teach and share their love of flowers. When I started out — against all advice — I started a floristry course. I don’t think this was very beneficial in the end. The only class I would really recommend would be something at The Little Flower School run by Sarah of Saipua and Nicolette of Nicollette Camille.
What were the biggest differences you’ve noticed between working in Australia and Germany?
The biggest difference is the seasonal changes. The natural landscape of Berlin changes so drastically from winter, spring, summer to autumn and it’s really fun to mirror the beautiful flowers and foliage each season has to offer in my arrangements.
The flower market in Australia is really special. The produce is particularly interesting and most of it comes from local farms. I really miss it. Here in Berlin local produce is very hard to come by. For me, imported flowers don’t have as much charm. I’m not interested in ‘perfection,’ I like flowers with irregularities and delicate blooms that grow wild. These things are not available here in Berlin as a matter of course, everything is shipped in from the flower auction. I hope this is something that will change in the future. I’m doing my best to work with Berlin-based farms and grow things myself.
If someone only had 24 hours in Berlin what should they do?
I recently had a friend visiting from Australia who asked me the same question. I sent him to Teufelsberg, an abandoned listening tower in the forest. I think it was actually a really crazy thing to recommend to someone who had never been here before, there is no signage, no real entrance and no direct trains. I neglected to warn him about any of this but luckily he enjoyed the adventure. For something less ambitious, I’d recommend visiting a handful of parks (Tiergarten, Templehof, Treptow Park).
Mary Lennox currently has a new showroom at The Store x Soho House Berlin, and boy does it look beautiful.
“The earth laughs in flowers.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson