Gather round! It’s officially entertaining season!
To help curate a swoon-worthy festive table setting that your guests will be talking about, we’ve enlisted our favourite floral fanatics, The Beautiful Bunch, to curate the ultimate festive table and a guide to maximum style with minimal effort.
As a not-for-profit floral delivery service, The Beautiful Bunch are passionate about creating beautiful floral arrangements and supporting young women from refugee backgrounds to fulfil their dreams. They provide a safe, welcoming and supportive environment for young women to train and learn transferable skills that will set them up for success.
Meet the founder, Jane Marx (aka an entertaining queen) and her story behind how she grew her floristry business during covid, the importance of training and upskilling refugee women and her secret tips and tricks to creating heavenly floral arrangements for any soiree, dinner party or Christmas celebration.
Hi Jane, we absolutely love how The Beautiful Bunch sprung to life during lockdown. Can you share with our readers how the business was born?
A previous social enterprise of mine was forced to close at the start of the first lockdown here in Melbourne in 2020. We were focused on events, so lost all of our business overnight. I had to let go of a full staff of young women from refugee backgrounds, most of whom had never worked before and were thinking they would finally get the opportunity. It was devastating. The closure of that business also meant a loss of income for me, and on a personal note, I was pregnant at the time, so it was a really challenging period of my life.
I had my daughter, Claudette, in July, 2020. As I had just had a baby and lost a business, and I couldn’t see anyone in person, my home was filled with flowers from friends and family. I remember looking around at all the flowers and thinking that the girls who I’d work with and I could create bouquets that were even more beautiful than what I had received!
We had access to a gorgeous, light-filled studio space in Fitzroy North that was a part of our previous business and intended for client meetings and training for our events. Our landlord stood by us throughout the whole pandemic period, and that was really crucial in giving me the capacity to start dreaming again and thinking of what a meaningful, resilient business looked like in what felt like a new world!
We launched in that little studio in October 2020 with just myself, and three young women I'd had to let go of at the start of the pandemic. We started from less than nothing. I paid our first trainees with my maternity leave savings, and we delivered the flowers ourselves until we had enough cash flow for a courier. We didn’t even have a proper work bench. Unlike many other social enterprises, this business was built alongside the very people it is intended to serve, and whilst it was really hard and I certainly had my moments in those early days, I do think it is part of what makes The Beautiful Bunch so special.
Your work with supporting and upskilling female refugees is an absolute girl boss move – and a BIG tick from us – tell us about the resources and training you provide and why it’s so important?
I am a really passionate advocate of meaningful work and financial independence being a crucial determiner of women’s overall health and wellbeing. We support young women from refugee backgrounds who face significant barriers to entering the workforce and finding that vital first job. Our program focuses on floristry fundamentals, so there is a strong creative force at the heart of everything we do. However, in addition to this, we have extended our program to also teach digital skills and financial literacy. We are one of the very few organisations that is equipping young women with these skills and it is so important! There is no point in our trainees being able to make beautiful floral arrangements if they can’t also master a spreadsheet and understand the importance of superannuation. So, our focus really is on those transferable skills that are going to set-up our trainees for life-long success.
Everyone has a different story, but for many of our trainees they are the first woman to work in their family in Australia. So, it is crucial that in addition to skills acquisition, our trainees are being shown examples of strong female leadership. The team and I work hard on creating a supportive, professional, warm, female-focused working environment, where we lead with kindness and empathy and our trainees feel that we are invested in them personally. They know that no matter what the future brings, they have a community of women who they can always turn to and who care for them deeply. I think that’s a pretty magical thing to be a part of!
SUMMER TABLE STYLING TIPS
There are SO many beautiful flowers to choose from at the moment! What is your go-to summer bouquet and what flowers are best at this time of the year?
This is such a hard question to answer, because we are just overwhelmed with beauty in the botanical world this time of year! We have the first of the season garden roses just emerging, which have been stunning. My favourite is called Amy Lou, it is a particularly sensual rose, it is quite large and the scent is intoxicating. The sweet pea this year has also been gorgeous, we have had a really good variety of colours. Also, we have had some particularly beautiful tree peonies in our studio this week.
For novices like us, can you share easy ways to put together gorgeous floral arrangements, so they can bring a little love to our dinners with friends?
It’s all about the vase you choose! You can buy a bunch of really affordable market flowers and if you choose the right vase, you can manage to create the most stunning arrangement. I find a lot of people – and I think this is just an Australian thing more generally – tend to select vases with an opening that is too narrow. You then get this strange-looking bottleneck shape happening and the arrangement looks choked! So, pick a vase with enough room for the flowers to move and breathe, always buy local, have three different varieties if you can, and good height variation makes everything look more considered.
CHRISTMAS TABLE STYLING TIPS
For a table full of guests and food, do you suggest one large arrangement or multiple smaller vases scattered across the table?
My personal preference is one large, long, low arrangement, however, I think practically, and for sizeable gatherings, multiple smaller vase arrangements are the better option. We provide flowers for a lot of weddings and large private gatherings each year, and the smaller bud vases work really well in terms of not overwhelming the food and wine on the table, and also in ensuring each guest has flowers close by!
What blooms are iconically festive for this time of year? What will be adorning your table this Christmas?
So, my favourite festive botanical piece would have to be the Christmas Wreaths that we create at The Beautiful Bunch! We make them with all local product, and a combination of dried and fresh foliage and focal flowers. They sell out almost every day and are the perfect festive adornment!
However, we celebrate Christmas each year with my family in Tasmania, and we can’t bring any perishable product in to the state. So, I happily pick whatever is in my mother’s beautiful garden and create table arrangements with her flowers. What will be available in the garden is a hot topic of conversation between my mother and I from about November onwards! At this point it is looking like we’ll have hydrangea, roses, salvias, banksia, leucadendron, and grevillea. For our Christmas table arrangements, I always mix native flowers with a softer, more cottage garden aesthetic, so the flowers bring a big festive, Australian Christmas element to the table!
As a queen of entertaining, what are your top three tips to creating the perfect table setting for your guests?
I am absolutely the queen of entertaining! Having traversed both the hospitality and floral worlds, there is nothing I love more than playing host. I also love to cook and drink wine, so I really am in my element this time of year! I could happily write an essay on this, but I’m not sure anyone would actually want to read that, so my three quick tips are: table linens that are properly pressed (sorry!), good quality glassware, and local, seasonal flowers en masse.