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Southern Sun hotels take pride in welcoming guests with beautiful fflowers on show ... but how much goes on behind the scenes to ensure the arrangements are perfect?



id you notice the striking flower arrangement when you checked in to this hotel? It’s hard not to. If you’re at The Palazzo you may have been greeted with an enormous bowl of 200 roses, Southern Sun The Cullinan guests are often treated to sculptured indigenous arrangements, while the SunCoast Hotel & Towers makes the most of its tropical setting with flowers such as anthuriums taking centre stage in the lobby. Leeandra Flynn of Fields of Colour is responsible for the flowers at Southern Sun’s Jo’burg and Pretoria hotels, and finding time to chat to her after her 4 am start is difficult as she goes from hotel to hotel, checking and refreshing all the flowers. A 4 am start? ‘Yes, I’m up early to go to the flower markets to see what’s on auction. And it’s not just a matter of finding the best quality flowers at the best price, I also need to keep in mind the different hotels’ briefs and how many arrangements each hotel requires.’ Are the briefs very different for each Southern Sun hotel? ‘Of course. Besides needing to match the hotel’s personality with the right flowers – The Palazzo has a luxurious Italian theme while Southern Sun Pretoria is more contemporary – I also have to keep in mind how many arrangements each hotel requires. While one hotel may want flowers only in the lobby, a hotel like The Palazzo will need flowers in the lobby, the restaurant, the bar, the presidential suite, the suites, the conference rooms and the restrooms. Then there are also guests’ personal requests to consider.’ What kind of guest requests do you deal with? ‘When Celine Dion stayed in The Palazzo’s presidential suite, we decked it out with her favourite flower – the peach rose.

When tackling a project like that one, we have to balance the decor of the hotel and the guest’s personal taste. Sometimes this can be tricky as we’ll need to import certain flowers such as the Singapore orchid.’ How do you avoid getting in the way of guests when doing major flower arrangements? ‘We come in very, very early before the majority of guests are awake.’ How often do you change the flowers? ‘The arrangements are changed once a week, but we come in daily to check every flower.’ Every day? But surely the hotel’s housekeeping staff can look after this? ‘The housekeeping staff make sure the flowers in each suite are fresh for each new guest, but for the big arrangements, we do it ourselves. This is not only an added service for the hotel, as it takes pressure off the housekeeping team, but we are better equipped to make a judgement call on the flowers. For instance, someone might think that a rose with a frilly edge is past its best, but there are certain roses that do have a frilly edge. High society roses, on the other hand, are red with a tinge of brown, and we’ve had experiences where hotel staff have thought the brown is a sign of decay. By knowing which flowers to remove and which to keep, we are able to look after our clients’ budgets.’ Do you think South Africans are too focused on exotic flowers, when we should be buying more locally grown ones? ‘Some flowers grow better overseas. However, I do look for and support certain local suppliers because I know the quality of their flowers. Our local farmers are getting better and better, but there is still a lot of learning to be done. I only buy choice grade flowers and if this means

I need to purchase from outside South Africa, then I do. By buying the best quality, my clients save money as these flowers have a much longer lifespan.’ How demanding is your job? ‘Very. It is tiring, both mentally and physically. You’re constantly looking at new ways to present flowers for your clients and you’re also on your feet all the time, often carrying heavy loads. People come to me and say “I’d love to be a florist”, but after a day on the job they’re so exhausted they rethink their wish!’ But is it worth it? ‘Oh yes. There are lots of great rewards. And there’s that moment, after all your hard work of sourcing the flowers, choosing the container, cleaning each stem and arranging it, when you step back and go “Wow, isn’t that amazing”.’ Fields of Colour % 011 467 1620,

If you’re doing an arrangement for your home, follow Leeandra’s tips for longer-lasting flowers: • Once you’ve chosen your container, give each stem a good clean-up by removing the leaves that would be in the water. • With a good pair of secateurs, cut two centimetres off the bottom of the stems. This will remove the air lock that develops when flowers are taken out of water. Cutting under water will prevent another air lock from developing. • Cut two centimetres or so off the stems every second day and change the water at the same time. • Give your flowers love and they will reward you with their beauty.


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