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And 2022 Opens With a Flower Shop…
"Flowers have played a strong role in my life, from very early on, more so than food ironically."
By Shelley Kleyn Armistead, Partner/CEO Gjelina Group
Each human who works at GJ Flower Shop has their own personal history with flowers, as do so many of you. They symbolize birth and death. Celebrations and sympathies. Overanalyzed, thrown out, and kept for lifetimes – like those given to me on the birth of my boys. If they knew how much pressure they had on them, I wonder if they would bloom at all. The Victorian times were prevalent for sending messages and meaning through the types of flowers that you gifted, and there is much written on this. The more modern-day sweetness of the book The Language of Flowers, demonstrates this through an actual flower shop, and I am sure cements the dreaminess of flower shop owners around the world, that flowers are the envoys between so many relationships.
Flowers have played a strong role in my life, from very early on, more so than food ironically. Working for Terence Conran taught me that floral placement had to have an intention. Watching the weekly architectural display of Gladioli, bright blue Delphinium, or long French tulips drop into the big glass vase at The River Café in London and the ceremony with which that happened – they had a purpose and place. Rose Gray’s patience letting me pick her calendula out of the garden, to make tinctures in the walk-in fridge, for the inevitable cuts and burns that happen in a kitchen. Everyone’s patience frankly while I propped up my study cards, while prepping for the evening service, teaching everyone along the prep line about the healing nature of plants for my next exam.
But really it goes way back, hiking the Helderberg Mountains in South Africa, weekly, with my parents from very little. Learning all the names of flora and fauna, never being allowed to pick any, only to listen and observe the seasons of the Protea, Leucospermum, Erica and Leucadendron families, brings me both joy and conflict seeing them grow and being cut with such abundance within California. Those mountains were my bedroom view for the first 18 years of my life, our home at the base of them. My primary teacher is my father, who to this day is still my oracle on edible plants, medicinal plants, wildflowers, and the unpredictable relationship with roses.
In the early 2000’s my 5am walk through Notting Hill Gate to open The Electric on Portobello Road, took me via Yotam and Sami, baking their giant oversized passion fruit muffins in the basement of what would then become their first café, Ottolenghi on Ledbury Road, to grab a box for the morning breakfast display. My route then led me around Turquoise Island where Wild at Heart was the most wildly romantic flower space, pressing my nose against their glass preopening, and stopping in for a stem on my way home. Opening the doors of The Electric onto Portobello Road at 7am to the sound of the flower sellers along the street shouting for a sale. And Barry, and his even louder strawberry sales.
Was that daily routine more romantic than the flowers than I passed when I walked down Columbia Road to get my morning pastry; those I passed to get into Bibendum for Oysters; walked through at Villandry when buying cheese; or at the side door of Liberty’s when buying a beautiful box of chocolates; or sitting next to those at Petersham Nurseries for lunch? I don’t know. But I do know that their presence in creating beauty was one of a few solidifying factors in a desire to open one, so 25 years later here we are.
And in my heart, it is a poem to my cousin Julie Galpin. The most creative of us all. Textile designer, ceramicist, and flower farmer. A trip to Holland in her 20’s meant falling in love. She and her boyfriend, a Dutch boy, moved to the south of France where they lived in a caravan and slowly but surely farmed small pieces of land until they could buy the next piece, when eventually they put the original estate back together, their final purchase being the original main house. Which she decorated beautifully. More beautiful than anything I could imagine for Gjusta Goods. Her creation, our north star. She grew the most extraordinary peonies. She arrived at my wedding in England having carried her just picked ranunculus all the way with her. The washed out coffee and pale pink colors still make me emotional when I see them. And they were the first soft bloom that we sold in Gjusta, when I started buying flowers. And the blooms that GJ Flower Shop sent me, as I recover from Covid. Because they know the meaning of flowers for me. Sadly, Julie passed away, far too soon. A giant loss to the creation of beauty in this world.
And to all the Galpinii plants that you enjoy on the patios at Gjusta and Gjelina – that’s for Julie too.
We ensure that all that we buy, has never been sprayed or treated in such a way that might cause you harm. Just as you would consider when buying food, so too we treat our flower purchasing in the same way.
I hope you will enjoy learning about the wonderful people that grow our flowers and the creators Bailey and Susannah who make all the incredible arrangements. Grab a cup of tea at Grocer and swing by the alley for a chat. It’s a special place.
Hayley at Absolute Flowers, when still on Clifton Road, London, for creating the perfect posy to celebrate the birth of my eldest Joseph in 2004. @absoluteflowersandhome
Jo at Flowers by Passion, in Bath, for my wedding bouquet of blousy cream peonies and Metalina roses. @flowersbypassion
Kitten Grayson, for the beautiful tables of blossoms for my wedding, and Joseph’s christening, in a field in Somerset. It was the perfect day. @kittengraysonflowers