Deck the halls…

Christmas is award-winning florist Kerrie Bridger’s favourite time of year.  It’s also one of her busiest, as she helps spread a touch of floral magic to homes all around Tunbridge Wells. Rachael Hale visited Highgate Florist and Flower School in Rotherfield to find out more…


Why do you love Christmas so much, Kerrie?

I’ve always been a huge fan of Christmas. The whole season just feels so magical to me, and I still get that sense of wonder when I see a fantastic display of lights and ornaments. It’s also one of my favourite seasons in my shop as it’s filled with Christmas decorations and arrangements for sale as well as freshly cut foliage and dried fruit ornaments. It smells amazing!


How did you get into floristry?

My parents bought the land at Highgate about 40 years ago and turned it into a nursery. I grew up roaming the fields, watching my parents tend the plants and helping out in their flower shop. So once I left school, I just naturally fell into it. I used to have crippling anxiety and being able to do something I loved while living close to my family helped me enormously. Over the years I’ve taken on a much bigger role and a few years ago, I founded the Highgate Flower School and shop and helped my parents set up their Blossom and Bean café. It’s a lot of work, but I love it.


Have you won any awards or do you have any famous clients?

It was a few years ago but in 2014, we won the service and retail category in the My Country Business Awards run by Country Living Magazine. It was a spur-of-the-moment entry and I never thought we had a chance and was a bit blown away by the win, to be honest. I think the fact that our business ethos was so environmentally friendly gave us the edge back then. But growing our own flowers and foliage and buying from suppliers as close to home as possible is, for us, just instinctual. As for famous clients, well, I can tell you that I used to create weekly flower arrangements for Lisa Marie Presley when she lived in Rotherfield, and I’ve also made and delivered flowers to Cate Blanchett and Davina McCall.


What do you love most about your work?

I’m definitely not a fan of admin! I enjoy making wedding and funeral arrangements but as I’ve gained experience and confidence, I’ve discovered a real passion for teaching. Floristry is an art, and I don’t believe there’s a right or wrong way to do it. I run several ‘Introduction to Floristry’ courses each year and really enjoy teaching people the techniques they need to create displays for themselves. Handling flowers makes people relax, and seeing people go home happy makes me happy, too.


Are there any downsides to your job?

I love how my home and work life are so intertwined that Blossom, my four-year-old daughter, can wander around the flower fields with me and play nearby while I’m working. But it also means it’s really hard to switch off. My parents, my husband and I, live close by, which makes it far too easy to work late or pop in early. I definitely need to find a better balance.


Can you tell us about your new Home Floral Styling Consultation Service…

I love bringing a touch of nature into my home at Christmas and this service is for people who want to fill their homes with homemade displays and arrangements but don’t know where to start. My consultations cost £99, and for that, I go to a client’s home, listen to their ideas, and then offer advice about what sort of designs would look best and where. I also share tips on which flowers and materials to use, and when they should be bought so they last for the period needed. Following that, I email over a detailed plan of action. I’ve got 20 years of expertise and I’m happy to share all of it so my clients can confidently create the look they want for themselves.


What about people who can’t or don’t want to create the displays themselves?

Funnily enough, I offer that service too! It doesn’t matter if it’s a front porch display, the decorating of a Christmas tree, a mantlepiece arrangement, table centrepiece or a bannister decoration; I can create and install them all for you using a mix of fresh and faux foliage or just fresh, depending upon how close it is to Christmas.


What makes your Christmas tree decoration service so special?

I’ve always enjoyed decorating Christmas trees with natural and unexpected materials. Planning different looks fires up my creative side, and every year, the tree I’ve decorated for our café has received lots of lovely compliments. This year, I’ve used a mix of pampas grass, ribbon, dried oranges, gold foliage, pinecones, baubles and luxurious faux flowers and people keep saying they would love to copy the style at home but wouldn’t know how. So, I’ve set up a service to do it for them! My clients get their dream tree without the hassle of buying or decorating it and I get to create a bit of Christmas magic.


What are you most looking forward to in the New Year?

I’ve spent a lot of time restructuring the business so I can offer more floristry courses, workshops, and demonstrations next year. I also hope to grow my Facebook Flower School Membership and launch some new online tutorials. Oh, and I’ve also got some lovely wedding projects booked in, so it’s going to be all go!

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