Meet Willow Crossley, who shot to fame as one of the florists for Meghan and Harry’s royal wedding. Since then her career has continued to blossom! We speak to Willow to learn a little bit more her journey up until the royal wedding, the fantastic clients she works with, her favourite flowers and what most inspires her creativity. Willow even shares some great advice for aspiring florists!
Willow grew up in Wales and is the daughter of artist-gardener Kate Corbett-Winder – “My brothers and I got so bored of her constantly weeding, but it’s come full circle and my bedroom reading is now seed catalogues”. Her three young sons seem to be following the same nature path, pointing out the names of trees while out on walks and presenting their mother with fir cones and bits of lichen. In lockdown she believes lots of us, like her, were obsessed with making “little areas of the home lovely”. Her husband does all the cooking, while she describes her role as about how things look. Pretty gorgeous, if her Instagram is anything to go by!
Her passion for sustainability
Much of what’s for sale in Willow’s online shop she designs herself, partly because she couldn’t find the vases that she wanted for her own arrangements. “I’m really trying to buy as local to us as possible. Post-Covid anything from abroad takes so long to arrive and besides, my ethos is to be as sustainable as possible”. Willow sources her flowers in Britain for eight months of the year, something she explains is getting easier and easier as local growers proliferate: “During lockdown I was messaged again and again by people who’d decided to give up being a lawyer to become a grower”.
She has strong feelings about how bad for the planet so much of the floristry industry is, plastic wrapping, pots, green foam for arrangements and all the rest of it. “Just because things have always been done that way doesn’t mean you can’t change”.
How she was inspired to become a florist
Willow originally wanted to go into fashion but was worn down by spending hours in a dark fashion cupboard while simultaneously styling interiors and writing books. She had her lightbulb moment when writing a chapter on flowers and she realised that’s what she was going to do. Her husband gave her a course at the Covent Garden Flower Academy for her birthday where she learnt the basics, though wryly describes the teachers constantly trying to rein her in. Since then, she’s learnt it all on the job, working out the mechanics of making enormous arrangements hang from the ceiling with no water. It is stressful, she admits, because flowers have a habit of dropping down dead and you never know what the weather is going to do. “I always order more than I need and plan like mad. I did an event at Blenheim Palace and it was so unbelievably hot that candles were burning down in 30 mins rather than eight hours”.
Willow’s favourite flowers
May is Willow’s favourite month for flowers. “You’ve got tulips, Solomon’s seal, foxgloves, peonies – my absolute favourite – and beeches with all their gorgeous fresh applyness”. For foliage she turns to oak, variegated ivy and summery sorbus. She also adores dahlias, despite her poor mother – who designed her wedding flowers – being banned from using them at the time. “Not sure what I was thinking, but I love dahlias now!”.
If she could give advice to a florist-in-the-making, she says not to be nervous. “On workshops the first thing many say is how scared they are. Start small. Go to a hedgerow and pick some things to go in a bud vase. Dot them down a kitchen table and you’ll start to learn how long things live and what goes with what. You’ll always get flowers in the best condition from a local grower. And if you want to work in the industry get as much work experience as you can. When you realise you’ll be putting up a wedding in the day and taking it down at 3am you’ll see it’s far from a namby pamby job”.
Her favourite moments
As career highlights go, there have been many, including an installation for Ralph Lauren for Chelsea in Bloom 2021 that won the People’s Champion award and a Gold. “It was amazing! The theme was Extraordinary Voyages and we turned the store into a train. We built through the night on Sunday and opened on Monday morning after six months of planning”.
Willow is working with Dior on floral masterclasses with their Creative Director Cordelia de Castelene and her fabric and wallpaper collaboration with Barneby Gates has been a huge success. This came about because she wanted to work with her great friend, Barneby Gates co-founder Vanessa. “Girlfriends are such an important part of my life, especially those like Vanessa who are self-employed too. They’re just on the same frazzled and exhausted page”. She says that working with children is a juggle – “we are doing everything at home as well so having a group of great girlfriends is hugely reassuring and comforting”.
What’s next for Willow?
What’s to come is a clothing collaboration for which she was the model “The only bit of the otherwise fascinating process” that she wasn’t keen on. In the future she’d love to work with Gucci because she loves their mad clashing floral prints and do a music set stage “the madder the better, though the speakers might get in the way which would annoy me!”.
If you’ve been inspired by her love of beautiful seasonal blooms, Willow has a wonderful selection of flower arranging workshops for you to enjoy!