To celebrate Valentine’s Day, we caught up with ethical floral designer, Milli Proust, who grows a range of beautiful flowers in a conscious and passionate effort to protect and regenerate her surrounding wildlife. And she documents this process for her customers using the Leica Q2.
How did you get into the art of sustainable floral design?
It was the pleasure of receiving flowers, and the feelings it can invoke, that propelled me to start working with flowers in the first place. I believe in the power of flowers and think they’re one of the loveliest things to give and receive. I love working with the crops I grow and with other locally grown, seasonal flowers. Flowers that don’t cost the Earth environmentally speaking. The first time I worked in a florist shop, I couldn’t believe that the flowers were being shipped daily from other countries and were all bunched in wraps of un-recyclable plastic. The green flower waste at the end of the day didn’t even get composted, and I ended up feeling like I’d been buying into a lie. These flowers, such a seemingly natural product, were polluting the world in such a huge way. From there onwards, I made an effort to educate myself further to make more sustainable choices when it came to my work with flowers.
What inspires you to choose the flowers you grow and nurture? Do you have a favourite?
I love working with colour, textures and scent, so I look for exceptional standards in those qualities. I have such a soft spot for tulips too. After the scarcity of blooms during winter, they arrive with such confidence and are almost absurd with their big, bold flowers. I love a plant that dies gracefully, and tulips only get better as they age and fade as they continue to grow after being harvested. It’s magical watching them burst into their prime, followed by their exquisite decline. It’s a beautiful thing.
We love the way you present these designs online as well as the landscapes of where these flowers grow. What inspired you to document your process through beautiful photography?
I love this corner of Earth so much; it’s become such a love affair. I think she’s so beautiful, and I can’t stop taking pictures of her. The thing with flowers is that they perish. I celebrate that they don’t last forever, and I love that you wait all year for their time to bloom again. There’s such a fleeting, fragile beauty in all of it. And so, photography is the perfect way to savour the flowers and the designs I create. It’s also handy as a gardener or grower to document your work through the seasons, to know the date of the last frost, when the Lupins came up, how tall a vine grew one year; it helps to have a visual diary to look back on and draw from to navigate the seasons ahead.
Why did you choose the Q2 and what do you like the most about this camera?
I needed something robust that could handle the elements, that wouldn’t fuss at being outside all the time, and could capture the atmosphere and magic of the landscape here. Having the wide focal length is perfect for this too. I love the prime lens on it. I love that I can just grab and go whilst I work, without the option to overthink what extra equipment to use.
How has your photography impacted your business?
It’s been a defining factor. Floral design being such a visually fuelled medium, it means that having photographs that capture my portfolio of work is everything. The pictures I take of my designs and my growing space help my customers connect with the flowers from start to finish. They get to witness in real-time the process of growing, harvesting, and all the individual steps in between right through to the final design. They know how much work went into every single stem, which means a lot. It’s helped make the relationship between me and my customers a lot more intimate, and I value that greatly.
What does the future of floral design look like for you?
There’s lots of work to be done on making it a more diverse, inclusive, and accessible industry. On a global scale, one that demands safer working conditions and fair pay for workers at industrial-sized farms across the world. As consumers, I hope we continue to question the use of chemicals and their impact on growers and the environment. And look critically at the global trading structures of perishable crops and continue to search for sustainable solutions. Buying locally and seasonally might offer some resolution, but it must be done without rupturing existing economic bubbles elsewhere on the planet that could harm the growers in other countries. A focus for this coming year will be creating more opportunity for land access. On a more personal level, I hope to keep refining my techniques, create more designs whilst celebrating sustainable choices.
Follow Milli Proust’s journey on Instagram.