Hayley O’Byrne of Carmel Floral on Brightening Your Space

Fresh flowers are a simple way to add joy to your home. Although they are often given as gifts, the act of buying yourself flowers can bring inspiration to yourself and your home. We spoke with Hayley O’Byrne of Carmel Floral about the art of floral arrangement and how to incorporate them into your space.

How did you get started in floral arranging?

“I spent a lot of time in gardens growing up, so I’ve had a pretty longstanding love of flowers. In 2016, I was working in fashion in the UK and on weekends, I worked for a flower subscription start-up that delivered flat-packed local flowers for people to arrange themselves in their homes. I helped put on their events, which required setting up a stall and arranging flowers for the display. When I returned to Toronto, I started to seriously consider a career in florals, and I was keeping close tabs on florists like BRRCH in New York and Fjura in London who were at the helm of the floral renaissance that’s been taking place over the past decade. I became completely taken with the idea of working with flowers as a career, so I started to chip away at getting some experience and learning more about them. I decided to take a short workshop with Jordana Masi of White Oak Flower Co, and spent lots of time experimenting on my own to develop my skills and to cultivate a unique and personal approach that felt authentic to me.”

What is your process and starting point when building an arrangement?

“A vessel will always dictate the arrangement for me. It’s the foundation and the most functional aspect of the piece, so it has to be well considered. I like to use bowl-shaped vessels with Kenzans (also called Pin Fogs) as the mechanism for holding the stems in place. As far as flowers, sometimes certain things take priority when creating a piece for a client—whether that’s colour, longevity, or if there’s a visual quality that I want to come across in an image. I try to trust myself and my aesthetic tendencies—if I like something, I’ll use it. In terms of structure, I find I gravitate towards a taller composition, with more bulk and cascading elements at the base.”

What are some easy flower arrangement tips you can share for people trying to brighten their spaces?

“Don’t be scared to play around with flowers—I’d recommend starting out with some inexpensive varieties that feel a little more ‘low-stakes’. Sometimes, in order to make an arrangement work in the vase you’re using, you need to be a little bold and cut the stems down—this can be intimidating as it’s obviously irreversible, but it’s a necessary step in building out an arrangement with interesting levels and layers.” 

Do you have any tips for building soothing arrangements?

“I try to keep this process as organic as possible. I used to have favourite colours, but honestly since working more closely with flowers, my relationship to colour has changed and nothing is off the table. I would say my nostalgic or emotional connection to flowers is what drives my approach, so my advice would be to use varieties that are meaningful to you and perhaps bring you to a calming place. Whether that’s via memory, or a more transportive approach with something foreign like a tropical flower.”

What are your tips for prolonging the longevity of flowers and plants?

“Make sure your vessel is squeaky clean, and change the water regularly. Trim stems every couple of days as well.” 

Do you have a personal favourite flower?

“Impossible question! The first thing that came to mind was a Nasturtium—they are quite pleasantly nostalgic for me. They were my grandmother’s favourite and she had nasturtium-motif objects everywhere in her house. Nasturtium petals are so pigmented that they almost appear chalky, yet so delicate.The flowers are also edible, and it’s an extremely prolific plant—there’s something beautiful about a modest plant that gets a lot of growing done. This summer, I’m having a crack at trying to grow Purple Bell Vine (Rhodochiton atrosanguineus), and I anticipate that being a breathtaking new fave.”