By Shelby Brooks

FOR almost 16 years, florist Yvonne Hess and husband Brian have been supplying Korumburra and the surrounding towns with beautiful bouquets of flowers for the best and worst moments in people’s lives.

Yvonne and Brian, who own Korumburra Florist on Commercial Street, said retail florists with shopfronts in regional towns were becoming rare.

“The distinction between a florist and the profession becomes blurred because anyone can be a florist,” Yvonne said.

“Floristry is a trade and you get a qualification, it’s not just ‘oh I love playing with flowers’ but there are a lot of people in floristry who don’t have qualifications.

“It’s hard to compete with people who don’t have to pay for a shopfront and therefore the price of their flowers don’t need to reflect that,” Brian added.

“We accept that and that’s fine, but it does make it difficult and why you see less and less florists on main streets because they find it increasingly difficult to compete against those who have practically no overheads.”

Another challenge to the retail flower industry is international companies pretending to be from the local area when someone searches for Korumburra flowers on Google.

“[These companies] take a chunk of money from a customer, they then take 30 to 40 per cent of that and try to get a local florist to do the job for that lesser amount,” Brian said.

“And if they can’t get anyone to do it, then it’s not done but, of course, they keep the money.”

Korumburra Florist has its own website, but Yvonne said people still preferred to ring to speak to someone to make sure they are speaking to a local business.

Yvonne does flowers for anniversaries, birthdays, bereavement, Valentine’s Day and other special occasions.

“With flowers, everything is personal. People who come through the door are quite often having a hard time,” Brian said.

“Florists are almost like psychologists at times because you’re dealing with people at their best of times and the worst of times. We have people crying as they’re ordering their flowers – sometimes they’re tears of joy and sometimes they are of utter despair.

“What sums up the floristry trade is emotion.”

Yvonne said city and country people hold different perceptions to the value of flowers, with city people willing to pay more money for high-quality flowers.

“A lot of people in Korumburra have gardens,” Yvonne said.

But Yvonne said there’s a big difference between a floristry rose and a garden rose, such as the uniformity of the flower, longevity and stem length.

“We have roses at home, but would I choose to bring them in here? They’re not going to last a day!”

Brian, who hails from Canada, said: “Canadians appreciate flowers more, I think, because you have that harsh winter and snow and you need that little pop of cheer brought into the house occasionally because it’s so dreary.

“It’s the same in Europe; they have a much greater appreciation for flowers and view them as more essential than they do here in Australia.”

Within South Gippsland though, each town has different trends and types of flowers they like, Yvonne said.

“You can sell a lot of lilies in Leongatha but hardly any here,” Yvonne said.

“Each little town has its own culture,” Brian added.

“Leongatha likes different things than Korumburra. It sounds funny because they’re only 15km away but it’s a different culture and town, and that’s also one of the reasons you need local because every little town is its own little cultural niche.

“We don’t buy in daffodils because people don’t buy them here. And we don’t buy white flowers – people like colour, pinks.”

In the last 10 to 15 years, the reason why people are buying flowers has changed, Yvonne and Brian said.

No longer are people looking for table centrepieces for family occasions, for example.

“We’re getting less formal in our cultural events, so therefore there are less flowers because they are not looked at as a necessary component of our celebrations,” Brian said.