A NEW CONCEPT STORE IN BERLIN IS INTRODUCING EPHEMERAL FLORAL ARRANGEMENTS FROM SYDNEY. BY GISELA WILLIAMS.
INCE CHILDHOOD, RUBY BARBER’S favourite book has been The Secret Garden, the classic children’s story by Frances Hodgson Burnett. “Of course I didn’t realise then how significant that book would become for me,” says Barber, sitting on a low couch in Berlin’s chic new concept boutique, The Store, at Soho House. Just four years after moving from Sydney to Germany’s creative capital, Barber oversees a flower studio in a light-filled corner of the sprawling space that also includes a popular cafe. The Store, in Berlin’s Mitte district, is scattered with racks of Ann Demeulemeester and The Row clothing as well as hand-carved wooden bowls, vintage design books, and Aesop products from Australia. Barber named her blossoming company Mary Lennox, after the main character in the iconic novel who finds a neglected garden hidden behind overgrown walls and eventually brings it back to life. The story is appropriate for the ambitious 27-year-old, who has stumbled into Germany’s still very industrial flower industry and harbours plans to revolutionise the way Berliners see fresh, cut flowers. Unlike in Sydney, where it was a pre-dawn race to the flower markets each day to chase down the best locally sourced branches and blooms, the wholesale market in Berlin is dominated by imports from the ››
‹‹ Netherlands. “In Australia it’s all about the strangest thing you can find. Here in Germany, Ecuadorian roses are still fashionable.” Barber’s first year in Berlin was spent navigating the market and sourcing local growers. She then sent individual bouquets to local bloggers and creatives with whom she wanted to connect. In her second year, she opened an atelier and began exploring Holland. “I had to work out how to make those imports work for me,” she says, before adding, “Foraging here can be pretty good.” She also began growing her own edible garden. “My apartment is filled with plants,” she enthuses. Her boyfriend, who works at the Berlin nightclub Tresor, convinced the owner to allow them to create a garden outside the club. “Now Tresor has our cherry, pomegranate and lemon trees as well as some rose bushes,” she says. “It would be nice if we could inspire people to turn abandoned city plots into flower farms.” The decision to move abroad came when Barber, having slowly built up her reputation in Sydney by creating unusual flower arrangements for brides and a small but impressive group of local clients, was approached by Alex Eagle — a British stylist and creative director of The Store. They discussed a collaboration with the retail concept to creatively enliven its walls and corners with plants. “Alex wanted the space to be really green,” says Barber. Together they commissioned a beautiful copper flower bench from the architect Sigurd Larsen, which Barber loads with lovely bouquets every day. She jokes, “I am really learning to love the flowers from Holland,” then adds, “I just want to work with new and exciting flowers all the time.” Barber is currently collaborating with various Berlin-based artists, such as photographer Amira Fritz, to create art installations or still lifes that feature flowers and plants. “I want to pursue projects around flowers that are not necessarily how a typical florist works,” she says. Mary Lennox is also developing a line of seeds that promotes the concept of intercropping, a horticultural term that means the practice of growing two or more crops in the same space that will mutually benefit each other. “That’s how I like to work as well, collaborating with those who surround us to create something even better.”
“That’s how I like to work as well, collaborating with those who surround us to create something even better”
right: Barber beside some of her floral arrangements; her Balenciaga top is available from The Store. below: a vibrant bouquet of orange and yellow Icelandic poppies, David Austin roses, Italian ranunculus, purple sweet peas and mauve scabiosa.
clockwise from left: Barber at work. The expansive retail space. Black vases by Christine Roland. Pastel vases from Tortus Copenhagen. Vases available from The Store.