The Healing Power of Flowers Flows From — and to — Their Designer
This past Mother’s Day weekend, Vahini Franklin wasn’t served breakfast in bed, or treated to brunch at her favourite restaurant. She was busy launching her business, Blue Blossoms, at a pop-up shop at Union Station during the Blossom and Bloom show in Toronto, an open market showcasing local creative businesses.
While she missed sharing her special day with her sons, 19-month-old Noah, and 4-month-old Zion, and her husband, Pradhan, it was at the pop-up that she discovered how popular her boxed bouquets were because they sold out. After that, she decided to specialize in arrangements in decorative boxes, which include foam to keep the flowers hydrated.
“A lot of people are liking that,” Franklin said. “They liked my style. It wasn’t just the regular roses in the boxes. I had done bouquet style in a box.”
Franklin said customers fancy the boxes because they are unique. While watching proposal and wedding highlight videos, she noticed that grooms often present engagement rings and gifts with floral bouquets, so she thought, “Why not do both in one box?” On her Instagram account, she posted a photo of an all-in-one package, and a woman told her fiancé a few weeks before their wedding how much she liked it, so he bought one to give her a necklace.
The concept really resonates with the Hindu community, she said, explaining that it is customary for the groom to give his bride a gift just before she walks down the aisle. The Mother’s Day pop-up “showed me this is something I would be successful at,” Franklin said. “It might not work for everybody, but it definitely worked for me.”
For now, Franklin enjoys the freedom and flexibility of working from home to fill orders because she can take care of her sons at the same time. “It’s easy for me,” she said. “If they need anything I can just pause.” She didn’t rule out the possibility of opening a physical shop in the future.
A Calming Vocation
Franklin found her way to floristry after the birth of her second son. She says her new career is part of her recovery process from the post-partum depression she experienced after the birth of her first son. She had been studying community and criminal justice, but continuing at university with two babies seemed like too much to take on. “I really didn’t know if I could manage all that,” she said.
Franklin said she’s not 100 percent recovered from depression, but is “definitely in a better place right now.” She said she kept her problems and feelings to herself for too long. “I put on a smile and walk around keeping this disease a secret, afraid of what society will say because I do not want to be judged,” she wrote in late June in a blog post on TamilCulture.com, a forum for Tamil men and women. She described having to hide her unexpected pregnancy and being unable to feel joy when her son arrived.
“I felt hopeless and worthless,” Franklin wrote in her blog post. “I would ask myself constantly; what has my life come to? Changing diapers and cleaning vomit? I never wanted to be a housewife and I have never been without a job since I was 16 years old.”
She eventually opened up to her husband, who supported her, leading her to professional help. “I still go to therapy every six weeks,” she said.
Pradhan also reminded her she liked working with flowers, and suggested she enroll at Toronto Flower School in Mississauga. When the Franklins married in 2015, a friend who used to work at a flower shop helped her do their wedding flowers. Franklin enjoyed it then, but didn’t think of it as a career at that time.
She warmed to her husband’s suggestion and welcomed floral design as another form of therapy. “I can see myself doing that, so I’m not at home and getting depressed again,” she told Pradhan. She took classes in February 2017 while pregnant with Zion, and continues to attend master courses.
“I really loved it,” she said. “I learned a ton.”
Franklin said the school’s creative director, Mary Currie, continues to help her. “If I have any questions, she’s always there,” Franklin said. Currie and her sister also own Monarch Florists in Mississauga.
Franklin said she would like to partner someday with a mental health charity, starting a program where women with post-partum depression or depression could get out of the house, mingle and make floral arrangements. She advises others who might find themselves in a similar situation:
“Talk to somebody about it. The worst thing you can do is keep it to yourself. No one’s going to judge you. Just get the help you need because it could get worse if you don’t.”
Franklin said she might do a Valentine’s Day pop-up, but she thinks that preorders could be a better option. Though her website, http://www.blueblossoms.ca, does not allow for online ordering, customers and brides email her their requests. She has gone from receiving maybe one order per week when she first started, to six to nine per week now, including some from Vancouver.
If her business grows to a certain size, she might need a helper, she said. But for now, “I really enjoy doing it myself. I like the peace and quiet when I work. I like to make sure each bouquet has a little bit of me in it.”
Blue Blossoms also has started booking weddings. Franklin’s first wedding was in July; and she has several lined up the rest of this year and into 2018, providing bouquets, centrepieces, floral arches, and, for Hindu brides and grooms, garlands. It’s fun designing creations that brides have always wished for, she said.
Franklin chose the name Blue Blossoms because she’s surrounded by boys at home. Even their dog, Aldo, is male. “I wanted to incorporate all my boys into it,” she said.
“Blue Blossoms is my outlet and escape from the daily routine of raising my beautiful boys and caring for my loving husband,” Franklin said in her blog.