Flowers power a Dublin florist with exotic appeal

Ginkgo, opened during the recession, has put down roots on Baggot Street

Bronagh Harte of Ginkgo Florists: “Never forget that repeat custom is a massive thing.” Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Bronagh Harte of Ginkgo Florists: “Never forget that repeat custom is a massive thing.” Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

There are people on Dublin’s Upper Baggot Street who will tell you that Ginkgo Florists is a gift to the locality. Not just for the glory of its flowers, or for the whiff of exotica in the air as you pass. Ginkgo is appreciated for its window and pavement displays, for the choice, colours and lush scents inside, for the friendly feel of the place and its expert staff. Just three years in situ, Ginkgo feels as if its been around forever. It has certainly taken root.

Bronagh Harte is Ginkgo. A Kilkenny woman with a mile-wide creative streak – she loved plants as a child but took a roundabout route to flower-shop ownership.

“I studied film in what was then Ballyfermot Senior College and afterwards worked on Ballykissangel and The Magdalene Sisters,” Harte recalls. “I loved it but couldn’t stand the temporary nature of the work.”

So she returned to her earlier passion and studied horticulture for four years in the Waterford Institute of Technology. A first-year module in floristry “really whetted my appetite. The entire four years were great. We had a brilliant teacher and did nursery production, stats and a module in plant identification and use, which has really stood to me.”

The busiest times are Christmas, 'a long haul of a month', and Valentine’s Day

When Harte finished at Waterford, she was “old, completely unemployable and inexperienced. But I showed eagerness, so a lovely lady in Crumlin’s Creative Flowers took a chance, gave me a job and trained me. I worked under a fantastic Polish woman called Hanka who could make flowers talk and taught me so much”. Next came a stint with Dublin florists Appassionata, “where I got the greatest training and decided to spread my wings”.

Recession

The recession was still a reality when Harte negotiated a manageable rent on 48 Upper Baggot Street. “I couldn’t have afforded it at any other time,” she says, “plus I’ve got a lovely landlord. I signed on May 14th, 2013 and opened on May 29th. My husband [Aidan Harte, a writer and sculptor] sister and parents all helped. By the time I opened the doors at about 11am, the flowers were conditioned” – that is, unwrapped, leaves stripped and standing in water. “And there were three bouquets ready to go!”

There has been no looking back. “I was here seven days a week for a long time. Aidan was great. He still helps, does the window installations and more. We work to give the shop general appeal so that guys feel comfortable coming in. I’d say our customers are 50/50 males and female, plus two of the florists are male.”

Harte’s staff of six, together with Aidan and herself, make “a great team”, a vital ingredient in Ginkgo’s success. “The camaraderie between us is important, we’re a happy team.”

They also make for a veritable UN of nationalities. Head florist Alex is Romanian, Marcin is Polish, Vali and Mihaela are Romanian, and Elle is Australian. Irish-born Martina has come to floristry as a second career and is, Bronagh says, “our intoxicant. She lives the work”.

Most of the flowers sold in Ginkgo come from Holland, from a couple of markets near Rhinesberg. Bronagh sometimes uses an Irish supplier but finds the choice on offer “restrictive, just the old reliables. We have 150 varieties of flowers in the shop at any one time, plus colours and variety within that again. It’s one of the things that makes us different. We’re in a great position here, with a good footfall.”

Busiest times

The flowers come into Dublin Port, and the cut-off time for ordering from suppliers Viaflors and Van der Plas is noon on Friday. “They get to the shop by Sunday and are ready for sale on Monday,” Harte says. “We get two big batches per week and order in between too.”

The busiest times are Christmas, “a long haul of a month”, and Valentine’s Day. The latter is the “most manic of all, when we sell nothing but roses and the customers are all boys and all last minute! We even had guys knocking at 7pm, desperate.”

Growing in popularity is International Women’s Day when the buyers are “nearly all eastern European guys, no Irish guys at all. They buy one flower, or tulips. Very stylish”. Mother’s Day is another big one, harder to predict than the others “because all mothers are different”. After these come weddings, “and then it’s prepping for Christmas again. There’s always something to do in a flower shop”.

Harte also does contract work for the Dylan Hotel and supplies the offices of dentists, solicitors and financial services companies. Ginkgo also does bridal consultations, advising on colour schemes and suitable flowers.

She advises anyone setting up a floristry to “get a good accountant, one who will offer advice when you bounce ideas off her or him, get a good team together, and never forget that repeat custom is a massive thing. Be helpful, offer advice, be happy as a team and customers will feel good.”

Ginkgo Florists, 48 Upper Baggot Street, Dublin 4, ginkgoflorists.ie