A blooming lovely show: the florists behind Hedda Gabler

HEDDA GABLER – November 7-11

Philip Smale and Sachiko Smale MDPF with the bouquets for Hedda Gabler

There’s a long relationship between flowers and the theatre: from the roses that audiences throw onstage, to the bouquet traditionally presented to the leading lady on opening night.

Norwich’s own Sachiko Smale MDPF (Masters Diploma in Professional Floristry) continues that tradition this week: the British Master Florist and RHS Chelsea Medallist is providing the flowers for the Norwich leg of Hedda Gabler’s UK tour.


Adam Best (Brack) and Lizzy Watts (Hedda Gabler) in Hedda Gabler Photo: Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

“It’s been fantastic,” says Sachiko, director of Libby Ferris Flowers on Grove Road: “this is our first time working with the National Theatre, which is such a privilege.” Her co-director Philip Smale agrees: “They were very specific with what they needed from us. The team there had a very clear view of what they wanted – and especially what they didn’t want!”

“That was especially true because the actors are onstage barefoot, stamping all over the flowers,” Sachiko explains. “That means there are health and safety issues for us to consider, as well as how those flowers look onstage. You certainly don’t want any thorns in there!”

Sachiko and Philip took over the business a year ago, having moved here from Devon. At the time, Sachiko was running her own flower shop, as well as teaching floristry in college. “I was looking for premises in London,” she says, “but then this business came up. It’s quite a large one, so I asked Philip to join me; after all, two heads are better than one.”

Philip laughs: “I’m supposed to be retired – I’m working harder than ever!

“It’s great to be in Norwich, though. That’s one of the reasons we picked this particular business: Norwich is so close to London, but it’s got its own culture and its own feel to it. You’ve got the University and NUA, and there’s so much going on. This is such a creative city; we’re constantly surprised by the range of events taking place. That’s one of the pleasures of living in Norwich.”

With a whole week of performances to cater for, it’s a busy week at Libby Ferris Flowers. “Today, there’s just the one performance, “Sachiko explains: “That means we have to provide nearly 120 stems. Tomorrow will be a two-performance day, so that’s about 240 stems to source. And from there, we just keep doing it again – by the end of the week, we’ll be using over one thousand stems, which is a lot of flowers!”

The staff of Libby Ferris Flowers with the bouquets for Hedda Gabler. From left, Nicole Hollands, Philip Smale, Sachiko Smale MDPF, Emma Wilson, Tracie Watts, Wendy Hancock

See Hedda Gabler here until Saturday. Buy tickets now at Norwich Theatre Royal.