Everlasting Beauty

Under The Laurel Tree

We catch up with Laurene from Under The Laurel Tree to find out about her 21st century take on wedding flower preservation…

I don’t know about you, but after the dress, the other ‘gasp’ moment when I see a beautiful bride is always reserved for the flowers.

There’s something so dreamy and indulgent about a beautiful fresh bouquet – it’s just a shame they don’t last.

Loads of brides (myself included!) wish they could keep their bouquet forever, but the idea of dried flowers often conjures up images of dusty, deformed and yellowing bouquets that are more than a bit old fashioned.

Step forward Laurene Livingston, owner and chief floral artist at Under The Laurel Tree – a relatively new NI wedding biz that aims to challenge everything you thought you knew about dried flowers!

With a lifelong passion for art, Laurene bravely left her demanding job as a physiotherapist to pursue her dream of a more creative career – and the results are absolutely stunning.  We caught up with her to find out more…

Under The Laurel Tree

Under The Laurel Tree

Hi Laurene! Tell us about Under The Laurel Tree…

Under The Laurel Tree specializes in the preservation and bespoke framing of wedding bouquets and floral arrangements.  It’s different from simply drying the flowers – I use a dessicant gel which dries them out slowly without changing their shape or their natural colours, so I’m able to then recreate the beauty of the fresh bouquet, and use heirloom framing techniques to preserve it.  People are always really surprised by how contemporary the framed pieces look.  We live in a romantic old arts and crafts cottage near Lisburn and my studio is a converted summerhouse in the back garden – it’s under an enormous laurel tree, hence the name!

Under The Laurel Tree

Bouquet from The Flower Room, Belfast

Under The Laurel Tree

How did you get into drying flowers?

It’s funny how it all came about – it feels a bit like fate!  I’ve always been quite creative; I loved art when I was at school and my mum did a bit of wedding floristry when I was growing up so I used to help her with that, although that all sort of went by the wayside though when I went to university to study physiotherapy.  When I got married in 2016 that sparked my creative side off again, and having an appreciation for wedding flowers, I decided I wanted to get my bouquet preserved.  At that time the only person doing it was a lady called Teresa Greer in Dunadry.

By then I had worked for ten years as a physiotherapist but I began to find my job very demanding, both physically and mentally.  I ended up taking some time off due to exhaustion and by pure chance, around the same time Teresa told me that she was giving the business up, and couldn’t find anybody to take it on.  I was really nervous about making a career change but something in my gut was telling me I needed to do something more creative that would bring people joy, while also being less stressful for me.  My husband Wes was amazingly supportive and gave me the courage to go for it!  Teresa gave me basic training in all the techniques, sold me her equipment, and the rest is history.  I like to think that I have taken what she taught me and breathed new life and a much more modern feel into the finished pieces.  I’m also working towards getting my professional framing accreditation with the Fine Art Trade Guild.

Under The Laurel Tree

Under The Laurel Tree

Under The Laurel Tree

What’s involved in the process?

It all starts with keeping the bouquet as fresh as possible throughout the wedding day so that the flowers arrive with me in the best possible condition.  I offer advice to all my brides on how they can best do this.  When I receive the bouquet, I dismantle it very carefully, repair any damaged flowers by pinning them, and then I fill each individual bloom by hand with dessicant gel, before packing them away in tubs of gel for around six weeks.  This process dries the flowers without crushing them and preserves their colour too.  When they come out of the tubs, I’ll restore the flowers using glue to reattach dropped petals and special floristry paints if they have faded, which sometimes happens with pale coloured flowers.  I then use photographs and guidance from each client to reassemble the bouquet inside a custom-made box frame.  I make all the frames completely from scratch myself, including cutting the conservation glass, which protects the contents from UV light.  The whole process can take days of delicate work, not including drying time – it really is a labour of love.

Under The Laurel Tree

How long do they last?

Dried flowers dating back to the Victorian era still exist in museums today so there’s no doubt that drying flowers really does preserve them for a long time!  What’s harder to predict is how much the dried blooms will deteriorate over a period of decades, and how they will cope with environmental factors like heat, sunlight and humidity.  Every bouquet differs in terms of the conditions it has been kept in before it even gets to me so I don’t like to make claims about how long they will last in pristine condition for.  I do everything possible to extend this time by using conservation glass and offering advice on how to maintain and display your framed bouquet so it doesn’t get damaged. I can also retouch colours down the line if needed.  

Under The Laurel Tree

Under The Laurel Tree

Why should brides preserve their bouquet?

I think most brides don’t realize how special their wedding bouquet is until they have it in their hands – it’s a work of art.  Most keepsakes from your wedding will end up being stored away out of sight so it’s an amazing way to display something so unique to you, in a format that will potentially last a lifetime.  I think there’s something so romantic about the notion of a bridal bouquet as an heirloom that can be passed down the generations.  It also makes a really wonderful wedding gift!

So there you have it – preserved flowers as a perfect symbol of your eternal love!  Prices start from a budget friendly £200, but spaces are limited due to the delicate nature of the process, so advance booking is essential to secure your date.  You can contact Laurene via Facebook or call 07828 909225 for more information and bookings.

Images: Erica Irvine Photography