After three Covid years of "I'll visit when I can fly", I booked an impromptu trip to Seoul in March 2023 to meet Hye Ji of Gather and Assemble.

Hye Ji has been a florist for over ten years with experience across Japan and the US- but more importantly since we last met, she's also a newly-minted mom.

Because she's since moved studio to make room for her little one, we spent the uncharistically sunny (for Korean end-winter, that is) Saturday morning in Studio Aavec's garden glasshouse instead. 


We had an abundance lush local foliage like my favourite hanging spirea, even strawberry leaves and forget-me-nots as well as specially-picked duotone Holland ranunculus and scabiosa, plus tulips from nearby Japan. Korea's large consumer market for florals, as well as greater proximity to Japan and even Holland (the 6 hours truly makes a difference), means they arrive much fresher and get more variety - I'm always in awe.

Over banana cider vinegar and avocado salad, we talked about hunting for vessels with character and the work that goes into making them waterproof, plus how the floral industry has changed for us these few years. Koreans are buying more wholesale, which means their floral markets are bringing in more conventional flowers over the usual wedding variety to support demand, pushing florist storefronts toward teaching for an additional source of income. Here, we're seeing brides request more wild flowers and garden roses even as supply can't keep up in a small country like Singapore.


Hye Ji showed me how to build her signature lush European-style garden centrepieces and then we both stared and laughed for a few minutes when I asked how it would price- I think at least three bridal bouquets' worth of flowers went into one...

I made myself use frittilaria, something I've never tried before for its cost, to tweak my line and form placement from not just the front, but back and sides. I don't think one ever reaches the pinnacle of craft - we're always evolving and learning and Hye Ji's work always reminds me of just how much I have to go.

This is forsythia on the street across, which blooms along walls in early spring.

Shot on Fujicolor 100 film - it truly was a pleasure to slow-walk through this neighbourhood of auto-shops next to the Hangang and capture my favourite flower colours in the light.