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Every morning, we florists plant a garden on the asphalt

Carme Romero
Owner of a florist shop on the Rambla

Born in the Barceloneta neighbourhood, but raised in Nou Barris, she defines herself as untamed, and says she became a florist by chance because she didn’t want a job with fixed working hours. She started to work for an acquaintance and eventually ended up on the Rambla, at Flors Sorribas, through another acquaintance, at the age of 20. She started out by sweeping the stall and five years later, she became an assistant. During that time she learned a lot and the owners asked her to stay.

Since the middle of the 1980s, you have seen a lot of things happening on the Rambla...

The Rambla of the 1980s was a non-stop party, I witnessed many things, but the most incredible of them all was when I played a part in the film Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona by Woody Allen. I had to organise the shooting of the scenes on the Rambla with the producer and apart from letting them use my space, they were looking for extras and I ended up being one. A lot of things have happened over the years: I think I was the first person to find out that Schuster was to be transferred to Madrid because he came in to buy flowers for his wife accompanied by a journalist who was interviewing him and while he was at the stall, they confirmed the transfer. Another celebrity who used to come in a lot and who I considered a friend was the comedian Gila. Every week he would buy a dozen roses for his wife and a bouquet of daisies for his daughter. He was a very serious, reflective person, I enjoyed talking to him. I was really sad when I read in the paper that he had died.

What is it like to be a florist on the Rambla?

I think the narrative thread of my life has always been about whether I or not I stayed on the Rambla. It also gives you certain prestige: “Hey, I work on the Rambla de les Flors” (she laughs). I think I deserve this prestige. I have spent a lot of energy on this Rambla and still have a lot more left.

Why did you become a florist?

Unlike thirty years ago, when you could learn as you worked, today, training is essential, because it would be impossible to work in a florist shop and not know the names of the flowers. What’s more, on learning in a florist shop, you only learn to copy, and not about the creative part, the part that allows your personality to emerge. The ideal thing would be to combine study with practice, because if you only study, you lack something. You can learn the daily routine of the florist shop because fortunately, it’s not just a question of selling posies. What if you have to serve a bride? Or a restaurant owner? I studied at the Floral Art School of Catalonia and I am a qualified Master Florist.

Are there different grades?

Yes, level one, level two and Master Florist. The first is a basic level and the second and third add a note of extra interest and curiosity which is quite difficult to apply on the Rambla. Because, for instance, a person with level one training can prepare flowers for a wedding, whereas a Master Florist would be assigned the task of installing flowers on the façades overlooking the Rambla for the Rose festival.

What is the difference between a florist and a gardener?

A florist is dedicated to the more aesthetic part, and a gardener is more concerned about the life of the plant and the design of the garden. There may be gardeners who are not florists, but it is impossible to be a florist and know nothing about plants.

Are plants flowers too?

Flowers are plants and plants are flowers, because it is possible to create very decorative plant arrangements. One can do floral arrangements with plants because the plant has its own entity, and it is more than just a simple complement to the flower. It is logical for a florist to know about plants because there is an incorrect notion of what green means: one can create a bouquet using only green elements and no flowers and it is just as decorative. And inversely, it is possible to apply a floral, decorative arrangement to a plant.

Is cutting a flower equivalent to killing it?

No, it may even last longer when separated from the plant than when it is joined to the plant itself. A florist can arrange cut and non-cut flowers.

Are certain flowers difficult to arrange?

No. One must be clear that the most important thing is the colour and luckily, there are no black flowers. To mix colours that seem impossible at first glance, you can go from one point to another, from harmony to the extreme. In the first case, to go from yellow to pink we apply a grading process: yellow-ochre-red-pink. In the second case, we can combine them directly. Flowers speak to you, even though you don’t always have the time to speak to them. What could you combine a crane flower with? It has ochre, yellow and blue. The flower itself tells you the colours that go well with it. The best arrangement is one that is harmonious and usually the colour triumphs over the flower.

What flowers do you normally work with?

I like seasonal flowers, local ones that are modest in appearance, for instance, a bouquet of anemones.

What flower do you always have in your home?

I always have carnations and lavender, but there is one flower that I love, the magnolia, which is not a commercial flower and not available in florist shops. On the other hand, I don’t like flowers with a very intense scent, such as lilies, they are very pretty but overpowering.

What about a flower for a wedding?

That depends on the season. In the spring, freesia and ranunculus. In the summer, lavender and peony, in the autumn, tulips and wallflower, which is very romantic.

For a christening?

A white flower accompanied by a lot of greenery, to add freshness.

For a burial?

People don’t know how to bury the dead, we are never prepared; we either don’t use flowers or know them and find something we like. I like the approach used in northern countries, which is more personalised. Here, it’s just a question of appearances, and when you send flowers, they say a lot about who you are and who you are sending them to. It’s not always a question of budget. Without a budget, the most appropriate thing is to be thoughtful.

For a boy?

An impressive flower such a heliconia or crane flower. On the contrary, for a girl, the preferred flower is the rose, although people allow you to offer them other suggestions.

What is the strangest order you have ever had?

A bridal bouquet that could be split in two to give one half to the mother and the other half to the mother-in-law.

A professional challenge?

To return the Rambla to its status as the place of reference for flowers in Barcelona. And on a personal level, to make this happen. Every morning, we plant a garden on the asphalt and we want people to realise this.