Crossing over the canal onto Upper Baggot Street feels like a transition. The flocks of tourists and fast-food chains of the south inner-city begin to taper out, and just before the streets turn into affluent, tree-lined suburbia they settle into a village-type vibe where historic and newer, local businesses sit comfortably side-by-side.
From working in Films to working with Flowers
Ginkgo Florists is one such business carving out a very distinctive niche on this stretch of road, and it’s not just their colourful produce that has passers-by doing double takes. In a clever marketing move, the shop has been using its prime location on the corner of Eastmoreland Place and Upper Baggot Street to create imaginative window displays that are literally stopping people in their tracks and drawing new customers in. The quirky displays are the combined efforts of Kilkenny couple and business partners Bronagh and Aidan Harte. Bronagh opened the Ginkgo Florists in 2013 after starting out her career in film as a Trainee Script Supervisor;
‘I loved working in film but I couldn’t cope with being constantly in and out of work, so I decided to go back to college. I absolutely adore horticulture and floristry and when I was in school it was kind of a toss up between those two anyway. So I went for my other passion the second time around. After college I worked with a few amazing florists and learnt so much from them. Eventually I decided to make a break for it and go out on my own. Aidan used to work in animation, so between the two of us we always make that connection back to the things we’re passionate about in the displays’.
A Wicker Man Display
Both of their creative backgrounds are definitely palpable in the displays, for which the couple have conjured up everything from an eerie glowing Wicker Man (complete with tiny, sacrificial Neil Howie inside) to a Little Shop of Horrors–esque Venus fly-trap (which you can conveniently purchase in-store in the summer time, albeit on a smaller and less murderous scale).
Influenced by Sculpture
The concepts themselves are significant labours of love which can take days to prepare and install, and might require constant tweaking while in situ. Luckily Aidan is also a classically trained sculptor and well versed in the process of putting something this complex together;
‘I finished up with Cartoon Saloon in Kilkenny in 2007 when the TV show I was working on came to an end. At that point I was ready a make a clean break. I went to Italy and studied classical sculpture, so that’s my bread and butter, and then when Bronagh set up the shop, I knew very quickly how I could make myself useful as I can put stuff like this together very quickly’
‘We approach the displays in sections. Like with any craft, you’re constantly tweaking your work. There can be teething problems that need to be fixed over the course of the installation. There are other factors to consider too. For example something that looks really impressive in the evening can look quite banal by day. We’ve also learned that large, single pieces work better – like our Wicker Man or Rudolph, rather than trying to incorporate too many small details. It needs to read from a distance.’
The local kids love the displays
Bronagh attributes the more flamboyant, left-of-field displays to her partner but in the floral-based ones her expertise really shines through.
‘I think it works for us because the window is constantly changing, so people like to see what we’ll come up with next. I also feel it attracts customers because we’re not trying to actively push or sell anything in our windows. We like to do something quirky and bespoke with the space instead. The kids in the area love them. It’s nice to see kids dragging their parents over for a look’.
A floral Donald Trump & Conor McGregor
The shop is also known in the area for it’s humorous takes on topical issues, sort of like their own unique version of newsjacking. Aidan hand-paints cartoons on the windows overnight to surprise commuters in the morning. Everyone from Donald Trump to Conor McGregor have been sent up by the pair, often striking a chord on social media. The couple insist they’re not being political, ‘it’s just a bit of craic’. Although the occasional point can be snuck in, ‘We did a piece about gender-equality with Superman, Batman and Wonderwoman and both our male and female customers loved it. I think we also made people consider that flower shops aren’t necessarily girly places, which they can be labelled as’
Where do the finished displays end up?
So what happens to these wonderful creations once they’ve been retired? ‘It really depends what state they’re in when we take them down’, says Bronagh, ‘The rudolph from last year is still floating around somewhere up on Pembroke Road. We gave it to a neighbour who put it in their rooftop garden. A wooden fox we made now lives on a hill in Wicklow. We liked that one a lot because it wasn’t your typical Christmas imagery, plus Aidan wrote a really lovely poem to go with it. It was one of our most popular ones’
Simplicity is their mantra
With a small, busy team of 9 from all over the world, Bronagh maintains that stock-wise its what Ginkgo don’t sell that makes them unique.
‘We have a menu of 6 bouquets, so there’s not a million and one options. We’re not trying to compete with the bigger companies. We do our own thing and just concentrate on putting together really nice tasteful flowers. Our aim is just to brighten up people’s day.’
The same can definitely be said of the window displays into which as much effort clearly goes. It’s a great to see a small, friendly business wearing its passions proudly on its sleeve. What will they conjure up next? Both Aidan and Bronagh cite the old Switzers windows as a source of inspiration; ‘We both remember coming up from the country to see them and being blown away by the scale of the display, the detail, the animatronics. We’d love to do something similar’. ‘Maybe a ghetto version?’, Aidan suggests. One thing is for sure, there is more wonderful creativity to come from these two, and you’ll find it on display both outside and inside Ginkgo Florists.
You can find out more about Ginkgo Florists here…