Ali Louwe is the owner and lead designer at Powell Floral, a Victoria-based floral design studio specializing in local and seasonal botanicals. We met Ali at a photoshoot last year and were instantly taken by her ability to incorporate the natural landscape of Vancouver Island into her stunning arrangements. We knew we had to get to know her better!
Ali’s interest in flowers really bloomed several years ago, when she was living in a remote BC coastal community. She fell in love with the wildflowers there and took an interest in how the local residents were using plants for medicine. She began foraging herself, embracing the beauty and power of the local plants and flowers—and the rest is history.
We chatted with Ali about what she looks for when designing arrangements for weddings, the importance of sourcing locally, and her tips for couples planning weddings on a budget.
What’s important to you when choosing flowers for an arrangement?
I use a large variety of flowers and foliage for every event—however, they are always local. I always stick to the colour palette the client has given me, but the flowers I end up choosing will vary based on what’s in season—in other words, what’s fresh and beautiful.
I try to learn about who my clients are and what they love, so I can draw greater meaning into my designs. Sometimes that means incorporating The Language of Flowers (a must-read book by Vanessa Diffenbaugh) or learning about the couple’s culture or lifestyle to help me incorporate plants or a style that they will love. I also love matching the flowers with the surrounding of the venue and incorporating seasonal elements.
What does it mean to you to be seasonal and local?
Each event is different, and what I use totally depends on the time of year. In the summer, there are so many options. I work with local farmers ranging from backyard micro farms to large-scale farms. I forage most of the foliage I use. I naturally dye my own silk ribbon using plants and match the colours to work with my clients’ palettes. In the fall and winter, it’s a lot of foliage, lots of berries, and other botanical pieces like squashes, pinecones, etc. I also use a lot of dried flowers, and if necessary I use locally grown flowers from BC greenhouses.
When planning a wedding, why is it important to use local, ethically-sourced flowers?
I think most of us who live around the Pacific Northwest understand the importance of buying locally and supporting farmers and makers directly. However, when it comes to purchasing flowers, people tend to go to the grocery store or their nearest flower shop, where unfortunately it’s really hard to know what you’re buying. Unless it’s a retail shop that focuses on locally sourced flowers, most of the time the flowers are imported and come with a huge environmental footprint to get to that store.
Weddings have HUGE environmental footprints. But I also respect that people have budgets. Yes, local flowers can cost more than imported products, but my philosophy is that you can still stick to your budget and buy local flowers. You may just need to re-adjust your expectations of quantities.
What advice do you have for couples who are concerned about budget?
Stick to the basics. If budget is a concern, figure out what you need versus what you want. Your florist can help you come up with ideas that work with the season and stick within your budget. You can even get creative with your arrangement ideas! For example, I had one bride who made lots of tiny little potted plants that we clustered with candles in lieu of centrepieces. It looked stunning. All the guests were given the pots at the end of the night as a gift.
Planning a wedding can be emotional! How do you recommend couples stick to their values?
Stick to your guns about what’s important to you and your partner. I often see couples get a little (or a lot) frazzled by everyone else’s opinions of what their big day should look like. But in reality, it really just matters what they themselves want.
What are your thoughts on hiring a wedding planner?
DO IT!!! Even if it is just day-of coordinator. I’ve worked at events with couples who have relied on friends who ended up backing out, or venues that didn’t help out as much as expected.
Wedding planners are there to help you with your expectations and plans. They’re there to help you when problems arise—and problems always arise because of how many things are going on. It’s money well-spent in my eyes because it allows you to relax a bit more and really be there on your day. You can actually be present and soak it all in, knowing that someone else is there to be accountable for all the details.
Have you noticed any trends in Victoria’s local business community?
Something that’s been standing out to me lately are all the local Victoria women business owners! I’m loving the trend of women supporting one another through business and collaborating on events, products, photoshoots, etc. I myself have been lucky enough to be surrounded by a community of local talented women, and I am always in awe of the generosity and endless support that gets thrown around like confetti.
Finally, what flower has you swooning at the moment?
Cosmos. They always win my heart over. I love Dark Knight scabiosa, and basically any flower that comes in black.