Mother's Day special: How a mother's love of gardening inspired her daughter's blooming career - The Grace Tales

Mother’s Day special: How a mother’s love of gardening inspired her daughter’s blooming career

“I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue when I was about 20, at this stage I was working in hospitality and trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I ended up spending the following years housebound, where I started baking as a hobby to kill time,” recalls Boutierre Girls founder Emily Smith...

This challenging period ended up changing the direction of her career (there was a time when she wanted to be a doctor or a psychiatrist). Smith would decorate her cakes in fresh flowers and before she knew it, she was inundated with orders. Her now thriving Sydney-based business Boutierre Girls focuses on flowers only (she’ll still do the occasional wedding cake for close friends).

Her mother Julie has been a great source of inspiration and she has vivid memories of her mother baking afternoon tea or whiling hours away in the family garden. “Mum would spend hours watering and weeding the garden. I always chose garden chores for my weekend jobs at home. I remember mum used to get really upset when we would get home after the summer holidays and the garden would be burnt to a crisp and her pot plants would have died from not being watered. She would have it looking beautiful again a few weeks later,” says Emily who has inherited her mother’s sunny outlook on life. Read on to find out more about the world of one of Australia’s leading floral artists and how her mother has influenced her life.

Photography: Michelle Holden | Hair: Raymond Robinson | Makeup: Kelly Bowman | Words and styling: Georgie Abay | Kailis worn throughout | Go to

“ My mum has taught me a million invaluable life lessons. I think one that has always stuck is to not let my mistakes defeat me or define me ”

SHOP: Emily wears Kailis Hope Pearl & Diamond Earrings in Rose Gold; LIFEwithBIRD jumper; her own denim jeans. Julie wears Kailis Swan Earrings in White Gold; Kailis Swan Ring in White GoldMother Of Pearl blouse, from Parlour X; her own denim jeans. 

What have you taught each other about life?

Emily: My mum has taught me a million invaluable life lessons. I think one that has always stuck is to not let my mistakes defeat me or define me. I have been a perfectionist for as long as I can remember. I struggled at school because of this. Mum never airbrushed things while I was growing up. I was always made very aware that it was part of life to make mistakes and fall short and that was ok, and that even adults make mistakes.
Julie: Gosh! My girls have taught me a million things but what stands out is that while I could love and shape them, and guide them as little people, they will all eventually grow into their own person as an adult. I’ve learnt that you have to let go.

What would your advice to your younger self be?

Emily: To spend more time doing the things I enjoy and that I am good at. That it is not a cop out to want to pursue a career in the creative industry. I grew up as a high achiever and relatively academic. I never thought that doing something creative was an option for me as a career. As much as I love studying, I found school and uni very difficult for this reason.

Emily inherited a love of the garden from you – can you tell us about your garden?

Julie: I’ve had a few gardens and am just about to start another! The garden I remember with the most fondness is the garden of Emily’s childhood. It was tucked away in the corner of a boarding school. When you walked down the path and through the arbour, you entered into tranquillity and colour. It was a paradise… blossom trees, huge gums, a magnificent tibouchina and the piece de resistance was the most magnificent trumpet tree you ever laid eyes on. Stumps of huge trees were ideal for displaying huge pots of annuals spilling over the side. It was the sort of garden where fairies live, and my little girls would play out there endlessly. As a five-year-old Emily created a little corner she called ‘Flower Park’. It was her delight. But I can’t take the credit for creating this garden. I inherited it from the previous owners… and our love of gardens was born.

How did you foster a love of flowers in your children?

Julie: Fostering a love of flowers in the girls was easy. They had a natural love for beauty. From a very young age we told them God was the creator and he made beautiful things… so we looked at every flower and every mountain with amazement. Emily has a great love of beauty in many forms.

What has your mother taught you about flowers?

Emily: Mum has taught me so much about flowers. I learned from a very young age that flowers die, which made me sad. Mum would spend hours watering and weeding the garden. I always chose garden chores for my weekend jobs at home. She would always plant seasonal flowers and change them over every few months. It’s very hard to have a flowering garden all year round. Flowers were always for looking at and not touching! I used to get very upset when the boys would walk past and whack our agapanthus or iris and snap them all off.

Emily, talk us through your career path and how you came to be a floral artist?

Ever since I was little, I have always been very creative and loved being outdoors. I had a huge amount of difficulty in finding a career path and because I was smart, I thought I should be a doctor or work in a science field. I’ve always spent my spare time quilting, or sewing, baking or working on my garden outside. I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue when I was about 20. At the time, I was working in hospitality and trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I ended up spending the following years housebound and began baking as a hobby to kill time. I’d decorate my cakes with lots of fresh flowers from mum’s garden or the local florists and post them on Instagram. One of my little sister’s friends asked me to make her wedding cake. I was so excited and nervous. I made her wedding cake and from that wedding booked in more almost immediately. From then on it snowballed and I had around 40 weddings booked in. I figured out pretty quickly that it was the decorating with fresh flowers that I really loved, not so much the baking. I deferred university and enrolled in TAFE and did a Certificate 3 in Floristry. I left TAFE halfway through my course, as Boutierre Girls had already taken off and I couldn’t keep up with both. I also felt like I had learnt enough at this stage. I also found with floristry courses that no amount of study will prepare you for running a business, and the majority of what I’ve learned has been from trial and error on the job. My first year of http://www.boutierregirls.comBoutierre Girls was mostly cakes. In my second year of business, I stopped making cakes and became flowers only. I still make the occasional wedding cake for close friends.

SHOP: Emily wears Kailis Odyssey Pearl EarringsKailis Luna Cuff; Lover sweatshirt; Frame Denim jeans

Julie, you've just moved from the city to the country....

My husband Dave is a school principal and has always raved about North West NSW where he grew up, but I’ve always been a Sydney girl. We kept wondering what school my husband would be going to next. Suddenly we were off to Calrossy Anglican School in Tamworth. I just love it! No traffic and everything is just five minutes away. People are friendly and life is just easier. We can WALK to a concert and go for strolls in country lanes. Amazing! Although we treasured our 30 years of family life in Sydney, we just love the change to Tamworth.

Julie, what is the most rewarding and most challenging part of motherhood?

The most rewarding part of motherhood… um… my survival! It’s such challenging and hard work. No sooner do you get your kid worked out, that they are then six months older and you are on the back foot again. Now that they are all well into their adult lives, it’s a blessing to see them each grow into mature and loving adults. I guess anything that is worthwhile takes lots of effort and that includes parenting. The most challenging part of motherhood is trying hard not to worry about them all the time. With a little love and guidance most kids will be just fine. It’s normal to have tears and tantrums and even significant bumps along the way.

What has been the most magical moment of motherhood?

I think it is absolute gold when a child, for some reason, really expresses their love or appreciation of what you have done for them, or how you have parented them. It’s a ‘wow moment’! It’s like suddenly all the hard work and heartache was worth it, as if for a moment they understand what you have done for them. I guess we all like to feel appreciated.

How will you be spending Mother's Day?

Emily: I’m not sure what we will do this Mother’s Day! I would love to go out to the country to see my mum if I can get away from work. It’s always very difficult with my job and Mother’s Day. It can be one of the busiest days of the year for me. Mum has always begged us not to spend money on her and to write her a really nice card instead. I have really enjoyed growing up and being able to buy my mum nice presents or take her out for a date as I have gotten older. It’s so great being able to do something fun with her, without having to beg my dad to fund her presents!

Tell us about your love of jewellery...

Emily: I absolutely love jewellery and have pieces that I wear every day. Mum gave me a necklace for my 18th birthday and I literally haven’t taken it off since. I wore silver as a child and teenager, but in more recent years, have switched over to gold. I’ll often wear both together though and love diamonds, especially pink. I’ve always loved sapphires because mum has one on her wedding ring and also pearls. I always wore pearl studded earrings growing up and love wearing statement jewellery, huge hoop earrings and cool rings.

What are your time management tips?

Emily: Time management is something I have struggled with. This year I have learnt to say no to jobs and knocked back jobs, which is always hard because I don’t like letting people down, but it’s also really nice to be in a position where I don’t need to do every job that comes my way. I have been trying to give myself one weekend off every two months, which is great because it gives me something to look forward to and I haven’t taken a proper holiday since I started Boutierre Girls. This year I plan on going to Paris or Japan with my best friend Reuben, who is also a florist. I’m sure we will mostly go hunting for amazing gardens and flowers, but that’s a holiday for us. I also now have a work phone and have moved my work Instagram, email and everything else work related on to it. When I need a few hours off I turn my work phone off, or if I’m catching up with a friend I leave it at home. I really like to try and give people my full attention when spending time with them.

What are your top three business tips?

Emily: 1. Don’t jump in the deep end straight away, get a job at your local florist, go to TAFE and study or do a floristry course and see how you cope with the stress and the crazy hours and early mornings. It’s a lot of hard work and a huge part of the job. Most florists have the capability to run off little sleep and it’s definitely not for everyone. 2. With any small business I think it’s very crucial to realise you won’t make money at the start. I spent years doing jobs at cost price for friends or doing jobs for free to gain exposure, or spending way over my budget to make things look fabulous so people would be blown away. It’s hard deciding which jobs will be worth your effort and time and it’s quite disheartening when people don’t want to pay you for your work, but eventually you get there and it’s a great feeling. 3. Have a mentor that’s already in the industry that you really admire and that has a great work ethic. I have been so lucky to have a few older and much more experienced florists than myself that have taken me under their wing, provided me with business tips, helped me when I’m stuck in tricky situations or problems with flower orders etc, and referred me work. It’s a small industry so it’s really great to have someone you can learn from.

What are some vivid memories of your childhood?

Emily: My mum always had a hot or baked afternoon tea ready for us when we got home from school each day. I always had the best packed lunch at school… even though I wouldn’t eat it and would often trade it (sorry mum). She always went to huge amounts of effort with making meals for us and making things we liked that were healthy. Mum figured out when I was very little that my love language was gift giving. My other two sisters definitely loved words of affirmation from mum and dad, but I hated that. I would get very embarrassed and shy. Mum would often leave little gifts for me growing up. We also had something our family did called a ‘mummy and daughter’ day, or a ‘daddy and daughter day’ (we got to choose). This would be when we started a new phase of our life such as primary school, high school, a new job, anything that was a big new step in our lives. We would go out on a date with mum or dad and spend the day doing something fun together that we chose and that was our special time.