Flowers do not have to be only for special days. Over the past few years, they have acquired an increasing presence in daily life.
It is easy to spot flower cafes all over Seoul -- a kind of cafe-flower shop combination. Decorated heavily with greenery, visitors can enjoy cafe spaces themed like a botanical garden.
“A lot of people walk in for coffee and buy flowers after seeing the decorations,” said Jang Jung-in, who runs flower cafe Heima in Yeonhui-dong, Seoul. At her cafe, flower vases are placed on every table and dry flowers hang on the walls.
Flower cafe Heima in Yeonhui-dong, western Seoul (Im Eun-byel / The Korea Herald)
“Flowers hadn’t been an everyday item. But coffee, on the other hand, is (drunk) every day. Combined with coffee, flowers can walk into people’s daily lives,” Jang said.
She hinted that many men buy flowers -- for themselves.
“I can tell by the looks, whether they are buying flowers for someone else or for themselves. Some are very shy, hesitating to answer when I ask them who the flowers are for,” she said.
Many flower cafes have opened in hip areas around the city where young people gather, such as Sinsa-dong and Mangwon-dong. Some cafes offer flower headpieces and wrist corsages.
For those who want to handle flowers themselves, there are many flower shops operating one-day classes in flower arrangement. Though the classes can be pricey, ranging from 60,000 won ($54) to 180,000 won, millions of class reviews are posted on social media.
After “conditioning” the prepared flowers, participants make flower bouquets or centerpieces and take them home. As the class material differs from day to day, some take one-day classes at the same shop multiple times.
Bouquets of summer flowers (Im Eun-byel / The Korea Herald)
Participants trim flowers at a flower class (Im Eun-byel / The Korea Herald)
Park Ji-hye is an office worker in her mid-20s who is “into flowers.” After taking an extensive course at a professional academy, she takes one-day classes once in a while, not to forget the techniques.
“One-day classes are usually for beginners. But I take the classes, to stop myself forgetting the techniques I have learnt. While some might think that handling flowers is easy, it is actually very tricky as each flower should be trimmed differently,” she said.
“It’s new every time because flowers’ conditions are different depending on the season or the weather. It also hurts a lot to tightly hold the flowers in a spiral shape in one hand.”
But Park loves it when she places a beautiful flower centerpiece in her bedroom.
“It’s different from receiving flowers from my boyfriend. Because I trimmed and shaped the flowers myself, I feel very much attached to them,” she said.
For those who are too busy for classes, there are regular flower subscription services. The system is basically the same as subscribing to a newspaper or ordering a regular milk delivery. Customers sign up for a subscription online. Flowers will be delivered to customers’ doors every one or two weeks.
Local flower company Kukka is one of the better known services, delivering French-style flower bouquets arranged by its florists. Another company, DeFiore makes regular deliveries of a bunch of fresh, seasonal flowers.
“I would like to have the customers feel the season through receiving flower bunches. They can style the flowers in ways they want to,” Lee Ha-young, the owner of DeFiore said.
Hyacinth bouquet (Kukka)
“But in summer or winter, it is hard to deliver the flowers while preserving them at their best. When the temperatures are extreme, around 20 percent of customers make complaints. When the flowers aren’t in a good state, we resend them without questions,” she said.
Lee feels the difference over the years of how people think about flowers.
“When I first started the business, people used to ask me what regular flower subscription service is. Now they understand the term,” she said. “In Europe, flowers are everywhere, in living rooms, kitchens and on tables. I would like to show people how flowers can really brighten up the atmosphere, blooming happiness in people’s lives.”
By Im Eun-byel (firstname.lastname@example.org