Village People: Roses Florists


It’s the wall of colour and the incredible aroma that hits your senses when you step into Roses Florist at 437 Mt Eden Rd. Owner/operator Sandra Sleeman sits amongst this urban field designing the most exquisite of arrangements, suited to those with a true love of flowers.

How long have you been here?

I’ve been here for a long time. I first came here 20 years ago when I worked for the previous owner. It has been a florist shop forever.

Let’s talk about how you got into floristry. Where did you start?

I’ve always loved flowers. I studied down in Tauranga at the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic. Some of the styles taught were a little old fashioned but it gave me the design fundamentals, mechanics, and basics. Once you have learnt these, you can then go out and break the rules a little.  Although you learn about colour, I feel that it is kind of an intuitive thing for a florist. Colours follow fashion trends as does floral styling. You can clash things in the right way. There’s always the right way (laughs).

While you come out of the course with a diploma you still start out as a junior florist, because it takes years to learn all the different aspects of floristry. I think you are always learning, to be honest. That is one of the wonderful things about being a florist, the learning never stops.  Sadly, they don’t have that course running anymore.

Where does the training happen now?

There are still a couple of courses around but it’s hard to train. People originally used to do apprenticeships on the job. But times have changed. I have had many people come to Roses for work experience over the years. I know some people’s perception of floristry is we are just playing with flowers all day but it’s really quite a labour-intensive job.

Was it your first job in floristry here at Roses Mt Eden? 

No, it wasn’t my first job, it was probably my third. It was at a time when it was hard to find a job in the industry, so I was prepared to go anywhere. When I came here, I just loved the whole vibe of the village. I learned a lot. It was a fun place to work.

Tell me what a normal day looks like?

On a normal market day, I get up at 4.15 in the morning to get to the flower auction for a 5.30 start. I usually arrive at the auction 15 minutes before it starts, so I can have a good look around the flower trolleys and take notes. It is run as a Dutch auction, the clock starts at a high price and it flickers down, and it’s the first person to hit the button. There are multiple buyers bidding on the same line of flowers, so quite often you only get one chance to bid on a certain flower. It is competitive and the price is driven by the supply and demand. On a normal day I’m back at the shop by 9 o’clock and then we process all the flowers and do our morning orders. I try to leave the shop a little earlier on market days, but it doesn’t always happen.

Sounds stressful

Mother’s Day, Valentines…all those heavy days are stressful, but I’ve been doing it a long time. Having said that, I still get nervous for those high volume days!  You don’t get everything that you bid for. Sometimes I kick myself if I miss out on some exquisite flower that I really wanted, but I always get a good selection. I pride myself on having premium quality flowers and I love all the interesting bits. We are known for our quirky and interesting blooms. I like to be at the auction early to hunt out all those special treats.

Who are your customers?

Mainly locals, but we do have an online presence as well, so we cover quite a wide area. Usually the people who buy from here are looking for something a bit special. Then we have customers who come in to get flowers for their house. They like the unusual flowers, or they don’t mind spending a little bit more for a premium product which will have longevity. We pride ourselves on our attention to detail and quality.  All the staff here are well trained and highly creative people.

DRoses Img 2o you do anything else outside of floristry?

I have 2 children that keep me busy and fortunately a husband who is very helpful with running the kids around and dinners – he is very hands on.  I wouldn’t be able to spend so many hours in my business if he wasn’t.  I’ve not much time for myself. I spend far too much time on my phone researching, I never get sick of beautiful flowers and arrangements. I consider myself fortunate to love what I do. I also have a love of the arts and theatre.

What other businesses or shops do you enjoy in the village? 

I try to support all our local businesses in the village. There are so many lovely food places –  Essential Deli for yummy lunches, I love the pasta place up there (Pasta and Cuore). Frasers also has such yummy food, Olaf’s for pastry, Circus Circus make the best hot chocolate, I get my fruit & vegetables from KC Loo, Time out Book store is fabulous, the list goes on. I love the village feel that Mt Eden has kept. You can’t walk up the street without stopping to talk to someone you know. I love that.

If you are over the concrete jungle, step into Roses and bring your senses alive with gorgeous flowers whose arrangements are truly a work of art.