There was great sadness at New Covent Garden Flower Market recently as news spread amongst traders of the death of Jane Packer, at the age of 52.
In the past fortnight, many references have been made in the obituaries run in national newspapers to Jane's 4am starts at the Flower Market to buy her flowers. Some of Jane’s original contacts shared their fond memories of Jane Packer at New Covent Garden.
"She was a breath of fresh air - a trailblazer in her own quiet way," says John Hardcastle of flower wholesaler Bloomfield about Jane’s approach to working with flowers. Seeing flowers as an element of interior design, Jane chose a floral path far beyond the more traditional style of floristry of the time.
In classic Flower Market style, Bobby Armitt of flower wholesale Alagar recalls his first impressions of Jane Packer as she started out: "She was young and refreshing... and nice looking, which helped! She was enthusiastic and produced good work right from the start. A lovely person."
Famously, Jane’s real breakthrough came in 1986 with the commission to create the flowers for the wedding of Sarah Ferguson to Prince Andrew, having made initial in-roads into the PR world of fashion and interior design. From then on, Jane Packer Flowers has developed into a worldwide brand, with successful shops and flower schools around the world. Jane wrote 13 bestselling floristry books, and found herself as one of the first florists to appear on television.
"Jane was one of the first innovators of modern floristry," says Craig Broadley of Quality Plants who knew Jane from when he first started working at the Flower Market over 18 years ago. "She was a great pioneer for the flower industry, and her business really has become remarkably successful", adds Craig. Did the fame and popularity change her manner? Clearly not: "She was always extremely pleasant, easy going and genuine," says Craig. It is something you hear a lot talking to traders.
The usually taciturn Grant Mitchell of event sundries specialist, C Best said of Jane, "She was a very lovely lady. One of the best ones. Very down-to-earth. You won’t hear anyone in the Flower Market say anything different."
Barry Porter of foliage traders Porters Foliage and Chair of the Flower Market Tenants' Association notes that Jane was always "gentle, very serene and calm", which is remarkable given how fast her business was developing around her.
Jane Packer launched the careers of countless successful London florists, many of whom are passionate devotees of New Covent Garden Market too. Some will have worked for Jane as florists, whilst many others have attended the renowned 'Jane Packer Career Course' at her Marylebone Flower School, and received the essential tools of the floristry trade and an insight into Jane’s design philosophy. Yet more will have read her books or magazine features and been inspired by her innovative approach to colour and design.
Dennis Edwards of flower trader, Alagar, (and previously of John Austin) had worked with Jane for around 30 years, and was present at Jane’s funeral in Golder’s Green last week. "The funeral was full of florists who’d either started their careers working for Jane or attending one of her floristry courses. It is a real testament to Jane just how many people have been inspired by her design style, and have gone on to create their own successful flower businesses."
"Jane was a proper darling," says John of Bloomfield, "a lovely, lovely person. She has done a lot of good for the flower industry, and always remained loyal to the Flower Market."
As Jane’s empire developed and then later as she struggled with ill-health in recent years, Jane’s Manager, Susan Lapworth, and team became the main Flower Market buyers, but Jane Packer is remembered by all at New Covent Garden as the lovely lady, who quietly changed the world of flowers.
Jane Packer: 1959 - 2011