Mum helped me to blossom
Award-winning florist Jenny Murphy learned her craft by working in her mother's flower shop
'WE live to-gether and work to-gether, but Jenny and I find that we have our best chats when we go out for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine together, though we have to take turns with the driving," says bubbly Moira Murphy, the owner of Flowers by Moira.
Life is hectic at the Co Meath flower shop, which has accumulated a number of prestigious commissions and accolades over the years. Jenny, Moira's youngest child, was the winner of Irish Interflora Florist of the Year 2011 and Florist of the Future 2009 and will shortly represent Ireland at the very prestigious RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2012. Then there's the fact that Moira and Jenny have provided the flowers for some high-profile weddings, including those of Shane and Gillian Filan, Brian McFadden and Kerry Katona, Michael and Niamh Flatley and Donal and Ameera McIntyre.
Flowers by Moira, celebrating 30 years in business this year, was opened by Moira in Dunshaughlin when Jenny was only two. While Moira had been doing flowers for people as a hobby for a few years, and had won a few prizes locally, she opened the shop in 1982 when her late husband Tom's building business collapsed. By then, Moira and Tom had three children, Anne-Marie, now 34, Thomas, 33, and Jenny, 32.
"My husband and children all helped out with it," says Moira. "As we were always busiest at weekends or during holidays, there was no escape for them. Most of the event work is done in unsociable hours, and we would always be flat out at Christmas and Valentine's and Mother's Day. Jenny showed a talent with flowers from an early age, as she always collected up the tiny wasted flowers after school and made pretty little items for display purposes. She was always a very good child, and was well able to defend herself against her older sister and brother. She definitely isn't a morning person, though."
Moira says that the business flourished because the community was so supportive of it, but it's clear that she also had the vision to go after some prestigious contracts. She secured the job of providing flowers at the Phoenix Park racecourse, which led to her developing relationships with PR companies, catering and event people. In 1992, she won the title of Irish Retail Person of the Year, the final of which was held on the Gay Byrne Show on radio.
Running a shop wasn't alien to Moira, as her parents owned Quinn's Hardware in Ranelagh in Dublin. Moira is originally from Ranelagh, and when she was 13, her dad, Thomas, was killed in a car crash aged 45, leaving behind six children aged between three and 14. She recalls that her mother, Brigid, had to get in and run the business. Moira attended Loreto on the Green, and then decided to enter the convent at Loreto Abbey in Rathfarnham. It wasn't for her, and she left after six months, on Valentine's Day.
After working in Irish Life for two years, she went to live in Cape Town in South Africa for three years, followed by six months in Rhodesia. She came home for her sister's wedding, got a job at a merchant bank and then met and married Tom and they had their children.
Jenny recalls how she and her siblings used to love playing with bits of twine and ribbons and other items from the shop. She didn't plan to join the business initially, and embarked on a marketing degree at DIT. She went then to Australia and ended up working in a flower shop, which is where she realised that she really wanted to work in the business.
"I never expected any of the children to join me in the business, so it was a great joy when Jenny came back and said she would like to join me," says Moira, who is chairperson of the Meath Hospice Fundraising Committee.
"It is wonderful working with such a beautiful product, and we are very privileged to be working for people in their moments of greatest joy and sadness. Jenny is very talented, and if we were looking at some arrangement at a show, she would examine it in detail as she was always curious about how things were done."
On the family front, there have been a few joys and challenges. Moira's husband, Tom, developed heart problems in his 40s and had a bypass operation, which sadly didn't solve the problem long-term. He passed away 11 years ago, aged 52. While he and Moira had separated before his death, they enjoyed an amicable relationship. Their eldest daughter Anne-Marie is married with a son Cathal, 6, a great character who loves to help in the shop. Moira's son, Thomas, is an engineer, and also has a gorgeous son, Rory, 2.
It was in 2009 that Jenny won her first competition, the Interflora Florist of the Future, coming first in Ireland and second in the UK Grand Final. In 2011, she came first in the Interflora Florist of the Year at senior level and second in the UK finals. And this month, having won the Irish regional heat, she will become the first Irish entrant in the RHS Chelsea Florist of the Year competition, which will be held from May 20-26.
"As it's the Queen's anniversary this year, the theme is to design and create a floral chandelier to be hung at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee dinner," she says, adding that there will be 15 other finalists competing. "I'm absolutely thrilled to be able to showcase my skills on such a world-renowned platform. I wreck my head coming up with ideas the whole time, but Mum is a great support as she has a critical eye and can see exactly how something will look."
"It's a real thrill for me when Jenny wins," says her mum. "She's great because she just gets in and does things and she's much calmer than I am. She'd be quieter and wouldn't be as impulsive, and she's a very loyal friend. I'm very proud of her."
Flowers By Moira, Main St, Dunshaughlin, Co Meath. Tel: (01) 825-9948 or visit www.flowersbymoira.com
Sunday Indo Living