Creativity keeps florist’s job interesting
BIGGAR, Sask. — Few bouquets, arrangements and photo albums are available for customers to peruse when buying flowers at Designs by Ann.
“You tell me what you want and I’ll create something that’s original,” said Saskatchewan business owner Ann Sapsford.
The florist tends to a rainbow of coloured flowers inside Biggar’s 1912 Bank of Commerce building with scarcely an arms’ length of bare counter space visible.
With her glasses perched halfway down her nose, she cuts flowers, adds a ribbon and occasionally adds one of the thousands of Beanie Babies lying in boxes in the back rooms.
This day, she’s gently removing the anthers from lily stalks before the pollen stains everything it touches.
Annual sales for the one-person operation have reached a modest $30,000, with Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day among her busiest times.
“After (that), I’m glad to do something else for a while,” she said.
At 81, Sapsford invests many hours a day tending to flowers, travelling to Saskatoon to pick up stock and making deliveries around Biggar.
“I feel very lucky. Some have nothing to look forward to,” she said. “This building is my life. Everyone knows they can come in here and if I don’t have it, I will make it or get it.”
Sapsford has prepared flowers for events ranging from weddings and funerals to birthdays and newborns.
“I don’t know today what I might do tomorrow,” she said.
She also often doesn’t know what the final arrangement will look like until it’s done.
This month, she was asked to create flowers for a country wedding outside Biggar.
New bride Sarah Dietz was happy with the result, which included white Casablanca lilies set into cream cans atop square bales, flowers arranged in Mason jars on the tables and a tidy bridal bouquet with silver ribbons that complemented the bride’s gown.
“It was simple, white and very classy, which brought the environment of the country out,” Dietz said.
“You could tell she put her love and detail into it.… She’s the type of woman that would go above and beyond for you to make that day more special.”
Sapsford got her first job in commercial flower arrangements at the age of 50 after raising four children and helping her husband operate a farm.
She continued doing arrangements from home after that flower shop closed but found it difficult storing flowers in the bathtub and coolers around her home.
That led to the purchase of the bank building for $25,000, the opening of her business in 1991 and ongoing renovations of the shop she dubbed “a work in progress”.
She rents out an upstairs apartment and sleeps at her daughter and son-in-law’s six quarter farm, which Sapsford gave to them.
“Money’s not that important to me,” she said.
There were many lean years on the farm with her late husband when grain prices were low to almost non-existent. She knew about hard times from growing up in the Depression, eating boiled milk and macaroni and sometimes going shoeless.
Sapsford, who has her own unique system of pricing her work, said city florist prices are “way too high.”
“Tell me what you want to spend and I will do it,” she said.