Leah Gibson is an Ottawa-based floral designer whose penchant for nature and its role in people’s lives is deeply rooted. Nature’s tones and textures come through in her floral arrangements, her style, even in her Instagram feed. She focuses her business, Homebody Floral, on designing flower arrangements using only locally grown and foraged elements and finishing with sustainable materials.
Each arrangement she creates is focused on seasonality, mirroring the landscape with its uniquely beautiful quirks depending on the time of year or climate.
Leah believes it’s time for a paradigm shift in the floral industry in the same way we believe in reimagining the fashion industry: focusing on living seasonally, sourcing as locally as possible, and using sustainable, natural materials.
A self-proclaimed amateur mushroom enthusiast, Leah is also fascinated by style and sustainable fashion, featuring the color and texture she similarly replicates in her floral designs. She is drawn to fashion for the same reasons she enjoys arranging flowers: the play on creating different tonal and textural combinations that make her feel at ease. When she’s not making bouquets or working in the garden, you might find Leah foraging for mushrooms, going for a swim, or napping. We sat down with Leah as she winds down from a busy summer season in preparation for rest and reflection.
ecologyst: How did you get into floral design?
Leah: Accidentally, really! It’s funny because I actually had a couple of opportunities to work in a floral setting over the years, but finally acted on it when I was offered a position serving coffee within a local flower shop. I quickly gravitated towards the flower side of things and before I knew it was designing, and then left to start my own floral business in 2016.
e: What does locally sourced mean for you, and how does that impact the way you operate your business?
L: Locally sourced means seeking product from farmers in the vicinity (within one hour drive, typically) and flowers from my own garden as much as possible. The biggest way this impacts my business is through seasonality! Since pivoting to using largely locally grown flowers—my season has been limited to six months of the year. Our growing period where I am in Ontario is from May–October, and so this is when I offer my flower subscriptions and weddings. I save a small selection of dried stems for winter, but for the most part I use my ‘off season’ for planning, administrative tasks, organizing, and ultimately resting.
e: What does a “day in the life of Leah” currently look like, during the season and in off-season?
L: Up until recently, I’ve kept an office job in the city to balance out my season. But this summer, I’ve moved out to the country and have been able to focus solely on my floral design! An average day lately looks like: waking up early for coffee and breakfast, heading up the road to my in-laws’ flower farm, helping out with seeding, weeding, harvesting, etc. When it gets too hot, I go for a quick swim and spend the rest of my day answering emails, getting prepared for upcoming weddings, and general admin. Then I go to bed by 9pm (I’ve always been an early-to-bed early-to-rise person) and do it all again the next day! There’s a lot of behind the scenes prep for design: writing recipes, ordering product like flowers and vessels, harvesting, filling buckets and vessels and prepping chicken wire to arrange into, organizing with clients and day-of coordinators… then I can design my arrangements. And then I am also the delivery guy, so…
e: What does living seasonally mean to you?
L: Living seasonally means taking cues from nature, slowing down and regenerating when prompted, not forcing things outside of their natural rhythm, and appreciating everything (including myself and loved ones) in all of their seasons.
e: Where do you find inspiration, and how do the seasons impact your creative process?
L: Nature, always! Each season has so much to offer. If I’m feeling stuck creatively, usually taking the space to go for a swim, lay in the sun, or walk through the woods can ground me and get me back on track for creating. It is tricky when your career requires you to be creative on demand, so sometimes when things just feel too forced or like they aren't flowing freely, a nature break always helps.
e: What’s your favorite thing about creating flower arrangements for people?
L: Bringing a moment of beauty and calmness into someone's day! I love seeing people’s faces when I deliver them a bouquet or install an arrangement at a wedding. The connections I’ve made and regular customers who have become friends. The thank you notes, the drawings by their children, seeing photos of my flowers in their spaces. And the odd tear of happiness also feels like a win, too!
I also enjoy the process of making flower arrangements—putting on some good music or a podcast, getting in the zone, working with my hands and not looking at a screen. I’m very grateful that I get to do this.
e: You say you’re drawn to fashion for the same reason you enjoy arranging flowers—are you able to elaborate on this?
L: I truly love playing with different textures and colors and can do this through putting together a bouquet or putting together an outfit. Combinations of fabric or flowers with intentional color pairings can evoke different feelings in myself and I hope the same for others. It’s a way to express myself in a way that feels easy and comfortable.
e: What draws you to an item of clothing? Fabric? Color? Shape? Feel?
L: Yes to all of the above. Color is number one—I wear a lot of blue, brown, black, cream, and yellow. When selecting new pieces to incorporate into my wardrobe this is the first thing I consider. This makes it more effortless to work into my existing collection. Shape, feel, and fabric all go a long way too: I don’t love the feeling of fabric clinging to me so I tend to feel the most comfortable in something that drapes and is a bit more oversized. Clothing above all must be utilitarian and I’m attracted to pieces that I can live, work, move, and relax in.
e: Do you have advice for folks who want to ensure their arrangements last (even in their dried states)?
L: For fresh flowers: when you get them home, always give them a fresh (slanted) cut before placing them in a fresh vase of water. Flowers are thirsty, so I recommend topping up the water levels often, or if you’re really keen, replace water entirely every few days. This will stretch out the life of your arrangement by making sure there’s minimal bacteria in the water.
For dried flowers, I usually recommend hanging your bouquet in a dark corner of the home to preserve its color and shape as much as possible—make sure it’s not damp so it doesn't mold, and then once its dried for a few weeks you can place it in your favorite vase or leave it hanging somewhere more visible. It will collect dust over time but should last as long as you’re happy to have it.
Leah wears the Quilted Wool Vest in Navy and the Cotton Canvas Pants in Salt. To learn more about Leah’s work or to book with her in the Ottawa and GTA, visit the Homebody Floral website. Follow Leah on Instagram at @homebody_.
All photos taken by Leah.