Milli Proust is an incredibly talented florist and grower based in West Sussex who uses sustainable, organic and regenerative practices to farm her flowers.
A true custodian of nature, she nurtures the surrounding wildlife to where she grows on. Milli also practices flower drying to preserve her beautiful summer bounties and give them a new life beyond the vase. Whenever Milli needs to source other florals that she does not grow, she works with surplus blooms when needed from other local growers.
We have been such a fan of Milli's gorgeous bouquet arrangements on her instagram for some time and we were delighted to visit her at her beautiful farm as part of Ssōne visits.
When was the first time you felt called to do what you do?
About 7 years ago, I was sitting in my London house-share, having just arrived back with flowers from the flower market, I’d had a conversation with someone there about the environmental impact of flowers.
I began to do more research on making more sustainable choices as a consumer of flowers. I learnt about the slow flower movement in the USA and growers providing local flowers across the UK. I remember feeling called, so strongly, to grow flowers, but laughed it off because it seemed a ridiculous leap from the life I was living- I had no prior knowledge of farming, and was in no position to access land. I’d been on an allotment waiting list for years and was no closer to securing a plot. I still started experimenting with sowing flower seeds that Spring, just to grow in containers and window boxes and add tiny bits to designs. It wasn’t until a couple of years later, moving to Sussex, that I grew on a more substantial scale.
Who, or what, has been your greatest influence?
Nature. For sure. I love watching the seasons unfold and the wildness and resilience of plants, and how they grow when left alone. Everything I do is influenced by it, and all my work is dictated by it- from the growing cycles to the seasonal ingredients available for the design work.
As it is Women’s history month, we would love to hear about women that have inspired you on your path?
I feel so lucky to be a part of an industry full of so many independent, powerful and inspiring women.
Erin Benzakein of Floret flower has done so much for the visibility of Flower farmers, particularly female flower farmers on a global stage. She’s paved the way to make it an obvious option for consumers to seek out their local growers.
Gabriela Salazar of La Musa De La Flores is an incredibly generous teacher who is masterful at looking at flowers in a beautiful philosophical way. She’s helped me treat every stem I grow with such respect, and I think the work I create is the better for it.
Sui of The Temperate Gardener has incredible energy and champions speaking loudly and proudly about what you believe in.
Cel Robertson of Forever Green Flower Company has been writing a brilliant, thought-provoking series on sustainability that makes me think deeper about every step of my sustainable practises. She’s a real hero.
India of Vervain flowers builds colour palettes that make my heart skip a beat, and her work never fails to inspire me to play with new colour combinations.
Do you have any daily rituals?
I check on the plants first thing, see what’s ready to harvest, see if anything needs a drink or feed. I love to be in the water, and in lockdown, I’m a little landlocked. A bath has become part of my daily ritual to mark the end of the working day.
What clothing do you wear to work in?
A very well-worn and rugged pair of overalls from Patagonia.
What’s your view from your workplace? What does it smell like? What can you hear?
If I’m doing jobs outside, I’m surrounded by trees, so there's always birdsong- I’m getting to know the different birds by ear now. In Spring it smells like that specific mix of chlorophyll and hope; in Summer, the sweetness of the meadow grass hums all day; in Autumn, it starts smelling like a forest floor as everything starts to decay, and then in Winter, it smells like woodsmoke.
Half of my workday is spent at a screen. I have to sit my desk away from windows to avoid getting distracted by all the funner jobs that need doing outside or be lured into the studio to make.
When you aren’t making art, what else do you make?
I love to make silver jewellery- rings and pendants. My great-grandmother was a silversmith, and my mother carried on the practice too. I make theatre too- I trained at RADA, and though the pandemic has seriously put the stage at risk, it’s the thing I’ve missed the most. I can’t wait to get back into the stalls as an audience member and back in a rehearsal room to build some stories again.
What do you do when you’re feeling uninspired?
I go for a long walk on my own, without the dogs. And look and think, and by the time I come back, something has unkinked. I love visiting other peoples growing spaces too. Getting to talk to people passionate about working with flowers- those conversations never fail to inspire me.
Photography by Sam Scales
White Moon Gown, Embroidered - £1,350 - Coming Soon