Searl’s Poinsettia Art Florists

From 1933 until 1949, my grandmother – Mrs Ada Mosses – owned Searl’s Poinsettia Art Florists at No. 6, Brisbane Arcade, 154 Queen Street, Brisbane. Ada was a very talented floral artist, as they were known then, and had been involved in learning her trade in Brisbane and Melbourne from the age of 16.

There are many brides from the 1930s and especially the War Years of the 1940s whose wedding photos portray the talents of my grandmother – Ada Mosses. From 1933 when she commenced business in the Brisbane Arcade, Ada’s artistic talents with flowers were clearly on show in so many special occasion portraits. Newspaper reports from that time, as well as the wedding photos I have of that era, clearly portray the happy events for which Searl’s provided the bouquets and decorations.

Searl’s business in the Brisbane Arcade at Shop No 5 originally began in 1924 as a branch of Searl’s Florists of Sydney. I believe the original Brisbane Searl’s was forced to close in 1932.

In late 1932, Ada was encouraged to start her own floristry business in Brisbane Arcade by a good friend from Peterson Bros. & Craig, Florists of George Street, Brisbane. Carey Petersen assisted Ada to start up the business – generously helping her in a number of ways. Ada had to borrow the first week’s rent from her own mother, as her husband Will. was ill and out-of-work in that Depression era.

Not long after commencing the business, Ada’s husband with whom she owned the business, fell from a frangipani tree while collecting flowers for wedding bouquets. He broke his back in that fall on 15 Feb. 1935 and subsequently died in early April 1935. Ada battled on. Searl’s was the mainstay of her family for many years. It was the training ground for my mother, Dell, and her sister, Gwen, to become floral artists also. Both daughters were an integral part of Searl’s Florists.

During World War 2, Searls did a roaring trade, especially with the large community of American servicemen and women stationed in or passing through Brisbane. Searl’s made many large floral decorations for events held on American warships in Brisbane port. Also floral arrangements were made for ceremonies connected with the burials of deceased American service personnel.

Searl’s employed a staff of 12 including Ada and her two daughters, a delivery driver, 2 message boys and 6 female staff assistants. Brisbane Arcade has always been the conduit between Queen and Adelaide streets in Brisbane. For people passing through the Arcade, Searl’s featured live models dressed as brides with their bouquets, head-dresses and gowns as part of the window displays – to advertise the floral arrangements that Searl’s could supply. These were a popular sight for those walking past the shop.

By early 1949, Ada Mosses was approaching her 60th birthday. With both daughters married and having small children, it seemed a good time to sell the business. I do know that my mother, Dell, took me as a baby while helping her mother in the shop. On 22nd March 1949, Searl’s Poinsettia Art florists was sold to Clayphans, who also owned a florist business in Adelaide Street, Brisbane. Today the site of the old Searl’s is occupied by The Tea Centre.

Mrs Merilyn Hamilton