10 Questions to Petr Anokhin, A Seasoned Florist

Staff
18 Min Read

Petr Anokhin is a florist who has dedicated decades to this amazing craft. What stands out from this interview is love for peonies. Outrightly, he mentions to you to brace yourself for the peony interview throughout this week’s 10 questions to Petr Anokhin.

His passion and love for floristry and peonies will be evident. You will enjoy this one and ooh it will be a long but interesting read for sure!

Question 1

For those who don’t know you, who are you and what do you do?

“Hello, dear readers! Of course, I was very pleased to receive a letter from Thursd with an offer to give an interview. I want to say right away that the main topic of this conversation will be peonies and my work with them. Whatever I do or who I work for, I always answer that I am a florist. Floristry is a beautiful part of my life that gives me a break from every day worries.

I live in Kyrgyzstan on the shores of the most beautiful Lake Issyk Kul, surrounded by the ever-white peaks of the Tien Shan. People sometimes ask me why I live in a small town. I like my hometown Karakol for its leisurely life and the ease of being close to nature. This tranquillity, unlike big cities, inspires me. I am the owner of a flower shop and greenhouse. I am collecting a collection of peonies and have been breeding this crop for about 15 years.

Any owner of his own business will tell you that you have to delve into and understand all areas of your business – control and keep your finger on the pulse, starting from production, accounting, purchasing, HR, negotiations, and much more.

I started my own business after graduating from university in 1999. The flower shop was the first business that was passed down to me by my parents during my university years. Then I lived in the city of Karakol. Then I moved to Bishkek and opened my store there, while at the same time decorating weddings with flowers.

 

Petr Anokhin, a seasoned florist and lover of peonies

 

In 2003, I was invited to work as a florist at the Xanadu casino at the Hyatt Bishkek. Once a week I created compositions in vases in luxury apartments. Probably, it was working at the casino that became the starting point in my career as a florist. Everything that I created at that time was very popular with the visitors of the gambling establishment, and even the Hyatt Hotel decided that they needed such an employee. Every Friday I prepared structures and plants as if for a competition. I was inspired by ten florist magazines given to me by a Swedish florist in 1997. You could say she was my first teacher. Her name is Annika Gustafsson Seitov. At that time, there was, one might say, no floristry in Kyrgyzstan. I quickly began to acquire expensive clients and interesting orders.

Of course, everything I created in vases was done intuitively, without the knowledge and rules that are known and accessible today. Now the world of floristry is rapidly gaining momentum, knowledge is accessible. I can’t keep silent about one more person who then played the role of a beacon in my development – Liliya Petrovna Khan, businesswoman, and founder of the first flower salon in Bishkek, where there was an atmosphere of creativity with a professional view of business. It was she who invited Arayik Galustyan’s flower show to Bishkek in 2014. It was a flash of bright light, emotion, and what I had been looking for for so long.

But the production of cuttings in greenhouses developed in parallel, and my decision was because, at the beginning of the 2000s, there was simply no interesting material for work on the plant market. My brothers and I built a greenhouse in Bishkek, and later a small greenhouse farm in Karakol. These are completely two different businesses that require knowledge in different areas.

 

10 Questions to
A bouquet of Peonies by Petr Anokhin

 

I have a higher economic education. Of course, it helps in business. I regret that I didn’t manage to graduate from another university with a degree in agriculture. Learning floristry as I described above was from many sources, both independently and from masters of their craft. However, I consider Arayik Galstyan to be my teacher who really greatly influenced my development. For me, he is an example of a successful businessman, florist, and family man. I received my diploma from his school in Portugal. Lisbon was one of the most interesting adventures of floristic life for me.

Of course, frequent participation in flower shows, exhibitions on different stages, traveling around countries expands one’s horizons and gives enormous experience in communicating with colleagues. Participation in florist competitions is just a cannon shot at self-development. The concentration of all moral, physical and, not least, financial forces produces results. I gladly took part in these events. Over the years he became the champion of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. In 2017, he became the absolute champion of the CIS in the Flowers World International CIS Sochi Russia Cup2017 competition. Received an invitation from the Chinese government.

For the first time in the history of world floristry championships, a participant from Kyrgyzstan represented his country in Beijing at the International Horticultural Exhibition 2019 Beijing (Expo 2019 Beijing). The months of preparation for the World Flower Art Contest 2019 remained happy days and the difficulties remained only pleasant memories. In this difficult matter for me, my brothers, my support, helped me, of course, Liliya Petrovna, the director of the Guild of Florists of Kyrgyzstan and my teacher Araik Galustyan. According to this competition, he entered the top twenty best florists in the world. Pandemics have disrupted many plans and contracts. Further problems in the world only worsened the situation with large projects in which the entire global florist community usually takes part. Life goes on, we’ll see.”

 

10 Questions to

 

Question 2

What is so special about your job?

“The beauty of flowers not only inspires me but also gives me strength to work. Caring for plants is physically demanding, which allows me to stay in shape without going to the gym. Regular care of the plant provides good physical activity, keeping me in shape at 47 years old. The lack of excess weight is the merit of my plants, which also contribute to moral health.

Imagine, to water plants in an area of almost one hectare, I need to walk around the entire area several times a day. In addition, I need to visit my store, advise customers, and supervise staff. I even manage to work as a cook to prepare lunch for everyone who works for me. Probably, like a battery, I charge myself with flowers, and then I have enough energy for everything I do.”

 

10 Questions to
Petr Anokhin designs

 

Question 3

Are there any specific challenges or obstacles you’ve faced at work, and how did you overcome them?

“Peonies are flowers that require a lot of patience and love. During the flowering period I reproduce. Every year we have to face new challenges and problems because peonies are plants that have a special whimsicality. One of the main problems is the control of diseases and pests. To keep the collection healthy, it is necessary to constantly monitor the condition of the plants and take measures to protect them from possible diseases. Sometimes you will even have to destroy some copies.

Additionally, another major concern is weather instability, which is likely impacted by climate change in our region. As a rule, peonies require certain weather for normal growth and development, so upward temperature changes and frequent droughts can negatively affect their health. To overcome this problem, of course, you need to water on time, and this is also not easy when there is a lack of water.

Another important aspect of working with peonies is the crossing process. As already mentioned, this is a long and labor-intensive process that requires not only knowledge but also patience and skill. It is necessary to conduct scrupulous research, carefully record all data on crossings and selection, and also take into account the characteristics of each plant. As an example, I can cite varieties that are hybrids. Among them, some do not produce seeds at all. In the case of peonies, if you make a huge number of crosses per hundred flowers, you can get one seed. Thus, the work of pollination is a constant process of overcoming oneself. Cultivating patience and overcoming fatigue.”

 

10 Questions to
Harvesting of peonies at Petr’s farm

 

Question 4

What are the threats in the industry, and if so, do you have any solutions for them?

“One of the main problems for me is the lack of space for new peony plantings. I plan to buy land and create a large nursery – this is a huge new project in my head. The implementation of such an idea must be long-term and leave a legacy for my children, as it takes a lot of time. There are many challenges, but the most critical problem is finding suitable land and providing water for the future nursery. Despite all the difficulties, I am confident in the profitability of this project, given the stable demand for peonies over the years.”

 

10 Questions to
Model posing for a picture with Petr Anokhin’s designs

 

Question 5

How has technology like e-commerce platforms or digital marketing affected your industry, which strategies have you employed to stay competitive?

“As for the Internet, it helps a lot. You wouldn’t have been able to find out about me if it weren’t for Thursd. In recent years, technologies such as e-commerce platforms and digital marketing have significantly changed many industries, including mine. To stay competitive, I actively use social media to promote my work and attract new clients. In particular, I maintain personal pages on social networks, where I share my projects and achievements in the field of floral design, and this year I am actively publishing my peony nursery.

Thanks to this, my clients can easily find me and learn about my work. Additionally, social media allows me to keep in touch with regular clients and build friendships with them. At the same time, when it comes to selling peonies, I don’t have to do a lot of advertising here. Clients find me on social networks themselves and my product is in great demand. There are regular clients with whom I have had friendly relations for many years and they are waiting for the start of my peony season.”

 

10 Questions to
A peony bouquet courtesy of Petr Anokhin

 

Question 6

Who (in or outside the floral industry) is an inspiring example to you? And Why?

“I’ve read a lot about Professor Sanders’work with peonies. This man laid the foundation for the entire world’s selection of peonies. We can say that he did not live long enough to see the result of the idea he conceived. Peonies are a very slow-growing crop. You will not see results soon, you need patience. I constantly communicate with breeders. Most recently, I interviewed Larisa Askarova, the daughter of the Kazakh breeder Anatoly Skakodub. Memories and interesting facts about the varieties that he and his daughter bred should be known to those who are interested in this. I will gradually talk about this on my pages. Often enthusiastic people are not very sociable and society is not familiar with them.

It is incredibly important to preserve and pass on the stories and traditions of plant breeders to appreciate and respect their work and efforts. Each type of peony carries a piece of creativity and the soul of the person who created it. Stories like this and modern news about the selection of peonies and the history of their creation inspire many to make discoveries and experiments in this fascinating area. Another interesting acquaintance occurred in the winter of 2024. Cambridge University lecturer Michelle Moore responded to my comment in the New Zealand peony community. He told his friend, the famous New Zealand breeder Paul Simmons, about my work. As a result, I will soon be the proud owner of a new variety from Simmons called Wonder Star.”

 

10 Questions to
The amazing designs by Petr Anokhin

 

Question 7

How do you handle stress or difficult moments in your life?

“Like many, I too face difficulties and stress in my life. But for me, the best antidepressant was the camera. When everything gets overwhelming, I take my camera, create a floral arrangement, and go into nature with friends. Photo sessions help me relax, unwind, enjoy socializing in the fresh air, and recharge with new energy.”

Question 8

What has been the best (floral or non-floral) news for you lately, or of the last year?

“In these rapidly changing times, it is important not to lose sight of what is truly important to us. For me, as a floral designer, participation in floral events has become an integral part of my life. But, unfortunately, sometimes you have to deny yourself pleasure because of every day worries. In April of this year, I had a unique opportunity to organize a large seminar for florists from all over Kyrgyzstan.

It was a time filled with the exchange of experiences, new acquaintances, and, of course, creativity. Meeting such talented colleagues helped me see work from a different angle, share my professional experience, and get a charge of positive emotions. I decided not to miss the opportunity to take part in the Land Art Festival, which will be held on Lake Baikal in August. This festival is a real immersion into the world of nature, art, and creativity. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone, because that’s where the key to success and development lies. Be open to new opportunities and they will come to you!”

Question 9

Which is your favorite flower/plant and why is it good for you?

“I thought from the above it was already clear what my favorite flower was. Of course, peony.  I love orchids very much for their incredible diversity. As a botanist, I admire their ways of conquering the entire globe.”

 

10 Questions to
Peonies

 

Question 10

What are you doing this weekend?

” A very interesting question.  Most likely I’m working

 

All pictures courtesy of Petr Anokhin.

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