The afternoon Alice and I visited florist Mikarla Bauer, was golden and brisk. We came for afternoon tea and found the lovely lady in her Southern Highlands' studio, pottering about (literally) in a space that I could happily move into tomorrow and live in forever. This is where she lives and works, growing flowers and arranging them into unique and beautiful creations for all kinds of clients. It's also where she meets with 'her' brides, offering them cake and rose infused lemonade (as she did us), poured and served in vintage china in the sweet garden. Yes, this place and this lady are divine.
I first met Mikarla at a workshop hosted by Jumbled store in Orange and was more than a bit impressed with her style, warmth and creativity. So when planning a visit to the Highlands a couple of weeks ago, I called and asked if we might be able to swing by and do a little story on her studio. She generously said yes, offered to make afternoon tea and we were set.
And because, during our visit, I was so consumed with taking photos of every corner of this beautiful space, chatting to Mikarla, gobbling up her hummingbird cake (recipe below) and generally swallowing down touch of creeping jealousy for this incredible workspace, I asked Mikarla if we could please do a little interview post visit, via email.
So here below are this lovely local's tips on the perfect Bundanoon weekend, cooking with edible flowers and her life as one of the most in-demand florists around.
Mikarla in the studioHow did you come to be a florist?
My late grandmother Bobby was a florist and her work inspired me pursue it as my career after dabbling in fashion and interior design. My parents are avid gardeners and the beautiful blooms they have growing in the garden may it easy to start experimenting. I did an apprenticeship and have been lucky to work in some amazing flowers shops in both Sydney and Germany.
How would you describe your style and approach to your work?
Rambling and wild with little quiet patches. Fizzy and frilly flowers work best contrasted with smooth large focal flowers, so I play with that a bit. And color; I am all about punchy, crazy color combos.
Can you tell me a little bit about this space, your studio and home?
My studio is located in Bundanoon on my family's farm. Housed in what was once the dairy and milking sheds; it's built of double brick and is very cool and perfect for storing delicate flowers. Plus, it still has the original big blue barn doors that I can fling open to let light in, and an iron roof that I love to hear the rain pelting down on.
My studio is fitted with workbenches custom-made by a local builder in recycled hard wood. It was a luxury but they are the perfect height and width and I adore them. Depending on what I’m working on, and the season, I’m always changing how I style the studio. Right now it's all about hanging bunches of lemons and new spring blossom.
You mentioned that there's a field of peonies growing strong just behind your studio; is the idea of a flower 'farm' for your clients something you're working towards?
Yep the aim is to grow 50% of the flowers and foliage I use for a job. So the 500 peonies I planted two years ago should give me a good flush for my November brides. I also have Daphne, Hellebores, roses and dogwood in the garden.
Mikarla on living in BundanoonWhat do you love about Bundanoon?
Bundanoon is the most vibrant and fun little village. It has only one shopping street with all you could need, A good little butcher, a pub, a fantastic bakery that does brilliant coffee, a newsagent that knows the magazines I buy and reserves them under the counter for me and a town hall that hosts weekend growers markets and is home to the gardening club. I think I am the youngest member by
about 30 years, but it's such an inspiring and informative group. Bundanoon is fringed by national park and has a fantastic climate for gardening.
Currently I’m between our little Manly apartment and the farm. So I can cruise around Manly during the week with out the hordes of tourists then head down to the farm on a Thursday and start prepping for weekend weddings. It's a pretty good mix of city, sea and country!
If you had friends coming up for the weekend; what would be your perfect itinerary of places to eat/play and shop…
Saturday we'd kick off with a big breakfast fry up and potter around the garden. We'd pick a posy to take to the gang at Eccose, have look at whats on show and dream of how amazing the paintings will look in the cottage and then head off for a hearty ploughman's plate at the Exeter cafe. After lunch we'd amble over the road to follow and pick up a $3 second hand novel from the shop there. Winning already!
To walk off all the ham and cheese, we’d then take a slippery dusk walk down to the glow worm den. This is a deep mossy cave buzzing with glow worms and beautiful tree ferns.
After that, we’ll haul ourselves back up the hill and trot off to the Bundanoon hotel for a schnitzel as big as a bread board and some local red wine in the dining room that boasts four kinds of tartan decor and excellent people watching. Then we’ll retire to the farm and stoke the fire an a glass of red and a hot pudding
Sunday I would start with a 20 minute walk up the street to the town hall to have a poke around the farmers market, a hot coffee and almond croissant at the bakery. Then drag all the jams and fresh veg we could haul home for a Sunday lunch cook up. My ideal would be roast lamb shoulder and baked parsnips with mint sauce and salad leaves from the garden.
Your favourite local coffee place?
Bundanoon Country Bake House is great.
Your favourite local restaurant?
The local Chinese is so bad its good. If you like your pork fluro pink and your prawn chips extra salty give it a shot. Just note that you will need to drink at least 2 liters of water before bed. Or get the fellas at the butcher to sort you out and cook up a storm at home!
Mikarla in the kitchenThe beautiful cake you made us today was decorated with edible flowers - how often do flowers creep from the studio into your kitchen
I love cooking. Mid week I cook to power myself along for a very long and physical day. I particularly love porridge with stewed fruit and soups to keep me warm during the chilly Bundanoon weather. Weekends I like to experiment using my poor fiance Mitchell as a guinea pig. I baked a whole chook with a Parmesan and pistachio crust last weekend. He gobbled it down.
Spring now finally here! So what would you cook for friends to celebrate the new season's arrival, and how would you decorate the table?
Grilled leeks with labne and dukkah to start. Then we'd have crisp shaved kohlrabi, dill cucumber and borage salad and juicy steak with horseradish cream. For desert I would probably cheat and grab a pie from Montrose Berry Farm up the street. I'd decorate the table with tall branches of blossom and green apples.
I've been told that borage is good with cucumber ... any other good flower/food combos you know of and don't mind sharing?!!
I dress salads with red pineapple sage flowers, mauve rosemary flowers and nasturtiums for colour. For desserts and iced cakes I love using violets and rose petal.
Mikarla's lumberjack cake500g granny smith apples, peeled, grated coarsely
1 cup (200g) finely chopped dates
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 cup (250ml) boiling water
125g softened butter
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 cup (220g) caster sugar
1½ cups (225g) plain flour, sifted
½ cup (100g) brown sugar
½ cup (125ml) milk
1 cup (75g) shredded coconut
Grease and line deep 23cm square cake tin. Preheat oven to 180°C or 160°C fan-forced. Combine apple, dates, bicarbonate of soda and boiling water in medium bowl and stand 5 minutes. Meanwhile, beat butter, vanilla, sugar and egg together in a medium bowl until light and fluffy. Stir in apple mixture and flour. Pour into prepared tin and bake in preheated oven 40 minutes.
Combine remaining ingredients in a small saucepan and heat gently until sugar dissolves and butter melts. After the cake has had 40 minutes in the oven, pour warm coconut mixture over it and spread
thinly to cover.
Return to the oven and bake a further 20 minutes or until topping is browned and crisp. Cool cake 5 minutes before turning out top-side up onto a cake rack. Allow to cool before cutting into squares; I served it with sweet Greek yogurt and violets.