Over the last few years SO much has changed within our flower industry it really is hard to know where to start, however I really want to try and give you an insight from a wedding florist point of view, into the magnificent British flowers scene at the moment. Where we stand right now, how we have gotten to this current place, and more importantly where do we see the British flower industry continuing and improving.
The rise of British Flowers:
We have seen a much welcome move towards growing and using more locally produced British flowers over the last few years due to a variety of factors. Lots positive contributors, such as people wanting to farm flowers in the first place. By people seeing them as a viable crop and realising that locally grown beautiful blooms have a really high value and that there is an even higher demand for them. Like the slow movement towards knowing where our food has come from, many people are now interested in the origin of their flowers and are discovering the beauty and variety of locally grown blooms available.
From my perspective as a wedding florist, I adore the seasonality that british flowers bring to my wedding work, you can totally pinpoint when a bouquet was made during the year by it's flowers alone. Meaning your wedding flowers will evoke a lasting memory of the flowers available at that time of year... for example whenever I see honeysuckle growing it always reminds me of my aunties wedding when I was a bridesmaid and the bouquets contained honeysuckle (this was about 30 years ago, photos are a key part in this memory!) so wedding flowers would have been made up of entirely locally grown flowers.
What has contributed to the recent rise of British flowers?
There are also lots of negative factors that have influenced the increased popularity in the growing and therefore the using of British flowers too. Due to a lot of florists traditionally using flowers bought in from Holland, the move towards British flowers has been logistically important yet also very necessary. We have had the the dreaded Brexit causing high price increases, extra paperwork, and some delays to the previously faultless and reliable Dutch imports. We have had to negotiate the global coronavirus pandemic and what this meant for the flower industry, with lots of growers in Holland having to stop growing and sometimes closing permanently because of the lack of demand of flowers during 2020. We then had a huge influx of postponed weddings and events, globally, which again added to the increased flower prices in Holland because there were only so many flowers to go around, supply and demand dictates the highest price wins the bid. To the recent energy crisis and high hike in energy bills, affecting prices as lots of flowers are grow in greenhouses in Holland. All of these extrinsic global factors have played a huge part in how we access flowers, the cost of them and their availability, which will of course only benefit the British flower farmers and increase demand for their product.
British Flowers Week:
It is British Flowers Week this week and so what an apt place to bring up this conversation on my blog!
Before the pandemic I was working on around 60+ weddings a year, which tended to be mainly made up of using Dutch flowers. I have a brilliant market Flowervision that I have used for years and have a great working relationship with them. I was always aware of British flowers and how different they looked and felt to the dutch, having grown up in Somerset I am a real country girl. The hedgerows, woodland and fields were our playgrounds when we were growing up so I am fully aware of nature, it really is a part of me that has lasted throughout my whole life. My mum is an amazing gardener who's garden is full of beautiful thing I just want to snip and use within my weddings!
I started as a Saturday girl in my local florist at 13 in my hometown of Wellington, Somerset and we had huge greenhouses surrounding the town that would grow chrysanthemums and alstroemerias, it was a huge industry back then. Pinks, cornflowers and sweet Williams would be dropped off by a couple of old boy growers and a local lady would often bring in bunches of foliage to use. This was my only experience of British flowers and that was a long time ago, 25 years ago!! Until I discovered Sarah at Compton Garden Flowers who grows the most beautiful flowers you can imagine, her farm is stunning... so much hard work goes into the farm and Sarah's flowers really are exquisite. The colour palettes she has chosen for her blooms are wedding ready and she really understood what a florist would want to buy for wedding flowers. Sarah has also been so helpful in giving me the odd tip via instagram to help me with growing my own flowers, more on that later!
How I am using British flowers as a Devon wedding florist;
Since then I have been on a mission to educate myself on the British flower industry and improve my business to incorporate as many British flowers as I can within my wedding work. I rely on my Dutch imports due to the large scale size of my weddings, but I am lucky enough to year on year be able to use more British blooms within my designs. which I am really thankful for. I am even growing myself this year, my garden is full of sweetpeas right now, I have a huge dahlia bed, which is sprouting into life. Cosmos, zinnias, phlox, and asters are all making themselves at home in my garden right now, so I am hoping that they will provide me with flowers throughut this summer. I am the world's most impatient person, so I think it has done me some good, slowly growing these plants from seeds, and nurturing them into the soil, and my one year old daughter Nell is a big fan of watering the garden so gardening is providing us entertainment too!
What I love about using British Flowers:
I love many things about British flowers, the wonky stems, the natural and delicate nature of the tiny scabious and cornflowers, the heavenly scent that the sweetpeas produce is something else, the amazing array of dahlias that come in all kinds of shapes, sizes and colour, the trailing mock orange and honeysuckle branches or mighty copper beech branches. I really could go on with these descriptions, but you get the gist!! The look, feel and scent is incomparable and British flowers will elevate your wedding designs no end.
How to find your local British Flower Farmer:
More recently over the last couple of years, I have discovered more local flower farmers that I regularly work with Pat from The Forgotten Flowers who is the most lovely woman, always up for helping out and finding you what she has on her 6 acre farm. I have had the most amazing viburnum branches and mock orange from Pat, which were just stunning and completely made the whole wedding! I was lucky enough to discover Nicola, The Flower Tree who is just outside my hometown in Somerset, who can provide large quantities of blooms which is excellent for us wedding florists, she is so helpful in fulfilling my wedding orders and the flowers are always so well conditioned and exceptional quality. Instagram is a great source for inspiration and finding your local British flower grower as is the Flowers from the Farm website, which will list all farmers in your area.
Resources on the British Flower Farmer Industry:
I find the whole industry fascinating, it is so important to research our product and industry so we can gain as much knowledge as we can to advise and educate our clients on availability, style and pricing. I adore hearing about the the whole behind the scenes of farming, the processes, the ups and downs, the preparation, the heartache and joys of farming... listening to all kinds of peoples experiences and journeys, with leading industry experts on The Cut Flower Podcast with Roz Chandler who is so great to listen to, so generous with her knowledge and has lots of leading industry experts throughout the whole sphere of the British flower field.
Another go to listen is The Flower Girl Podcast, I love these girls and they have a great florist on each episode, so there are lots that either focus wholly on British flowers, or talk openly about their move towards using them, like myself. One of the hosts Jess, runs Buckingham Flower Farm Do listen if you would like to know more, I highly recommend! Throughout one podcast I chop and change my mind about whether I would love to start a flower farm, about 5 times.. and end on a different conclusion after each one. Maybe one day, but for now I will concentrate on using these beautiful British flowers within my wedding flowers. I was lucky enough to be asked to go onto their Podcast so if you would like to listen to my episode then you can do here...!
The future of British flowers:
Where do I see the British flower industry in the future? I see it as a hugely important part of our landscape, it seems that more and more people are becoming interested in farming and learning about what would sell/what grows well etc. Some flower farms have been incredible at growing to scale, which I think is a really important aspect from my wedding florist point of view. Week in week out we need high quantities of flowers, whereas quite often flower farmers can supply say mixed buckets of flowers, which are super stunning and can really make the difference to your wedding work. I keep these buckets to use in my bouquets and the buttonholes, or say use a few placements on the top table where they will be enjoyed throughout dinner.
Another point to make is how florists get hold of British flowers, lots of the time we drive to collect them from various farms, or sometimes they deliver. This involves our time and I know some florist can drive for nearly a whole day collecting from 3 or 4 various farms. I do not have that luxury at the moment, my time is precious and as much as I would love to do this I do not have the time. Flower hubs have been considered as an idea, and we have one here in Devon, the Devon Flower Cooperative, that I am yet to explore, it is on my never-ending list to do so! Where flower farmers can collaborate together to hold stock and distribute which is a fantastic idea. The Cut Flower Podcast, Roz talks about this a lot where she has seen this work successful in the US. My dutch market Flowervison has also decided to sell British flowers, which is something we have all been asking for for years, this is a really great move towards securing the future of the British flower industry and beginning to fill in the key pieces of the puzzle that make distribution easy for florists. At the end of the day when you are a wedding florist you only have a set amount of time to prepare those flowers, so time is of the essence!
British Flowers Week: A celebration of British Flower Farming:
I hope you have found this insight on British flowers from a Devon wedding florist interesting! British Flowers week is a great way to raise awareness of and celebrate locally grown blooms, however I am so pleased to say that lots and lots more florists are continuing to champion British flowers and farmers within their business throughout the whole year. If you would like any more information on our flower industry then do take a look at my past blogs here!