You may, or may not be aware that it is British Flowers Week this week, the one week in the year that growers and florists around the country encourage more people to buy British grown flowers in favour of imported flowers.
I use (and indeed grow) British flowers wherever possible and I have been doing so for several years.
I just prefer to use flowers knowing their full provenance. They have life and movement, they are totally seasonal and they've been grown more or less as nature intended, maybe with an occasional support, or protection from the worst of the elements.
I love a wonky stem, I love a huge, unmanageable branch, I love a dahlia head that is bigger than my own. I love a tangled mass of clematis that you have grappled with for quarter of an hour to find the actual end before you could cut it.
I love discovering all sorts of flowers in a plethora of hues and shades that I never even knew existed. I love seeing what some of the amazing growers I work with can achieve in the most testing of circumstances and their absolute passion for what they do. I get to hear about the lengths the growers have gone to to find the perfect seed, or a particular shade of poppy and how they have to battle against floods, droughts, storms or frost.
These beautiful growers pour their heart and soul into each and every stem they produce. I can see them wincing at me squeezing their 'babies' into the last inch of space in the van en route to setting up a wedding during our very dodgy looking rendezvous at a car park in a remote lay-by somewhere.
They throw in occasional heads of flowers I'm not keen on, but they love, in an attempt to convert me, which makes me chuckle when I find it, secreted amongst my precious haul. They know when to cut the flowers if I want a fully open head for a wedding later the same day, or not quite open so it will be ready in a couple of days time. They ring me in advance if they're worried about the colour, the stem length, whether the flowers will be ready, they keep me involved every step of the way. They take me to see the most amazing, scented rose climbing up a remote wall at the back of the flower farm that they just know I would love because they understand me and what I work with but most importantly of all, they have become dear friends too.
This is why I use British flowers.
This is why I promote British flowers.
This is why I encourage my florist friends to use British flowers. I want my grower friends to do well and flourish.
All this is a million miles away from the slick operation in Holland seen recently on TV where there is efficiency, speed, quantity and convenience, but there is most certainly not the love.
I am realistic, I do use the Dutch 'machine' as well and most florists always will too, there simply would not be enough flowers in this country to satisfy the huge demand for flowers and even if there were, they would no doubt be traded much like they are in Holland now just to keep up with demand. There is always going to be a need for both, but it would be lovely if everybody could just try and buy British a little more, whether you are a florist or not? My preference will always be to use the cherished crops of my lovely local friends and other growers around the UK and I just want others to feel the same way.
Everyone can play a part, more 'impulse' buys could be a beautiful highly scented bunch of sweet peas from your nearest grower in preference to lilies from the supermarket. The next bunch of flowers sent on Valentine's Day could be beautiful scented narcissi from Cornwall, on Mothering Sunday you could delight your Mum with a beautiful Spring posy of hellebores and narcissi.
If you are a florist you could start with a small order from your nearest grower and when you realise how incredible they are, hopefully this small order will become a big one. If everyone made just a small change like this, the impact on the British growers would be huge and they will love you forever!
I first got to know some of my growers at a Flowers from the Farm meeting early in 2013 and I've since been closely involved with this fabulous group of growers and grower/florists as we try to spread the 'British flowers' word to a wider audience. This meeting coincided with several personal events in 2013 and 2014 which made me really take stock of my life, I had become so busy with weddings that the business side was taking over everything to the detriment of my personal life, it was all totally out of balance and it was affecting my health.
I made dramatic changes to my business as a result, I now have more time for growing, which has been a passion of mine since I was married many moons ago. I feel like I have stepped off the wedding treadmill and work in a completely different way, in a more considered, meaningful and 'slow' way. I make sure I have the time to enjoy creating my designs, to echo the love the growers have for their flowers in the way I create my designs.
Without wishing to sound too much like a 'tree-hugger', I am able to work much more freely, I feel so much closer to nature, the seasons and everything around me and I think it shows in my work. I feel like everything has aligned to get me to this point where everything is just right.
That's what British flowers did for me, imagine what they could do for you!
Make a small change this week and support your local growers.
To find a grower or florist/grower near you, or near a friend you want to send flowers to, search on the Flowers from the Farm map - if you click on each flower, it will bring up the individual listing of each grower.