Where to buy flowers

One of the questions I get asked time and time again is “where do you buy your flowers from?”  To be honest, I don’t source my flowers from just one place.  A large and integral part of every event I take on is sourcing the best blooms for the job and that can take a fair bit of groundwork!

During the summer months when we are spoilt for choice here in the UK with the most gorgeous seasonal blooms, I buy as much as I possibly can from local flower farmers.  The rest of the time it’s a combination of New Covent Garden Flower Market and an amazing wholesaler, both of whom champion seasonal British flowers as and when available.

“That’s all very well for you” I hear you say, “you’re a floral designer - but what about me?”

If you don’t have an amazing local retail florist nearby here are some of my favourite alternative options:

Columbia Road Flower Market, London - every Sunday 8am to 3pm

This has to be the best street market in London, flower or otherwise!  Close to Brick Lane and Spitalfields, the flower market is a vibrant, bustling & intoxicating place to visit.  The selection of colourful, fragrant flowers, plants & seeds available is mind blowing and all at incredibly reasonable prices.  The surrounding artisan cafes, independent shops, galleries and street musicians all add to the holiday atmosphere.  Go prepared to barter with the stall holders, enjoy the lively banter and remember “cash is king”.  Worth noting that there’s only one cash point nearby and it gets VERY busy.

Local growers, all over the UK!

During peak growing season (May to September) I can’t recommend and encourage supporting British flowers and the growing number of passionate people behind them enough. 

Flowers from the Farm is a multi-award winning, not-for-profit co-operative of British cut flower growers.  According to their website “90% of the flowers sold through UK florists & supermarkets are imported not just from Holland but flown from as far afield as Ecuador, Columbia, Kenya and even Ethiopia”.

Whether you’re looking for a postal bouquet, farm gate flowers, DIY flowers by the bucket or a florist near you using British blooms this brilliant website helps you find beautifully seasonal local flowers by area. 

http://www.flowersfromthefarm.co.uk

Grow your own?

Ok, I totally get that’s not feasible for many of us town dwellers with little or no outside space but if you have room outside for even just a few containers you could have flowers to bring in throughout the year with a bit of planning.  Failing that, if you love having flowers in the house why not consider a small allotment?  A half plot gives a decent sized cutting patch and the sense of achievement from nurturing a seed through to full bloom is indescribable. It also gives you the freedom to experiment with varieties not so readily available. For tips, inspiration overload (basically we’re talking full on flower porn here) and seed varieties that will blow your flower loving socks off check out Washington based flower farmer Erin Benzakein, Floret flowers.

http://www.floretflowers.com

Think outside the box

Put a shout out on a local community website such as Next-door for anyone about to prune/cut back their garden.  You’d be surprised what you might come across and an armful of foliage in a giant vase looks incredible.  I’ve even been known to knock on a door to ask if I can cut and buy a few stems of gigantic hydrangea heads or to die for lilac.  Park gardeners can be your best friends and a few stems of that hawthorn or butterfly bush growing prolifically at the side of the road would look gorgeous on the kitchen table.  Please be mindful of leaving plenty for the bees and others to enjoy.  If you’re planning a foraging spree, please check local regulations first.

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How to find your perfect wedding florist

The venue’s booked, the date’s confirmed and it’s time to plan your wedding flowers.  After all, what’s a wedding without flowers?  They set the mood and are the single most important factor in bringing colour, fragrance and texture to your day.  For most of us, our wedding is the first and possibly the last time we’ll ever spend or order beautiful blooms on such a large scale, unless you’re Elton John or a florist like me and I get how daunting it can be.  

However, whether you know everything or absolutely nothing about flowers it doesn’t matter – the right florist will ensure you feel comfortable and that the process is relaxed, fun and enjoyable.  After all, choosing your wedding flowers is the most exciting part of planning your day, right? 

I think there’s more choice out there now than ever before when it comes to choosing your florist and it pays to take a little extra time to find your perfect match.  Most wedding blogs have supplier directories and have already done the legwork for you by curating their favourite wedding suppliers in one place. Instagram is a great shout for browsing examples of previous work and getting a good feel for the florist’s style.  Have fun looking for someone whose work strikes a chord with your own taste and sense of style because taking the time to find the right fit now will pay dividends later on.

It sounds obvious but try not to leave it too long to make contact.  Florists only have room for so many bookings so once you’ve found your dream florist make contact.  I promise you it’s never too soon, I’m already securing bookings for next year!

It can be awkward and embarrassing to discuss money but it really doesn’t need to be and it makes such a difference if you’re open about your budget from the start.  Some florists have a minimum spend but aside from that we can work to pretty much any budget but by you sharing the numbers early on we can focus on creating realistic & beautiful ideas tailored to your budget rather than spending time working on and suggesting ideas that simply won’t add up when it comes to it. There’s nothing more disappointing for me than quoting for a dream job only not to get it because I came in over budget and wasn’t given an opportunity to work with the couple to create a proposal within their budgetary comfort zone. We won’t judge you, I promise! Some florists have price guides available on their website so you can get an idea of how much your wedding flowers might cost before even making contact. If you can’t find one online, send an email and ask for one.

As with all relationships communication is key.  Take along as many visuals as you can and if you have an inspiration/ mood board all the better – be it blooms (obvs!), cakes, colour inspo, fabric swatches or table settings it all helps to visually communicate the essence of your day.  Don’t be scared to be experimental, a mood board is there to capture your dreams for your wedding so be creative.

Brainstorm the key words that come to mind when you picture your wedding to share with your florist such as boho, romantic, vintage, classic etc.  Tell them what you like and what you don’t like.  Your florist can then work with you to drill down on your ideas and bring your vision to life – exciting stuff!

Ok.  I’ve gone there with the whole mood board thing so I’m going to be straight with you here – please don’t expect your florist to recreate an exact replica of a bouquet you’ve seen on Pinterest.  It’s not an easy thing to do and if you’ve chosen your florist because you loved their portfolio then please trust them to use their skill & expertise to create your bouquet of dreams. You won’t be disappointed.

On a final note - If you want to maximize your budget and to have the best blooms possible you simply can’t beat the natural beauty and incredible fragrance that freshly grown seasonal flowers possess.  If your florist buys from local growers: even better.  If something you want isn’t in season your florist will be able to suggest and find you an alternative. During the summer months I source as much as possible from a couple of gorgeous growers in Sussex who are chemical free. I love the natural look and freshly gathered style they bring to my work.

Not only are seasonal flowers the best value for money, look better and last longer but they also reflect the season your wedding day falls in and in years to come those blooms will forever capture the essence of your special day and bring back magical memories not only for you but for your friends and loved ones too.  Priceless.


Caring for your cut flowers

If there’s one thing we can be sure of this week, it’s that a considerably large number of well deserving mums the length and breadth of Britain will be on the receiving end of the glorious gift of flowers come Sunday. That’s right it’s Mothering Sunday! A far better gift than the other ill thought out coincidence of the clocks going forward and losing an hour’s sleep.

So, be that a jolly hand picked bunch of fresh daffs and tulips direct from the garden or an elaborate rose filled bouquet - knowing how to treat your cut flowers will ensure you reap as much enjoyment as possible for the longest possible amount of time. After all, flowers are the gift of slow nature’s beauty in an increasingly hectic and busy digital world so who wouldn’t want the pleasure to last?

Regardless of if your flowers arrived in or out of water the first step is to give them a long refreshing drink in a “clean” vessel. Whatever you’re using to display your flowers in, be sure to give it a good scrub beforehand with detergent to kill any lurking bacteria from the last inhabitants. Fill your chosen vessel with room temperature water, remove any leaves that will sit below the water line and using a sharp pair of scissors or secateurs cut a couple of cm diagonally off the stem and pop into the water immediately. If the cut isn’t sharp you could damage the stem and restrict the flow of water. If you have any droopy heads, try cutting a good 5cm off.

The majority of bouquets still arrive with a sachet of flower food so do use it. If not, you can add an acidic ingredient such as lemon juice of vinegar to help neutralise the alkaline in the tap water and reduce the bacteria. There’s an old wives tale about adding lemonade to flower water. My mum always did this when my dad bought her flowers on a Friday. I know I’m biased but he was a bit of a winner because when I was little he bought me a little bunch of freesia every Friday as well :) If we didn’t have any lemonade I remember us adding vinegar and and a spoonful of sugar to the vase. Bleach is also a popular add to flower water but I hate the stuff and avoid having in my home at all costs. However, if you’re more tolerant than me you could add a splash.

When it’s time to decide where to put your flowers so you can see and enjoy them every day, be mindful of drafts, avoid direct sunlight and don’t be tempted to put near the fruit bowl! Believe it or not ripe fruit gives off a natural gas that’s actually harmful to flowers. It will shorten their vase life, prevent any buds from opening and can even impact the colour of delicate petals….. not good.

Keep an eye on the water and top up regularly. If you want your flowers to last for as long as possible it’s imperative to change the water and give a fresh cut to stems every few days. Always remove wilted flowers to keep your arrangement fresh and above all else, sit back gaze awhile and enjoy. You deserve it.

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