#BritishFlowers

I'm a fan of twitter, with over 300 followers it amuses me no end. Limited to 140 characters in which to make a point I am suitably restrained, although not quite so when it comes to the number of my tweets - much to the chagrin of my family! I particularly love the fact perfect strangers, and I mean that in the nicest possible sense, can elect to follow me and I them. I can tweet with like-minded folk and I can follow those who I admire, amuse or inspire me.

Over the past year I have gradually been following more and more people in the wedding and flower industries, be they growers, gardeners or florists like myself. I am enormously appreciative of them and indeed admire many for their dedication to their particular area be it growing, selling, promoting or blogging about their skills and craft. Following these people is like being part of one giant appreciation society – I find it hugely enlightening.

Every Monday between 8 pm and 9pm for the past three weeks, there has been a group of these people tweeting away adding the hash tag British Flowers to their tweets, trying to bring about a greater awareness of the British flower industry. They are by and large small independent flower farmers, allotment florists and small holders wishing to get word out that they want to be seen as well as heard. Working with the seasons, they want the public to know that by supporting British Flower growers or #britishflowers as we say on twitter, you are supporting an industry which so desperately wants to make waves, turn a corner and make a fully-fledged comeback – A British grown flower revival.

By participating in this chat, tweeting my views, reading the responses, understanding the issues as well as questioning my own position, I am gaining an  appreciation of a British flower industry. An industry I was, frankly, virtually unaware of until I used twitter. How could this be? How naïve have I been? I’ve been a florist for nigh on a decade, and I refuse to believe I am alone in saying this; indeed I am very happy to stand up and be counted and say that I knew very little of the scale of British growers. Shame on me, I have been buying foliages and English roses from UK growers for years on and off, as and when. You see it’s so easy to buy most of my stock in one place, just like one does at the supermarket, in my case a wholesaler who buys almost exclusivley from Holland.

There are quite literally hundreds of small independent gardeners and flower growers in this country who promote and sell their seasonal flowers to a small but well informed part of the general public. They are what I would politely term the farmer’s market types, and like farmers markets, they appear to have little impact on the large flower markets I am frequenting on a weekly basis.

Now, I am not, for one second, complaining about my suppliers, they are decent honest folk, trying to make a living just like we all are. Their flowers are beautiful and I have always been more than satisfied with them, regardless of their provenance. I know I may well be supporting a great many Kenyan families with my mid-winter rose habit. It’s a little like buying green beans’ in January; okay,  I should be eating British cabbage (and I do), but I like to eat green beans now and again. So, I make no apology. Except, and here’s the thing, I’m beginning to feel ever so slightly uncomfortable about it. So I have decided to do try and do something about it.

But before I tell you what I am proposing, I need to remind you that I am first and foremost, a wedding florist. My clients are planning the most beautiful day in their lives. They, quite rightly, want the full floral works. They tell me what they want and I interpret this and buy accordingly. Generally speaking, I am all for encouraging a seasonal feel to my wedding flowers but this is not always possible or indeed requested. Some seasons can be limited – you only have to look in your own gardens during winter. If it’s anything like mine, it’s pretty sparse and skeletal. Yes, there are a few snow drops, crocus and hellebores but realistically they not going to fulfil a large wedding remit. So, I buy my tulips from Amsterdam, (well Holland anyhow) and my on-trend vintage roses from Ecuador….

Also, I would like to point out that more often than not, bridal and specifically wedding flower magazines, do not always display seasonal flowers even though they may be promoted as spring, winter, autumn or summer issues. I think the media has the largest role to play in a British seasonal flower revival. We need high profile celebrities to come forth and do a ‘Jamie Oliver’ for the flower industry.

Take this week’s wedding as an example; I used South African Protea and scented roses flown all the way from Ecuador. I don’t see it as my place to deny my clients these beautiful flowers’ and I won’t, I am running a business after all. It is, however about informed choice and the public is not well enough informed. If I, as a florist, am not adequately up to speed, what chance has Joe Public got? I see my job to inspire, promote awareness and offer suggestions as to what is realistically available here in the UK and let my clients decide what flowers they would like and I will source accordingly.

What I don’t do currently is buy nearly enough locally here in the UK and this is where I will try and make my change.

As a small independent florist I want to play my part in this revival and today, by writing this blog I have publically stated my intention. It will be interesting to see how I get on and I will keep you posted.

There is a saying "Large streams from little fountains flow, tall oaks from little acorns grow”, I am jumping in this stream by adding my voice to this growing movement and I’m both hopeful and excited to be part of it.

Thank you twitter  #BritishFlowers