The UK cut flower industry is worth more than £2billion and a staggering 90% of it is imported!
My heart sinks when I think off all that carbon footprint stacking up while many British Flower farmers are struggling to survive. British flower farmers were pushed out years ago by the big boys ready to import flowers from all over the world 365 days a year from as far as Holland to Kenya and Columbia. Each factory like bloom sprayed with chemicals, measured, tightly packed and cooled before being transported around the globe. Sold in vast quantities at huge markets with farmers getting paid just a fraction of the price their blooms will eventually be sold for. Now don’t get me wrong I know how global markets work so this is no surprise to me but surely there’s a better way of doing things.
British flower farmers up and down the country , many small scale growing on less than an acre are sowing seeds, watering daily and talking their blooms as they cut and condition them - most organically, with love, sweat and tears. Gorgeous fields of scented roses, frilly ranunculus and velvet gladioli await those who seek to invest in nature and celebrate seasonality .
Accepting the constraints of the British seasons will allow you to see its beauty. Straight and scentless flowers will be replaced by curves, whisps and the most gorgeous scent of myrrh and sherbert dip. Florists are slowly beginning to adapt their business models and thinking to take advantage of what British has to offer.
With the demand increased in recent years for British locally grown flowers why do so many florists still use imported blooms? Perhaps it is because they are seen as inferior and unpredictable. It only takes a cold snap like the Beast From the East or the early frost we had in Hampshire this year on Sep 25th to put a stop to your Dahlias.
Also clients want to agree their colour schemes up to a year in advance and ensure that they will be able to get their most favourite blooms. I give my clients a small selection of floral inspiration. I do this to let them know what will be in season and I give myself plenty of room to manoeuvre and switch things round if needed, I hedge my bets on the weather and I discuss seasonality and the Beast from the East so that they understand that nothing is guaranteed. Not even buying in flowers – because after all they are living things. My clients see my photos, they see my style and they trust that I will pick the best flowers to give the look and feel they want from what is available. I explain that if there are no British flowers left due to harsh weather (outside of the main growing season) then as a last resort we may buy in a few blooms but that the rest of the arrangements will be British.
Either side of the main British cut flowers season there are still flowers to be had, although they are limited. In early springtime Daffs, Tulips Anemones are the perfect choice with daffs available as early as December. My favourite has to be the springtime blossom which both distracts and surprises me with its beauty every year. For the end of the year Chrysanthemums can easily be used alongside lots of berries and dried seed pods to create stunning displays. Colour is also abundant in autumn leaves and I use this a lot to bring rich hues into arrangements. It’s really all about putting seasonality in front of the customer so that they can see the beauty.
The next reason why florists are still using imports is that realistically there are not enough flower farms across the UK to produce the number of blooms needed per year. We are a small country and land is expensive - I had to knock on a lot of doors to acquire my field. Traditional farmers and land owners just don’t want to give up valuable acres which they could sell on at a huge profit for new homes or farm themselves. The only land available is often poor, neglected, under water or not easily accessible.
2018 has been a fantastic year of progress for the British Flower industry and with Brexit looming on the horizon 2019 will surely be eventful and interesting too…. But I will save that for another day.
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