Now firstly, I have to say that as a tenant at New Covent Garden Flower Market based in Battersea, I am a hard and fast supporter of this amazing institution. I've had my studio workshop there for around 8 years and love being in the heart of it all
Having moved from the original home of the combined flower, fruit and veg market in the heart of, guess where... Covent Garden... back in the mid-seventies, the new location just south of the river Thames is currently going through an overhaul and will be fit for the 21st century very soon. In the old days, thousands of boxed stems of British flowers... daffs, violets, tulips, foliage and much more, arrived at the flower market for sale on to the florists of the day... just think My Fair Lady!
These images below are of British foliage, larkspur and peonies from Porters, Pratleys and DG Wholesale who are three of the main wholesalers at the flower market
Things have changed enormously though and now the majority of the flowers bought and used in the UK come via if not from Holland, through the auctions there and so long as Brexit doesn't scupper it, this will continue. The bulk of the flowers I buy each week and for my wedding work aren't British but from all over the world... which doesn't sound very green and eco-friendly, but as yet we don't have the capacity here to produce enough for us all. The UK farmer growers weren't supported after the war as they were in Holland... Government support went into agriculture rather than horticulture and it shows
However, I do try and use British and locally grown flowers in my weddings and bouquets as much as possible and I've been lucky enough over the past couple of years to have come across several growers who aren't that far away from me and enable me to add those gorgeous little wiggly flourishes into my work
I first came across the lovely Sarah at Nettlewood Flowers when she supplied flowers for a workshop I attended up in Yorkshire... on finding out where she was based I quickly made a date to go visit
Then she was using her back garden in Teddington as her nursery and boy did she manage to cram it with some amazing blooms! Sarah moved at the beginning of 2020, timing eh!... into a fabulous house with a LOT more space for her plantings. It is a bit more of a hike down to Sussex to get flowers now but worth it for such special pieces
Another supplier, a little more local this time, is Heidi at Beehaven Flowers in Surrey...again it involves a journey to collect but it means that I can see what is coming up each visit, and if I'm lucky and Heidi isn't too busy, we can have a natter over coffee and croissants, putting the floral world to rights and making plans for what I need in the coming months
Heidi's growing strategy, like many UK flower farmers is sustainability, organic, eco-friendly and in particular bee friendly... as you might expect. Her way of planting is less structured and more like a gorgeous wild garden with floral treasures round every corner
My final personal and local flower supplier is Ellie, at Hawkesbury Hunt... a relatively new on the block grower based in Essex who has a fantastic array of flowers that helped to keep my spring bouquets alive and vibrant last year during the first lock down
Her tulips and ranunculus took my breath away when I first saw them and I had to get them by the bucketful!
Suppliers like Sarah, Heidi and Ellie and Rachel at Green and Gorgeous near Oxford, Suzie at Picked at Dawn and Carol at Carol's Garden, who are are up in Yorkshire and Cheshire respectively... are crucial to those working florists around the country who need a regular supply of good quality, interesting, slightly bendy and wiggly flowers and foliage
At a particular difficult point, when we were desperately missing flowers and our flower sisters and brothers last summer, I hosted a small, socially-distanced Floral Gathering at my workshop where we had a chance to meet and catch up and reform those all important community bonds... oh and play with flowers kindly brought along by Heidi and Sarah and bought from the British wholesalers at the market
Of course we had a visit from the lovely ladies at Girl Flower Podcast, there were named mugs and friendly florists dogs! We will be doing more of these gatherings this year, if we can fit them in amongst the weddings!!
Having spent the weekend sowing, repotting and planting out (rather late in some cases) I am so eager to get my hands on someone else's hard-grown blooms!
Nettlewood Flowers - Sussex
Beehaven Flowers - Surrey
Hawksbury Hunt Flower Farm - Essex
Green and Gorgeous Flowers - Oxford
Picked at Dawn - Yorkshire
Carol Siddorn - Cheshire
Contact Flowers from the Farm to find out about local flower farmers in your area