May 21, 2017

Fierce Thoughts About British Flowers Week

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WORDS: Kathryn Cronin PHOTOS: Ricky Bache
British Flowers Week is the brainchild of New Covent Garden Flower Market. During the campaign, the market seeks to encourage customers to buy British and local, to persuade us that seasonal flowers, just like seasonal food, is better for us, for the planet, better all round really. It also asks that consumers consider sustainability.

There has been a steady decline in the number of British flower growers for many years now. The Dutch command the lion’s share of the market largely because their government invested in their industry. But is all that Dutch dominance about to change?

In parallel with the movement for locally grown, organic, sustainable food, there has been an increasing interest in the floral equivalent. Highcroft Nursery’s and Clowance (suppliers of British blooms both based in Cornwall) have experienced record demands for their blooms. This year they even ran out, something I have not seen happen before.

Who would not want to buy a bunch gloriously scented sweet peas that have been grown without chemicals from a plot up the road?

It is all about provenance but there are other factors at play too. With the British pound currently weaker, British Flowers are actually very competitively priced against what would have been historically cheaper Dutch imports.

Who would not want to buy a bunch gloriously scented sweet peas that have been grown without chemicals from a plot up the road?

The NFU is also seeking to help. After all, this is farming. Backing British Blooms, drafted by the NFU in 2016, provides an insightful review of the British cut flower industry. It is a fascinating read. Although it paints quite a depressing picture initially, there is some cause for hope and optimism.

At a recently held meeting at Lynette Towers, the home of the Royal florist and British flower supporter Simon Lycett, numerous interested parties including representatives from Flowers from the Farm, discussed the state of British grown florals. It concluded that cooperation was vital between the different cut flower sectors to strengthen the British market. Another a key consideration was helping the public connect with flowers like they do with food. Finally, better labelling was discussed, so that consumers were actively able to make an informed choice and know really what was British grown and what was not.

This year, the annual event celebrating the British cut flower industry will take place from Monday 19 June to Sunday 25 June 2017. A central theme of the event will be seeking to unite the British cut flower industry behind a concerted campaign to influence consumers to buy and value locally-grown, seasonal, British flowers and foliage.

To promote British flowers during British Flowers Week, New Covent Garden Flower Market will continue to feature the great and the good of British Floral designers who are well known for using British flowers in their work.

In a change from the norm of selecting five ‘big name’ florists, this year a competition was held for two places to join the three other established designers for British Flowers Week. Rather boldly, I entered this competition and, although I was not one of the two finalists selected, I learnt a lot by entering.

It is an anecdotal observation but it does appear that there is a genuine groundswell of interest in and use of British flowers. After all, growers of British flowers are often able to produce and supply flowers that are tricky to transport, as often they haven’t got far to go from field to market. Of course, British blooms win head over heels against freight transportation by plane or lorry but they have to pass the red face test of quality. Vase life in the short local supply chain has a huge opportunity to be very long. Scent is often as the key differentiator to imports but the perfumed bunch has to wash its face opposite its supermarket counterparts otherwise why would consumers buy it? At the end of the day, it is down to whether provenance matters, whether organic matters, whether sustainability matters even. I think it does and believe it does to a few other folk too.

I encourage you to seek out some British Blooms this British Flowers week. More often than not, they will delight and are more local than you think.

Read more from Fierceblooms, this flower grower and Cheshire florist on the floristry blog.

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