I love having fresh flowers in my home… the process of visiting the florist to choose them, returning home to arrange them in a favourite vase and placing them somewhere I’ll see them first thing in the morning to lift my spirits is one of life’s simple pleasures. Recently, I had the pleasure of attending Sisterhood Camp, a weekend in Wales hosted by my friend Lou Archell. One workshop I particularly loved was given by Erin Trezise, a talented florist originally from Canada, now living in Bristol. Erin took us on a walk through the lanes surrounding Fforest to forage for wild flowers and foliage before showing us how to combine our finds with a beautiful selection of bought British blooms. As I set to work creating my arrangement it got my me thinking about why supporting British flower growers and local florists is such an important sustainable and ethical choice.
According to The British Flower Collective, nearly 80% of all flowers purchased in the UK are flown in from abroad, which not only has an obvious environmental impact, it also puts local flower farmers under threat. As consumers we’ve got used to having everything we want all of the time, whether that’s asparagus in September or peonies in November, which means thousands of air miles clocked up flying blooms from as far afield as Kenya and China. But simply by becoming more aware of which flowers are in season and when, we can not only make more ethical choices when choosing flowers for our homes, we can save money too.
Tips for Buying British Flowers
1 | Work with the seasons: Just like fruit and vegetables, flowers are seasonal and working with blooms that are naturally at their peak is the easiest way to enjoy British flowers. This online guide to flowers in season each month is a useful starting point. Be flexible and open to buying what’s actually in season, rather than demanding your favourite flower all year round. You’ll get to try new varieties and save money too, as seasonal British flowers are almost always cheaper than imported varieties.
2 | Get friendly with your florist: Grabbing a bouquet while doing the weekly shop is definitely easy, but it’s boring too. A good local florist will always select the best flowers at the flower market each morning, rather than just supplying the same old Stargazer lilies and roses day in, day out. Florists love flowers and they’ll happily share their passion and expertise with you if you show an interest. If they don’t stock British flowers, ask if they’ll get something in for you the following week; and if they brush you off, take your ethical pound elsewhere.
3 | Fill out with freebies: Let’s face it, we’re not all Elton John, who famously racked up a bill of £293,000 on flowers over a 20 month period. But, it’s still perfectly possible to buy British flowers even on a budget if you’re a savvy shopper. Rather than buying ready-made bouquets buy just a few star blooms for your arrangement and fill out the rest with secondary flowers or foliage from the garden. This is a tip I learned from Erin who assures me that florists really don’t mind selling you only a few stems – they just appreciate your support and every little helps.
4 | Be a clever arranger: By being creative with your flower arrangements it’s possible to make your flowers go a lot further. Try splitting a bunch of flowers into individual bud vases placed in a line down the table, place just one showstopping bloom in a tall, narrow vase for a statement display or snip the stems short and float a few wide blooms in a shallow bowl of water on the coffee table where they can be fully appreciated.
5 | Make your flowers last longer: Select flowers with woodier stems which will resist the droop longer than soft-stemmed varieties. Always cut stems at an angle before popping into the vase which gives a larger surface area for water to be drawn up. Strip off any leaves that will be below the water line as these will contaminate it and replace with fresh water every couple of days. Finally, place your arrangement out of draughts and direct sunlight.
6 | Grow your own: The beauty of committing yourself to using British flowers at home is that it’s easy to grow them yourself. Sarah Raven is the queen of the English cutting garden: her website is full of advice and also has a shop where you can order plants, seeds and bulbs. With a little careful planning you can fill both your home and garden with beautiful cutting flowers from early spring to late autumn. Great for bees, great for you!
Where to buy British flowers
Your best source of British flowers will depend in part on your purpose. If you’re just looking for flowers for your home, your local florist is probably the best place to start, asking their advice for varieties that are in season. For a greater quantity of flowers for an event, you could contact a local flower farm directly. Finally, if you want to use British flowers for your wedding, some florists specialise in this and will be able to discuss your requirements and make seasonal suggestions for the month you get married. In all cases, The British Flower Collective directory is a good place to begin – either browse the member’s list or click ‘where to buy’ to search by region or specialism.