So here are some interesting facts about the market place and some insights into how the lovely Joanna runs her very successful florist studio.
Which country imports the most flowers into the UK?
Holland is still the world’s largest trading centre for flowers and therefore delivers the most flowers to the UK. Many flowers are still grown in Holland but times are changing and the volume of imported flowers from Africa and South America is increasing. These get shipped to Holland who then distribute the flowers worldwide. We generally receive 2 or 3 deliveries from Holland and one from a British grower each week during the summer wedding season when we are at our busiest.
What are the most popular flowers sourced from abroad? What’s the ‘go to’ bloom at the moment?
Roses are still the clear winner here, particularly in wedding work. Hydrangea are very popular too and add drama and a good block of colour to designs but roses are still so strong, particularly the garden style varieties. Brides always love the multi-petalled effect of a garden rose and their fragrant scent. Growers are following this trend and we see more stunning garden rose and spray rose varieties coming to market each year which is fabulous news as a wedding florist.
Is there a time of year when more flowers are grown in the UK?
There is currently a very strong movement to use British Grown Flowers. This is fabulous news for the British flower industry and the number of small growers across the UK is increasing dramatically as this trend gathers pace. Our clients are loving the effects that can be created by using home-grown flowers that look very natural and have movement and variety within each bunch. The Dutch flower system is set up to supply perfect stems that all match so I feel the UK market has something very unique to offer. My family have a large cut flower garden near York that we use on a regular basis throughout the summer. One of our freelance florists, Sarah, has just started her own cut flower business and has received her first two wedding flower orders for this season already so these are exciting times. The UK season is fairly weather dependent unless you have a poly tunnel or glasshouse available to extend the growing season. More UK flowers will therefore be bought during the late Spring, summer and autumn months and less in winter.
What is the lead time for flowers from order to receiving them in the studio?
We generally order our flowers with our wholesaler 1 week in advance of an event. The flowers then arrive at our studio around 3 days before the date of the event which allows time for the flowers to recover from their journey, have a good drink in our flower cooler and for us to order more if any are not correct. For a Saturday wedding we would generally receive an order on a Wednesday morning which means the flowers will have been cut on the Monday or Tuesday in Holland. They are purchased by our wholesaler at the Dutch auctions on the Tuesday morning and are packed onto a refrigerated flower wagon over to us via the ferry by 11am that day. The system is incredibly efficient and I would encourage anyone visiting Holland to get up early and visit the auction to see it all taking place – it is well worth the 5am start! We do build in time for flowers to open fully so peonies and gladioli etc are ordered earlier so that they have more time in our studio to bloom. British grown flowers are ordered at the start of the week and then cut and collected on the Wednesday or Thursday before the weekend event. Many British blooms are ‘soft’ and can wilt easily so last better if cut closer to the event.
Having said all of this, the flower market can react extremely quickly in a tight spot. If you asked me for flowers for tomorrow, I could receive a fresh next day delivery from many Dutch and UK suppliers. It just adds to the stress though so we like to avoid this where possible….
How are flowers transported?
British Grown flowers are simply transported in buckets of water and can be delivered to our studio or we arrange collect from the flower farm depending on who we buy from. If we collect we can then add to our order if anything is looking really lovely and will just add something special to our work – all florists will have a weakness for ordering too many flowers, just because we love them so! Dutch flowers can be transported in several ways and it all depends on the flower or foliage variety and who we are buying from. It is ideal for flowers to be delivered from Holland in water but this takes up a lot of space adding to transport costs. Most flowers last well out of water for a short space of time if refrigerated so many are delivered simply wrapped in paper, out of water, packed in cardboard boxes or crates. We then ‘cut and clean’ everything upon their arrival at the studio. This involved us re-cutting the stems, giving the flowers a good drink of water in our flower cooler, letting them relax and come round. Some varieties such as hydrangea and orchids will need a water source so travel with so a water test tube or gel pack is added to each stem.