On one subject, and possibly one subject only, do Him Indoors and I agree: there must always be flowers in our house. Sadly neither of our gardens is large enough to accommodate a cut flower patch so we must buy in blooms to adorn our kitchen work tops, mantels and sideboards. We would have flowers in every room if we could afford to, such is the happiness they bring us. For us, a home without flowers is no home at all.
Despite the convenience, I find supermarket flowers utterly devoid of charm and character: they are scentless, cold and starchy. But the alternative in London is over-priced florists where a single exotic stem might set us back a fiver or more. Now, perhaps, there’s an alternative in British-grown flowers.
In the 1970s the UK population spent the least amount per person on cut flowers in Europe, and the only blooms available in the country’s flower markets would have been home-grown. In the space of 40 years, largely thanks to Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s, the amount we spend on flowers has rocketed, whilst the proportion of British grown blooms has plunged to less than ten per cent. Meanwhile, large-scale growers from Holland, South America and Africa have stolen a large share of the market. Their pristine, uniform, foreign blooms are cheaper than ours owing to the availability of land, large scale of production and lower cost of labour; but think about those air miles! No country with such a proud horticultural heritage could be happy with this sorry state of affairs.
Now, driven by a surge in consumer demand and the efforts of a burgeoning band of entrepreneurial growers, the tide has finally turned: British blooms are booming once again. In recognition of British Flowers Week, a week-long celebration of British flowers initiated by New Covent Garden Flower Market, I’m highlighting just three of the UK’s most vibrant flower growers who are offering a refreshing alternative to the mass-produced floral fodder available in our supermarkets.
Ancestral home of the ancient Boscawen family, the Tregothnan Estate in Cornwall is probably best known for setting up the first British tea plantation. Having branched out into everything from charcoal to plum jam the Tregothnan team have now turned their hands to growing and supplying fine English flowers, either grown on the estate or sourced from local growers and tenants. For something a little bit different try their edible herb bouquet, which can be enjoyed fresh or dried, or indulge in the subscription service for three, six or twelve months, whereby stunning seasonal bouquets will be delivered to your door, or that of a loved one, every four weeks. Yes please I say!
Who wouldn’t want to step out every morning in a freshly made crocosmia head-dress? Or should that be a montbretia mohican? OK, perhaps it’s only me, but Electric Daisy Flower Farm are creating shock waves in the British Flower industry with their switched-on advertising and high voltage displays. Cultivating fertile land just outside my home town of Bath, Electric Daisy grow flowers using sustainable, chemical-free garden practices. Air miles are accumulated only by the amazing diversity of pollinating insects and wildlife that share the land with them. Electric Daisy’s verve and vitality makes me genuinely excited about the prospects for the British cut flower industry and proud to be Bathonian, by which I mean being from Bath, not belonging to a group of animal life that existed in the Middle Jurassic period!
“From preparing the flower beds, sowing the seeds and protecting the crops against slugs, to the day when the flowers can be picked is an exciting journey. Nurturing our little babies into bloom is a joy. Each bouquet we make is a mini multi-sensory exhibition, exploding with intensity.We grow a stunning variety of flowers and foliage. Choreographed to bloom throughout the year, our flowers and floral arrangements are produced for people who appreciate nature and relish the bounty of the changing seasons.”
Fancy a frigid bunch of Tesco carnations now? No, I thought not. And I’m still searching for the application form to be their next floral fella. Perhaps I need to grow a beard? Or look more like Ryan Gosling?
It’s to The Real Flower Company that I turn if I want to send a floral gift that will really impress. Their classy packaging and fabulous flowers are the embodiment of Englishness. Following founder Rosebie Morton’s recent appearance on BBC One’s Countryfile, The Real Flower Company website crashed, a sign of just how much demand there is for her wonderful blooms. Growing in Hinton Ampner, Hampshire, and Chichester, West Sussex, The Real Flower Company have single-handedly put the fragrance back into British blooms, offering deliciously scented sweet peas, heavenly herbs and exquisitely scented roses, just as nature intended.
The UK, with its benign climate, affluent customer base and notorious love of gardening is fertile ground for a cut flower revolution. Just as London Fashion Week has served as a disruptive force in the world of apparel, so should British Flowers Week serve to agitate, excite and electrify the world of floristry. Buy now and buy British. Hurrah!
British Flowers Week runs from June 13th to 19th 2016. Find out more here.