Continuing my new blog post series called ‘Florist Friday‘, today I’m delighted to feature an interview with Heather Gorringe of The Great British Florist.
Could you tell us about the background behind The Great British Florist?
We started Wiggly Wigglers in the early ’90s with the idea of adding value to our farm and encouraging gardeners to move towards a more natural garden.
We generally sold products that were produced on our farm…from wild flowers through to bird food.
One day, I phoned a local florist to buy some flowers for my Aunty. I wanted a bouquet created using British blooms.
I was a little surprised at how difficult it was. And after more investigation, we could see that this was simply not available.
The British flower industry had been decimated by imports. And the relay services meant that flower purchasing had become removed from home-grown and natural.
So, we set ourselves the task of adding mail-order bouquets to the Wiggly catalogue…ALL British.
Eight years ago, this was quite a challenge. But gradually we built up good relationships with a wholesaler and a network of flower farmers and then looked at what we could grow ourselves to complement the range.
As the flower business grew, we could see that we needed a specialist floristry arm.
It’s not always the best to be called ‘Wiggly Wigglers’. Buying your wedding flowers or funeral flowers from Wigglys is sometimes a step too far for folks…
And we also wanted to be able to offer a full range of floristry services which we felt would have altered the balance of Wiggly Wigglers a little too much.
So, last November, The Great British Florist was born.
Why did you decide to focus on supplying British Flowers?
Initially as in the answer above, but as we started to look at the market, we realised the advantages.
Whilst there are obvious benefits to overseas economies of flower production, in our view, the advantages of growing flowers in the UK for the UK market are huge.
1: Freshness – British Flowers can often cut out 3-4 days between when the flower is picked and when the person receives them. This is extra time for flower enjoyment, which is lovely.
2: Varieties – Lots of lovely flowers were on the out-of-date pile when we first started selling just British. What a comeback!!!! Delightful dahlias, stunning stocks and gorgeous gladioli are back in! We look forward to our lovely seasonal deliveries…anemones, ranunculus, veronica, catkins and berries. And we know our customers do too.
3: Our Farm – We are a Duchy tenanted mixed farm in Herefordshire (yes HRH has been round for a cup of Earl Grey). Our aim is to ensure that we have a good productive profitable farm for many years to come. Growing flowers adds value and diversity and it really helps our farm provide for People, Planet and Profit. You should see the bugs, bees, butterflies and birds feasting on our cut flower patch. It’s a complete joy!
4: Scent – Often people will plunge their heads into supermarket flowers and are disappointed that there’s sometimes no fragrance…often taken away to extend the life of the flower. Walking into our premises delivers a heady scent of blooms…and we love that and so do our customers.
5: Sustainablity – As consumers, if we just buy imported flowers, we forget the real costs. Flower miles: The average Valentine’s bouquet contains over 4,000 flower miles. Pesticide Use: The rules for pesticides in Europe are much stricter than in many other parts of the world. And there are all the other issues: Water, land use, human health, etc. It’s not for me to say what is right and what is wrong. But for the UK to only grow 10% of the flowers that are sold here seems unsustainable and out of balance to me.
6: British Farmers – I’m passionate about British farming. If, as consumers, we want to see fields of British flowers that provide real pleasure to humans along with huge benefits to wildlife, then there is one thing we can all do. That’s buy British. Our farm only aims to grow 15% of the flowers that we sell. That way we can iron out crop failure, and use the geography and diversity of the UK to supply a huge variety of flowers to our lovely customers and help support British flower farmers at the same time.
What types of flowers do you supply?
We supply a vast array of British flowers including sweet peas, peonies, scabious, delphiniums, agapanthus, gypsophila, phlox, sunflowers, snowdrops and hydrangeas.
Where are your flowers grown?
Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Cornwall, Lincolnshire and beyond…
Where do you sell your flowers?
We don’t supply wholesale flowers, but we do supply lots of companies with flowers. One of our biggest clients is Jigsaw, the fashion retailer.
They’ve committed to our British flowers and we supply all their shops (75 plus) throughout the UK with a particular design that they sign off every six weeks or so.
What kind of floristry services do you offer?
Next day posies, bouquets, and cut flowers. Plus wedding flowers, corporate flowers and funeral flowers.
Could you tell us about your Flower Club?
Our Flower Club is available for individuals and companies.
Each month, we create a brand new bouquet with the best blooms available from our fields and farmers, each hand-picked and prepared using the best stems with the minimum of flower miles. Plus there are other benefits such as a discount on The Great British Florist purchases online.
We’re just about to launch a similar flower club for companies. They will be able to choose flowers within their budget, delivered weekly, or fortnightly under the simple scheme and we will provide a free framed certificate that can stand alongside the flowers explaining the company’s commitment to British flowers.
What is your favourite flower?
Oooooh, impossible. I love different ones as they come in.
Anemones are a particular favourite. Then ranunculus are just gorgeous. But, probably best for me are dahlias…
What are your plans for 2013?
We’re learning all the time. This year we’re planting up more flowers and in particular a range of herbs to go in with the posies and bouquets.
We’d like to grow our local sales by working with wedding suppliers and teaming up with funeral directors to offer clients a British flower alternative.
Nationally, we would like The Great British Florist to become a leading brand.
We’re looking to work and collaborate with British companies and brands to build market share for British flowers.
Thank you so much to Heather for all her help in compiling today’s blog post.
(Images : The Great British Florist)