Tuesday, 26 November 2013

It's beginning to look a lot like

Christmas; just not in my shop yet. 

I got asked yesterday when I was decorating the window and shop for Christmas as "everyone" else already has their displays in place.  My answer to the question was "maybe next week - maybe the week after". The lovely lady asking was shocked at this and no matter how hard I tried to explain to her that it is only NOVEMBER it would appear I am in the minority when it comes to all things Christmas, but to me shops getting their stock out so early takes away the whole appeal of the season. By the time Christmas comes around these days people are already bored of it, where it's been forced upon them at every twist and turn for months. We all know that it happens on the SAME day, EVERY year. I for one, don't want to have it shoved in my face any time before the 1st December (and even then I think that's too early) so I certainly don't want to surround myself with it at work. 

Don't think I'm being all *Bah Humbug* by not doing it earlier; I am in fact being quite the opposite for I am one of those people that absolutely loves Christmas. It really is my favourite time of year. Walking the dog past (tastefully) lit up houses on a cold winter night really gets me in the mood, but if those lights are up now by the time Christmas arrives the magic of the season is gone. I've got bored seeing them every day for 6 weeks. That's why I won't be decorating the shops window until next week (maybe the week after). 

As for gifts; we're not one of those shops that sells Christmas gifts and trinkets (there are enough other shops around selling those) but if we did, they still wouldn't be in the shop before the 1st December. Right or wrong that's the reason why we still have a summery style window display in and will for at least another 6 days. I have, however, decided on my colour scheme for this year :)

So in other - non Christmas - related news we've had another 2 wonderful emails from customers that were pleased with the items we made for them. It really does make my day when I open up the emails to see such lovely words from people. The fact that people are willing to take the time out to let me know I've helped to make their day special (for a birthday) or that they were pleased with their tributes (for funerals) really does mean a lot to me. 

On the subject of sympathy I was asked last week to make 2 West Highland Terriers for a customer. The lady came in with a photo of how she wanted them to look (which always helps) and between us we came up with some personal touches. Considering they weren't an animal I had made before, and because they were made 2D/3D rather than a full on standing/sitting 3D dog I was quite pleased with how they turned out in the end. I am hoping the customer was too :) 

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

What to do?

On Friday afternoon last week, as the kids were leaving school, one young man thought it would be fun to push over as many of my planters out the front of the shop as he could - yes I am aware that boys will be boys - but when I got out there I will admit to be exceptionally angry (and had I been able to run fast enough to catch him, I'd probably have pulled his ears off as I dragged him back to the shop to clean up the mess he left me with, which then would have got me arrested - what a world we live in when the person committing the crime has more rights than the victim, but that's a blog for another time and not shop related). So I never caught him, but a young lady saw what happened and gave me a name for the boy. 

Now although he'd done about £50 worth of damage, I do appreciate that he probably never did it to cause any damage as such; I was a teenager and as such I used to hang around with teenage boys so know how stupidly mindless they can be, but by the same token I wanted him made aware of his actions and the fact it has cost money. I also wanted the school to be made aware, as he was in uniform, and they are technically responsible for him until he gets home. I have to say I felt the school a bit of a let down, which is where I wasn't sure what to do. 

The lady I spoke to when I telephoned said she would get on to the right people on Monday and get back to me about the outcome; it's now Wednesday morning and I have heard nothing.  I have had to phone them to find out what is going on and if the boy has been spoken to or not. This has annoyed me a bit I will admit, as I shouldn't be the one having to chase this up; I was placed on hold for 5 minutes today, while the lady on the phone got hold of the one I had spoken to on Friday, so she could let me know what was going on. As with these things after being on hold for so long, I was then told she was on the other phone so they would have to get back to me - and I thought energy and mobile phone suppliers were good at passing me from one person to another, with me getting nowhere fast, but the school did a pretty good job of giving them a run for their money.

As I finished typing that last paragraph I received a phone call from a policeman who is apparently attached to the the school for 2 days a week (when did things get so bad that schools had to have a policeman attached to them?) He told me the boys (there were 3 of them in total, but only 1 that caused the damage) have admitted it. He then asked me what I would like done? I found this an odd question; for some reason the school have told the police (something I would not have bothered to do as I really only wanted the boy to be made aware of his actions, and have his parents informed) who is then asking me what I would like done. Do our police not have any powers left these days to deal with things as they see fit? Surely he should have told me what he had done and how they had been dealt with?. The best bit though (and I am being sarcastic on this) was when he told me the school hadn't got back to me because they were waiting to see him and inform him of what had happened. They couldn't pick up the phone to me on Monday to just bring me up to date? I will admit I told him that I'm actually more annoyed at the school and their lack of response now, than I am about the boy who did the damage in the first place.Maybe I expected too much.

As for what I want done; I wanted the boy to genuinely apologise to me on Monday - any apology now will mean nothing as I have had to chase it all up. I'd have liked him to be the one to have to spend an hour in the pouring rain clearing up the mud that had gone everywhere when he pushed the planters over; I'd have liked for him to have to pick up all the broken bits of the planters, and the plants that were scattered to all four corners of our forecourt area. I'd have liked the school to show some professionalism by getting back to me before I had to chase them 3 days later. 

But what I'd really like, is for parents to teach their kids some respect for other people and their property. I work hard, long hours, each and every day to be able to cover the bills during these tough economic times and to provide a service to my customers - I've even had to sacrifice my own wages some months for the benefit of the business and the people I serve. The planters were an expense I didn't need - and really couldn't afford at the time -  but they were something I invested in to help make the area outside the front of the shop look a little less concrete, and a bit more cheerful for my customers, and the general public passing by the shop.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

All change

So in my infinite wisdom, I thought it would be a good idea to try and find a better - more obvious - way of sharing different links, to different sites that we have set up; you will find my efforts to the right >>>>>>>>>> and I have to admit as someone that is pretty much IT ignorant, I was really pleased with myself and my efforts - I have no doubt some of you are shaking your heads, because you could have done better, but I'm quite proud of myself and pleased with the results.

However; it was as I was fiddling around with the blog and changing bits and pieces here, there and everywhere, I noticed that some photo's are missing from older blog entries. I have NO idea where these have gone to, or why they're not there any more. I did consider trying to find them all to upload again (and maybe when I have a bit more time one day I will do so) but for now I'm going to leave the bit exclamation marks (these are in place of the photo's) for the time being. I did notice there are several photo's that were uploaded from my phone, so they don't even exist any more, but the missing pictures of bits and pieces we've made can be found in any of our online albums (these can be found by clicking on one of the new links I made to the right) >>>>  Pinterest is a nice one to view the photo's and you are welcome to share them around from the site as well; it always gives me a fuzzy feeling when someone has taken the time to share one from there :) 

Someone asked whether it was worth my time bothering with all the different social network sites I work so hard at keeping up together, and I can only answer "Yes" to that; I currently have 5 weddings booked in for next year where the bride has come across us on the web, added us on one of the social sites to learn a bit about who we are, and what we can do; they obviously liked what they saw and how we operate enough, to trust us with the flowers for one of the most important days of their lives. I think the fact I do it all myself helps as well; I'm forever getting companies offer to take over the running of the sites for me (for silly amounts of money) but I could never do that. Aside from the costs involved (and nobody regardless of what they might tell me - or show me can guarantee me top rankings on google) I like having that personal connection with everybody that has taken the time to add us as a friend, like our pages, or interact with us via any of our pages. To lose that would be awful; I am sure it works for these big corporate companies where the customers are just a means to an end, but for me our business is more than that. It's about the personal interactions with our customers; letting them know we are accessible and contactable on a personal level, regardless of their questions, queries or issues. That to me is the basis for any business; I just wish a few more of them operated in the same way - it would mean I spend a lot less of my personal time complaining about things. :) 

The other thing that will be changing (aside from the weather which just doesn't seem to be able to make up it's mind) is the website; Clive is now steaming ahead on the changes and new ideas, and I think it should be good to go live by the beginning of December; just in time for the Christmas rush. 

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Windows and Websites

So as you all know the Halloween window display has been in place since last Tuesday (I know; I probably should have waited a week) but to me the whole month of October should be dedicated to it (if we can have Christmas for 6 months then I'm sure we can allow Halloween for 1 month).

As you also know I am often complaining about how hard it is to get a photograph of our window displays, due to our position, lack of shade and tinted glass ( I dread to think how hot it would get in here without the glass) so I knew I needed to try and get up at night. Our neighbour offered to take some photo's for me which I thought was lovely of him, so that's how I was going to leave it; I was going to wait for him to share the ones he had taken, before I shared with you all.

Then I found myself driving back from Ferneham Hall on Saturday night (I'd been to see the mighty Showaddywaddy - who were fab and you should all go and see if you ever get chance) so thought I would swing by and see if the window was still lit up (we have the lights on a timer as there's not much point them being on all night). Thankfully they were on when I got here and I don't mind admitting that I patted myself on the back when I saw how it looks (nothing like a bit of self praise) :). It looks much better than I thought it would, and I'm glad I took out the main light bulbs and replaced them UV ones (I do love a UV bulb).

The full view

The left side

The right hand side
It's amazing to think a few UV bulbs and a couple of fish bowls, ikea lamps, a party tray, some cob-webbing stuff and a few flowers can produce something that glows so well, but as you can see they do. The thing that makes it even better, is that I won't be here when it all needs taking out and putting away; that job is being let to Becky as I am off to Scotland on a Floristry jaunt on the 1st November. Don't worry though; she has strict instructions on what she needs to do for the Remembrance Window (the one that always replaces Halloween) and I have no doubt she will do a great job.

Of course Vlad couldn't be left out, and although he wanted to be in the window (smack bang in the centre no less) he is still there - you just need to look a bit closer and you'll see him glowing in the background. 

He's trying hard to look scary but it's just not working :)

As for the website; well you know how we like to keep things as fresh as we can, and it's beginning to look a little bit tired, so to tie in with the new database system we're going to be running (this will mean we can email you photo's as we've delivered, invoice you and send you receipts immediately) we're going to have a re-vamp of the website. Clive is on the case to make the online ordering system as easy as possible, as we know some of you do struggle with it as it is, and we will also be making sure everything that is on there, can be ordered online, rather than just the few handtieds/bouquets that we have at the moment. Hopefully it should be up and running in time for Christmas (but it may not happen until the New Year) I shall of course let you know as soon as it's up and good to go.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

The lonely bouquet

Back last year – or it could have been earlier this year -  a florist working on the continent (originally from over the pond on the west coast USA) hit on the idea of *The Lonely Bouquet*.  A great idea that has since been adopted by florists all over the world.

Now the official day for it this year was Sunday 30th June, but  things being as they are, we never got round to get out and about to share our lonely bouquets around, so we have decided to make this month – October 2013 – our Lonely Bouquet month; this means shutting the shop for an hour one day a week for the next 5 weeks, while Becky and I drive (well I’ll drive and she’ll be the one doing the bouquet drop) around  our area, dotting lonely bouquets here and there. We’ve decided to cover Hill Head, Stubbington, Warsash, Titchfield, Wickham and Fareham on our routes – places we deliver to every day anyway – in the hope that one of you (our lovely customers) will be the lucky finder (or even recipient if found by someone else) of one of our bouquets. I say bouquets but 2 of the ones we are taking out on the first run are arrangements – but you get the general idea.

Beckys Lonely bouquet offering

You could find one sitting on a park bench, hanging from a gate, or resting itself against a bus stop; until we actually get out there with them we really have no clue where they will be left (although we do have a rough idea for our first drop). Can I tell you where? Or course I can’t; It’s all about the luck of being in the right place at the right time. If you are the lucky finder/recipient please be sure to take photos of yourself with your find and email them to us, so that we can share them on here, or our other social networking sites. Who knows; we could make you famous J

I am toying with the idea of doing a similar thing in the spring though but am keeping that one under my hat until the plan is completed (I can’t be giving away ideas to the competition). 

Wondering if I can find this one??  :)

This is my favourite

Will you leave this one hanging?

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

A rare occurance and sneak preview

One of the comments I receive more than any other when it comes to the blog (and conversations I have on the telephone, via the online chat or face to face in the shop with people) is how refreshing they find my honesty. If I think a certain flower combination won't work, or a specific design might not look quite right, then I will tell my customers. The same goes for the flowers themselves; if a flower comes in from the wholesaler and I think it's not good enough to be sold (meaning I think it's not going to last a minimum of 7 days) then I will refuse to sell said flower - I have even been known to contact an overseas customer to say the flowers I'd specifically ordered for him had come in, but I didn't consider them good enough to send out, so between us we came up with an alternative. At the end of the day my business reputation is on the line if I send out flowers that aren't going to last. 
That's why this morning it was hard to read the email that was sent to the shop last night, stating that 12 roses we delivered last Tuesday were dead by Sunday, and had been thrown in the bin. Once I had got over the shock that flowers we sent out hadn't last, I re-read the email and I will admit it threw me into a bit of a quandary. Did the customer want a refund? or replacement? Was he just letting me know that the quality of the roses wasn't good enough? Upon checking out the order, I noticed that it was 6 of one colour and 6 of another; now I will be honest IF the the order had been for just one colour, I would have assumed it was an issue with the wrap of roses themselves, and possibly offered him a discount on his next order, but for it to be 2 separate colours (and therefore 2 separate wraps) it is most likely to be that the customer hasn't followed the care instructions (or the wholesaler hasn't dealt with them correctly before sending them out to me) but of course without the flowers being returned to me, I have no way of knowing what the problem with them is; I have received no complaints on the other roses from the same wraps that were sent out to different customers on the same day; I also have one of the white roses from the same order (we have to buy them in wraps of 20 - the customer had only 6 and the remaining 14 didn't all sell on the day, and as you all know I refuse to have roses in the shop longer than 24 hours - so I took one home) and this morning when I left it was still as fresh looking as the day it arrived in the shop.
Now my biggest dilemma was how I deal with this so the customer doesn't hit the internet and put us down on every review site there is, but by the same token I have never dealt with this customer before, I know that at least one of the white roses from the same wrap is still perfect, and I have no way of knowing whether the roses the customer received were dead through them being bad to begin with, or because they weren't looked after correctly. Had he bought some food and it had been off, he would have taken it back to the store it was purchased from for a refund. Had he bought clothing from a store that had a hole in, for a refund/replacement he would have had to take it back, so why is it deemed acceptable for people to think they can just email a florist, tell them the flowers are in the bin and expect something to be done about it? This is why I made the tough decision to tell the gentleman that unless I receive the flowers back, then there is nothing I can do about it. This may now result in him leaving bad reviews about us all over the internet, but just say he then tells his friends all they need to do is email us to say their flowers have died, and before you know what's happening I could be sending out flowers, or giving away money all over the place for absolutely no reason whatsoever. So if you receive flowers at any time, and believe they are not good enough, please let us have them back so we can at least get our money back from the wholesalers too, before we replace them for you. I do hate the thought that a customer feels let down, but I believe this to be the right decision. 

So the sneak preview..

You know how every year the Halloween window is the one we all look forward to? Well this year is no different, but I will admit it gets harder each year to come up with something different. In recent years we've based the displays on the Amityville Horror (one of the best fictional books you could read - sadly the true story prior to the fiction isn't quite such a nice read); we've used the traditional oranges; reds and purples have featured and last year of course we went all black and white with the UV lights on (they did create an amazing effect that's for sure) but we wanted something a bit more upbeat this year, so settled on Orange (got to have some tradition) Black (again a halloween associated colour) but we've added a Lime Green to the mix too.  Vlad will himself be taking centre stage in the window this year and has had his hat and buttonhole decorated accordingly; yesterday he also held the wedding bouquet that will be making an appearance in the window; we think he looked quite good, and are looking forward to seeing how the colours will work together. 

 I think our colours are going to work well; can't wait until October to get it all finished and in ready for your opinions when you pass by.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Something original?

and not just one of the designs we've had to make up recently either - which I will post further down the page for you all to let me know what you think.

By original I am meaning a company called Hidden Originals; a local company that specialise in personalising photo frames. We currently have 1 of each size in the shop (they will be in the window display later on today too) and they are lovely. They are what I believe are called "box frames" in that the glass is raised an inch or so above the back of the frame (I have some at home that I use as display cases rather than just for a photograph - so they are pretty versatile and can be used in numerous ways).

In the shop we have a 6 x 6 natural wood; an 8 x 8 black and a 12 x 12 white frame, so if you wanted to pop along and have a look at them in the flesh you are more than welcome to.  Price wise you can see from the photo's I've posted how reasonably priced they are. 

If you want to check out the full range click this LINK and you will be taken straight to their website; alternatively if you are on facebook, you can check out their fb page HERE

Now back to our own originals. Last week I was asked to make some personal creations myself.  I was asked to make a motorbike (I've made several before) so getting the basis for that right wasn't so much of a challenge; the family had also given me a photograph of the exact one they wanted, so I did cheat a little. I enlarge the image and printed it out to use as a template (don't know why I've never thought to do that before - I always draw out all designs freehand). 

I will admit I was a little disappointed with the gaps not showing through as well as they should have done in the photograph, but in the flesh they showed ok, which is all that matters. 

I was also asked to make a helmet; now I was sure that company that make foam frames, made a helmet, but I scoured the internet and wholesaler websites for hours - all to no avail - so I had to take a couple of foam bricks, grab my knife and get carving. I was quite pleased with the shape I ended up with. 

I desperately wanted to put a proper a visor for it (well one made by me that resembled a proper visor) but no matter how hard I tried I couldn't get anything to bend in the right way; everything I tried left a crease in it somewhere or other, so in the end I had to leave it off  but I was pleased with the shape and overall effect it created. 

The other item I was asked to make, was a pair of motorbike gloves. Now these would have presented a really big challenge, as to get the details needed without losing the shaping they would have had to be huge, so after explaining to the customer that they weren't really that practical to make it was decided an old fashioned style fruit machine would be a good choice. So that's what I made; again the photo really doesn't do it justice, but I was really pleased with the finished result. 

Monday, 19 August 2013

Scam? or Genuine?

I faced a dilemma over the weekend; one that actually kept me awake most of Saturday evening, and although at the time I know I did the right thing, even now I am still having doubts.

"What is she going on about"? you're asking yourselves   Well on Thursday evening I took a phone call from a gentleman who wanted to order 2 bouquets at £35 each, to be delivered on Saturday morning. Not a problem, and after discussing the flowers required, card message etc he passed on his Credit Card details to me. As with all phone orders, as soon as the call ended I put his card through to be processed, and unfortunately his card provider declined the payment. In this situation I often doubt myself over whether I have taken a number down wrong - even though I read it back to the customer as I took the numbers down,  and I read it back as a whole when I had finished to make sure I'd got all I needed. Because the gentleman was the last caller I hit 1471-3 and phoned him straight back. Obviously busy as it went to answerphone, I left him a message explaining I thought I had made a mistake, and asked if he could ring me back as soon as possible. I heard nothing, and when I came in Friday there were no messages from him to say he'd tried to get back to me. 

I tried calling him again several times on Friday morning, but to no avail, and by lunchtime my desperation took over - I knew I needed to get the order for the flowers he required in sooner rather than later - and so I made the very impersonal and (in my opinion) exceptionally unprofessional decision, to text the gentleman just in case he hadn't received my phone messages. Explaining who I was I mentioned there was an issue with his card and asked if he could ring me (I gave the number or he could have phoned me back on my mobile - yes I text him from my personal phone I was that keen to make sure he got my messages) as soon as was possible. Again, I heard nothing. 

Not sure what to do when I put my order in for the next day, I made the decision to order some of the flowers he required - ones I knew I would be able to sell if I didn't hear back from him - just in case he phoned on Saturday morning; I wanted to make sure I had what he required to fulfill the order. By closing time (and an hour after the agreed delivery time we had made) I had no choice but to assume the order was no longer required and cancelled it. 

Still unsure if I had done the right thing, I spoke to several florist friends of mine; some said they would have made the orders up, and left them in the van where they would have knocked on the door of the recipient to ask if the gentleman that ordered was available to make payment - this is something I couldn't have done, because say the gentleman had not been there I couldn't then ask the recipients to pay for their own flowers; had I previously had dealings with the gentleman I would have delivered the flowers and sorted it with him at a later date so as not to let him down, but this was the first (and I assume the last) time he had placed an order with me. Everyone else said they would have done exactly the same thing I did, and taken the gentleman's lack of response as his wanting the order cancelled. 

Then a local florist friend I spoke to told me I may have just been lucky enough to get away with not being scammed; this I was not expecting and the thought it could be a scam wasn't anything I had even considered. It appears there are people obtaining credit/debit cards by illegal means; they are then phoning orders through to florists using these details; IF the bank (or customer whose card has been used) realise and get things sorted then obviously the card is cancelled and the shop processing the details will find it declined. Apparently the rouse they use is that the bouquets are thank you's for a party that has been organised (my 2 were thank you's for a party that had been organised). Now this group of scammers used to order flowers for collection and pay over the phone with cloned cards, but as people got wise to this, they then use the information on the stolen cards to find the card holders home address, and when delivery is made they will intercept the driver before he gets chance to knock on the door; they then have the flowers which they load up in their own vehicle and sell on elsewhere, pocketing the cash. Several shops that have had cards declined, didn't take the steps I did to cancel the order, and were paid in cash (fraudulent notes) at the time of delivery; by the time the shop realised the money was fake, the scammers were long gone. 

The gentleman did leave a message on the answerphone after we had closed on Saturday asking when his flowers were likely to be delivered; it was during this message he also spoke the words "I know you've phoned me several times, so I hope there isn't a problem". Surely if he knew I had phoned, he would have contacted me to make sure there wasn't a problem? Also I had told him when I left the messages, there WAS a problem, so I can't understand why he wouldn't have phoned me back.

At the time of writing this the shop has been open 2.5 hours and I've not heard a word about the non-delivery, and I would like to think if the gentleman was genuine (I know if it was myself and my order hadn't been delivered) would have been on the phone by now wanting to know what happened and why the flowers didn't arrive? 

What would you have done in the same situation?

Thursday, 15 August 2013


I think not - don't worry, the title will make sense further down the page :O) 

As those of you that visit us in the shop regularly will know, I absolutely detest being hot; I know I'm a rare breed as most people can't wait for the summer to arrive and have been relishing  the recent temperatures (when the thermometer dipped the other week to only 24'c and people were saying it was "chilly" I could have screamed :) ) I have been despising EVERY single second of them. Don't get me wrong, I love to see the blue skies and sunshine, but when there is a nice hard frost on the ground, and icicles hanging from the trees. Those to me are the perfect days, when you can pop your coat, hat and scarf on and head off with the dog to the woods for a proper ramble (and my argument to the people that tell me the cold is awful is that "you can always wrap up warmer, but you can never unwrap any cooler). 

Now because the shop window is in full sun from pretty much 11am until 9pm this time of year, it gets mighty warm inside; add to this the lowered false ceiling we have, and the chip shop next door (we really do notice a huge temperature increase once they've been open for an hour) and it can be like entering a sauna. Opening the front and back door do very little as we face the wrong way for a draft, and more often than not all that gets dragged through is more warm air. Because of this we invested in a free standing air conditioner (we did have this in the previous shop that had 3 sides of pure glass so was always in the sun - but there we also had more space so the heat wasn't quite so noticable). It was a 2nd hand reconditioned unit when we purchased it and for 7 summers it has been forced to work 24/7, and it has performed its task admirably. Then the week before last it decided it didn't want to pump out cold air any more; it was happy to just play at being a fan. For 2 days we phoned round different suppliers, looked online, visited DIY stores to get a new one, with the result being the same each time "sorry out of stock". What does this "out of stock" mean? No air con? Heat in the shop? Totally not acceptable. Clive did get a man out to look at it who told us we needed a new one (we already kind of new that) and who said he would get back to us with a quote - the very next day - for a new free standing one but also a full on shop fitted one that would cover all areas - we are STILL waiting for this quote. The thought of watching my poor little flowers struggle in the temperatures (the thermometer INSIDE the shop one day showed over 45'c - that is HOT) and the thought of having to continue working in such temperatures was not something I relished at all. 

And then this little *miracle* happened. Chris appeared in the shop doorway and uttered the words "I've got something for you in the back of the car". Normally I would be concerned if someone wanted me to go to their car with them, but as it was Chris I knew I was ok, and the sight that greeted me as I edged towards his boot filled me with tsuch  happiness I actually hugged him; for there was a shiny, white, lovely air con unit. I was that excited, the thought of how much it was going to cost never even entered my mind. Now as I knew that everywhere seemed to be out of stock I did wonder where he'd got it from (this is where the despicable bit will from the blog title will come in to play).

One of their customers decorates blimps and Chris had gone down to see them that morning; while there he happened to mention how well the shop is doing (we are exceptionally busy at the moment) but also said how *grumpy* I currently was (it's true; I was mighty grumpy being so hot) and explained why I was being such a grump. Then the lovely Colin (blimp man) said "I've got a spare one upstairs sat doing nothing; Sarah is welcome to borrow it if she would like". If I would like? I very muchly would :) Within an hour of Chris returning, the shop was back to a more sensible temperature and I was back to being *not so grumpy* as I had been. 

This week Chris had to visit Colin again, and I sent down some flowers to say "thank you" at which point he told Chris the loan period is over; it is now mine to keep. Enter one very HAPPY Sarah  - the flowers really appreciate it too.

So what's despicable about all this??  The most recent blimp Colin has decorated is this one ↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

The first time :)

So, on Saturday we finally let our Becky out (to play?) so she could help Clive in the set up of one of our 4 weddings (yes it was a mighty busy weekend).  It was the first time we have let her venture further than the shops over the road (other than for important things like coffee and cakes - or the odd delivery that's within walking distance). 

Normally I would have started her off with something simple - carrying some arrangements into church/reception and sitting them on their stands - but being so busy I has no choice but to throw her in the deep end (she did have Clive with her so she wasn't completely alone) and I sent her off to Southampton to hang garlands and tied bunches from beams (she'd pre-made these before she left which helped) in the Merchants Hall - there was an arrangement for the registrars table too, but that was a matter of carrying it in and placing it on the table that was already set up. 

Registrars arrangement that was moved to the top table for the evening reception

Merchants Hall - Simple garlands that keep the rustic charm

Close up of one of the tied bunches attached to either end of every other beam

She was then handed a roll (or 2) of organza, some thin wires,  a pair of scissors, and  was told to " go and do something with the railings outside the hall". If you look closely you can just see her arm at the very top right of the photo :)

After leaving the hall she was then sent down to Ocean Village and the Princess Caroline ship where the reception was to be held that evening - apparently the constant bobbing and dipping made her a bit odd (but she's odd on her own anyway so this was nothing to worry about :) ).  Here she was tasked with attaching a foliage garland with organza trailing bows, to the gangway from the pontoon to the ship itself...

The railings around the outside balcony also had an organza garland (draped on both sides) with bows for decoration, but it was inside that the hardest part of the day trip was to be for her. There are 2 pillars inside that had to have foliage draped round them with gerberas and rope attached to them; because of not knowing the sizes these had to be made from scratch on board, but I think you'll agree she did a great job?

The hardest part of the whole set up (other than having to put up with Clive for a couple of hours) was what most people would assume would be the easiest thing; the placing of 2 Hydrangea heads in a jam jar. Now while this may sound easy, one of the worst things with hydrangeas is that their heads are too big for their stems. This isn't a problem if you are standing them in a tall vase, but in jam jars you have very little depth so it can be a bit of a balancing act to get the stem to stay in the water, while stopping the flower head from dragging the whole thing out of the jar; also the bride had told me the day before that the sand they had put in the jars (the jam jars were the brides own) was turning the water a dirty yellow shade if it was disturbed (even slightly). As you can see by the photo the jar on the table behind was disturbed and the water doesn't look that nice; however, the good news is that by the time Becky and Clive left the water had re-settled and was crystal clear again.

I have to say between them they did a great job, and any set up we send her out on from now will be a "piece of cake" for her. Bring on this weekend.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Where do you start?

I get asked this question so often when customers come into the shop and see a tribute, bouquet or other different flowery item that is waiting to go out on delivery - although more so with a sympathy tribute that is a break from the norm, than anything else. 

"At the beginning" is my usual reply. But where is that beginning? How does the idea in someones head get transformed into a floral tribute?  Slowly is the only answer to that. 

I deliberated long and hard about this blog entry; whether I should or shouldn't do it - for more reasons than one that will come to light as I go along - but in the end I decided that I would write it and share with you all. Several florist friends have told me not to do this, as they've said I may be giving away ideas to people that didn't spend 2 days a week at college, the other 4 (often 5) days of the same week standing knee deep in stagnant water scrubbing vases (yes my first boss was very old school and I wasn't allowed to touch a flower - other than when I was conditioning them - until I had finished college and was a qualified florist). This took me 2 years of hard work and long hours (I received 1 weeks holiday in my first year - when I wasn't at college I had to go in to work - and 2 weeks in my 2nd year). This would NEVER be allowed in this day and age (although I still only have 1 week a year - but this time because it is my business and not because I am working for someone else). Those florist friends make a great point. Why should I have gone through all that hassle, long hours, and grief to just give away how I make something that someone else may copy? My response was that in 27 years of this job I have NEVER before been asked to make the item I am going to share with you, so I don't really feel as if I am giving anything away. I also think it would be nice for people to see that I don't just "get to play with flowers all day" as seems to be the general consensus. My job (a florists job) is actually a lot more technical than that and also a lot dirtier (but the compost, floor scrubbing and all the general dirty day to day bits - there is very little "playing" in this job - can wait for another blog).

So where to start? At the beginning, with the customer that asked me if I could make a set of Knuckle Dusters for the funeral of his friend. This in itself has caused discussion among other florists - some of whom have said they would have refused the order because of what it implies - but I judge NOBODY on anything and if someone trusts me to make something for them, then I'm going to make what they ask for. 

Quoting for bespoke items is the hardest part of the whole order; how much to charge for making such an item? Thankfully years of practice come into play at this point and I am able to work out what I'm going to need and can price accordingly; there would be nothing worse than running out of flowers before all the oasis is covered (sadly I have seen many people do this where they are not experienced enough to take on such an item and they send a tribute off with huge gaps in; I've also seen people use chrysant that is so old it is falling apart as they use it or all brown on the edges). I also don't want to get left with a load of double chrysant that cannot be used (I chose yellow for this tribute as the gold spray paint will cover better, but yellow double is something that we are never asked for in our general floristry, so I didn't want to have too many stems left over). As it was I got it spot on and didn't have a single stem left (and not a gap, shattered flower or mouldy piece to be seen) The chrysant for this item came into me FRESH yesterday lunchtime; I then allowed it to drink for 24 hours before using it so that I know it won't wilt or shatter, and that the customer has got the best quality he can have - I know some shops that use up old flowers on their funeral work and this annoys me immensely as their customers have paid a lot of money and deserve to receive the best quality regardless of how long the flowers need to last; home workers, that buy the cheap stuff left over in the supermarkets for their funeral work should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. 

The next thing that needs to be done is to find an image (unless the customer has bought their own photo in) so that I have a guide to aide in the design.  For the this tribute I chose these; I did however choose not to add the points as this was the only one I found that had them; the rest were just smooth edges.

A lot of the ones I came across had a cut out section under the finger holes, but the gentleman that placed the order wanted the name of the man that has passed away to be on them, so I chose a set that had a solid section under the holes.  He also asked for them to be made in a gold colour. 

Next I needed to get together the equipment for the design.  The oasis design sheet is one of the best things that has ever been invented (in my opinion). It gives us the option to make practically anything ourselves - before this invention we would have to play with wire and moss, which could leave our arms and hands covered in scratches and gouges; the only danger we have now is oasis in our eyes (don't rub if you get any; bathe with warm water and blink lots) and the odd sliced finger from the knife; a small price to pay in comparison.

The sheet I bought was 24" x 24"; I needed it to be 24" x 18" as this was the size I had agreed with the customer, so a ruler and sharp knife took the excess off (this is then stored to be used at a later date).  Once the sheet it cut to size it is down to my skills as an artist to copy the image I have onto the design sheet (sometimes the images are so small I have to squint to see the details - thankfully this item I was able to pull up to fit the computer screen without distortion - so it was a decent size for me to view) come into play.

Now this is where I came across a dilemma. Ideally I wanted to cut around the whole shape, and remove the finger holes completely; however, this then renders the base weaker than I would like, and although funeral directors try their best to be careful, they are nowhere near as concerned about the floral tributes as we are, so can be a bit heavy handed. As a result of knowing this I made the decision to only remove the outline; the finger holes I removed the oasis to create depth but left the base board in place. 

Once a tribute is at this stage it is normal for us to then edge the whole design with ribbon, but as this was such a specific item I chose not to frill it up; I did still need to cover the boards base though - this part cannot be flowered as it is a hard resin of foam - so I used some shiny gold organza that I have; I folded it to get the right width and then pinned it on so that it only covered the base, leaving the oasis free for flower stems. The flower heads if placed correctly will then cover the gold ribbon. 

So why use ribbon in the first place? Because it gives me piece of mind that I've covered the base in the event one of the edge flowers gets damaged when the funeral directors are moving it from the car to the cemetery/crematorium.

Next on the list is to water the oasis (carefully with a watering can) and then add the flowers. Now I know that as a rule knuckle dusters are flat, but because I had been asked to put the gentlemans name on the tribute, I did raise the flowers slightly in the section below the finger holes, just to ensure that his name is seen ok and not lost among the flowers. 

Once the item is flowered and I am happy I've been able to keep to the shape that has been drawn out, then it is time to spray paint. Thank goodness we have an area out the back of the shop for this; and thank goodness for the invention of masks (this tribute actually took 2 cans of paint to ensure full coverage - without a mask I dread to think how many toxins and how much paint my lungs would have inhaled). The gold on yellow took fairly easily and covered really well; the worst is having to spray black, blue or red onto a white base. That can take 6 or 7 thick coats and still some white will show through as the flower petals open. 

The only other thing left to do once it is sprayed, the name is on and a rose or 2 have been added,  is to pop the card on and then remove the background from the photograph so that I can add it to the online photo albums we have. 

Thankfully this was a fairly straight forward shape with just the single colour, but I am sure it gives you some idea of the amount of work that goes into making a bespoke tribute. To my florist friends I hope I haven't given away too many secrets? 

Monday, 15 July 2013


A few months ago we were asked by a young lady about the possibility of sourcing some different style flowers that she would be able to photograph as part of a piece of photography coursework she was doing. After several emails backwards and forwards, visits to the shop and trawls through wholesaler lists, we were able to get every flower she asked for, bar one.

Whenever photos are being taken - usually for weddings - I always ask if it would be possible to have a look at one or 2 - ALL brides promise; sadly so many forget - so I asked Alice (the lady taking the photos) if she would mind sharing some for us to see how talented she is. She has done just that, and now I want to share them with you.

Gloriosa Lily

I will be honest; I am a lover of photography (if I had the time I would love to get out and about armed with a camera - Architecture being my preferred choice) but obviously being in the flower business I also love to see photo's of flower and Alice has not let me down with these. They truly are beautiful and I will admit to being jealous that I wasn't able to take them. 


The strelitzia above is strikingly beautiful; the clarity of the colours is astounding and I could see this gracing the cover of either an art or photography book. 

It's so nice for us to see the flowers our customers are selling in a different setting; so often they end up in a vase with others squishing them, and the true beauty of them is lost, so Thank You Alice for sharing these with us. 
No idea as this wasn't one of ours, but it is stunning

Alice does have a tumblr account that is free for all to view (you don't have to sign up to anything to be able to have a look) and I would advise you all to have a nose at the other photos she has on there; you will not be disappointed. 

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

HRS Princess Anne - The Princess Royal

and the WRNS; that's what we've been up to recently.

We are lucky enough to be asked to provide the flowers for the annual visit from Princess Anne - The Princess Royal - to the WRNS meeting (of which she is a patron). In keeping with the no nonsense attitude the Princess portrays (the visit is not televised or advertised in any way and is kept as a low key event for all those involved) the flowers we are asked to supply we must keep simple and to a minimum.  They don't go over the top flouncy but we are asked to make them in the colours that match their theme, which is blue and gold.

This year the weather conspired against us slightly as it was particularly hot the day the flowers were required; as any of you that purchase/grow flowers on a regular basis will be aware, not only are blue flowers exceptionally hard to get (in a royal blue - you can get mauve blues and purples that some people will sell as blue) but they are also the weakest and most susceptible to hot temperatures. As you can see from the photo above the Iris have opened (they were tight in bud on the morning of delivery).  We also included so Delphinium, along with gold carnations, cream stocks (you can't beat the scent from fresh stocks) and Chrysants in Gold and yellow.. I think we managed to tie the colours in perfectly  (even if we do say so ourselves)

I like to think the Princess has her head tilted back because she is thinking about how she could get hold of us, and get us to organise the flowers for all the events she attends :)

Not to be left out we did also have to make a small tied bouquet to be presented to the Princess; something that always makes us feel proud (Sarah has previously made them for the Queen herself and Princess Diana - these sadly weren't photographed at the times) when we are asked to make these flowers; but then we are always proud when we are asked to make flowers and bouquets for ALL our customers. At the end of the day each and every single customer we deal with is as important as everyone else; nobody is more (or less) important to us. 

For the Princesses bouquet we used Yellow Roses, Cream Germini, and Blue Veronica. Simple yet effective we think you will agree.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Ooh what to do?

Actually I already know what to do but I thought I would share with you a conversation I had yesterday.

Recently we have been taking more and more orders to be delivered to a specific funeral director - actually we send to lots but I do know this particular one is tied in with a florist (a bit like the Co-op who have their own florist shops dotted about the country specifically tailored with their own directors in mind,  but this particular director has a *deal* with an independent shop rather than one he has to be affiliated with)  I find it so sad that shops are now only recommended because an MD somewhere says they have to be, or because of financial deals that have been made and that pass between florist shops and directors. I know whatever happened to people being recommended on the merit of their work?

Anyway; this director obviously realised that the people he is sending to his recommended florist aren't taking any notice of him and are using other shops in the area - ours being one of them, so they decided to contact us yesterday. Now I will admit I get quite annoyed with funeral directors and how they try to harry a customer into things; I personally feel they take advantage at the most vulnerable of times and that in my book is really not one. Sadly having to organise (and help organise) funerals of people close to me I have seen first hand how a lot of the directors operate and to be honest if I hadn't been there with the family members at the time, they could easily have ended up paying out thousands more than they needed to. All of the directors I have dealt with when it comes to organising have tried to talk the relations into getting flowers through themselves; the costs? Well one family member was quoted £450 for something that I made for £175 (and no I don't do mates rates; at the end of the day we keep our costs low enough for all and it would be wrong of me to charge a friend less than I would charge one of our customers). Now I know that some shops have higher overheads than I do (their rent, council tax etc is more expensive) but even so we ALL use the same wholesalers so are paying the same prices, and a £225 difference in both our prices left me absolutely flabberghasted.  However, having taken the call from the Funeral Director yesterday I can fully understand why. 

The director told me that he wasn't happy with the shop he was recommending (now in the real world you would believe this meant he was recommending them on their work merit and that they had let him down on the style/quality) but no; what he meant was that the shop he recommends weren't getting as many orders (I guess because we are getting so many more) and so he wanted to know if I was willing to be his recommended shop. Now who doesn't want that? In these economic times all business is more than welcome; but at what cost? Call me a cynic if you wish but the first thought that run through my head was "how much is this going to cost" because alas I have been in this business long enough and know full well that you don't get anything for nothing. I know from some previous shops that I've worked in that for every order the shop got from the FD they paid him 20% of the total costs. They put their prices up to cover this which I thought was wrong; if the customer went to them and didn't mention the director they get everything 20% cheaper, but when the FD was mentioned they paid more; how is that ever fair? As it turns out that was the *norm* for such arrangements between shops and directors. To me the shop should have absorbed that cost themselves for all the extra work that was put their way, but then that's just my opinion (I'd hate to think I was ripping anyone off at the best of times but even more so when it comes to a funeral; I could NEVER take advantage of people at such a delicate time). 

So how much did the director that contacted me want? 20%? 25%? 30% even at a push? Oh no; they wanted 45% because that's how much the shop they currently recommend is paying them. Now I'm not sure if I am shocked at a shop giving away this much (of course they charge their customers this amount so it no loss to them) or if I feel sorry for them that they are that desperate for business they are willing to pay to get orders. Of course my answer was NO. I don't pay for any advertising as it is but I am certainly not going to pay money to someone just because they have sent a customer to me who has placed an order. In fact the thought of doing so fills me with disgust. I would have said no even if they had only asked for 5%. I am not willing to pay anyone to recommend me (and I certainly wouldn't want customers to be taken advantage of when they already have enough to be dealing with). 

Yes about 80% of my customers are recommended to come to me; by everyday people that I've not had to pay a penny to. They come to me because of the service they receive; because of the quality they receive and because I set my prices at levels they can afford. I don't (never have and never will) pay anyone to send customers to me and to be quite honest I think it's a real blot on our industry for any shop to agree to do so. Don't get me wrong; if a director was to keep sending customers my way because my work merited his recommendation then I might buy him a large box of chocs at Christmas as a thank you, but that would be it. 

So next time you are in the sad situation of having to deal with a funeral director please don't let them push you into anything. I know it's easy to let them sort the flowers out for you and it gets included in the cost but for that £400 you spend, they will could be getting £180 just for taking the order off you to pass on to someone that may not even be qualified or completely capable of making the item you require; they could just be the person that offered the highest percentage which won them the right to get your order and your money. 

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

28th April 2013

was the date; the big one. The wedding of the year. EVERY wedding is important to us and we always give 110% (and often more) to our lovely bride and grooms (bride and brides; groom and grooms too) big day, but when it was one of our own the pressure was really on. 

Many hours were spent discussing the colour scheme for the flowers; I wanted to go down one route so I could tie everything in with the brides gorgeous dress; Emma wanted to go down a different route after a conversation with her photographer about bright colours. Finally we agreed on a compromise - she allowed me to add a rose to the mix that I knew would tie in perfectly, and I allowed her to have the colours she wanted; everything was set. All they had to do was sit back and let me get on with it. All I had to do was try and get some sleep the night before so I was ready to and awake enough to make it all :O)  I have to admit between us I think we got it spot on. 

After the final decision was made the bouquet ended up like....  (see photo below)

As you can see the bright colours worked perfectly against the dress colour, with the amnesia bringing all the different tones and hues together.. 

That's how it works with a bride and her florist. We both have ideas that we bounce around between us, but the end result is always as it should be. A beautiful bride, gorgeous flowers and a great day for all involved.  There are times we have to warn our brides about certain flowers - hydrangeas being one of the most warned about; they are a beautiful flower but they like to be in water. So often a bride will want them in her bouquet, which I (and I am sure all other florists) are willing to do; however, because they like so much water sometimes in less than an hour being out of a water a hydrangea will begin to wilt and curl in on itself resulting in a bride walking down the aisle with a screwed up tied bunch of nothing. Other times they may behave perfectly and last long enough to get the bride to the reception. Annoyingly bridal magazines will use them so often in their shoots making them appear a perfect flower for the big day; what they don't tell you is how the flowers are kept in water until just before the photographs are taken, so they will always be looking their best. I advise all brides of this and several have decided to take the risk; only 1 of 9 that I know of actually had their hydrangeas last long enough for decent photos'. The other 8 came back and told me they wish they had taken my advice on board.

Anyway; back to our Clive and Emma's big day. As it turned out using the brighter colours worked perfectly in the wedding room where they were married, and had their evening meal. As with most weddings the arrangement that was placed on the registrars table, was then transfered to the head table for the meal. This really only works if you are marrying in the same place as the reception, although we have been known to remove flowers from churches and wedding venues before taking them on to the place of reception to help keep costs down, but also to stop flowers going to waste. 

Performing it's duty as a registrar table arrangement.

Performing duty 2 of the day to become the main table decoration.
The room they got married in is beautiful and had several window sills in it. We discussed many different options for these. Being beautiful windows in themselves they could have been left as is; another option was candles with ivy trailing. We ended up with arrangements that had ivy trails and they put candles either side of them. I hadn't seen the room and had no idea what sizes to make the arrangements in but pulling on experience and other window sills I've made in the past I went in between a small and large and when I saw the photographs of the place the next day it appears my judgement wasn't too bad at all. 

One of the wider window sills

 The hotel they were married in also organise a couple of pedestal arrangements which is included in the wedding package, so Emma passed on to them the flowers and colours I was using for everything so they could use the same colours/flowers in the ones they provide. They didn't get it quite right, but they did a fairly good job and as a  backdrop to their register signing photographs they worked really well. 

 So Emma and Clive; from all of us massive Congratulations and wishing you both a lifetime of happiness. 

Oh and if you are reading this.. Where's my piece of cake??

Thursday, 2 May 2013

On no. What now?

Were my exact thoughts when I drove into Fareham Park Road on Monday morning, and could see just a pile of dirt and rubble, where the shop forecourt is. Having only just had it all dug up again (the 2nd time since last August) due to an electrical fault (Southern Electric - not us) I was expecting to have to light the shop by good old fashioned candles (I have some pretty big ones in the cupboard - just in case) and get back to basics with a pen and paper for keeping track of the takings; I did give a silent thanks for the mobile internet (at least I would still be able to pick up the online orders without needing electric so that was a bonus).

Imagine my delightful surprise when I parked up and got to the shop to find the hole was too neat to be the electric company (let's face it; they're not really bothered where or how they dig) and had in fact been dug out ready for the new block paving the landlord had organised for us (oddly enough both times the electric went previously the paving had been due to go down the very same weekend - thankfully both times the problem happened before the paving got laid).

Now as you can see there was a rather large mound and so I had a bit of a difficult decision to make; did I unlock the door for customers or not?  It's never an easy option choosing to keep the doors locked, but I had to do what was not only sensible, but also what was safe and so the door stayed closed and locked all day. I did however stay open and the phone did not stop ringing all day (see what I mean when I go on about how lovely you all are? Rather than go elsewhere those of you that did venture down just popped home and phoned instead. 

By Tuesday morning there was enough of the brickwork laid to make an entrance, so I was able to open again as normal; by Tuesday evening it was pretty much finished. 

The guy that has created this lovely new forecourt for us was so considerate to - not only us but our neighbours also) and when it came to cutting the bricks he was originally driving home so that he didn't get dust anywhere; then one of our neighbours kindly offered to let him cut them in the corner of his forecourt to save him keep going home. This made a huge difference as he was able to cut the lot in one go which took him less than 10 minutes and kept all the dust contained so not only was he mighty appreciative of this, so were we as it meant things were finished earlier.

Anyway; now that it is all finished many people have said how odd it looks when the businesses either side of us have tarmac, so I am thinking about turning it in to a proper courtyard area (only during opening hours) by putting a little picket fence down the sides so that it doesn't look so out of place. Everyone I have said this too thinks it would look good and many have said that as a florist a courtyard would work well, so I am currently pricing up how much it would cost, and whether I can get some that has a decent weight to it so that it doesn't blow away. It would also have to be movable as I wouldn't be able to leave it out overnight. As you can see from the photo below with the planters out there (I have some more to plant up as well) it's not looking too bad so do you think I would need a fence or not? I would put one down both sides and a panel at the front on each corner (pretty much where the pink planters are).