Monday, 24 July 2017

Flower of the month

As I am sure you aware, just as there are certain planets and birthstones associated with specific months, there are also particular flowers - you can find a list on our website; click here to be taken to it.

This month it's the turn of the Delphinium, the name of which derives from the latin word for Dolphin (there is also a star constellation names Delphinus which can be seen by the naked eye in the western hemisphere (not sure about the southern hemisphere).

The delphinium flower is one of my personal favourites. One of my great aunts lived in a small cottage on the outskirts of Berkshire where she kept and tended a traditional cottage style garden. Her back stone and flint wall would disappear from view  at this time of year, due to the array of magnificent delphinium she would grow. She had them in so many different colours and sizes. From blue and purple, to pink and pale mauve - proper delphinium too, not the larkspur variety, which is also part of the same family (Larkspur is great for drying and pot-pourri but the worst flower to put in a vase, as the petals drop everywhere no matter how fresh they are!!) My aunt had Delphinium with a black centre, yellow centre and even one with a green centre. How she kept the slugs from devouring them I will never know - she swore she never needed to use slug pellets or any kind of chemicals to keep them at bay; I'm not entirely convinced. I remember one year a particular blue variety grew to be over 5ft tall; it was phenomenal. A striking bright royal blue colour with flower heads lower down the stem almost as big as a carnation.

As a cut flower we aren't able to purchase a wide variety, mainly just the smaller blue - volkerfrieden being the most popular; a perfect royal blue colour. The wholesalers this week have had a white and lavender, both of which they have given no name for so I can't tell you what variety. However, aside from the blue I have mentioned and another called butterfly (also blue) the delphinium we receive are about 30 inches from bottom to top with the flowers themselves ranging from the size of a 50p piece, to a 5p piece. As beautiful as they are the flower sections are often to heavy for the hollow stems and they can snap in half very easily - this is why, if I can avoid using other colours in weddings, I will.

According to Wikipedia they belong to the Ranunculae family which is made up of over 300 different species. "All members of the 'Delphinium' genus are toxic to humans and livestock" That sounds about right; anything so beautiful would have to have a fault somewhere! I've happily cut these flowers and used them in many an order over the years without any kind of issue, however, I'd advise you always wash your hands thoroughly after you've handled them and never ingest them in any way - please seek medical advice immediately if you do ingest any part of them (flower, sap, leaves).

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Sweet Peas

The humble sweet pea - small, delicate, beautifully scented; growing like crazy in the gardens of many people at this very minute. I love them, to me they are the epitome of summer and the one flower I think of when asked what I would suggest for "summer flowers", however, while I would think of them, I will never suggest them, for they are also one of the most expensive flowers on the market right now.

Crazy isn't it? A flower which is growing so freely. A flower I could pop home to my garden, where I would find half a dozen stems ready for me to cut and use. An array of colour would be before me. Yet instead, I had to purchase the ones I needed from a wholesaler, where I paid an extortionate amount of money. 

The reason for the huge amount I paid? I wanted just one specific colour, which any of you who have ever grown sweets peas will know, is virtually impossible to guarantee. 

For this one small bunch you can see in the above photograph - 10 little stems - I paid £8.40 (84p per stem). That's the price I paid, not the price I would sell them at. You're sat there now digesting how something so small and currently in abundance can cost so much, aren't you? I know I was when I placed my order for them, and that's not the best part. I wanted just 1 bunch (10 stems) yet had to order 6 bunches (60 stems). One wholesaler quoted me £1.11 per stem and I would still have had to have the 60 stems.

You might be asking yourself right now "Why bother?" to purchase them in the first place when I now have 50 stems left over, that I can do nothing with (even if I put them out at cost price, who is going to pay such an amount for so little?). I am wondering that myself too, but when a bride specifically asks for a certain flower, isn't it down to me (her florist) to try and make sure she has exactly what she wants on her 'special day' ? (I also didn't think they would be so expensive when I took the order). With the exception of hydrangeas (a flower I always try to talk a bride out of having in her bouquet - cut one, keep it out of water for a couple of hours and see what happens to it! that is not the look a bride wants in her photographs) I will try to source the exact flowers a bride requires. It's part of the service, it's part of what being a florist is all about. However, after today I may have to have a re-think. 

Thankfully I was able to use a couple up in a small presentation bouquet I was asked to do (so I shouldn't got bankrupt this week!! :) )

Next time you want to place an order for just 1 item please try to remember that for you to have that 1 stem, we may have to purchase 20, 30, even 60 stems to get 'your one'; please don't be too unkind with us if we have to charge you a little more than you think you should be paying, because if we can't sell the excess we are left with, we're basically just throwing our money in the bin, and I promise you that florists are not making 'easy money'. You'll probably find 97% of florists earn less than minimum wage. 

Why do we bother doing the job when we make so little out of it? Because we love what we do - at least I do, I can't speak for anyone else. How many of you get up in the morning genuinely looking forward to going to work? I have friends who earn 10 times the amount I do for working 20/30 hours each week less then I work and they are miserable. I'm never going to drive a Rolls Royce, I'm never going to have a large garden with heated swimming pool, but I go home at the end of every day happy, because I get to do something I love (ok, that's a bit of a fib, I don't go home every day happy, there are sometimes I may have had 'one-of-those-days with one-too-many bridezillas 😁😁

As for Sweet Peas; if you have them in your garden right now, go out, pick some, pop them in a vase and think about how much money you've just saved yourself 😁😁