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Flowers from the English Countryside

Posted by on September 6, 2006 in Cut Flowers | 3 comments

Dscn2145 Last week I left London and took a train to Hereford, home of Wiggly Wigglers, a farm that sells just about everything you need to enjoy an eco-friendly life in the English countryside.  I got to know them because they sell worms and composters, but they also ship plants, tools, and–this is where it gets good–fresh garden bouquets called Wiggly Bouquets.

One of the most entertaining parts of researching Flower Confidential was getting to read accounts of how the flower industry worked a century or two ago. The term "florist" used to apply to anyone who grew and had expertise in flowers.  People often used to buy flowers directly from the grower (in fact, I read complaints from women whose long hoop skirts got muddy going in and out of greenhouses in search of the flowers they needed for their home), and in the days of horses and buggies, it was difficult to get fresh flowers to a shop in the city at all.

Wiggly Wigglers is very much a modern-day version of an old-fashioned florist.  They ship Dscn2147 flowers directly from their farm.  Many of the flowers come from one of the employees’ gardens, and some of the botanicals you’ll find in their bouquets come from plants that grow wild in the countryside.  Because they are dedicated to selling only local English flowers, they are encouraging other nearby farmers to devote a little space to fresh, seasonal flowers, which gives a small but much-needed boost to local agriculture.

Best of all, the bouquets are made up of whatever happens to be in season at the moment.  You don’t know what you might get.   This, to me, is one of the great joys of buying local flowers directly from a small grower.  These flowers grow outside, where their feet are planted in the soil and their faces and turned up to the sun and the rain.  They’re picked fresh every day, shipped overnight in water, so that you have them 24-48 hours from the time they left the field.   These flowers may not last as long as some commercially-grown varieties, but they are conditioned before they leave the farm, handled with care, and they come with instructions for making them last.

Wiggly_flowers To my surprise, they even include a care sheet that gives common-sense warnings about some of the flowers in the bouquet.  You’d think that a florist would be afraid of scaring off customers by mentioning that "holly can prick, euphorbia can and does exude an irritating sap, some people have an allergic reaction to ivy," etc., but hey, these are farmers.  They live with plants every day, and they want you to enjoy living with them, too.

Wiggly Wiggler’s founder, Heather Gorringe, told me that they get a lot of orders from people who have just come back from a weekend in the country and want to remember their vacation or share it with someone.  If you live in the UK or want to send flowers to someone who does, give them a try and let me know what you think.

Oh, and while you’re there, please check out their podcast–I was there for Episode 47, where we talked about flowers, worms, blogs, and much more.

3 Comments

  1. The podcast is great. Particularly the bit describing actually delivering flowers – that is why it is such a great job, everyone is pleased to see you and you get such lovely thank you notes. I have been asked a lot about sending my flowers mail order and it is the fact that it would be a cardboard box arriving, not the theatre of a person with a bouquet, that has deterred me.
    I was also interested in the vase life issue – the vase life of most of the flowers you can buy in shops in the UK has been reduced by the time they have spent in transport and it is THIS curtailed vase life of 5-7 days that the customer experiences – it doesn’t matter to them that the flower has been bred to last 10 days if 3 of those days have been spent kicking around an airport or an auction house. Therefore I think that garden flowers can compete very well, particularly if you have repeat customers and can educate about the best way to extend the life of cut flowers. This can even work against the florist – I have several customers who moved from weekly subscriptions to fortnightly subscriptions (thankfully for larger bunches!) because their flowers were lasting a lot longer than a week.
    Many flowers just seem to hate travelling – sweetpeas, cosmos, eupatorium – all seem to last a lot longer if they are picked, conditioned and then straight to local customers.
    The vase life guarantees are in Marks and Spencers and Sainsburys as well as Tescos – some of them are for as little as 3 days, though not for obviously fragile or scented flowers. Then again, my mother had a bunch of pink carnations from M & S that lasted over 6 weeks and began to get dusty! Now thats just creepy.
    I’d echo the call to send flowers via Wiggly Wigglers., they are lovely. Ideally though I’d like a nationwide network of home growing florists that could be used like Interflora.

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