How can flower growers and florists work closer together?
In my flowery world it’s been an unexpectedly busy week. I was inspired by a post I saw on Instagram to ask, ‘How many people are exclusively using British grown flowers in their floristry?’ I made a little reel asking this question, and posted it at the slowest point in the day for my followers to see it: around 11am on a Monday morning when everyone was busy worrying about the fact that Storm Eunice had cut off the electricity. By rights, the reel should have failed. But there was a groundswell of engagement the like I’ve never seen on my Instagram. Nearly twenty thousand views and four hundred and fifty comments later I think we can safely say that there are many florists exclusively using British grown flowers in their work, and many more who would like to.
So I then thought I’d do one of my Instagram #liveatfive sessions on the subject. And again, engagement was fast and fascinating. Fortunately, I’d invited my colleague Nicola (who helps with all the technical stuff here at Common Farm Flowers,) along to help field the questions so that I could answer them. A non-stop hour later we wound up the session and retired to the pub, exhausted, to de-brief.
I thought I’d round up a few thoughts, and put the debrief in here because it might be useful to lots of people.
When we started out as flower growers we struggled with wholesalers and with florists who wanted to buy direct from us: we struggled because we weren’t paid on time, and because we couldn’t compete with the low prices per stem asked of us. But I wanted to grow flowers for a living, and so we turned ourselves into florists, very much learning on the job, growing the product we needed for our commissions.
This gives us a privileged point of view in our industry: we grow a huge number stems a year for cutting, but we also buy in a good deal of stock (always, exclusively, British grown flowers.). And so I know what it’s like to be a florist dealing with growers and wholesalers, as well as to be a grower selling to florists.
So here are some top tips for growers and for florists which might make it easier for us all to work together.
If you're a florist....
- Your local flower grower is working within the law in the same country you are. This means they pay themselves and their staff a living wage, and because their business is based near yours, you’ll know how high their overheads are likely to be. These overheads must be reflected in the cost of their flowers, or they won’t be able to continue.
- Your local grower is a small business like yours: they will need prompt payment in order to be able to keep growing for you.
- Anything which takes up space on the land and takes time to harvest and condition for a florist to use, must have a value to the grower. ‘Just wild looking,’ won’t mean ‘Just less expensive.’
- Don’t offer to help the grower out by cutting the stems you’d like yourself and then cutting the plant to the ground to get extremely long stems. If you need metre long stems of café au lait dahlias discuss this in advance with your grower.
If you're a flower grower....
- Florists are under great time pressure. Don’t slow them down.
- Be clear how long a stem your florist can expect. Florists expect a consistency in stem length because they don’t expect to have to have a long discussion with their wholesaler about what exactly they intend to do with the flowers they buy. Relatively short stems might not matter if the florist knows that’s what they’ll get but might be ruinous if the florist hasn’t thought to stipulate 65cm stems, because that’s what they’re used to, and they can’t create their designs with the product they take from you.
- Be clear about your pricing. Work out how much you need to charge per stem of any particular variety and stick to it. If you have worked out your prices properly then you know you need to sell per stem at a particular price in order to keep your business going.
- Nobody buys from anyone because they feel guilty or obliged. Florists will buy from you because you offer a high-quality product which they can sell at a profit. Keep nibbled leaves and your blackfly for the compost heap.
- Make sure you inform your customer when the product was harvested, for how long it has been conditioned, whether it’s been treated with any chemicals (or NOT!) and if you have any other handy tips. I always tell people not to leave my material laid on the workbench out of water while creating – for example.
And, finally, for us all.....
And finally for everybody – let’s communicate! Let’s be clear, let’s be straightforward.
We are in a unique position as florists and growers not just here in the UK, but, from reading the international press, all around the world too. There’s nothing like a pandemic to disrupt supply chains. So local growers, this is your moment, step up to the flower field, armed with hoe and trowel, and grow a bit more so that you can sell some to your florists. And florists, understand that small scale growers can’t go from half an acre of cottage garden favourites to fields of koko loco roses in five minutes.
The list of growers and florists using exclusively British grown material is still on my Instagram, and being added to still. Please do bookmark it, if it might be useful for you.
The live discussion on this subject is also available to view on my Instagram - click here to watch it.
Our objective here at Common Farm is to help people grow flowers, create with flowers, design with flowers. Because flowers are always good and the more of them we have the more the natural world will flourish. Remember the old adage: Look after the invertebrates and the rest of the food chain will look after itself.
Good luck! And happy digging. xxx