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British cut flowers coming back in bloom

British cut flowers coming back in bloom

Things haven’t been particularly rosy for home-grown florists in UK for decades. The lure of cheaper, mass-imported blooms means that just 10 per cent of cut flowers bought in the UK today are grown here – a near-total reversal from 50 years ago.

However, a plucky new generation of British florists are fighting back against the dominance of invasive, non-native stems, choosing instead to champion varieties grown on home soil. And, increasingly, they’re getting the support of consumers, too.

Jay Archer, a 28-year-old florist from Hampshire who specialises in wedding arrangements, almost exclusively uses British flowers and foliage during the summer period, only topping up with imports during the winter, when harsh conditions grind home-grown production to a near-halt.

In the five years Archer has been in operation, she has witnessed a sharp rise in orders that specifically ask for flowers grown here. In fact, between her second and third year, business grew 948 per cent – a success she credits partly to the increasing sense that British is best.

“Increasingly,  customers want to know where their flowers have come from, so that they have more of a connection to them,” she says. “It’s for the same reasons as people asking where their food was grown and where their clothes have been manufactured: they care more and are willing to pay for it, so what started as a principled thing is now consumer-driven, which is fantastic for British growers and florists.”

In fact, many customers are so enthusiastic about provenance, new flower subscription services, which deliver ‘whatever’s local and in season’ blooms in the style of Riverford ‘veg’ boxes, have sprung up to meet demand – for instance, the thriving start-up Freddie’s Flowers, and Bloom & Wild, which sends its flowers “flat-packed” in the post. Meanwhile, online flower services such as those run by Marks & Spencer and Waitrose pointedly label bouquets that are “made in Britain”.

Archer is one of several members of the lucrative UK cut-flower industry that featured in a new Channel 4 documentary, The Billion Pound Flower Market. Focusing on the power of multinationals in Holland, in particular – whose 10,000 growers provide the majority of the blooms found in the UK, from London’s historic New Covent Garden Flower Market to the “big four” supermarkets – the film highlights the David-and-Goliath nature of the challenge faced by British growers, as well as the potential for a slight resurgence.

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09/06/2016 – The Telegraph

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