One of the saddest things about working for some ‘big’ florists was seeing the amount of waste. There were beautiful, huge wedding flower samples costing thousands to set up, which, once seen by the couple, would be dismantled, the flowers filling up to fifty buckets. There were Michelin-starred restaurants and 5-star hotels that requested fresh flowers every other day, even though the ‘old’ flowers were perfectly healthy and beautiful. It was heartbreaking to throw the old flowers away, and a few times I asked if I could take the old flowers home. Even parrot tulips, cut ever so short to fit in dainty glass vases in a restaurant, were still good enough for me to turn into a table arrangement.
Like any other business with perishable goods, it’s impossible to accurately forecast what and how much people will want to buy from day to day. When I’ve worked in florist shops, there have been days when I’ve been rushed off my feet all day, sold out of several types of flower, and I’ve had to get cover and run/bus across London to get more red and white roses. But there have also been days when there has just been one customer all day, and despite the cold in the shop, some of the flowers are beginning to look tired of waiting for a new home. The majority of flowers sold in the UK are sold through supermarkets, which I’ve bleated on about before. An independent florist simply can’t afford to lose money through buckets of wasted, unsold flowers, and consequently, many are forced to close.
This is where Floral Angels come in. Floral Angels is a new, not-for-profit charity, started by four friends who met on a floristry course - Frances Hunter, Amanda Romain, Gracia La Fuente and Julie Ritter. They were inspired by an American charity called Random Acts of Flowers, which recycles flowers from weddings, events, and wastage in the industry. The members of Floral Angels loved the idea of doing something sustainable and kind with all that wasted beauty. They now have support from floral benefactors Shane Connolly, Rebecca Louise Law, Simon Lycett, Rona Wheeldon, Larsen Jay, as well as a host of volunteers who help to make and deliver the arrangements. Judith Blacklock has kindly lent the angels her London flower school as they urgently needed a base to work from. Hopefully, other premises are on the cards so the charity has a stable future.
There are lots of photos and tales of wonderful flower donations from florists and happy deliveries of flowers to hospitals, refuges, care homes, and other recipients, which you can see here.
Meanwhile, here are just a few. I hope these bring a smile to your face!
Donated flowers are turned into nine beautiful bouquets and given to a woman's shelter in London.
Floral Angels received a huge donation from Shane Connolly (yes, that would be royal wedding florist, Shane Connolly) of burgundy dahlias, white roses and white hydrangeas, which were turned into arrangements that were given to Maggie's Cancer Centre and Hestia Women's refuges.
These colourful bouquets went to Jersey Hospice, and were created and donated by florists Okishima & Simmonds following their beach photo shoot in the Channel islands.
Finally, here is a happy recipient with her flowers.
A testimonial from her daughter, Anne Pritchard, gives an idea of the joy the Floral Angels bring to people:
"Thank you so much for the very pretty bouquet of flowers that you gave my mother last week. She is a little too frail now to go out very much and spends many hours in her room. The flowers look beautiful and have added some sunshine to her surroundings. Mummy was so touched by the kindness shown to her by Frances and Floral Angels, she asked me to write and thank you all."
If you are a florist in London who sometimes has a bucket or two of old or event flowers that look too pretty to throw away - consider donating them to Floral Angels. Likewise, if you are having huge flower arrangements for a London wedding, that guests can't exactly take home with them, then consider donating the flowers to Floral Angels. It's such a shame to throw them away after they've only been enjoyed for a day.