Thursday, 19 June 2014

British Flowers Week: British flowers at New Covent Garden Market

As British Flowers Week was launched by New Covent Garden Market, I have to share some photos of the wonderful British flowers that you can find there. If you weren't able to visit, you can see the website which is full of glorious photos of British flowers such as pinks and Sweet Williams, styled by some amazing florists such as Simon Lycett and Hybrid, as well as photos from florists and growers around the country. The launch on Monday was buzzing with people, and many of the flowers had sold out early on. A stand in the centre of the market was set up with photos of bouquets of British flowers, a display of boxed flowers from a competition run by the market, and a huge wallchart showing which British flowers are in season at different times of the year. You can see it here. Kathryn and Alastair from the market were on hand to welcome visitors with strawberries and cream and copies of the wallchart.

If you enter the flower market by the pedestrian entrance at Door 7, one of the first stands you will see is Pratley. You can tell straight away that British flowers is its speciality!

Pratley had plenty of beautiful summer flowers on Monday - Sarah Bernhardt peonies, stocks, all sorts of sweet peas (including a pretty salmon-pink one called Nancy), larkspur, delphiniums, bright red dahlias, pastel-coloured snapdragons, lime-green alchemilla mollis (lady's mantle), poppy seed heads, scabious, alliums, lisianthus, freeias, brodiaea, eryngium (sea holly, aka thistles), and pinks in different shades.

Last month, I visited the market with two flower farmers who had travelled all the way from the West Country - Fi from The Good Flower Company and Grace at Corfe Flowers. Helen Evans, the director of business development and support, who has worked at the market for almost twenty years, talked to us about the flower market in the UK, and British flowers in particular. She gave us a tour which was even better than the tour I went on as a student, because of Helen's vast knowledge and understanding of the issues that flower growers and florists face, and also because of Fi and Grace, who often identified flowers that I admired but didn't know.

Here are a few photos from that tour in mid-May, with British flowers and foliage on display at Pratley, Zest, Porters, and GB Foliage. There were late tulips, delphiniums, peonies, cornflowers, calla lilies (arum lilies), whitebeam, and gorgeous red-pink hawthorn.

There were also British sweet peas at S. Robert Allen, which is one of my favourite stands because of the brilliant way they group their flowers by colour. There is cerinthe at the front, which I tried in vain to grow, but that Fi and Grace have grown successfully!

The peonies at John Austin weren't British, but this display gives you an idea of the range of British peonies that are available during the short peony season here.

If you ask the traders in advance, I'm sure some would be able to source British flowers for you. Last summer, Dennis Edwards sold a fantastic array of dahlias by Withypitts Dahlias - I'm hoping he will again, as I missed out on buying them last year!

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