I have to admit to being late to this party!! I have always thought of dried flowers as dusty triangles of the 80’s but this is far from reality in 2021.
We have all learnt that the key to success is to adapt and change your business and that is something that we spent the whole of last year doing. In September 2020 we were asked to take up residency at Lavershot Barns in Windlesham. We have been a contract and event florist for 15 years so this move into retail was a steep learning curve. We are incredibly lucky to be at Lavershot Barns as there is an amount of passing trade with a great deal of high end retailers on site so we did have a head start.
However, as we found our feet, we discovered that Monday’s and Tuesdays aren’t really flower days and some times even Wednesdays! You get the odd customer but being the new kid on the ‘retail block’, not many people know we are there. Also, until you build your new customer base general passers-by tend to want flowers towards the end of the week for the week-end to make their homes look lovely or to gift as meeting up with friends to celebrate something or other.
Here by lies a problem. What do you stock on these days that isn’t going to waste that looks great and has a cool vibe?
I began looking at things at Covent Garden Flower Market and the big coloured pampas grasses really caught my eye. I started life as a prop buyer and so large dramatic items sit quite well with me – go big or go home!!!! So I thought I would test the water and we started to gain traction.
Customers would ask if we were getting any other dried bits and bobs in and so I started to take this route more seriously. Not that many florists in the area are actually supplying dried flowers and if they do it tends to be small posies including lavender and a bit of statice (don’t get me wrong, there is a place for both of them!)
I wanted to offer something different, something bold and grand and amazing and I knew just the man to supply me with this! I obviously can’t reveal my sources but let me tell you, if I say I’m going to meet a man about a dog I will probably be coming back with the most incredible fan palms, coloured pampas, bleached grasses and died hare tales!
A fabulous person that I have met since starting at Lavershot Barns is our wonderful new supplier of locally grown flowers, Andy at The Chobham Flower Garden. I spend the later part of the summer/autumn until the first frost, swooning over her fabulous blooms. Natural looking flowers and foliage that kink and bend and aren’t all perfect – I absolutely love them. In my normal NON-COVID life, I wouldn’t have a place for these beauties as they wouldn’t stand up for a 7-day contract and if I’m doing a wedding I would normally need 500 stems of things that need to be the same. However, the beauty of being a new retail florist is I get to make it up as I go along and so supplying these blooms with barely any mileage and supporting a like minded small business was a winner. Sadly as the first frost came we said good-bye till spring…or so I thought! Andy seems to have got on the dried fabulous band wagon and whilst she doesn’t supply anything died or bleached her product is natural, has no carbon footprint and she is truly wonderful!
There is another incredibly talented lady that I have met since starting at Lavershot called Brogan who I bonded with rather quickly. She has the most creative outlook on things and her visual merchandising skills are second to none. We formed a bond and a love for beautiful things seemed to be our common ground. Very happily for me, she asked me to join her in creating a fabulous cloud of dried flowers to hang in the ceiling of the ‘Homeware’ department where we are based. It was so wonderful to make something big again as we hadn’t had the opportunity to do this all year. Normally we are making huge installations for hotels or weddings or something fabulous for an event but Coronavirus has put a stop to that for the time being.
As soon as you show people what you can do with a product, customers seem to want it more. No sooner than we finished the hanging installation, it all seemed to come together and I started to get a feel for these beautiful fluffy arrangements as more and more people asked me to make them.
I have started mixing the two mediums of fresh and dried flowers and I think it looks great. You get so much texture and interest from the dried flowers and often colours that you hadn’t expected to work together just do. I am currently working on some fabulous combinations for Valentine’s Day – another event we are new to! All going well, we will be open at Lavershot for Valentine’s Day and we will also be taking orders as we usually do.
So that in a nutshell is our journey to dried shizel! I think it’s fabulous and whilst there will always be room for fresh flowers in my home and heart, it’s nestling unexpectedly into corners!
The moral of this story I guess is to always keep an open mind. Look adversity in the eye and remember whilst you are bending in the breeze that one door opens as another closes. If you haven’t had enough of my cliches here’s a great quote from Sir Winston Churchill, ‘just keep buggering on!’ which is what I intend to do!!