For my second 'Spotlight' piece for Independent Worthing, and in celebration of British Flower Week this week, I have delved into the wonderful world of floristry in and around Worthing. I have met some inspirational women and men who work hard to give us and our loved ones beautiful plants and flowers: helping us celebrate, commiserate, love, empathise and embellish our homes and businesses, in so many unique and interesting ways.
This time, I would like to not only tell you what I learned along the way, but also take a minute to describe each florist I met, as they all offer such different takes on the business of flowers!
What I learned:
- Worthing has a long history of flower growing, dating back to at least the mid 1800s, and at one time had acres of glass houses supplying fruit, vegetables and flowers to the country. Sussex could be thought of as the Amsterdam of the UK, and Durrington was a centre for lavender growing once upon a time! Sadly, the building of houses in the 1950s was one of the factors that led to the reduction of glass houses and the end of the industry. Wouldn't it be wonderful to become great flower growers again?!
- Supermarket are often able to sell cheaper flowers because of their bulk purchasing power, and the practice of selling flowers as a 'loss leader' - meaning they sell flowers at a loss, as offering them brings people in to their stores. However, the flowers are not cared for in the same way that florists do - in areas such as feeding/watering adequately, disinfection of display buckets , being 'conditioned' to promote health, and being exposed to light for long periods. They are often flown in from countries as far away as Kenya, meaning they are less fresh on arrival. All of this means they won't last as long, and will, in fact, be a substandard product by comparison.
- Florists really care about the environment...and do what they can to reduce unnecessary waste and plastic use, and use environmentally friendly products. However, the larger suppliers are less ecologically driven, often choosing to send flowers in plastic wrapping etc., which is a larger industry issue.
- Some people take supermarket flowers into florists and ask them to re-wrap them to look better- and often expect this for free!
- Almost all of the florists I met became florists as a second career...some fulfilling a dream they had long had, others as almost a happy accident, and everything in-between - but all dedicated artisans of flowers
- Weddings and funerals form a large part of the work, and florists love them almost in equal measure, but I heard alot of florists talk about how honoured they feel doing funeral flowers, and how they particularly love this work. Weddings have been small or non-existent throughout the pandemic, but now bookings are coming thick and fast, and florists are quicky filling up for the next couple of years!
- Both the flower stock and the equipment needed to look after them are expensive. So is keeping a premises. Some florists are either now working from home/ online, or wondering whether to keep their shops. If we want florists that we can walk in to, and shop from on the high street, then we need to support them.
- Florists all have their own unique style. Most are formally trained, and all offer professional skills, knowledge and expertise in how to care for, use and display flowers to their best....but it is also their art. I didn't get a sense of competitiveness from any of the florists I spoke with; they all recognise their own offering has it's place, and in fact, florists often support and recommend each other behind the scenes.
- There is a huge amount of time and effort that goes into the finished product- from obtaining flowers and conditioning and caring for them, to helping customers select what they want, quoting for events, doing deliveries and the usual many tasks of owning a small business from marketing to accounting and everything else...please please remember what you're paying for when you go to an independent - and as always it is so much more likely to be a hands on, caring, personal and high quality product, service and experience than going to a corporate alternative.
With greatest respect and admiration to all the florists I have spoken to, visited and met up with, to bring you this little piece:
- Brandon and Tori at Flowers4. Plants, flowers with real wow factor and fabulous friendly service - based near Central Worthing Station and one of the most popular and often-recommended florists in Worthing. These guys did my wedding flowers and my mum's funeral, and I love them for the perfect job they did with both.
- Rachel at Greenfingers. Quite simply a Worthing institution. A family run florist and plant shop in the west end. I used to work with Rachel's mum (in an unrelated job) many moons ago, when she owned Greenfingers, so can attest to the 'family-run' history and downright loveliness of them. Rachel is passionate about being environmentally friendly in the shop.
- Dave at Beachtown Blooms. Dave is a relative new-comer to the scene after loosing his job at the start of the pandemic, but has hit the ground running and sells magnificent and very popular flowers and plants from his shop at the Arundel Brewhouse Project, as well as online. He has already supplied flowers to the rich and famous! Dave has recently started supplying his trademark blooms to Hisbe Worthing, and he donates any unsold flowers to @safeinsussex, a charity offering help and support for survivors of domestic abuse in West Sussex.
- Ellie at Honeybridge Flowers. Ellie grows her own flowers in her own garden locally, and supplies bunches and sometimes dried flowers and wreaths to Spring Gardens Farm Shop, and Blush & Bramble mobile coffee and cocktail bar, as well as offering local deliveries and some events work. Her flowers are just beautiful - really beautiful. If I could, I would get deliveries every week forever of her natural, whimsical and ethereal flowers fresh from her garden. Ellie has just been nominated for the Muddy Stilettos 2021Best Florist in Sussex award!
- Jessica Lila Florist & Home in Ferring. Jessica has a beautiful boutique shop in the fantastic parade in Ferring Street, and is one of the friendliest and nicest people - clearly dedicated to, and passionate about, serving her customers with the highest quality and most pleasing arrangements possible. Her style is a delicate balance between classic and modern- very classy and timeless. And I'm certain she offers outstanding customer service.
- Debbie from CocoRose Flowers. Debbie is a florist that works from home / online and specialises in funeral flowers. Her husband is a celebrant, so they make a great team! Debbie is an extremely caring and personable florist, very client-centred and happy to work with those facing loss and grief and offer support through the process of making floral tributes. She is also happy organising flowers for celebrations and weddings. She describes her style as English Country Garden, which translates to a naturalistic, airy and slightly romantic feel.
- Helen from Wild Botanicals Floral Design. Helen also works from a home studio, based in Lancing. Helen has an impressive CV, learning her trade working in London with renowned florists and in famous galleries, at huge events and landmark department stores. She has now set up as a freelance wedding, events and delivery florist with a wild yet luxurious feel to her work, and a passion for sustainability.
- Claire at Breathing Spaces Community Spaces. This unique and special project has been running for around 7 years, and provides the opportunity for those that need support to experience the mental health benefits of gardening and being in nature. They grow flowers and sell by subscription (currently full!), and will be one of the local charities that Independent Worthing look forward to fundraising for in the future. You can donate or get further details by visiting their website www.breathingspaces.co
- Isabel at Porto's Flowersin Montague Place, near the seafront and ideally situated in town. Isabel and her shop are absolute delights: she is a wonderful hostess to her treasure trove of a shop- full to the brim of beautifully presented plants, terrariums and flowers. Isabel is an artisan florist, offering most services as well as workshops for people wanting to make their own terrariums. She does whatever she can to be environmentally friendly and takes great care with her produce and her work. I highly recommend popping by to her shop and saying hello- you won't regret it.