Friday saw an early start for a thrilling study morning at the New Covent Garden Flower Market with the Garden Media Guild. I'm fascinated with horticultural life behind the scenes, so this was an opportunity not to be missed.
I loved how some suppliers group their wares by colour, whilst others showed off the rainbow of possibilities available per flower, just like these gerbera.
Whilst it was an early start for me, it's nothing compared to the life of a trader, who regularly start between 2 and 3am in readiness for the Market's opening at 4am, 6 days a week. The Market closes at around 10am, but then traders have to catch up with paper work, new orders etc etc.
Graeme Diplock of Zest flowers, a trader for 30 years at the market, explained he goes to bed as soon as he gets home. He gets up for a couple of hours at teatime, so he can spend some time with his family, then returns to bed for a few more hours rest before his early start.
With that kind of relentless lifestyle, it's no wonder he talked with such passion and knowledge about his trade, because I reckon you'd need that to keep going for so long. It also means the traders are a tightly knit community, evidenced by the exchanges of cheerful banter on the way round. Having lived in the north-east, it meant I quickly felt at home.
|Some of the more surprising items seen on our tour around the Market|
As you can see, the Market's not just about flowers, but provides a one-stop shop for foliage and other sundries florists need to provide top-notch arrangements and events for their clients. Everywhere I turned there was yet another surprise awaiting discovery.
Bryan Porter is the 4th generation owner of Porters Foliage Ltd, who specialise in providing foliage and other materials such as bark. He explained how his business has changed since the Market moved to its current site in the mid 1970s.
Back then it carried around 500 items, and it now stands at 2,500. His business has moved from bulk supply and fractured into a myriad of smaller possibilities, with new material constantly being sought from around the world to tempt discerning clients.
Whilst supply from around the world can be controversial, it was good to see the majority of traders had a Union Jack next to their entry in the Market's information booklet, to show they do source from within the UK where possible.
|Main picture: a brief look outside - to the right you can see some whole branches of fresh blossom|
With such variety and temptation on offer, I was sad I couldn't take advantage of it as my later walk around London would have wilted my flowers in double quick time.
We ended our morning with a fab breakfast of bacon butties (just like Ed Milliband, but without any gory photos to prove it), plus a sneak peek at the plans for the Market's move later this year to a site nearby. I have news of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, Chelsea Fringe and British Flowers Week too. Stay tuned for a another post!