Wreaths, wreaths and more wreaths

This week I’ve been up to my neck in a sea of wreaths. Given my short stature, that isn’t the ideal metaphor (my neck only being a few feet off the ground), but imagine us all merrily drowning in a shop full of  twigs, foliage, oranges, bells, ribbon and pine cones, while singing along to ’80’s Christmas HITS!

We start wreath-making at the end of November and for the next week or two you’ll find the shop is a hive of activity, full of enthusiasm and seasonal cheer, but by Christmas eve I’m likely to have turned into an overtired grinch, filling wreaths with all sorts of nasty novelty items….so COME EARLY!

Hanging a Christmas wreath on the outside door of your house has long been a tradition. It sends a message of hope and future joy to all that pass or enter your house.

The word ‘wreath‘ is derived from an English word meaning to twist into a circle- long gone are the beautiful manicured nails I had before the flower shop. The circular shape, with no beginning or end, represents eternity or life never ending. Some believe that initially wreaths were hung on doors in Ancient Rome to represent victory and in Christianity the Christmas wreath was used to symbolise the life of Christ.

Christmas wreaths are  traditionally made from fresh evergreens. Since evergreens are green year-round, they were the obvious choice during the winter months (although some prefer bare twigs and we do these too), but additions to the ring make them personal and can tell a much richer story about the person, or people, living behind the door on which it hangs.

At The Flower Shop, Pulborough you will find a huge array of different wreaths with everything from winter cabbage, spiced orange, dried apple, cinnamon sticks, fairies, bells and ribbon (of all colours, patterns and finishes).

If you want to make your own wreath, you can call into the shop and buy all the bits you need and we’ll even give you a few tips on how to make it last and look extra special. If you don’t have the time to make your own you can be sure to find one that suits you, one that will say something about you, to those passing your door.

If you have a military background, why not add in a few toy soldiers (also available from the Flower Shop). If you love cooking, add in a few decorative sprouts – they have become my personal signature, if you find a sprout or two in your wreath, you’ll know it was made by my own fair hand!

Ask us to make your wreath personal to you, or how about giving someone a wreath as a Christmas gift? The most unusual request so far has be to integrate a playmobil into a wreath. So I CHALLENGE YOU, my lovely customers, to try and phase us!!!

Be as creative as you like and we will try to exceed your expectations!

Unlike most Christmas decorations that remain up just for the few weeks leading up to and over Christmas, wreaths can remain up and on your door for the whole winter! Then as we move into Spring why not mark the new season by a fresh spring wreath. You can have Summer and Autumn wreaths too, allowing you to celebrate what nature and the countryside gives you all year round.

Now on with the wreath making…

Christmas time
Mistletoe and wine

With berries on the fir and boughs from the tree
A time to rejoice in the wreaths that we see….

 

 

Road Trip

As you must have guessed, we do a lot of deliveries. Like Postman Pat, John and the little Flower Shop van can regularly be seen zipping about, not just through the village, but across West Sussex.

I don’t usually venture out of the village, after leaving my jet-set life behind I now get excited at the mere thought of hitting the bright lights of Storrington!!

This week I was asked by a very special customer if I would make a delivery to a village called ‘Wilmington‘ I had absolutely no idea where it was, but as I liked this particular customer a lot and I fancied a road trip, I agreed.

I convinced John to do the driving, but I feel it’s sometimes necessary to have a florist on hand in case flowers fall over and need rearranging.  In this case it was a  potted  array of hyacinths, so no actual floristry skill needed but I fancied a day out.

John also needed a navigator as ‘Bella‘ (the van) doesn’t have a sat-nav, so I thought we’d make a day of it, after-all it was a SUNDAY and I promised John a lovely Sunday roast in a quiet country pub.

As ‘Navigator- Extraordinaire’ I  jumped in the van with just a few vague directions, scrawled on a crumpled piece of paper, which ultimately ended in us getting completely LOST!

It wasn’t long before we crossed the border and entered into…..EAST SUSSEX!!! It was then that all road signs disappeared and a thick mist fell over the dark landscape and I had no idea where on earth we were and no mobile phone reception to help me.

Finally, a sign, not a heavenly one, but a real wooden one poking out from a clump of brambles said Wilmington, 3 miles. HURRAH!

Twenty minutes later we were still driving around the small village, consisting of nothing more than a pub, a scattering of houses (none that seemed to match the description I’d been given) and a pond, so we decided to venture into the pub to ask if anyone knew where the green gated house, near a big copper beech, next to a thatched cottage with a black dog,  might be?

As we entered the establishment, everyone put down their drinks and looked over to the door, silence fell, but I’m sure I heard someone mutter “STRANGERS”…”Not from round here, wonder what they want.”

We asked the young girl behind the bar if she could help us locate the address. She continued polishing the glass she had in her hand and simply looked over at the group of locals huddled at the end of the bar. A discussion ensued…” Left at the oak tree, NO, right at the pond, NO that Bob’s house, DOWN the lane that forks of to the farm, UP the hill, second on the right, you can’t miss it.” We left more confused than we were when we entered.

At last, we found the house and delivered the plant to the delighted and surprised recipient and headed home. On the way, we called into the pub again to inform the villagers of our success and felt compelled to buy a round of drinks as a way of thanks. John couldn’t drink as he was driving and unfortunately they didn’t do food, but wasn’t it FUN?

John didn’t think so.

We have had quite a few interesting and surprising encounters while delivering flowers. John and I may eventually have enough to write a book ‘The confessions of a village florist’ in which we could describe episodes such as the time when I had to pass a bunch of beautifully arranged sunflowers and eucalyptus through a side window because the occupant couldn’t open the door – apparently the inside of the house was flooded and my advice to put them in water asap didn’t go down too well. The time when we got stuck in traffic and had to literally chase a hearse down the road because it had left without the flowers  and another incident where a lady came to the door at three in the afternoon wearing absolutely nothing from the waist up!!!

There was one time were we accidentally got the wife and  the mistress addresses mixed up, but we won’t go into that, whatever is said to the florist, remains absolutely confidential, unless it involves a MURDER, then we might tell…that’s another story!

The next few weeks are our busiest time for deliveries, so book early to ensure we get there on time.

 

 

 

 

 

The Pulborough Pound

The Pulborough Pound is common currency between businesses down here in the village.  It is possible to be well fed and cared for, in exchange for services rendered.

NOno , no NOT what you are thinking, I mean Floral services!!

The Pulborough Pound can be exchanged for the things I  want most (mainly cake and alcohol). The fresh floral arrangements in the local pub come at a cost of a scrumptious Sunday lunch, while a Claire-size piece of cake from the Tea Room, comes at a cost of a tiny table posy or two. In the past my floristry favours could also be exchanged for dog washes and poochy pampering – which came in handy, especially when you have with an elderly dog in nappies and I mustn’t forget the Henning’s special ‘Left-over Wine‘ in exchange for ‘Won’t-last-the-weekend Blooms

We work closely with the CoOp funeral parlour across the road, but I’m hoping that I won’t have to cash in the Pulborough Pound there just yet!

I think I’ve mentioned before how much I enjoy, (sorry that’s the wrong word), I feel honoured (that’s better) in being asked to create funeral tributes. Well, this week I was in my element, with several funerals in the diary.

The thing about funerals is you often get to know the deceased person, better than you know some of your closest friends. You hear anecdotes from family and friends and everyone remembers something different, so you get a very rounded picture of the person, that brings them back to life…not literally, of course.

This week included the funeral of  Mr Catchpole, a tall, distinguished gentleman that I came to hold in great esteem, since we undertook the flowers for his dear wife’s funeral.

I will miss Mr Catchpole, who became a frequent visitor to the shop. He regularly popped in for a chat on the way to the Tea Room and it was always a joy to see him. He was such a polite and friendly chap and I got to know him well. It’s people like Mr Catchpole, that make the village a real community and the thing I love most about having a shop here.

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On the surface funerals can seem very solemn and ceremonious, but behind the scenes it can be more like a well-meaning farce. Crematoriums have two or three doors, front, back and side. As the funeral party leaves through the side exit, my team, dressed in black, like a ninga troupe, wait poised, ready to burst through the back entrance!

Once in, we have literally seconds, minutes at most, to strip down the flowers, rearrange, get them in the van and off to the wake, before the guests arrive. I’ve once had to floor the van to overtake the cavalcade, screeching around corners, the smell of burning rubber coming through the vents, while my co-pilots facing backwards, hung on to flowers, in a desperate rush to get ahead of them and have everything ready for when they arrive.

Flowers can say SO much, but often that’s in subtle ways that only those close to beholder can fully understand.

You can see some of the tributes we have done for recent funerals on our website

 

 

 

 

 

 

Medical emergencies and community spirit

I have many skills in addition to floristry which you might find surprising; politician, comedienne, antiques dealer, blogger, historian, gin-drinker, chicken-keeper, book-clubber, star of regional radio and tv, ballroom dancer and now I can add proudly add ‘Medical Professional.’ Well, maybe not professional exactly as I’ve had no training , but I can be relied on to create a crisis out of the smallest medical incident, turning the tiniest paper-cut (which I know can be extremely painful) into a life-limiting condition.

This week, my brother Phil, staggered into the shop, clutching a wad of blooded toilet paper to his head. I immediately sat him down and prised away the tissue which had now stuck to the minute trickle of dried blood, just visible between the furrows in his ‘Charman Brow.’

As I flapped my arms about like a pheasant being flushed from the bush, Annemarie whipped out the shop first-aid box, threw open the lid and selected the correct size plaster.  She was about to apply it when Phil suddenly felt faint, sliding off the stool and on to the shop floor!

I promptly bundled him into the Flower Shop van and whisked him off to A&E dreaming of an hour (or five)  alone with my kindle in a hospital waiting room, leaving Ruth, Becky and Annemarie to hold the floral fort.

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John should have been at home, recovering from a severe case of man-flu, but given the choice of staying at home and clearing up after our elderly, incontinent dog who now has to wear a nappy and updating the shop accounting programme  in the cold, draughty back corner of the shop, guess which one he chose?

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I was also nursing an injury of my own, someone almost got my thumb ribboned and bowed up in their Christmas wreath. You may wonder why florists tend to be women, that’s because florists need to be masters of multi-tasking; snipping and placing flowers & sprigs, talking to customers, sipping coffee/wine, tying bows, spraying things gold, adding snow, taking orders and deliveries all while adjusting ones underwear. So it’s easy to see how I could accidentally lose a finger or thumb. Luckily this time it was just a flesh wound (turn away now if you are at all squeamish).

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By the end of the week, I started to feel the tiniest bit FESTIVE!!!

We had been asked to SPRUCE UP (literally) the Oddfellows Arms  with some festive flowers, swags and garlands. Lacking the use of a thumb meant that I could unfortunately, only offer my artistic direction. All the work had to be carried out by my two trainees the ‘Delightful Daisy’ and the ‘Ever Reliable (and extremely patient) John.’

daisy

 

Making Mischief

When I’m not completely rushed off my size 4 feet, I just can’t seem to wind down and relax or dare I say it “take a day off” I mean… what the blistering blazers would I do?

We’ve had what I would call a quiet week, we weren’t actually that quiet, but for a change I wasn’t running high on adrenaline.

I liken myself to a racehorse (lean, fit, highly strung) that is being fed on some sort of competition mix (or flapjacks in my case) and when I’m not racing that energy usually turns into trouble or mischief making!

I might have mentioned this before, but I have a liking (others would say obsession) for RIBBON!

Yes, ribbon. There are far worse things to be obsessive about, but like any obsession, I just can’t get enough (Depeche Mode being one of my favourite bands). When I’m not being distracted, I’m ordering more ribbon, looking for new ribbons or searching for new ways of displaying ribbon.

Here’s a glimpse of my ribbon stash so far.

Whatever you come into the Flower Shop to buy, I’m sure I can find the perfect ribbon to go with it. In fact, Rachel complained this week that it took her longer to choose the ribbon than it took her to choose flowers and make up the bouquets. Maybe I should organise a staff training day ‘Choosing the Right Ribbon‘ but that would involve giving them a glimpse into my mind and I’m sure that wouldn’t be good for morale.

One of the things that can distract me temporarily from my ribbony dreams is the arrival of a nice young delivery boy. It doesn’t really matter what the delivery is, but the excitement of being brought something by a handsome young man, at my age, is simply overwhelming.

In fact some of them have started to leave packages outside the door, when it’s obvious that I’m here. Others will just open the door wide enough to push parcels in and then poke a clipboard through the gap hoping for a signature.

Maybe it’s my new found ‘celebrity status’ that’s intimidating them. I’ve just heard that we have over 300 followers on The Flower Shop Facebook Page and I’m getting lots of people come in and say they’ve read my blog !!!

Eventually, John confiscates my ipad in an attempt to curb my ribbon buying and my mind is put to more creative pursuits. Mmm what can we do with a broken soldier, angel and fairy wand…????

The result.

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Frankenangel

So my plea to everyone who reads this blog or comes into the shop, is to give me something challenging to do. No request, however obscure will be turned down, as long as it involves flowers and ribbon!

Fireworks in the Flower Shop

This week, as the nights drew in, my usually long florist’s fuse got shorter with each day. By Friday I was racing around like a Catherine Wheel, sparks were flying and I was ready to explode in a burst of floral fireworks, anyone in the way was likely to get showered in prickly Eryngiums!

The week started in what I’d call a state of organised chaos. Flowers came flooding in from all directions, the Flying Dutchman arrived as usual, followed closely by The Italian Stallion, ‘Maximillion  il Florista’ and good old Dan the Manour very own Southampton based Floral Fairy referred to as such because of the way exactly the right flowers simply appear from nowhere in the early hours of the morning NOT because of his penchant for wearing tutus at the weekend!

We had a Friday wedding to prepare for, we had a couple of big corporate events in the diary and I was determined to get Christmas out by the end of the week!!

I’ve been living in Santa’s Grotto for weeks now. I’ve had five life-size willow Reindeer standing in the bath, golden balls under the bed (and I don’t mean David Beckham), painted wooden toys stacked to the roof in what was our new extension and I was DESPERATE to get it all out,

We recently had a guest who had to share a bed with three flashing elves (the twinkly version not the rude trouser flashing type you would expect to get in a less sophisticated store) !!!!!

John was busy assembling various items of display furniture, including a new ribbon dispenser (I will tell you all more about my ribbon obsession another time, but in the way some women like shoes, some like cats, I like ribbon!) when my brother Phil wandered in.

Phil lives just down the road with his wife Michelle. You might have seen my sister-in-law,  dressed in horsey gear, loitering suspiciously with a wicker basket over her arm. Michelle is the publisher of Forelock Books based here in Pulborough, but she also does our social media and regularly pops up from behind a bucket of blooms with a camera, ready to catch us in action. She’s the Alice to my Vicar of Dibley and gets us all giggling.

Here’s a snap she got of John getting into character as the Shop Elf.

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Like me, my brother Phil loves village life. He looks like me, with a redder complexion, less hair and a flatter chest. His contribution to village life is propping up the bar at the Oddfellows, boring people with golf stories, chatting to Saagar from the village stores and walking his dog Maisie, on the brooks.

Ruth the ‘Plant Whisperercame in to help us out on Friday. Ruth knows EVERYTHING there is to know about plants, Pulborough’s Alan Titchmarsh and… The NATIONAL judge for ‘Britain’s in Bloom‘. As you know I love flowers, but Ruth loves plants like they are her own children. I often catch her talking to them and I’m sure she’d report me to social services if she ever caught me decapitating a slightly droopy bloom.

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Thank heavens Ruth was in together with Annemarie, John, Rachel and Rebecca when things reached a climax on Friday afternoon.

The shop floor was strewn with broken up cardboard boxes, shelves were half filled with Christmas paraphernalia, Ruth and Becky were bickering about the positioning of the painted wooden soldiers, John was filling the van with enormous floral displays, strapping them in so they wouldn’t fall over in transit, I was putting the finishing touches to the bridal flowers for a wedding which was happening in just 2 hours time and didn’t have enough fat little fingers to tie the bow and hold the stems, so had a little hissy fit.

“Will you two stop squabbling over soldiers and give me a hand” I squeaked, trying hard to sound authoritative, as the air started to turn blue with bad language. It seems the crosser I get the higher my pitch gets, so beware if you hear me squeaking like a mouse, there’s a lion waiting to get out.

Annmarie was manning the door, trying to intercept customers before they fell into a scene from ‘Alice and Wonderland.’

The fireworks in The Flower Shop earlier in the afternoon must have been visible or audible to our neighbours, because just as we were about to raze the shop and all it’s Christmas delights to the ground, in walked Colin the Cork-popping Crusader with an open bottle and a few glasses.

Just what the doctor ordered!

 

 

 

“Do you have any carrots?”

A lady stepped into the shop, as usual it was filled to the brim with flowers and foliage of all colours and varieties. She stood in the doorway, looking slightly perplexed, stepping in, out of the bright sunlight must have caused her to squint. Without moving, she turned her head from left to right, slowly taking in everything that lay before her, before asking “Do you have any carrots?”

The Flower Shop, Pulborough is approaching it’s 3rd anniversary, but before our beautiful little shop became the flower shop, it was a greengrocer. It transpired that our rather bemused customer hadn’t been in for some time and was merely after something to go with her lamb chops!

This got me thinking about all the Ch..ch..changes (imagine I’m doing a David Bowie impression here) we’ve seen in the village over the last three years.

The Flower Shop is smack bang right in the middle of the village. To our left, we have Hennings. Having an independent wine merchant, that stocks an amazing Mandarin liqueur I’d only previously been able to find in France  was actually one of the reasons John and I chose to live in Pulborough – especially one that’s in staggering distance from the house!

The fact that it’s an independent store makes all the difference, like me, it has old fashioned rustic charm, a welcoming exterior mixed with (this is where the similarities end) high class sophistication. I can’t imagine the village without Hennings, or maybe, I can’t imagine my life without the odd afternoon tipple!

To our right is Suters, The Butchers  another busy, popular shop that often has a queue. Proof again that the independent village shop is still alive and kicking, unlike the produce in the shop.

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Opposite, we have Dashing Hounds, this has changed hands in the last year and we miss the lovely Charlotte Howard, but the shop is just what our stylish doggy community needs and the look and style of the shop fits in beautifully.

The corner shop, Pulborough General Stores has been transformed, fully stocked and under new management, Saagar works so hard to give the local community what they want, when they want it, whether it’s a loo roll, a box of fire lighters, somewhere to park or access to a cash machine, Saagar is all ears.

Thankfully there’s been no change in Beneficial Health, the place that keeps me in such fine fettle, they even have healthy chocolate and crisps!!!

We have a real village pub, with Sunday dinners, quiz nights and colourful characters at The Oddfellows !!!! – they also have a splendid array of fresh flowers.

The bank has closed but it’s stunning art deco building has been refurbished and is now home to  an estate agent. The Office First shop has closed and is looking  for a new occupier. The TEA ROOM has changed hands, Steve & Roz have moved to the other side of the world (I hope it wasn’t something I said). They were a tough act to follow, but Chris & Sallyann are very much part of the Pulborough community and hopefully the TEA ROOM is here to stay, but the surprise news this week is ……….

 GATLEYS Pulborough is CLOSING!!!!

Who knows what will appear in it’s place, but what seems most important to people is having an independent business. A place which will attract visitors, browsers and shoppers from the local area and further afield, a place that fits in with the village’s ‘villaginess‘ and understands it’s requirements. Whether people are taking a trip to the dentist or watching wildlife on the brooks, we hope they will stay a little longer than planned, stop for a cuppa in the Tea Room, to buy a pint in the pub, dinner from the butcher, a fine wine from Hennings and a bouquet of fabulous flowers from the friendly village florist.

Oh and carrots from the General Store!

 

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