Pulborough florist

An extraterrestrial experience, six florists, a flower-ball and chandelier shenanigans!

Pulborough florist

Extraterrestrials?

Yes, you read that right and I haven’t been on the sherry, just an average week in the Life of a Village Florist.

It was an typical Monday afternoon, we’d had a fairly relaxed morning and we were eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Flying Dutchman with our main delivery of the week, when suddenly… darkness fell.

I frantically searched around for my phone, to check the time. Wondering if I had somehow passed out or fallen asleep? The street lights had come on and I could see headlights shining through a yellow haze as I stepped outside into an eerie silence, where  I joined several other bewildered villagers, looking expectantly skyward.

We were all expecting something from ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind‘  and then we heard IT; not electronic keyboard music combined with a Jean-Michel Jarre type light display, but the gush and hiss of hydraulics, together with blinding lights – the ‘Flying Dutchman‘ had ARRIVED!!!

We got busier and busier as the week went on, until Friday when we were totally FRANTIC! We had TWO weddings ( thankfully no funerals) on at the weekend and there were a thousand things that needed to be done. We now have six florists who come in on different days, in different combinations, sometimes two, sometimes three, but today we had all SIX in together. I say ‘in‘ but to be honest the shop was bursting at the seams, like a 2lb sausage in a 1lb skin. There was simply no room for customers, so poor Annemarie and Charlotte – who came to us wanting some work experience (evil laugh), had to work on making two 30ft floral swags OUTSIDE (yes I know it’s October, but that’s why I suggest eating more cake, it keeps out the cold).

Then the time came when we had to start transporting flowers to venues. That might sound simple enough, but my maths is not as good as it could be. We had six florists, two venues, two 30ft swags, at least a HUNDRED separate floral items and ONE VAN!

Luckily, the set up at the first wedding venue Fizleroi Barn was fairly straight-forward. The design and flower choice was exquisite, but thankfully it didn’t take us too long to get everything assembled.

 

The assembly at the second wedding venue  however, was mmm…a little more challenging.

Most of you will have seen an episode of ‘Only Fools and Horses‘ where Del-boy, Grandad and Rodney  agreed to remove a very expensive chandelier, with disastrous results. Well imagine a similar scene with myself, John and the brilliant Becky staring upwards, scratching our heads, looking at two iron rings swinging from the rafters of a vaulted ceiling. An excited group from the pre-wedding party had gathered behind us, waiting to see how we were going to get our bounty of beautiful flowers up there. We had absolutely NO idea, so we just kept smiling, until it became uncomfortable and we made an excuse to retreat back to the van, where we put our heads together and came up with a Plan A and a Plan B!

Plan A involved ME, yes ME, climbing a 15ft ladder and then throwing a rope 25 foot into the air and over a large wooden beam. Well that was a ridiculous idea! For a start I’m 5’2ish, I have very short arms and I get vertigo, so that plan was very quickly kicked into touch.

Plan B was much better, Becky went up the ladder, I stayed on terra firma, making sure there was no wobble (except of course, when I needed two hands to take the pictures for this blog). When not busy taking pictures, I simply passed flowers up to Becky, occasionally offering a little direction as to where to put them, until Becky offered her own advice as to where I could stick my suggestions!

The Flower-ball was absolutely stunning, a huge ball, 4ft wide, but getting this in place was a little tricky. After putting our heads together again we constructed a rope lattice beneath the iron hoop in which we could cradle the ball.

At the time of writing this blog I’m unaware as to whether or not the giant flower-ball remained in it’s cradle throughout the wedding, but we obviously ran the necessary Health & Safety checks, mainly jumping up and down heavily as if dancing to a tune by Led Zepplin and I’m pretty sure it was secure before leaving.

It didn’t finish there. Although most arrangements can be assembled and put in place the day before a big event, some flowers MUST be kept in water until the very last minute. So, Saturday morning was as manic as most people’s Monday mornings, up early, racing around trying not to mix up bridal bouquets, making up button holes and adding the finishing touches.

I LOVE my job, but sometimes I wish aliens would abduct me and suspend time, just for a few hours, so I could catch up on a little sleep.

Maybe that’s what happened last Monday.

 

 

 

 

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Teamwork brings us all together

As I mentioned last week the cost of flowers can fluctuate like a seismographic chart in the middle of an earthquake or John’s blood pressure when we he hands me his credit card, so to keep prices consistent for our wonderful customers, I simply have to keep all other costs static – preferably at zero, which is pretty tricky when you are a woman like me, with wild ideas and expensive tastes!

I started this week with a GRAND PLAN. I’d spent Saturday night and most of Sunday dreaming of sparkles, glitter, Rococo furniture and Queen Anne legs – Obviously, I’d been watching too much ‘Strictly’ before going to bed and I came in on Monday morning in an excitable mood, clutching drawings of what looked like Harrods Christmas Window Display.

I want to change the shop around and THIS is how I want it to look, I announced, rolling out some childlike scribbles on a large sheet of white paper. Annmarie stared at my wonderful design, stared at me and then rolled her eyes in wonder (or maybe it was despair). Before Annemarie, who had been rendered utterly speechless, could manage to get any words out, LISA walked in.

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Lisa is our new florist and this was her first day. Now, I know I should have eased her in gently, I should have had a planned induction ready which could be ticked off throughout the day, but I was far too EXCITED!!!

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“Annemarie, Annmarie, can you saw a pine table in half, lengthwise and shorten it’s legs?” I asked flapping my arms in over excitement.

“With what?” she replied.

“A Jigsaw thingy-bob”

“Do you have one?”

“No”, I replied, rather deflated, “but I know someone who has…

In stepped… MARK ‘Master of All Trades‘ from Two Woods estate. I only had to describe roughly what I wanted and back came the PERFECT piece of antique-like shop furniture, which fitted perfectly into my grand plan.

During the week everyone got the chance to join in with the ‘Autumn Re-fit‘ If you came into the shop last week, chances are you would have been handed a hammer and a few nails and would have been asked to knock up a shelf or two while you waited.

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Actually, Annmarie was chief ‘Shelf-elf‘. Next time you come in, be sure to check out our amazing shelves, they are a work of art and the ‘Beach Hut aka Santa’s Secret Box‘ assembled by our senior florist Becky, is worth a visit by itself.

The GRAND OPENING was scheduled for Wednesday, the re-fit wasn’t actually finished on Wednesday, but it was MY BIRTHDAY so a great excuse (as if I ever needed one) to crack open a bottle of wine and bring out the cake.

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Have you ever thought what you buy a florist for her birthday? Apparently, according to my long suffering husband, buying me a flower shop, negates him from ever buy me flowers ever again!

If you are reading this, John, I also like diamonds, shoes, handbags, gin and chocolate, so there’s still plenty to choose from.

Talking of celebrations, did I mention Rachel is expecting a BABY!!

Visit our website

 

 

 

Hydrangea Heaven or Hell?

I LOVE Hydrangeas, but this week, my passion for these voluptuous, buxom blooms has been severely tested. I was absolutely thrilled when I was asked to design and build architectural table displays for a black tie dinner at a prestigious venue, using dark blue hydrangeas. The customer stipulated that we must use the most luxurious, darkest blue hydrangeas that could be found. I was the woman for the job and I knew exactly where I could get the very best.

Few people may know this, but the flower market works pretty much like the Stock Exchange, flower prices fluctuate by the hour, sometimes by the minute. All it takes is a flower munching mite and the whole economy could collapse in seconds.

So when it comes to pricing up a big job, I have to get out my ‘best guess-calculator’ and make up some costs based on current prices, knowing full well that the price could double or halve in days. When it comes to buying a very specific variety of flower, to be at it’s very best on a specific date, the job becomes even harder.

Never-the-less, when it comes to a challenge I’m the first to pull on my bright red whooper sized knickers, swing my Flower Shop apron round to the back to act as a cape and get on with the job!

On Wednesday, the flying dutchman arrived in his gigantic lorry, temporarily blocking the high street once again (sorry folks!) and unloaded 70 stems of the very best, dark blue hydrangeas. When possible, we buy seasonal flowers locally, but if we only bought locally we would have a very limited range, especially during the autumn and winter months, so most of our flowers come from The Netherlands. You can get flowers flown in from all over the world, but Dutch flowers are like Swiss watches and Italian shoes, if you want quality that’s where you go.

The event wasn’t until Saturday, but it was important to get the hydrangeas in early. Like olympic athletes, they need time to acclimatise! I understand this having been one myself (if only cake eating was a sport) and to be at their very best on Saturday they needed to adjust to being in Pulborough, they needed to be nurtured and given daily pep talks so they would reach their peak at exactly the right time.

After caring for them night and day, I gently pulled out the stems, one by one on Friday to make sure they were all splendid and to my UTTER DISMAY 30 of the 70 stems I had so carefully nurtured didn’t pass muster!

Petals were turning brown, leaves were yellowing, their once proud heads were flopping about,  pitifully.  I slumped into a heap “WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?” I shrieked at a poor unsuspecting customer who was just about to step through the door. Tears were starting to build up and my nose immediately began to run… as did the unfortunate customer.

I grabbed the phone and dialled the DUTCHMAN!

Help! Help! I don’t know what to do, I need at least 30 dark blue hydrangeas NOW!!!” I screamed down the phone.

“Now, is impossible, but we could supply you with 30 more stems, first thing in the morning, if that’s OK?” came the reply.

PHEW!! I was so relieved, I began blubbering again, although I’m not sure whether I was crying with joy, or at the price I’d just been quoted.

Apparently, the price of dark blue hydrangeas had suddenly gone through the roof!!!!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Flower girls

Firstly, I’m definitely NOT a girl!

I’m not about to make a big announcement and admit that I am in fact Carlos, but you can imagine my frustration when someone came into the shop this week and kept referring to me as the GIRL!!!

She may have been referring to my youthful good looks or cheery child-like demeanour, but given her tone and the incessant  pointing and finger waggling, I don’t think so.

To top that, another customer came in this week. She wandered in, busily chatting on her phone and obviously far too busy, on an important call, to say she had to go, as she wanted to talk to the florist. Instead, she stood, there talking, pointing to different flowers while I diligently pulled out stems and waited dutifully for the nod of approval or a sharp shake of the head. Finally, while I stood there in the middle of the shop holding a mixed array of flowers and foliage, a small queue forming in the doorway, this particular customer said her goodbyes and waving a hand said “Make them up, I’ll be back in 10 minutes” and off she swanned.

Umgph!!

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I can usually brush these slights aside with a simple ” Hey Ho, on we go“, but they seem to have got under my skin. I am after-all FIFTY-something  (not what you call a girl) with a UNIVERSITY education and a very responsible, high-powered position in local Government and having, I’ll have you all know… MANICURED nails!!!

I opened The FlowerShop in Pulborough, for a number of reasons; I love flowers, I have a certain creative flair and I wanted to be part of a community.

“I wanted to sell the flowers I liked, to people I liked.” “To create wonderful floral tributes for wonderful people” 

And I must say that almost all of our customers are exactly that – ABSOLUTELY FLIPPING WONDERFUL!!!!

However, it turns out that on occasion I have to deal with some less than lovely people, people who don’t fully appreciate my artistic talent and generous nature.

More encounters with challenging customers

If the previous two encounters this week, weren’t enough, let me tell you about a few more  meetings guaranteed to frustrate the most easy-going florist…

  1. “You don’t  seem to have much in today” said someone, minutes after the flying Dutchman had just dropped off the week’s delivery
  2. “I’ll have one of those, one of them, three of them and two of those” said someone, who obviously went into restaurants asking the chef to make something from rice, chocolate, cheese and oysters!
  3. “Can I have a refund for this sad looking plant, which a kind friend gave me as a present” said the friend of another customer I gave a just past it’s best plant to FREE of charge!

Imagine the dilemma; should I have explained that their kind friend may not have been that ‘kind‘ in this instance or should I have saved the previous customer’s embarrassment and paid the lady for the plant, I gave away in the first place?

You can probably guess what I did.

 

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No rest for the village florist

They say, Sunday is a day of rest.

Even the ‘Big Man’ upstairs was said to have had a day off, in the week when he was supposedly creating the world!!!

If however, you are a conscientious village florist, that’s not always possible. People depend on you, weddings, funerals, births and celebrations can’t be put on hold waiting for the flowers to turn up!

Floral tributes say so much and can convey a multitude of messages and emotions. It may seem a little odd, but designing and making up funeral flowers is one of the things I love most about being a village florist.

Now, some people would say I’m a little unconventional, possibly to the point of slightly deranged, but to me funeral flowers say so much about the person to whom they are attributed to and about those that knew and loved them. It’s so important to get them right.

This week has been a roller-coaster when it comes to emotions. We have had tears of laughter, sadness, weariness and intoxication and for once, the intoxication wasn’t down to the wine merchants next door, but due to the high levels of glue and spray can fumes in the shop, while four florists, a loving family, a few friends and  a husband were busily creating, what I can only say were floral masterpieces!

We often have to nip out on a Sunday morning to collect props and vases from wedding venues, but this week we had a SUNDAY wedding at a venue where we couldn’t set up the day before and had a short time slot where we had to adorn tables and decorate chairs, before the groom, guests and (hopefully) the bride were due to arrive.

This meant roping in family and charming one of my best florists, through promises of the finest coffee, mountains of chocolate and by pulling one of my most pleading expressions, which to be honest resembles an overindulged puppy dog, begging for a lick of your ice-cream.

Either way, it worked!

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Dynamic duo

Once the wedding was done, there was no time to sit back, drink coffee and scoff chocolate. Although, being ‘Head Florist‘ and ‘Creative Director‘, it was essential that I had sufficient rest and necessary sugar intake to keep my mind focussed. I’m sure they understood, as they got to work on the floral tributes for the funeral of someone whose family have become very special to all of us in The Flower Shop, here in Pulborough.

In fact, Becky (the Robin to my Batman) needed no persuasion to give up her Sunday in order to come into work. All week we have been working hard to give the family of a young man, who died suddenly, in tragic circumstances, the best send off possible.

We often meet people for the first time in both the happiest and in the darkest periods of their lives and these acquaintances leave a lasting impression, on all of us. It is extremely hard for us to switch our emotions on and off and anyone coming into the shop last week may have caught at least one of us without our usual jore d’vivre nb. if anyone has heard me attempt to speak french, you’ll know I had to look that up.

I am sitting at home tonight, writing this blog, having today held the hand of this boy’s mother as she placed the final rose into one of the many, many floral tributes requested by his family, his closest friends, his girlfriend and those who simply wanted to express their sincerest condolence.

I feel sad, grateful, emotionally drained and extremely humbled.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Autumnistmus

It’s barely Autumn, but we had to start planning Christmas stock way back in July and this week, Mr Claus, who actually drives a large white Ford Transit (he saves the reindeer and sleigh for the big day) turned up with our first delivery!

Looking back, I remember sitting on the wrought iron bench outside the shop, the sun beating down, the glare bouncing off  of my iPad, the sweat dripping off my furrowed brow and sliding off the screen and into my lap, making it look like I’d had an accident, as I began adding things to the shopping basket of the  Christmas wholesaler’s website.

Oooohh yes, 10 of those, tap. 30 of them, tap. 55 of them silver, sparkly, what-ya-call-ums, tap, tap tap!

It was so exciting, I couldn’t wait to start filling the shop with silver, gold, red and green. Ribbons, candles, wreaths, pots, vases, robins, reindeer, wooden toys, snow globes, light-up snowmen with flashing feet? Mmmm maybe I was getting carried away.

As I’ve mentioned before, everyone in the shop has their own unique style, their own creative flair  and sense of what’s tasteful. So being the sharing, caring, respectful boss that I am, I encouraged everyone, including; the Italian flower deliveryman, my sister-in-law and the Jack Russell to order something to have in the shop for Christmas.

As the many boxes arrived, I frantically tore off the packing tape and pulled out the bubble wrap, desperate to see what was inside and OH MY!!!

Who on earth ordered THAT!!???

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There were LOTS of lovely things though and I had to be physically restrained, to prevent me from putting everything (well almost everything)  out on shelves immediately.

If you have ever been to John’s & my house at Christmas, you’ll be wondering now if anything will actually make into the shop. Santa’s Grotto at Harrods, has nothing compared to my cosy, little cottage in December.

If you want to see what we have in store this Christmas, you’ll have to wait until November. Autumn is a beautiful season, full of colour and warmth, not to be rushed.

We have some amazing seasonal flowers and foliage in and can’t wait to adorn doors, table tops and windows with gorgeous reds, yellows, oranges, greens and purples, creating autumnal wedding displays and floral designs.

And don’t forget to drop in and see our fantastic selection of metallic pheasants, rabbits and foxes.

Enjoy Autumnistmas!

 

 

Wedding Mayhem

The wedding season never really ends, every week brings a different array of flowers, a different wedding venue, a different couple and different challenges.

Wedding flowers are often agreed upon over a year in advance, shortly after the venue is booked, but for some reason most brides coming to the The Flower Shop, Pulborough are either in a desperate rush to get married or simply trust little ol’ me (less of the old please) to create the perfect wedding design in a very short time.

The shortest notice I’ve been given was 1 DAY!

Floral designs for weddings are challenging, but great fun and extremely rewarding. There are four regular florists in the shop, including myself, three who specialise in wedding flowers. Each of us, have our own particular style and areas of expertise and between us we are always able to come up with something, seasonable that will delight and wow every couple and their guests.

Last week we were looking forward to delivering on the biggest wedding we have done this year. This wedding had actually been booked in for over a year, but it was a big job that required a lot of planning, having floral displays throughout the wedding barn, leading outside to a lawned garden area, that required lots of floral adornment.

The week started well, but mother nature had a different plan in mind. The weather forecast was for heavy rain, leading up to and specifically on the very day of the wedding. The outside area needed a major rethink and the bride decided that having an outside marquee adjoining the wedding barn was the only way forward. This meant having to double our internal flower designs, ensuring a natural, seamless flow of flowers leading out from the barn into the marquee.

Don’t worry! It’ll all be fine! No need to panic!

I kept saying this, over and over, trying to convince myself more than the bride and my fellow florists. After all we had two whole days to go.

What on earth were we going to do?

After I’d finished running up and down Lower Street, waving my arms in the air, my ample chest desperately trying to escape the confines of my apron, giving myself a stitch and scaring the butcher next door who thought I had a live piglet up my jumper, I walked calmly back into the shop, readjusted my clothing and got planning. Secretly, I’m great in crisis, revel in quandary and love a challenge.

The whole team pulled together, we had a plan. The initial flower order was arriving on Wednesday, I could do an urgent dash to Southampton flower market at the crack of dawn Thursday for all the additional flowers and everyone cleared their diaries so they could help out.

Wednesday. Like the week, the day started well, until… a huge tractor, towing a long trailer decided to spill gallons of hydraulic fluid all over the street, right in front to the shop!!!

The road was like an ice rink, there were police and firemen everywhere and the road was CLOSED for the whole day.

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No flowers!

The main delivery was on route but couldn’t be delivered. I was assured that they would arrive the next day, but this was cutting it fine and we were going to lose a day’s preparation. I said I was good in a crisis, but this was testing even for me.

Don’t worry! It’ll all be fine! No need to panic!

 Thursday 4am. The alarm goes off, it’s still dark and I can hear the rain beating on the window. As the sun rises I’m heading back to the shop with the van packed with flowers and foliage, all of which needs to be designed and beautifully assembled.

It’s 7.30 am and I’m back at the shop and soon the whole team are there awaiting instructions. I take two florists with me to the venue, where we start creating the main features, phoning the shop almost continuously with additional requests and instructions. The team left in the shop were not only dealing with everything I was throwing at them, but dealing with an extra busy day following the previous day’s challenge of getting in and out of the village.

It’s 5pm, most our staff should have be home by now, but they’re still here making sure everything is ready and organised, not only for the wedding but ready for a normally busy Friday.

Then, as if by magic, the chap from Hennings, the wine merchant next door, pops his head round the door. “Anyone fancy a little tipple?” he asks.

“I’ll just fetch a bucket” I reply.