Have you ever wondered how it would be to work as a florist? In this article series, we give you a peak in the life of a florist. This week’s article features London florist Mark Welford who runs his shop Bloomsbury Flowers together with his long-time friend Stephen. Read on for the full story on these gracious florists…
Written by Mark Welford
Stephen and I opened Bloomsbury Flowers 23 years ago after retiring as dancers with the Royal Ballet Companies. We met at White Lodge, the Royal Ballet School in Richmond Park, in the 1970s and have been friends ever since.
There is hardly ever an average day here in our shop in Covent Garden. Which is located close to the Royal Opera House where be both danced many times throughout our careers. When we opened the shop in December 1994, Great Queen Street was a very quiet street with hardly any walk-in trade so we quickly had to rely on picking up contract work to create a regular income.
One of our biggest clients is Firmdale Hotels and we have been working with them for nearly 19 years. We furnish their 8 hotels throughout London with fresh flowers and plants which means that every weekday, we are either installing fresh arrangements in a hotel, doing maintenance visits or delivering event/wedding flowers to any of the hotels. A number of the suites in the hotels have fresh flowers so they are changed twice weekly. It certainly keeps us on our toes! No pun intended…
Of course, we cater for all occasions so our shop is a busy one on a daily basis with a range of orders coming in from straightforward hand-ties, wedding work and events of all different sizes ranging from corporate dinners to product launches. Mondays are one of our busiest days so I’m going to give you an insight into my Monday!
The alarm goes off and the first thing I do is check emails on my phone. We have orders from all over the world including Australia and the US and because of the time difference, it’s important to keep on top of emails and reply promptly to make sure the customer knows you are taking care of them. After a quick shower, I head to the shop. I am lucky enough to live close by so I can walk to work which is a great advantage here in London. The majority of our flowers and foliage arrives overnight by the online flower companies we work with regularly.
As I’m first in the shop, I start by unloading the crates of flowers and foliage and putting those items aside that have been ordered for hotel or event work. Next, I divide up 200 stems of alstroemeria into different numbers that are allocated for the restaurant tables throughout the hotels. Buckets are then set aside for the foliage which will arrive from the Market
Paul, our driver, arrives and starts loading up one of our two vans with the early morning run. We do not have a vast amount of weekly contracts but they do need to be in place before 9.00am. The other van will be back from the Market by now. Whilst we do not use the London Flower Market anything like as much as we used to do, we do like to stock up on taller foliage at the beginning of the week so this is unloaded, cut and put into buckets of deep water.
The team is here with scissors in hand! We have a small team which includes 3 full-time florists so for the next hour or so, it’s all hands on deck to condition the flowers. Galvanised buckets filled with fresh water are in place on the flower stand which rapidly fills up with freshly cut flowers. We like to colour code the stand. So we have white and greens at the front of the stand moving to pinks and lilacs in the middle then we have the warmer, brighter palette at the opposite end of the stand.
We changeover 3 of the 8 hotels on Mondays so work begins on them around this time. Stephen is in charge of choosing the flowers for each hotel and oversees the containers that are to be used and if needed, will brief the florist making up the designs on any specific details. Even though the hotels belong to the same chain, they are all individual so what flowers/plants/foliage work for one hotel will not work for all the others! Therefore, each area in every hotel is designed specifically each week.
Orders need to be made up, the phones begin to ring and my phone will ping with more emails so I make sure that everyone is allocated a task while I coordinate replying to emails, answering phones and booking couriers via the web app we use.
By this time, one of the team will be out with our driver, Paul, installing the changeover flowers at the Covent Garden Hotel. I will be loading the other van with flowers for the Charlotte Street and Dorset Square Hotels. It’s important to take time to check everything is on board because there is nothing worse than leaving the shop and having to battle your way back through the London traffic to pick up a missed item!
Stephen and I are normally back in the shop by now and it’s time to make sure all the flowers are ready for the London house belonging to the owners of Firmdale Hotels. They live in Kensington and when they are at home, we have to supply weekly flowers throughout their house. As there are also two of the hotels in that area, a florist goes out with our driver to do a maintenance check on the flowers and plants as their weekly changeover is later in the week.
After a quick sandwich ‘al desko’ – what is a lunch break! – it’s back up to the shop floor to make sure all the orders have gone out and been delivered without any hitches. Then, the team starts on the room flowers; there are nearly 30 hand-tied arrangements to be made up twice a week, Mondays and Thursdays, and they are all colour-matched to the relevant suite in each hotel. Once I know these are started, I head back to the basement where we have an office area and will catch up on more emails. These emails will range from sending out invoices and account statements, dealing with events and finalising any upcoming weddings.
I’ll also take time to update our Instagram account; I curate our IG account personally, however, we have a lovely lady, Jenny, who curates our Twitter and Facebook platforms. Having a Social Media presence is vital in this day and age; I find that people ask for our Instagram handle first rather than our website so I try to post regularly to ensure Jenny can pick up on images/comments etc to update our other platforms.
My favourite time of day as it’s time to hop on to the Florismart platform and start shopping! This will be mainly buying on the live platform for the next delivery day. But if we have weddings or events coming up, I will probably look at making a pre-order for later in the week.
It’s nearing the end of the day so Stephen and I will catch up over a well-earned mug of builder’s tea and take time to look over any upcoming orders, check the emails are up to date and discuss any issues that may have arisen over the day. Then, we leave the team to close up and head to our homes. As I have an office at home, inevitably I will end up doing some invoices, checking emails and probably taking a look at the miscellaneous section on the Florismart platform, just in case I’ve missed something exciting!
I have lost count of how many customers have walked into the shop only to exclaim what a lovely job it must be to be a florist – I’m sure we all have them…!!! It is a great job and I find that working with flowers is addictive; I miss them a lot whenever I’m on holiday. You do need to be reasonably fit – and if you’re not, you soon will be with all the lifting and standing involved! – and enjoy working with customers who are often the most challenging part of the job… Interestingly too, there have been various surveys over the years that confirm floristry offers great job satisfaction which 95% of the time, I would definitely agree with!