Updated: May 1
As florists ourselves and with 40 years of experience in the industry, we understand that ordering local flowers can be an administrative and timely burden, that effective distribution in Scotland is an issue and that the cost of imported flowers has considerably increased in recent years as well as the demand for locally grown flowers. Not to mention, the highly detrimental impact of imported flowers both on the environment and the individuals who grow and handle them is becoming more widely known.
We conducted a market research questionnaire in 2022 with several Scottish florists who had expressed an interest in buying locally grown flowers. The survey covered aspects such as availability, delivery, cost, quantity, variety, and more. We have compiled the results in this written report.
Quantity and Demand
Florists who predominantly work in weddings told us that the requirements for flowers in terms of regularity and quantity vary from one wedding per month in the winter months to between 4-6 per month in the summer months. Some cap their weddings to 15-40 per ‘season’ with some referring to the season as the spring-summer months from April to September and some referring to a season as a whole year from January to December. Stem counts for wedding flowers varied from 200 to 5000.
Those who focus on the retail side of floristry prefer to have smaller quantities but order more regularly from once a week to every couple of days, placing anything from between £20 to £2500 per week on wholesale flowers.
There was a lot of interest expressed in sourcing everything from one place such as flowers and specialist sundries such as silk ribbons, paper, twines, and ties.
“There are times when I spend an entire day on a laptop ordering my ribbons, flowers and other supplies and having to google a lot of things and not having the time for price comparison or anything like that. I feel like I’m wasting time and also money on multiple delivery charges and sometimes my delivery charges are more than the things I’m actually buying.”
Some florists cited that greater availability of local flowers would mean they could take on potentially bigger projects and having the quantity and variety of flowers to do this would make it more possible. An opposite issue was the minimum order requirement from wholesalers being far greater than what is needed, the waste generated and inability to afford taking on a small job.
“I often only want a few stems of something (as I’m quite small just now) so having minimum stems isn’t always doable.”
The needs are very varied from florist to florist and fluctuate depending on the time of year, scale of the business and the type of work they are undertaking.
Sourcing and Ordering
One of the biggest issues in sourcing local flowers generally is the admin time involved in searching for the right colours and varieties and the ordering process. It was stated that when buying locally grown flowers, every grower has a different communication requirement for ordering; some list varieties in a newsletter and require an email to order and others communicate across platforms like Instagram DMs and text messages; meaning it can feel chaotic and difficult to keep a handle on the communication.
“Ordering from multiple places is hard because some places need long lead times for cutting, others charge extra for delivery, they arrive on different days etc.”
“I forget that I’ve ordered a bunch of things until the invoice comes through and I have ordered too much or not enough of the right things, this is especially when I’m busy and my head is all over the place or I’ve been doing things over text.”
It was also mentioned that if you weren't online when ordering opened, that you would miss out. The timescale of ordering flowers varied greatly, from 8 weeks in advance to a week to a few days. There were many different approaches with some being more relaxed about the type of varieties and colours.
“As long as I know I'll be able to get stuff I don't really mind the lead time."
Others have very particular specifications for colours and varieties that they want to pre order well in advance to fulfil client expectations.
“The only problem is if it's left too late and I can't sort a substitute.”
“For anything that we want (or that customers have specified thanks to dreaded Pinterest pics) that has mass appeal has gone up hugely.”
There were lots of ideas put forward on how ordering could be made simpler and more accessible from an online shop with images, colours, and descriptions, to curated buckets by colour, to a regular cutting list and newsletter. It was also noted that it would be helpful if the season of a particular flower could be listed so that it was clear when to expect a particular variety and for roughly how long.
“I would also order by cutting lists being sent out and then emailing or messaging order.”
“I like to order in advance but I’ve found with the local growers, you can only know that week or whenever, but it would be good if I could see cosmos were going to be available on a particular date and I could pre order or be notified so I can check back in then.”
The opportunity to view an online shop with images and descriptions was popular.
“It would be a dream to be able to access an online shop for local flowers whenever I needed it.”
Other suggestions were made so that florists could plan and survey their entire year of orders from a seasonal sheet outlining all the flowers’ seasons, to being able to log requests and favourites from the previous year, to the option to be able to pre-order popular seasonal varieties such as cosmos and dahlias in advance.
“Really useful to know what’s going to be in bloom over the season. A rough (I appreciate it’s hard to know exactly) what’s going to be available in the months you’ll be producing over the year would be great.”
Building a relationship with a wholesaler who is a knowledgeable market leader, trustworthy and who can bring knowledge and new things to the industry was mentioned as being important. Some expressed a want to be introduced to flower varieties they had never heard of before which makes the job more exciting.
85% of participants wished for a way to be able to extend the season and their use of locally grown flowers with later and earlier flowering varieties and dried flowers.
“I love all those wee things you see in the garden and in parks in February like snowdrops. You can’t get those sorts of things at the market.”
Currently most of those who completed the questionnaire source flowers from Holland through Hoek, Fleurametz, Van Vliet, and James Taylor and most are unaware of the country of origin of these flowers as it is information that isn’t readily available on the label. None of the participants who completed the questionnaire conducted any research on the provenance of the flowers as they had never been asked for this information from their clients or felt they had the time. During the summer months and when local flowers are available, they are sourced from Scottish growers and from the nationwide distributors Clowance, Evolve, and Smith and Munson. The reliance on the international import market and the British-grown distributors reduces between April and October when the local market in Scotland has more availability. Some told us that they also source flowers from their own gardens, family’s gardens and friend’s allotments with one participant saying they also forage but know that this isn’t necessarily legal or best practice and is time consuming.
“Sometimes I cut things from wherever I find them, I know I really shouldn’t be doing this! But I just wish I had access to more weedy and unusual things! I’m a sucker for wild flowers and cow parsley.”
Everyone is keen for the percentage of local flowers in their work to increase cited the reason for this being both in terms of aesthetic and sustainability.
“I'd love to be able to tell people we have 75% Scottish flowers, or whatever that percentage ends up being.”
“It would help us minimise waste by SO much if we weren't buying things in plastic wraps. Any way we can cut down on importing flowers is extremely important.”
25% of the florists who completed the questionnaire, are using 100% Scottish or British-grown flowers in their work from April to October with the remaining 75% achieving between 10% and 40% local flowers content in their work. The average usage of locally grown flowers overall between all the participants is 47% with everyone acknowledging that it is a challenging journey but one that all are keen to progress on in the future.
“I don't actually think it would have a big impact immediately on bookings but I think once people understand why we do it it's a nice part of the consumer journey.”
“I would love to be more sustainable on all fronts but I don’t feel in control of the way things are packaged or feel it is practical at the moment for me just to use Scottish cut flowers or British.”
There is interest in both a collection service and a delivery service with the lack of delivery options being cited as a major barrier to sourcing local flowers.
“What I'd LOVE is for them to be delivered to my front door, on the day of my choosing, hassle free, order online, boom boom, thank you!”
Courier delays, damages, lost consignments, and late deliveries are also a problem as well as how the flowers fare after travelling without water.
“On some occasions we've had certain flowers that are either already too blown or too closed for wedding work.”
“Delivery to Edinburgh would be fantastic. In water would be even better.”
“Damage on arrival is always difficult, but fortunately the places I work with are very understanding and refund when appropriate.”
It is often easier to order imported flowers from overseas than it is from closer to home because of the wider delivery options. Whereas due to the lack of distribution in Scotland, florists either have to collect, drive to a collection point or organise delivery personally over text message after the point of ordering, and often at the time that is most convenient for the grower.
“I feel bad asking for delivery because I know how hard they are already working.”
“Ease of delivery and affordability are my two buzzwords.”
“Main issue has been delivery - reliant on either Royal Mail or not great couriers makes it hard to book flowers for dates I sometimes need and they only do big time slots so hard to plan deliveries.”
There is a lot of work to be done to support the local flower industry to develop a more efficient and sustainable distribution system and to support and encourage more florists to choose locally grown flowers. Lack of delivery options is a considerable consideration to opt for imported flowers because it is easier and more convenient.
It is thought that the costs of cut flowers across both the local and international markets can be varied. It is understood by many that a local flower has a higher value and therefore merits a higher price point per stem.
“I trust what the farmers have priced things at as I know the work that has gone into growing each item.”
“The stuff is so nice I don't mind paying a wee bit more. You can obviously get cheap stuff but it's not pretty.”
“Really depends on the variety but I would pay more for a British grown bloom for its character and the hard work that has gone in to growing it.”
It has been noted that prices have increased in recent years and the instability of prices in the international flower markets is an issue when quoting for weddings a year+ in advance. Florists are covering the costs of these rising prices which is having an impact on profits and the long-term viability of their businesses.
From the questionnaire, florists would pay from £40 to £80 for a curated bucket of local flowers and from 40p to £2.50 for a single stem depending on the variety. 25% said that they wouldn’t be able to afford more than 90p per stem.
Most expressed an interest in foliage and mentioned how hard it was to come by, especially more unusual or delicate varieties beyond the standard eucalyptus or ruscus. Foliage in bulk and priced per bunch was also requested as well as flowering shrubs. These types of stems are of particular interest as they act as both foliage and filler which offers great value per stem compared to more delicate flowers such as sweet peas. Multi-headed flower varieties such as spirea, campanula, sweet william, achillea, and phlox were also stated as being highly sought after to create volume and therefore more scope to improve on profit margins whilst still having a beautiful product.
“I love things like that because they also are good value per stem. You know one sweet pea can only fill so much space but one piece of phlox maybe looks three times as big in a bouquet.”
Creativity and Interest
A number of the participants were not keen on ‘growers choice’ mixed buckets as they felt it didn’t contain enough variety with some of the stems going to waste because they were not suitable for the type of arrangement.
“I only use Scottish cut flowers but sometimes stems are too uninteresting for me, I like quite a modern bold look so sometimes struggle to get my vibe with what’s available locally.”
“I find British flowers a struggle in terms of quantities too. Because of our style we more often than not have only a few different types of things but in volume, repeated across the various arrangements.”
Many of the participants discussed the need for the type of flowers to ‘soften’ arrangements and that more delicate and ‘wispy’ stems are not available from wholesalers. It is understood that imported flowers with their characteristic straight stems cannot produce the soft, organic and dynamic look that local field flowers can.
“Dancing things for fluffy bouquets!”
“So obviously the big hitters are easy like roses etc but all those lovely 'dancing' bits are hard to get hold of unless you go to a small scale supplier.”
Imported flowers also don’t have any scent and this an important part of the experience of flowers for a lot of the florists who completed the survey.
“We love the weird, wonderful, wiggly and unexpected things so interesting forms and shapes are always of interest. Scent is hugely important to us.”
Colours were also cited as a significant challenge as well as not being able to see flowers in the flesh before ordering or having specific client requests for flowers that are not realistic or seasonal. It is also an issue that the more traditional wedding colour palettes are more sought after and sell out quickly.
“75% or more of our weddings are whites/nudes and they always, always sell out from Scottish growers.”
‘Rusts’, ‘coffee’ and ‘caramel’ colour palettes with browns, oranges, creams, and whites was mentioned as a popular colour palette for weddings by a lot of those who took the survey which suggests that it a more rustic, country, pastoral, and pared back aesthetic is going to be popular in 2023. With the traditional white, blush and ‘nude’ palettes being ever enduringly admired for weddings.
“Colour palettes vary hugely from wedding to wedding. We love the browns, blacks, ochres, beiges and blushes but also require colour pops and traditional wedding whites.”
"Most of our weddings are white or blush."
There was also frustration expressed over the lack of availability for the more special flowers such as cosmos, poppies and corncockles where the demand for rare varieties outweighs the supply given that most wholesale growers in Scotland are growing on a small scale. There was an anxiety over ‘getting in there first’ before they are sold out for certain things like cosmos and ranunculus.
“I always miss out on the café au lait dahlias or the cosmos purity, these are my favourites to use, I wish there were more of them and I could buy 100 at one time, rather than 8 from one grower, 15 from another...”
There is also a demand for large branches for installations, vines, and other non-traditional items for large scale work.
The sale of plants was also requested for sustainable funeral work and for those florists who have their own cutting garden and wish to build their own cut flower patch.
Thank you to everyone who took their time to contribute to this survey and for offering an insight into their needs and issues when it comes to sourcing flowers for their businesses.