Watching nature take its course, from the top of a hill in northern England


Roses Red

Roses are available in other shades, but not that you’d notice on valentines day.

I was in on the start of it, St Valentines day becoming big business in the flower industry in the UK.


As an ever so keen trainee florist in the late 1970’s St Valentines meant no more than half a dozen extra orders and me pleading to be allowed to stick up some paper hearts in the shop, then it grew and it grew, it grew exponentially, year on year; we would try and get more adept at coping with demand, but we were ‘fire fighting’ rather than managing the job, trying not run out of stock, trying hard not have many red roses left on the 15th, trying to balance staff costs, van hire and wastage. In the early days, the supply chain and the varieties grown were not what they are now, it was Russian roulette as to wether or not you could secure a good quality supply of red roses, your profit could easily be written off in replacement roses for your customers if it all went wrong.

It will I suspect be hard for any one who has not been involved in the industry not to see February the 14th as easy money, but it’s not, backing the horses would be a better bet. It wasn’t all stress city, we had some laughs at the antics of our customers, and the complexity of their love lives, so here are tips and tales for the big day.

  • Dear staff member, I know you are in a rush to take down the customers orders but please do not abbreviate ‘valentines day’  in the ‘delivery date’ box on the order form ‘VD’, it just doesn’t read right on the customers receipt
  • Parents, if you have three teenage daughters that you christened Sally, Susan and Samantha, don’t blame us if WW3 erupts when we deliver a dozen red roses addressed to Miss S Smith, we don’t know or care which one of the three Miss S Smiths it was intended for, you sort it out.
  • Dear Miss Average we have hundreds of orders, we can’t  remember if the guy that ordered your flowers looked like Robbie Williams, use you imagination, if it’s anonymous you can imagine it is from who ever you like.
  • Women will order and send flowers to themselves, to wind up their partners.
  • Guys will come in the shop with their wives, the wife will select her valentines flowers, the husband will then helpfully suggest she ‘Nips across to Marks and Spencer to do the rest of the shopping’, he then pays for her flowers and order a two dozen red roses for his mistress.
  • A bus drivers will park their bus (with passengers) outside the shop whilst he collects an enormous  red heart  of flowers and the biggest teddy bear in the shop for his boyfriend and wrestles them back on to the bus.
  • Policemen will hide single red roses in their truncheon pocket (don’t suppose it looks so cool on the utility belt that they have now, not good for street cred.)
  • Octogenarians will wedge bouquets of roses in their bike baskets and peddle off up the road
  • It is a crisis if the van door falls off, two inches of snow fall over night or some one kicks the shop door in at 3am on the 14th of February to steal a shelf full of teddy bears.
  • To the Dad who ordered a bouquet of flowers for his 13 year old daughter, because he knew her 17 year old sister will be getting cards and gifts and he doesn’t want the younger one feeling left out,we think you are a top dad, you made our day and restored our faith in human nature.

Since the ‘big boys’ got into selling flowers and the Internet has taken more sales away from the high street,  the game has got even more risky, its helped to Stabilise  prices, but now instead of fire fighting too much work, the majority of independent florists will be looking to hang on to their share of the market, this year the will have to watch out for bad press in as ‘green’ sector of the market becomes more interested how the flowers were grown. Nothing ever stands still in business, forwards or backwards never still.