The Flower Market Year – Book Review and Prize Draw

12 MONTHS AT NEW COVENT GARDEN FLOWER MARKET

By SIMON LYCETT

Published by Simon J Lycett Ltd

Hardback 192 pages, £21 approx

ISBN 978-1-9160912-0-7

Book photography by Michelle Garrett

Blog photos: bramblegarden

Florist Simon Lycett thinks nothing of working with 20,000 stems of roses for a wedding. I am trying to picture the scene, and finding it hard to imagine 20,000 flowers. Then Simon tells me this isn’t a one off. It’s something he gets to do on a very regular basis. I’m lucky enough to have a window on his extraordinary life, for just one day. I am visiting the New Covent Garden Flower Market, and Simon is my guide.

It’s still dark outside as I set off at 6am to meet Simon at the Flower Market in Nine Elms, London. We are standing amongst more flowers than I’ve ever seen, and we are inspecting the roses. Simon who has written a book about the market, explains that his customers have “magical weddings, the world over.” He loves the buzz of creating “magical settings in a world where everything is possible and the words ‘can’t do’ are never uttered.” It’s a revealing conversation, as he explains his customers expect total perfection. “They must have the best of everything. They’ll notice a little mark on the petal, and that’s no good. Utter perfection is what counts. The client is king.”

Simon, who regularly appears on television and radio, explains that everything starts with the selection of flowers at the market. And it’s clear that his relationship with the flower sellers is key. They seem almost like family, and it’s not surprising as Simon has been buying from the same people for 30 years.

We are introduced to Dennis Edwards who has been getting up at 2am to sell flowers for 54 years. His family are porters and sellers of fruit and vegetables. He’s the only one in his family to go into the flower market business. He describes it as a passion, rather than job. A life’s work to supply the creme de la creme.

In his book, The Flower Market Year, Simon says Dennis always has a few “specials” – buckets and trays of unusual items which he sets aside and keeps for Simon. “Dennis was the first person to ever serve me when, as a timid 20 year old, I ventured into the Flower Market for the first time. Dennis was then, and still is now, a Flower Market institution, always going above and beyond to find the very finest flowers and foliage, and ever in search of the unusual and the innovative, wanting to offer the largest, the biggest and the best blooms in the building.

“Born in Drury Lane, Dennis has worked in all three of the Flower Markets, firstly in the original Covent Garden Market, then, when it moved in 1974 to Vauxhall, in the New Covent Garden Flower Market, and now in the current (interim) market site a little further along Nine Elms Lane. In 2022, when all development is complete and he moves into the ‘New’ Covent Garden Market, he will be a record breaker!”

It’s fascinating to watch them talking. It’s as if each one knows already what the other is thinking. It’s clear Dennis instinctively knows which flowers Simon will need for his projects, and as I look around, perfection is key. I can’t fault anything. I’ve never seen flowers of such superb quality. It’s a scene that stays in the memory like a photograph because it’s so out of the ordinary.

Simon set out to record the workings of the flower market to “capture a real sense of the place,” with its salesmen and women, customers, porters, buyers and suppliers.

His book captures month by month what he’s seen and bought, and what’s inspired him to create floral decorations for his clients, for weddings, parties and corporate events. Simon doesn’t mention it, but on his website there are ‘thank you’ letters relating to HRH Princess Eugenie’s wedding (state entrance, grand staircase and reception room “absolutely stunning”) and also the marriage of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall (reception flowers, “magnificent”). Simon simply says “From humble beginnings we have grown into one of the most sought-after and well known names in the industry.”

Although Simon wrote the book to highlight the flower market year, his own fascinating life story is woven into the pages. Talking about buckets of blackberries, for example, he writes: ” When I worked at Pulbrook and Gould, stems of blackberries sold for the same price as spray roses and I will never forget the posies and arrangements created by the workroom there, featuring jewel-like bright berries glistening amongst stems of Oceana and Doris Ryker roses.

“Having left Pulbrook and Gould to become a freelance florist, I started to travel about the country, as much of my work was outside the city. For several summers when visiting my family in Warwickshire, or staying as I often did with friends in Northamptonshire, I used to fill the boot with anything I could gather from friends and family and sell it to one or more of the foliage suppliers in New Covent Garden Flower Market. The stems of blackberries that I cut and bunched used to pay for my petrol each week, and the car tax was funded by the branches of rosehips, damsons and wild apples that I crammed into the car before heading up the A40. ”

Selecting flowers from the market, Simon provides 30 ideas for flower arrangements, with step-by-step photographs and instructions. My favourites are the rose heart, the sweet peas in tins, and the artichoke bowl.

Having seen photos of his wedding and party flowers, it’s interesting to see the preferred choice for his own flowers- for his Scottish Highlands holiday home- is simple bottles filled with tiny sprigs of flowers and a few pebbles from the beach. Truly, he can make anything look special.

I’ve had a wonderful time with Simon, seeing the flower market in all its glory. What I’ve learned is that Simon relishes the magical weddings and corporate events with the ‘wow factor’ flowers. But he also sees the beauty in the simple things -a bunch of narcissi- the first of the season from the Scilly Isles. The scent of the flowers will always remind me of a lovely day spent at the market with a truly inspirational florist.

There’s one copy of the book to give away in a prize draw. Please leave a comment below to be included in the draw. Names will be randomly pulled out of a hat. International entries are welcome, as well as the UK. The publisher’s decision is final. There’s no cash alternative. Usual rules apply.

Links : https://www.amazon.co.uk/Flower-Market-Year-2019-Months/dp/1916091202

https://www.simonlycett.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Florist/Simon-Lycett-Ltd-1503980453205762/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Local-Business/bramblegarden/posts/

Garden Media Guild events https://www.gardenmediaguild.co.uk/

@kgimson on twitter.

Karengimson1 on instagram.

Thank you to my amazingly loyal and growing band of readers. I appreciate your taking the time to read my blog, and for leaving comments.

31 thoughts on “The Flower Market Year – Book Review and Prize Draw

  1. Karen my CONGRATULATIONS to the winner of the book! Enjoy it! Karen your photos of the book are magnificent, I love how I love the book. It is fascinating and magical, like being inside the flower market but without its aroma. Having visited a flower market with an expert like Simon must have been a fabulous experience and a delight for smell and eyes: I love it. It must be like another world. Karen always shows us wonderful books: thank you very much, I had a very bad day and today I am bad and with the photos of the book and your words you have made me smile and rejoice. Thank you. A lot of love, a lot of health and a lot of strength for your whole family and for you. Take care of yourself and shelter that the cold has arrived here also in Madrid and the rain. Do not wet yourself. Keep warm. Loving caresses to Grace and Meg. Affectionate greetings from Margarita xxx

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    • So sorry to hear you are having a bad time. I’m am so glad the blog made you smile. Sometimes you have to search for distractions. It is not at all easy. It’s turned cold here. 10C. I need to it be 12C for me to be warm enough. However, thanks to your entreaties, I have got my warm clothing set out ready, and as soon as it turned chilly, I put my warm fleece-lined trousers on, and my warmest jumper, and thick socks. It takes some getting used to. I loved the freedom of t shirts in summer. I feel all bundled up with clothing. But, I’m managing to keep warm. The sepsis damaged my circulation. So I always suffer with cold feet and hands. This winter, I have little hand warmers you heat up in the microwave. You out them in your pockets and they are toasty warm. The swallows have gone. They stayed so late, but they arrived late in the spring too. I will really miss them twittering as they fly over the eaves of the house and potting shed. It’s a constant sound in summer. As if in compensation, we have geese flying over the garden every evening. Wonderful to see them flying in a V formation. A reminder that we must help one another on this journey of life- just as the geese help one another by taking it in turns to lead the way. Keep warm and dry. Affectionate greetings and love from Karen, Mr Bramble Garden, Meg and Grace. ( and we may have some hens soon to add to our menagerie!!). Xxx

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      • Karen thank you very much for your wonderful response. I am very worried that the sepsis you had this summer has damaged your circulation. I started four years ago with my foot and left ankle that swelled a little and this summer it swelled so much that on the day of the funeral of my dear Father I had to go in slippers to be at home because I did not enter anything, I put my foot and ankle twice as much as mine: thankfully the pants were long and wide and the slippers were very dark and flip flops and barely visible, they looked like hip sandals. A week ago the Doctor ordered me to wear high compression stockings on my left leg and although they squeeze a lot, they relax my foot and leg. He told me that if I got used to them, he would send me another one for the right leg. The average is cold, I always have the leg and the foot frozen while the other leg is hot. Today we are at 12ºC in Madrid and it has been raining for most of the day. Welcome the rain !!!! At night it is about 8 to 10ºC. Temperatures normalized last Friday and since then we have been raining for a few days. I am also warm even though I have not left home since Friday that I took groceries to my Mother. It has given me a downturn. But reading you, my dear friend, has encouraged me a lot. You’ll have chickens, with what I like. I’ve always wanted to have chickens because they seem super nice to me. In the country house a rooster of a neighbor is heard singing from 12:00 onwards, before he does not sing, but at six in the afternoon yes, it is super funny to hear him. Karen to expand the family: you will have to put on more warm clothes to attend to the hens in Winter. For now, put on your favorite sweater and gloves on your hands and coat layers of warm clothes to avoid being cold. Thank you very much for your words of encouragement. Love, Health and strength for your whole family and for you and for Mr. Bramble Garden. Take care of yourself and keep warm. Love for Grace and Meg. Affectionate greetings from Margarita xxx

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you Margarita, I’m clearing the stinging nettles to make way for a hen run. This time it will have to be Fort Knox to evade the fox. It’s so exciting looking at all the varieties of hens that’s possible. However, now I have seen the rescue hens from battery farms, I feel I must have those first to given them a life. They deserve some joy after being caged all their lives. And I will enjoy watching them thrive. I’m sorry to hear about your poor foot and ankle. I do hope the compression stockings ease the symptoms. They are a very good idea. Enjoy your weekend, and look forward to better days. Affectionate greetings and love from us all xxx

        Liked by 1 person

      • Karen you have a heart of gold. The poor rescue hens of the battery farms would thank you very much if you gave them a new life by your side, being free and full of your attention and love: they would be very happy. They deserve it after all they have suffered. Love and Health for All. I wish you the best. Very affectionate greetings from Margarita xxx

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely article, Karen. Even without the images, you paint great pictures – and I can even smell the roses! Feel like getting on the next train but I guess 6am (or earlier) is the best time to visit….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Mary. It was such a fabulous treat. I’ve always wanted to visit and jumped at the chance. Can highly recommend the book – for just cheering up winter as much as anything else. Such an interesting person. He proves that anyone with drive and enthusiasm can make it to the top, even starting with, as he said himself “humble beginnings.” I especially warmed to him because he didn’t mention any of his famous clients. I had to research a bit to find out what he’d done and who he’d worked for. Royalty is mentioned quite a bit in press cuttings. Yes, 6am is a must. It’s virtually all over by 9am. Don’t worry, I’m posting a slide show of photos as I took so many on the day. Couldn’t get them all in to one post and didn’t want to confuse people with my photos of the market and from the book at the same time. Thanks for reading 🙂

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  3. Such eye candy! There is nothing better than row after row of well grown cut flowers. What a treat for you to have the personal tour of such a fine market. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think I’m perhaps a tad envious on two counts – first, your visit to New Covent Garden Flower Market (which I’d love to see one day) and second, getting your hands on that truly sumptuous looking book by Simon Lycett!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Catherine. I’ve wanted to visit the flower market since I was a little girl. Never thought I’d get the chance. To have Simon guide us around was truly scrumptious. His book is divine. Good luck in the draw. Check back tomorrow night to see if you have won. Thanks for reading.

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    • Thank you Jan. It’s a glorious book. Really lifts the spirits at this time of the year. I’m working my way through the projects as well. Lovely to see expert tips – and using moss instead of flower foam too.

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  5. I love reading about Simon’s experiences with his floristry. The provisionof material for the great and the good is impressive. A friend of mine sells flowers from the farm and I’d love to share this book with her and other florists should I get a chance to win it. It is surprising how many people I know who provide floristry in so many forms. Love to learn more.

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    • Thank you Sue. You would have loved to see all the British flowers at the market. They were top class. There were hundreds of buckets of dahlias, packets of pinks, zinnias, herbs, hydrangeas. I wanted to buy them all! Good luck in the prize draw, and thanks for reading.

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