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.

Winners….

Many thanks for reading my book and product reviews. Here are the names of recent winners:

An Orchard Odyssey by Naomi Slade : won by 30 Days of Wild Parenting, Joshua Johnson.

Clip garden gloves: won by Wilma Wilson

Dancing with Bees by Brigit Strawbridge Howard won by Debi Holland.

Incognito insect sprays and sun cream collection won by Suella.

The Good Bee Book, won by Florasforum.

Links: Orchard Odyssey review: https://bramblegarden.com/2019/09/27/an-orchard-odyssey-book-review-and-prize-draw/

Clip Gloves: https://bramblegarden.com/2019/09/15/clip-glove-on-trial/

Dancing with Bees https://bramblegarden.com/2019/08/04/dancing-with-bees-a-journey-back-to-nature/

Incognito https://bramblegarden.com/?s=Incognito+

Good Bee Book https://bramblegarden.com/?s=Good+bee+book

Thanks again for reading and taking part. New Books to Follow: Wilding by Stephen Rutt. We Made a Meadow, Yvette Verner. The Light in the Dark by Horatio Clare. There’s also new watering hosepipes from Hozelock and a biomix plant feed maker. Are there any new products/ books you would recommend?

Clip Glove – on trial

Ever since my brush with blood poisoning earlier this summer, I’ve been extremely careful. I wear gloves for every gardening activity. I’m not taking any chances. I guard against thorns, insect bites and splinters.

Treadstone Products saw my post warning gardeners to take care:

Here’s the original blog post: https://bramblegarden.com/2019/07/05/infection-a-warning-to-gardeners/

It’s a warning that’s been read 150,000 times. Clearly a subject that resonates with many people, not just gardeners.

I’ve been trying out a range of different gloves. The latest is the Clip Glove, a new product from Treadstone. As usual, I’ve asked for a pair to give away in a prize draw. Please leave a comment at the end of the post to be included in the draw. Sorry, uk addresses only, due to postage.

What I like about the gloves:

  • Skin-friendly fabric. Cool and comfortable
  • Synthetic leather fabric. Hard wearing
  • Flexible enough to handle delicate cuttings and tiny weeds
  • Strong and durable materials
  • Special feature: clip attachment. Gloves can be clipped to belt, bag or for hanging up in the potting shed, or on the line to dry after washing
  • Loops to help you pull the gloves on and off
  • Recent winners of the garden centre industry GIMA awards
  • A choice of sizes for hands

I used them to weed the cut flower patch and plant out some sweet williams and wallflowers. On a hot day, 21C, my hands didn’t feel uncomfortable. In fact, I forgot I was wearing them.

The little tabs are really welcome. There’s nothing worse than struggling to get gloves on and off. Elasticated cuffs stopped compost going inside the gloves.

Flexible enough to easily grip garden tools. Stiffer fabric gloves make my hands ache after a while. These were worn all day with no problems.

I harvested my spring -planted garlic. Small but incredibly tasty. I’m just about to plant some for overwintering. I buy them from the Garlic Farm, Isle of Wight.

Sorted through my saved bulbs, removed old stems and placed them in paper bags ready for re-plating in November. These will be planted in the orchard, and fresh bulbs will go in winter containers,

Mixed some compost, added grit for drainage and filled terracotta pans ready for sowing winter micro-greens, herbs, salads, rocket, lambs lettuce, beetroot and watercress.

Weeded, tied in and mulched my favourite rose; Rosa Mutabilis ( https://www.classicroses.co.uk/mutabilis-shrub-rose.html ) This variety flowers on and off from spring to Christmas in various shades of peach and cream, opening cerise pink. Adorable and disease resistant. Good for pollinators, being a single flower. Just look at that golden pollen!

A good day’s work in the garden.

Links: Clip Glove https://www.treadstoneproducts.com/treadstone-garden/clip-glove/

Garlic Farm: https://www.thegarlicfarm.co.uk/

Tulips : https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/bulbs/tulips

Compost https://www.dalefootcomposts.co.uk/products/wool-compost-for-seeds.p.aspx

Seeds: https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Vegetable-Seeds/Salad-Leaves/#.XX6wPozTWfA.

Note: Names will be put in a hat and randomly selected by Treadstone. There’s no cash alternative. One pair of gloves will be sent to the winner. No purchase is necessary. Usual rules apply.