One of the distinct memories I have of my wedding day is when my florist, Leyla, arrived with my bouquet. She came to the hotel room, where I was getting ready, and placed a sculpture-like creation of huge peach and pink roses, dainty slipper orchids, and pretty red and blue sweet peas on the table. Although she had a brief from me, the bouquet was still a surprise, and I tried to steal greedy glances of it while I was having my make-up done. When it came time to leave for the town hall, it was there to keep my clammy, shaky hands steady.
Fast-forward 10 months to this Easter weekend, and I was excitedly anticipating another delivery from Leyla. However this time it was placed outside my front door as part of the no-contact delivery option she is currently offering from her shop, Bloom of the Block, in London’s Walthamstow.
“It wasn’t a straightforward decision at first,” Leyla told me. “After Mother’s Day I closed and self-isolated for 14 days as I wanted to check I didn't have symptoms in case I was to start doing online orders. I didn’t want to be careless.
“[During that time] I received a lot of emails from people wanting to send flowers for all the missed occasions, delayed weddings, birthdays, hen dos, anniversaries, to mums who work for the NHS… and amazing customers who just want to keep supporting local businesses.”
And we should support local businesses like these. Many, if not all, in the creative and hospitality industries are facing difficult times. For florists, this is an unusually quiet period: weddings are postponed and companies that usually make regular flower orders are shuttered until further notice. Buying a bouquet seems a small price to pay for something that can bring a moment of joy in a time of unprecedented uncertainty.
I acknowledge it is, of course, a privilege to be ordering flowers. Those who have lost their jobs or are facing uncertain times ahead will not consider florist deliveries a priority. But those of us who can afford it should think about sending them. The universal language of a flower can say myriad things – congratulations, I’m thinking of you, don’t worry, I know how you feel – during a time when it can seem like the words we are saying, texting and emailing on loop are starting to feel a little empty.
To obey social distancing rules, Leyla now works on her own, so she is limited in the amount she can make – usually enough bouquets for a full day of delivery every Friday. The choice is simply ‘neutral’ or ‘bright’, depending on what’s available from her supplier, still operating in Holland, so what you get is a surprise.
Over the Easter weekend, due to popular demand, she added on an extra day of delivery. "I had received so many nice messages from people to say how it had helped them or a friend. [I want to] keep sending a little more cheer. It's keeping me sane too!” She is also, admirably, donating 50 per cent of all weekly delivery fees to NHS Charities Together. “A key thing was to make it all feel a little more worthwhile”, she told me. She has, this week, added another option of 10- or 20-stem bunches (this time, pink parrot tulips or golden beauties), in recognition of the fact that people are not only sending flowers to others, but buying for themselves – people like me.
Bloom of the Block is not the only florist that is offering a reduced output at the moment. Sage Flowers in Peckham delivers in London on a Friday, That Flower Shop in the Ace Hotel, is delivering nationwide two days a week, while Petalon is still continuing with next-day nationwide deliveries every day. Many of them announce what’s on offer via Instagram (a great source of aesthetic inspiration in these times). Some, such as Sage Flowers, are even running live video tutorials on flower arranging through the app.
If you don’t want to commit to delivery, the flower stands of both my local Lidl and Tesco Express seem to always have some simple bunches – I like to buy one every time I do a food shop. I split them up and place them in old jars and bottles in every room with some foliage from my tiny patch of garden – my very own way of flower-arranging.
As I type this, I can see in eyeshot above my laptop the geometrical, twisty tendrils of a Nigella flower, and a big white rose cast in sunlight, its petals more folded back than yesterday. I am patiently waiting for a single, closed poppy bulb to open – I have no idea what colour it is. Alongside brightening up the tiny flat to which I am confined until further notice, this vase is a daily reminder that time marches on and nature, despite everything else, continues to bloom.
Have you noticed your own nearby small businesses doing innovative, creative and kind things to adapt? Share your stories below or email [email protected] with pictures.
Read more: Brave New World