A DORSET flower grower has seen her business blooming since the coronavirus outbreak took hold, as the pandemic has closed retail shops and halted Dutch flower imports.

The closure of ‘non-essential’ florist shops in mid-March coincided exactly with the start of the season for Lizzie Fairrie at Puggs Meadow Flowers in Kington Magna, near Shaftesbury.

She grows and cuts ‘blowsy’ traditional flowers such as cornflowers, sweet peas, roses, peonies, tulips and dahlias.

And when Flower Vision - importers and wholesalers in Bristol and Southampton - shut down in March, florists in the south-west suddenly needed British cut flowers for home delivery bouquets.

Lizzie said: “It was a sharp intake of breath for us because most of our business had been selling at market in Winchester and Frome, plus weddings. And all that stopped.

"We wondered what to do – and found we have been incredibly busy since. As much as we find new business, business finds us.

“Florists were looking around and started contacting us. People also found us via Flowers from the Farm, a collective of 700 British flower growers across the UK. And via Google – we had 48 per cent more people viewing our business on Google last month than in March last year.”

Within two weeks, Lizzie had also begun using next-day Royal Mail delivery service as demand soared.

She added: “The business has completely switched tack this year. We had contact from florists in Shaftesbury, Sturminster Newton, Warminster, East Stour and Upavon because they couldn’t keep up with demand. And there is demand; a great demand.

“People are longing to send flowers to family, to stay in touch either for birthdays, for sadnesses or happinesses.

"It all happened just as we were starting our season. We had tulips, now it is roses and peonies. And we posted 1,000 sweet peas in April.

“People have been really grateful: flowers mean much more this year than they have ever meant. A profound expression.”

That added meaning has extended to funerals, with Lizzie catering for several ceremonies locally.

“It is a really giving thing: people are so pleased, particularly for funerals. The funerals are small by law, with few loved ones, so flowers have more meaning,” she said.

The last two months have seen the profile of British cut flower growers raised considerably, on the back of increased interest in recent years in home-grown, fresh cut flowers.

The British cut flower industry is worth £121m – up from £82m in 2015 – following years of decline owing to imported stems.

In 2018, homegrown flowers accounted for 14 per cent of the £865m worth of all stems sold in the UK, compared with 12 per cent three years ago, according to a report by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

The Dutch slowly began importing flowers again on May 11. But although garden centres have been allowed to re-open, florist shops are still closed.

The opportunity to put British flowers front of house has been a great opportunity, Lizzie said.

  • This story is part of the Journal's new publication, the Vale Journal, which covers Shaftesbury, Gillingham, and the wider Blackmore Vale. Got a story for us? Email editor@valejournal.co.uk or find us on Facebook.