The Flower Shop to have a Baby in

If you are going to go into labour in a flower shop (there are worse places - my friend went into labour at the fish counter in Sainsburys) then this is the shop to be in.
Before opening their shop in Leicester, Michelle was a midwife and Natasha an anaesthetist. They met when they attended the same floristry workshop - and of course, soon discovered that they had lots in common.
Since then they have thrown themselves into the world of flowers, but admit that their background does help them to keep calm in a crisis.
As Michelle says, "You know it is not really the end of the world if there is a slight problem getting a particular flower." I imagine their soothing approach helps keep their brides (and brides' mothers!) calm too.
I am here to take some final shots for my new book (nearly finished). The sun is shining, the coffee is on - and as they know me well from my books - the cake is ready and waiting.
I love my life.
Stuart is a fairly new recruit to the shop and the girls are clearly keen to look after him, and insist he has the biggest piece of cake ...well it is more like a door stop.
Stuart and I are not the only ones who like cake, the girls tell me they have their eyes on a vacant shop up the road and are tempted to open up a coffee and cake shop which they could also fill with flowers. Now there's a good place to have a baby.
I do love it so when I spot one of my books amongst the flowers. I still can't get over the sensation of seeing my books being sold in shops - and am prone to go up and stroke them!
As I am photographing and chatting, customers come and go; buying flowers for friends, plants for a new home, and bunches of spring flowers as a personal treat. Some stop for a longer chat and there is offer of tea and a convenient chair to rest in whilst problems are unravelled.
I am very much looking forward to coming back to hear news of that coffee shop.

From Columbia Road to Chiltern Street

Sometimes fate decides to take a hand and you are very glad it did. On Sunday, I went to London to see the Grace Kelly exhibition at the V&A and was umming and aahing over whether there was time to visit the Columbia Road flower market as well. I am so glad I decided to go as it turns out the V&A exhibition was fully booked anyway - and I would have missed out on a cherry blossom tree decorated with apples and some great jokes shouted out by the flower sellers.
Not to mention the rows and rows of flowers.
The market fills the sweeping curve of Columbia Road every Sunday from 8am - 2pm and is just a riotous mass of colour. You do have to dodge the crowds; people carrying bundles of flowers, and now and again, someone staggering along with the odd tree or two.
If the crowds in the centre of the road get too much, you can escape into the quirky and interesting shops that line Columbia Road.
The market is famous for being great value and the stall holders often sell the flowers in the wraps as they appear in Covent Garden, so, for example, tulips are sold in paper wraps of fifty.
There are some great buskers, and convenient pubs and cafes where you can sit and enjoy the music as you watch the world go by.
Fate also took a hand when I was up in London earlier in the week. I had planned to visit some city flower shops, but time marched on, and I only had a few moments to call into one shop. I chose By Appointment Only Design in Marylebone.
It is such a gloriously grown up shop. A shop you feel you should be wearing kitten heels in. As soon as we started chatting I discovered that not only do they know my books (very gratifying) but they also know Miss Pickering as well. Fate!
Miss Pickering has a gorgeous floral emporium in Stamford and features as the March florist in Flower Shops & Friends.
It seems that Miss Pickering was present at the launch of their shop in Chiltern Street. From here, Javier Salvador and his staff provide a full wedding and party service, so the shop is not only filled with wonderful blooms (the coral peonies were simply stunning) but they can provide exquisite cakes, favours and all the other accessories as well.
They apologise that the shop is not looking at its best. But it is clear they perceive imperfections I can't spot. All I can see it a very stylish and elegant shop filled with sumptuous colour. I must remember to come back when they think it looks good!
Down stairs is a quiet area for consultations. It is so warm and welcoming and Chiltern Street is such a good location near to the Marylebone Road, I find myself wondering if they would notice if I moved in for a while!
I am so glad I called by. It is too short a visit, but I think Fate got it right.

Gaynor's Garden

As I walk to the entrance of Cardiff's RHS Garden Show I pass students stretched out on the grass in the spring sunshine and school children playing tag beneath the blossoming branches of magnolia trees. With the wall of Cardiff castle in the background I am momentarily reminded of Oscar Wilde's wonderful fairy story, The Selfish Giant.
I have been invited to the show by garden designer, Gaynor Witchard, who has created a courtyard garden inspired by my Flower Shop books. The garden is based on a fictitious retired florist's garden and includes an amazing mixture of planters - from crates to urns, and even an old bicycle.
Her petal shaped boarders are a mass of lavender, pinks and creams, each section contained by a woven willow edge. The garden is known as 'Irene's Garden' - but when I ask if this is a florist she knows, Gaynor just smiles and offers to introduce me to 'Irene' - her mum.
It is clear to see that mum (who is a keen flower arranger) is very proud of her daughter; her talent and her hard work.
And she has every reason to be proud of her as Gaynor not only wins a silver-gilt medal, but is awarded, Best in Show.
I quickly fall in love with Gaynor's garden, from the tea-cup bird feeders to the tins planted with asters sitting underneath lollipop bays.
Gaynor has only fairly recently turned to garden design, having worked for the BBC in admin for 27 years (I have a feeling her last job working in the pension department finished her off!) It is a real testament to what can be achieved when you take a chance and approach a new direction in your life with passion and creativity.
As I watch Gaynor chatting to visitors it is clear that she is in her element.
Before I leave the show I just have to photograph another of my favourite exhibits; the wheelbarrow gardens.
Local schools were asked to create gardens in similar sized wheelbarrows, using any theme they fancied. Visitors then vote for their favourite.
Here are some of my favourites - there is a mosaic encrusted wheelbarrow and a Jack and the Beanstalk garden.
And even a Treasure Island garden.
The Cardiff RHS Garden Show is open until Sunday.

Help with my New Book

I would really appreciate a bit of help from flower loving bloggers, so please spread the word!

I am working on the final pages of my new book and need just a few more messages. The book, which is due out at the end of August, is packed with masses of flowery photographs and the messages that people send with flowers. From the wonderfully romantic, to the friendly and funny, and at times, very sad - it really shows that you can say it all with flowers!

If you have ever sent or received a great message I would love to hear about it.

The book will be hardback, 128 pages, priced £9.99

And I absolutely love it!

(not very modest I know)

Happy Easter from The Poundbury Florist

The Poundbury Florist, Jess, used to work as the customer service manager for a big holiday company. She was the person that everyone complained to. After one particularly hard day she decided she had had enough and handed her notice in - when asked what she was going to do instead, she plucked an idea from the air and said 'I want to have a flower shop!' Jess has now been running her very gorgeous Poundbury Florist for four years.
I call to see Jess, as she is helping me with my new book (more of that in my next blog - as I shall be asking for some help from other flower lovers). It is a grim day with gusts of icy wind and rain, so I am very happy to close the door on the outside world and settle down with a cup of tea, my camera and lots of chat amongst the flowers.
Poundbury was built by Prince Charles as a model town with a varied mix of old style housing. It is a very attractive place, but I can't quite decide whether I like it or not - I shall definitely have to come back when the sun is shining. The Poundbury Florist sits in a colonnade of shops, including a wonderful cake shop and bridal store. Jess tell me that she and her boyfriend (who has also changed career, from chef to fisherman) used to live in an apartment above the local pub, but have recently moved to nearby Dorchester. It was just too easy to pop into the pub after work! Although, I wonder, how could that ever be a problem?!
I watch as Jess wraps a black zinc container with ribbon, rather like a present, and then fills the top with flowers. What a great, and simple idea - and perfect for Easter. Jess was clearly wasted on that holiday company!


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