Florists are spoilt for choice when they visit New Covent Garden Flower Market. It’s not just the flowers that take them aback but also the array of foliage beauties on show along Foliage Row, that special space that runs between Doors 4 and 5 along the outer wall of the Flower Market. All London’s finest florists are devotees of Foliage Row, because here (as we like to say) greenery really is the new black!
We return to the topic of British foliage every year for British Flowers Week both because there is such choice, and because foliage is often overlooked in the rush for the glamour of big blousy peonies and garden roses. But florists overlook foliage at their peril! British foliage forms the backbone of a design, gives it movement and texture, and truly reflects the seasons.
When there is foliage such as you find on Foliage Row, a florist is rich indeed. Little wonder that so many make a bee-line for Porters Foliage and GB Foliage in the early morning. It’s not just that David Gorton makes a great cup of tea!
British Flowers Week falls bang in the heart of a wonderful period for flowering foliages. Florists have the pick of flowering privet, viburnum opulus, ceanothus, viburnum plicatum, philadelphus, lilac, weigela, rhododendron, flowering hawthorn, cotinus and hebe, and plenty more besides.
Above: Flowering Rhododendrons (with Anna Day & Ellie Jauncey of The Flower Appreciation Society)
And, whilst these may not be blessed in the flower department, branches of beech, photinia, white leaf, willow, eucalyptus birch, euonymus have an incredible season of interest for a florist.
Late April into May and early June can be a tricky time for cut foliage, as trees and shrubs putting on young, soft growth, may have a tendency to droop. Let your wholesaler advise you on the best foliage to use for your job.
The pioneering flower farmer, Rachel Siegfried of Green & Gorgeous, advises planting shrubs for cutting before starting on anything else on your plot. On her farm, she planted hedges for cutting as soon as she took over the land, which had the additional benefit of sheltering more tender crops from the wind.
Herbs such as mint, oregano, sage, lavender and rosemary are always popular for summer weddings and events and turn Foliage Row into a fragrant heaven. And then there are the lofty stems of cow parsley, breezy grasses and stems of trailing jasmine.
Buying British Summer Foliage
GB Foliage and Porters Foliage on the Flower Market’s Foliage Row specialise exclusively in foliage all year round, which makes them a unique resource for florists in the UK. They are the experts in what they do and are a mine of information. Whether you need 4 metre high branches of blossom of spring or 10 metre long garlands of pine in winter, they do it all.
Foliage is a very seasonal product since it is largely grown outdoors, so do have a chat with your supplier a week or so ahead of time to find out what will be available for your event. There is also the British Seasonal Chart, which gives flowering foliage pride of place.
You buy British foliage in tied bunches rather than as an exact stem count and there are generally five bunches to a bundle.
Foliage Care Tips
The best advice for looking after foliage is to firstly ensure that your vase is scrupulously clean of bacteria. Then trim and split the stems and immerse the stems as deep as possible in water and for as long as possible in somewhere cool. Foliage is thirstier than you imagine, so keep the water levels topped up.
Shorter foliage such as rosemary or senecio should be in shallow water or there’s a danger the stems will turn black.
Where to buy at the Flower Market
Foliage Row is outside Doors 4 and 5 at New Covent Garden Flower Market, and open for business all year round (bar the occasional public holiday) on Monday to Saturday from around 3am to 10am.
Your two expert traders are: Porters Foliage and GB Foliage
If you have any comments or questions about flowering foliage, we would love to hear from you. Simply type in the boxes below...
Read a Profile for British Flowers Week of The Flower Appreciation Society here
See the designs The Flower Appreciation Society created using British Foliage here