Interflora has been forced to drop claims that flowers in its £195 RHS-endorsed Valentine's Day 'Ultimate Love Bouquet' are British grown - after a backlash from British growers.
The florist tagged five of the 10 varieties - red chrysanthemums, red tulips, white hyancinth, ivy and myrtle - with British-grown Union Jack logos in its marketing after initially claiming 60 per cent of the bouquet was British-grown.
A Twitter spat erupted with several British growers suggesting many of the flowers were much more likely to have been imported.
Interflora had to ditch the claims when questioned because they "could not guarantee the source" of their flowers.
Grower Gill Hodgson of The Flower Farm in York said: "Interflora has really shot themselves in the foot by claiming their flowers are British-grown. And the RHS are the main British gardening organisation and they should be promoting British growers and not endorsing a product that appears to be predominantly imported. To see the RHS championing scentless flowers mass-produced in Holland is soul-destroying.
"There's a dearth of young growers and the RHS itself has a dedicated schools' division to encourage new entrants and yet on Valentine's Day - one of the peaks in the growers' year - they promote imported produce."
Interflora admits the red and pink roses, lilac, agapanthus and amaranth in the bouquet are imported.
Hodgson worked out the bouquet had covered an estimated 188,447 miles to reach the UK.
Covent Garden Flower Market British-grown specialist Pratley Flowers said: "It's the wrong time of year for red chrysanthes. There's none grown in the UK at the moment - you can only get Dutch." He added that myrtle and white hyacinths were only available from overseas too. Fellow flower dealers RG French and Sons and S Robert Allen agreed, as did six UK-wide florists contacted by Horticulture Week.
An Interflora representative said: "We've taken the British-grown icons off our website but the product is still for sale. The Union Jack flags were causing so much controversy and we can't guarantee the flowers will be British-grown."
The RHS said: "The RHS is obviously extremely committed to supporting British horticulture and works with many organisations within the horticultural industry."
The Cut Flower Patch author Louise Curley said: "It's disappointing the RHS didn't take the opportunity to promote British flowers. We need to be looking at sourcing our flowers in a different way, just as we've done with food, sourcing locally-grown flowers and growing our own. Apart from the environmental cost, imported blooms mean we have lost touch with the seasons. I would much prefer a posy of primroses or scented narcissi for Valentine's Day than the ubiquitous red rose."
On Twitter, tweeters posted their anger about the £195 bunch. Wendy Shillam said: "I'd rather have a bunch of dandelions and a kiss." Caroline Turner said: "I'd rather have an egg cup full of snowdrops any day." Wendy Eagle said: "One snowdrop would mean so much more to me."