Britain is not doing enough to promote and use its own flowers, fruit and vegetables, rather than importing, according to RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show stand designer Penny Riley.
Riley, a member of the L Mills family of growers, designed the NFU/Waitrose gold medal-winning exhibit "Celebrating British". She said: "You can buy British all year round. We have orchids from Double H and mini orchids from Hill Bros. You can get UK orchids all year."
Following the RHS promoting a largely overseas sourced Valentine's bouquet and Kew licensing Dutch plants in its first plant licensing deal, Riley said: "I came into the industry because there were so many Dutch and Danish growers shipping over. I could see them flooding Covent Garden market. You can count those with British flowers on one hand. But Winchester Growers and Butters support British growers now."
She added: "Using overseas flowers is about price, not just availability, because it costs more to heat here than Tanzania but the carbon footprint for air freight is greater, but more expensive. I worked in Holland. They would no more buy a British flower than go to the moon."
Riley backs the idea of a marketing organisation for smaller UK growers, as mooted at the recent Cut Flowers seminar at Stoneleigh Park organised by Flowers From the Farm's Gill Hodgson. "The old British cut flower initiative fizzled out but it's something that could be regenerated."
Hodgson had growers, florists, wholesalers, packers, colleges, the NFU, HTA, RHS, Waitrose, Sainsbury's, Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Asda, Aldi and Booths at her seminar as well as Audrey Roy from Defra, who said there will be funding available for floriculture.
Speaker Rachel de Thame said with our gardening culture and tradition it seems ludicrous that there is not a wonderful booming industry.
Lyndon Mason of the Cut Flower Centre said UK growers have been lost but the market has grown. He said supermarkets dominate the market and pricing but air miles and carbon footprint will get more important.
James Cock of Flowers by Clowance and Helen Evans from New Covent Garden market both spoke about how they are attempting to regenerate distribution.
Celebrating British Suppliers used to put together show exhibit
Ornamentals and cut flowers came from Allensmore, Ashley Harrington, Butters, Darren Ford, Farplants, Hill Brothers, LF Geater, L Mills, Matthew Naylor, Real Flower Company, Sue Lamb, Univeg and Van der Broek.
Edibles were from Alresford, Barfoots of Botley, Berry Gardens, BerryWorld, Charles Highwood, Clive Baxter, D Long, Fruition PO, G's Fresh, Jeremy Linsell, Jersey Royal Company, Livesey Bros, Marshall Brothers, Moulton Bulb Company, M&W Mack, NV Produce Marketing, PWS Produce World, Paul Mansfield, R&G Fresh Herbs, Robert Balicki, Robert Pascall, Simon Bray, Suncrop, Tangmere Airfield Nurseries, Valley Grown Salads, VHB and Wight Salads.
Bradstone and Bulrush were also suppliers.