Willow supplier from the Welsh College of Horticulture secures new contracts

A retired social worker who harvests willow at the Welsh College of Horticulture is aiming to compete with Dutch importers by expanding her supply to florists in the North West after securing local contracts in north-east Wales.

Sylvia Briercliffe has successfully secured two supply contracts, including the flower shop at the Northop Garden Centre.

She plans to grow a bigger crop for next year so that she can market the locally grown Welsh willow to floral shops and designers across the North West.

Sylvia Briercliffe has been growing willow at the Welsh College of Horticulture in Northop since 2002 along with Margaret Norwood, John Scrivener, Sally Ward, and Catherine Lynch.  

They are part of the volunteer group of past Welsh College of Horticulture students, named the Friends of Celyn, which designed the Willow Park in the college grounds.

During her HNC studies at the college Briercliffe looked into the value of willow in the floristry industry.  She approached the head florist at Northop Garden Centre, who informed her that willow used in many floral designs often came from Dutch importers.  

She took samples of her willow to the floristry shop, which agreed to test the samples out within some of its work. The shop later ordered stock to cover the Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and Easter periods, and inspired another shop to ask for supplies of the Welsh willow.

Sylvia Briercliffe said: "We are proud to supply a sustainable product, which has not travelled hundreds of miles.  We can supply different varieties with attractive catkins and coloured stems. The customer can choose exactly what  they need to suit their requirements."

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