Recently I was contacted by Hazel and Emma of Patricia Knowles Flowers in Farnham (Patricia, has sadly passed away, but the girls decided to keep the name when they took over the business). They wanted to know if I took commissions and if so, would I photograph their flower shop for their website. I had a much better idea; why didn't I come down and have a day with them and photograph the shop for my blog. I would find out about a new flower shop (nothing makes me happier) and they could keep the photographs. Perfect!
The flower shop is on Upper Church Lane, a narrow street of interesting looking shops and businesses which leads - as you would expect - up to the church and vicarage. As the girls are dressing the front of the shop, chat goes back and forward between the flower shop and the hairdressers, which is a few steps across the cobbled lane.
I discover that Hazel was trained by Debbie, a florist who also worked with my friend Becky (The Potting Shed florist in 'Flower Shops & Friends'). Becky, Debbie and I once spent a day together, just before Debbie retired and emigrated. I think it took Debbie less than a month to set up an English style flower shop in her new Canadian home - so much for retiring! Emma explains that she and Hazel work well together because of their different backgrounds, she was trained by Jane Packer who emphasizes the natural flow of flowers, whilst she says, Hazel's training was much more technical.
Whatever their training, I can tell that these are women who really love flowers. But it is not just flowers. They recall one lady who came into the shop to arrange funeral flowers for her husband. It was clear that the lady was tired, distressed and overwhelmed by all that she had to organise. Hazel asked if there were particular flowers her husband had liked, but the woman sighed and said, "He loved is garden, but it was the vegetables that he really enjoyed growing".
Undaunted, the girls said they could help, and they created a funeral wreath made up of new potatoes, chilies, cherry tomatoes, carrot tops, asparagus tips and cabbages.
The only problem now is that when Emma goes into the greengrocers they look up and ask "Has somebody died?!"
The girls have not always been florists, but confess that whilst they have never worked so hard, or been so tired, that they have never been happier. And it seems to be catching, as Hazel's mum has also started coming into the shop to help them. The girls also sing the praises of their florist, Kelly, who they say they could not live without. Kelly is very reluctant to be photographed, but with that lovely face, wonderful colouring and a shop full of vibrant autumnal shades - I am not going to let her hide in the back!
Emma and Hazel have clearly read my books and know me well, as their is a plentiful supply of coffee and cake. Later over lunch Emma chats about how it can be tricky to juggle the business with having two small children. Something I know well. Although it doesn't sound like it will be long before six-year old Freya will be helping them as she already likes to play shop with Hazel.
Most of the flowers in the shop come from a local supplier and it was whilst she was at the flower market that Hazel found herself staring at one particular salesman. Eventually she approached him and started to explain that she had an odd question to ask him. Before she had finished the sentence he smiled and said "Yes, it is me in The Flower Shop book. If you like I can sign my picture!"
Paul, who I did indeed photograph at market one cold and frosty morning, has obviously been asked this before.
The shops stretches back to shelves of enticing looking gifts, and of course I am delighted to see my (and Paul's) book amongst them. It is not long before we are planning another get-together and decide a Christmas book signing event would be a great excuse for another visit, and put November 25th in the diary.
And just before I leave, laden down with Pink Champagne and flowers (they do know me so well) I take one last photo. This is to remind me to stop saying I don't like carnations. How could you not fall in love with a vintage pink flower that looks like its petals have just been painted?