"It's not every Flower Shop that has a Butler"

This is what I overhear a customer saying as I call in to Arcade Flowers in Ringwood. Obviously this is a very superior sort of florist!
As it turns out the customers seem to love 'Butler' who greets the opening door with wagging tale and lolloping welcome.
All but the postman, that is, who is convinced Butler 'was trying to bite my bottom'.
Surely not. But just maybe Butler thought he had some biscuits in his pocket!
As it is I get the biscuits, the tea and a very warm welcome from owner Emma, her assistant Jenny (and Butler). They tell me there are three flower shops in Ringwood and it seems they work well together, borrowing bits and pieces from each other when stock runs short. Other shop owners are helpful too, and as I am chatting, a lady appears with a trolley load of plants that Emma left on the footpath by mistake when she closed up the previous evening.
To use or not to use fake flowers? That is the question. When they are as beautiful as this it is hard to resist them, especially if you mix them with the real thing.
Emma tries to stock as much local produce as she can. She has psychedelic boxes by Chococo, The Purbeck Chocolate Company, with tempting offerings such as, fizzy pudding chocolates.
She is also displaying some new toiletries by Amanda Connock whom she met as a local bride-to-be. Amanda was inspired by her late father, who travelled the world in search of exotic ingredients for perfumes. As a little girl she would use old samples to blend her own fragrances and 'sell' them to her Mum and Dad. Now she uses Kukui oil from Hawaii to create heavenly fragranced oils and balms.
When I am out visiting I often find flowers I haven't seen before, this is all part of the pleasure of Flower Shop Hunting. This gerbera is a dusky blend of pink and coffee. Emma, Jenny and I are not sure what it is called - it is similar to a gerbera called Grizzly (great name) but it has a lighter centre.
Emma is lucky enough to have a large shaded window for her shop. She is putting this to good use on Mothers' Day and is planning a 'Living Window', with mums sitting there having coffee and cakes. (I hope Butler approves - this was his favourite spot as a puppy). Emma wants to raise money for charity and I suggest Hope and Homes for Children. I fundraise for this fantastic charity. They are small and not particularly well known, but they are recognised experts at closing hideous State Institutions in places such as Romania and they ensure children grow up in loving families - a great cause to help on Mothers' Day.
Before I leave we also decide I should come back and do some talks and workshops with Emma. As I close the door, with its mini jam jar of ranunculus hung on the handle, I know I shall enjoy coming back.

And the Winner is ....Ted Martin Flowers!

After the votes had been counted and the secret shoppers had secretly shopped, Mary Portas and the Daily Telegraph announced that Ted Martin's beautiful flower shop was the overall winner in the gardening and floristry section of their Best Small Shops in Britain Award.
Well, I certainly wasn't going to argue with that! Having photographed and written two books about her shop, I think it is safe to say that mine has been a long love affair.
But it is lovely to hear others praising the fabulous flowers, the knowledgeable staff and the quietly elegant, country chic that makes the shop what it is.
Ted texted me the news first thing in the morning and it was not long before I was on the doorstep, camera in hand. It is a measure of how excited and thrilled I was, that I forgot to buy myself some flower when I left!
Ted and the girls were in mid Valentine Day's flow so the news hadn't really had a chance to sink in.
But the news was certainly spreading. As Ted and I chatted, customers popped their heads around the door to congratulate her, whilst others beeped their horns and waved as they drove through the village.
It seemed to be a weekend for calling into flower shops from my books. For we have just come from visiting the Flower Boutique near Cambridge which is the first flower shop I discovered on my journey around England in search of gorgeous flower shops.
We were in the area celebrating my daughter Alex's 21st birthday (where did all those years go?!) and had been out for a long lunch with the birthday girl and her sister Libby.
We had just dropped Libby at the station as she had to go back to London, but I wish she had had a chance to see the rosy pink heart wreath on Leen's door.
As many of you will know Libby loves pink - so much so she has written a book all about the colour. Yet despite adoring pink she recently confessed she rarely wears it. This prompted her to experiment with wearing head to toe pink for a week to see what effect it would have on her and others around her. To see how she is getting on with her pink challenge visit www.lovepinklibbypage.blogspot.com
Leen's shop was a delicious mix of pinks and reds with dashes of vanilla and peach.
It was lovely to see Leen again, to catch up with her news and to meet her new assistant, Emily. We gossiped about the florists we both know, swapped news and shared plans for the future.
And this time I did remember to get some flowers!

The Story of a Pea Spoon

This is a good tale, but first you have to let me show you some of the gorgeous flowers that I found on a visit to Rustic Rose in Sturminster Newton.
Owner, Kate, is having a bumper photographic day, getting ready for her new website. So today the shop is bursting with blooms of every shade and colour.
I am not really the official photographer - but a flower shop packed with flowers and florist friends to play with (Jennifer is also in to help Kate) - how can I resist getting my camera out?
Kate is a girl who loves colour and who can blame her when you see what amazing combinations you can find in nature (and in ribbons!).
Fat parrot tulips that open rich citrus petals to reveal a splash of purple.
And people wonder why I spend so much time in flower shops!
With sugary colours good enough to eat we decide to add some sweets to the mix.
In between making up posies and photographing we chat to Kate's customers,
who good naturedly dodge tripods, stepladders and perched arrangements.
Kate has been kept busy since she opened her doors at Christmas, but she now wants to have some pictures of the types of arrangements she can offer brides and people planning summer parties.
Kate has just found a supplier for beeswax candles so is keen to add these to the shoot.
And I have to have a quick shot of a pheasant broach that sits alongside other vintage jewelery and china that Kate stocks.

As I photograph, drink coffee and eat sweets (who can resist a Love Heart) I get to know the official photographer, Hannah, who is not only preparing shots for Kate's website, but will also build the site for her. Clever girl.
And the pea spoon? When Hannah was racking her brains for a name for her new company she decided to talk it through with friends over supper. They started teasing her about forgetting a spoon for the peas (I think they were on the second bottle of wine by then).
So Hannah declared - in honour of the evening - she was going to call her company PeaSpoon Photography. They didn't believe her.
But I do.
To see some of the shots that Hannah took on the day have a look at her website


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