Florist looks back at her roots as shop gets set to celebrate landmark

PUBLISHED: 08:33 27 June 2019 | UPDATED: 08:33 27 June 2019

Katherine Smith is celebrating 55 years of The Flower Shop in Saffron Walden's George Street

Katherine Smith is celebrating 55 years of The Flower Shop in Saffron Walden's George Street

Archant

If you buy flowers from Katherine Smith you will sense the scent and she might scent your future.

Katherine Smith is celebrating 55 years of The Flower Shop in Saffron Walden's George StreetKatherine Smith is celebrating 55 years of The Flower Shop in Saffron Walden's George Street

You can often tell with happy couples, she says, whether they will outlast the celebrations.

The owner of The Flower Shop in George Street, Saffron Walden, will be 55-years-old on Sunday and so will her shop. There will be balloons and cake for friends and customers on Saturday.

Katherine has a degree in psychology and philosophy from Swansea University but being a florist for 16 years offers the real insights into people.

"We had a gentleman, who sadly has now died. He was wooing a lady for 12 years. Every Friday, he would buy her 12 roses.

"They did end up marrying. I think he just needed to take his time. It's always interesting the story behind the flowers.

"We see people in happy times and very sad times. As florists, part of our role is just to listen. When people come in for funeral flowers, sometimes they need to talk, especially if it has been a shock."

And of course, there are people with impossible demands.

She says: "I have seen how things have changed in the past 15 years. People would once order flowers now everybody is lastminute.com. The leave it to the last minute and expect you to have what they want and if you haven't got it, they get into a state of panic."

Brides beat the rest for impossible demands. Wisdom from Katherine is don't get married over the weekend of Mothering Sunday.

"It's the busiest week of the year. No florist can touch it," she said.

Most brides in the town have been so happy with The Flower Shop over the years that now some of them are coming in with their daughters for second generation wedding bouquets - but the shop has also had its share of 'Bridezillas'.

"I had a lady not happy with us. She was getting married on Christmas Day. She said: 'I have 25 bridesmaids. I want a bouquet and they will each have a single flower.'

"I said we're closed on Christmas Day - I had a six-year-old at home and that was sacred.

"We offered silk flowers, we said fresh flowers could be collected the day before and kept in a bucket, we offered to supply growing flowers in pots that could be cut on the day - nothing would do. It turned out she was based in Southend, she had come all the way here to find a florist who would deliver fresh flowers on Christmas Day.

"People see weddings on the television that have cost thousands and they want that on a small budget. They come in and say 'as soon as you say wedding, the price shoots up' but it doesn't have to."

Katherine and her sister, Sue Burton, who live in Flitch Green, bought The Flower Shop in 2004. It was opened in 1964 by Harry Welch.

Interflora UK was started in Saffron Walden by Harry and Engelmann's nursery, which grew carnations (the town has a Carnation Street). Today, Interflora places the shop in the top five per cent of the florists' network.

After her degree, Katherine thought about working in speech and language but 16 years ago, finding herself a single mum of a four-year-old daughter, she wanted her own business so she could do the school run.

So she and her sister Sue, a systems analyst at Anglia Ruskin University, bought the shop.

Times have changed. When Katherine trained in the 1980s, as a florist at Moyses Stevens in London's Berkeley Square, she says: "City gents still wore buttonholes and there was just the odd bowler hat."

But these premises have always been a florist. The shops in the parade were built in 1962 and this one's first incarnation was Pamela's Flowers which Harry Welch bought in 1964.

So is this the oldest shop in the town? If you know an older one, please let us know. e-mail: Angela.singer@archant.co.uk.

TOP TIPS

People are intimidated by fresh flowers, says Katherine.

Always cut an inch off the bottom of the stems at an angle of 45 degrees. Flowers seek to heal as we do, so the stems will close up.

Change the water every other day.

Put the flowers in a tall vase so the water is high up, about eight inches from the flower or cut the stems to fit the vase.

Flower food fights bacteria in the water. Lilies, carnations. chrysanthemums last longest.

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