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Willows Florist Reigate

This week I had the pleasure of chatting to Claire Ross, co-founder of Willows, Reigate’s only independent florist. We took a deep dive to discover the local favourite for Valentine’s Day, some insider hacks to keep your blooms blooming and what makes an independent, family run florist so special.

How long has Willows been around?

I set-up Willows in 2000, with my mum, so we’re in our 24th year now.

I always had a passion for floristry, which started really when I was a Saturday girl in a florists aged 14, 15 (in the days you could get away with working at that age).

We opened Willows when I was seven months pregnant, which now seems crazy, but you do things like that then don’t you, you just get on with it and don’t worry about it.

Mum was there all the time, and I would wheel the baby in, leave him in the back of the shop. As he got older and more mobile it was a juggle, but with some help it meant I could do more.

It’s been a full-on family affair for the last 24 years.

Mum does most of the behind the scenes now, the website, and accounting – she covers me if I’m not there, helps on the busy days like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.

She likes being involved and she’s still very much part of it, just not the physical stuff so much now – like standing in the cold and stripping stems.

So, did you study floristry?

I never studied floristry, for me, when I was working as a Saturday girl, I really enjoyed it, I think if you have that flair and that passion it’s there, it’s not something you can learn necessarily.

It’s not glamorous in any shape or form though, I think people think it’s glamourous and you get to pick some lovely flowers and make pretty arrangements all day, but it’s very labour intensive, flowers come off lorries in big wraps, you have to strip them, condition them, change the water, clean the buckets, make the showroom look good.

So, you have to really want to do it – I still love coming in and receiving a delivery off the Dutch lorries, you walk into the shop and think “they look gorgeous”.

Willows flowers

What’s your favourite thing to put together?

When someone has a budget of £150 or more you know you can make a really special bespoke design.

How is Valentine’s Day for you – what is the local favourite?

Personally, I think women would rather something different to a dozen red roses and I try to persuade men to consider something else, but they’re pretty set in their ways and think that’s what women want. I often wish they’d be a bit more exciting with it.

Right now, we have 14 orders, but I can guarantee by Valentine’s Day we’ll have 140. It’s not uncommon for the men to be a little last minute!

What makes Willows different to other florists?

Everything is made and hand designed at the shop, nothing is bought in premade, all the roses and flowers are stripped and conditioned by us, wrapped, and made to order.

The quality is therefore better, I know the source of our flowers, if the roses are from Ecuador, I know the grower. Don’t test me, but I can identify a rose and its source!

And that’s really what makes it special for us, we’re passionate about every aspect of floristry. We’re family run and have a great team of florists working for us. We all work very hard to make it the way it is.

We’re also quite bespoke, if someone comes in asking for something particular, we’ll try to fix if for them. I can source and order almost anything and have it delivered the next day.

Willows flowers

What’s your favourite flower?

Peonies and Anemones.

I like a vase of just one single type of flower – like just tulips, just lilies or just peonies.

I actually also like a Carnation, when we first opened we wouldn’t let them in the shop, but if you saw the odd one in a bouquet that we produce now, you’d be surprised how beautiful they are.

And finally, do you have any floristry hacks – any tips to keep our Valentine’s Day bouquets alive?

Roses do and should last up to 10 days if taken care of, even those from a supermarket.

Roses have a woody stem, and they’re quite tall sometimes a metre long. We cut and condition ours. But when you get them home you should re-cut them an inch, place them in a vase avoiding sunlight and a warm room, leave for 2/3 days take out again cut again and change the water.

When the heads droop cut and change the water again, it’s not that they’re dead, they’ll perk back up, but they can’t drink up the water if they need cutting.

We’d like to say a huge thank you to Claire for giving up her time in advance of one of her busiest days. If you’re looking to buy someone special, something special then visit Willows… and maybe this is the year to mix up tradition and try something different to a bouquet of red roses.

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