BJ Richards Wholesale Flowers, Saltash, Cornwall
We love using British flowers at the Academy and always look forward to the summer months when locally grown flowers are at their peak. One of our favourite suppliers and Cornish growers is Paul Richards of BJ Richards, who kindly hosted a nursery tour for a group of our Academy students. To mark British Flowers Week (18-24 June 2018), we spoke to Paul about his flowers, his nursery and his hopes for the British cut flower industry.
Can you tell us a bit about your cut flower nursery?
Our family has been growing cut flowers in the Tamar Valley since the 1880s. I worked it out once – we’re sixth generation cut flower growers and possibly the oldest flower wholesaler in the country. Our nursery is 12 acres in total – 2-3 acres covered and the rest all outdoor and foliage production. We’re a small team now – I cover the office side of things and my brother Darrin (mum was a fan of US sitcom Bewitched!) handles production with one full time and two part-time staff and two full-time salesmen.
We’ve had some tough times as a British grower but I’m really optimistic about the future for British flowers. It’s nice to see how the industry has changed. It’s come right back around. We are working with a local grower, who had been struggling to sell everything he produces until recently. There was a time when we were banging our heads against a brick wall as interest in British flowers was almost nonexistent. It was very frustrating, but there is more awareness of British flowers now. Everybody wants them and it’s really encouraging. The public are asking for British flowers, more florists are wanting to buy them and beginning to catch up with the demand.
What type of flowers do you grow?
Our main crop is alstroemeria, which used to be incredibly popular and is still a good crop – they’re long-lasting and can be grown all year round. We also grow agapanthus, ageratum, asters, astilbe, astrantia, campanula, ‘delphs’ (delpiniums), grasses, helenium, hypericum, liatris, limonium, peonies, phlox, ranunculus, sedum, ‘snaps’ (antirrhinums), solidago, stock, sweet William and trachelium as well as a foliages such as eucalyptus, pittosporums, cornus, laurel and fir.
This season, we’re trialling carthamus, godetia and scabious scoop, and we also source other flowers such as anemones, daffodils, narcissi, tulips, snowdrops, pinks, nigella, scabious and cornflowers from other local growers.
Who are your customers?
We are trade only wholesalers and sell direct to florists. We used to supply just florist shops, but now three quarters of our customer base are specialist wedding and funeral florists working from studios or from home. And we work with a lot of students. The Academy have been really good to us and really helped us grow our business.
British flowers are about 20% of our overall business. We also bring in from all over the world. All our gyps (gypsophila) come from Ecuador direct all year round because we can rely on the quality. We import direct from Israel, African and Colombian growers, because it can be cheaper and fresher than buying through Holland.
How can florists and floristry students start buying from you?
As a new customer, you simply register your full details with us. There’s no minimum order.
We email out a weekly British flower list every Friday to our customer base. If you live beyond Devon or Cornwall, we will send you our British grown flowers by next day courier. We only offer this service on our British flowers.
We have lorries out on the road covering fixed routes in Devon and Cornwall five days a week, so just need 24 hours’ notice for regular deliveries of British and imported flowers for these areas. For wedding flowers, we ask for a week’s notice. We also have a webshop at the auctions in Holland that some people like to use or you can just pick up the phone to talk to us and order your flowers.
T: 01752 842219