15.9 C
London
Saturday, October 1, 2022

Blooming great: how to buy flowers for Mother’s Day – or just for a treat | Consumer affairs

If you want to say thank you to – or remember – your mum, or someone who is like a mum to you, you may be considering buying flowers for Mother’s Day on 27 March.

Or maybe you are trying to source the perfect blooms for a special occasion, or simply want to treat yourself.

But where should you go, and which flowers should you pick, to get value for money? Which florists are offering the best discounts, and which are the most ethical and environmentally friendly?

Get organised

Most florists charge at least £2-£3 extra for delivery on Mother’s Day itself, as high demand for couriers pushes up the costs. Sometimes it can add £10 or more. So consider sending your mother flowers earlier in the week, when they should qualify for cheaper or even free delivery.

As well as saving you money, this strategy gives you peace of mind because if there are any problems, you have time to contact your florist and organise a replacement.

Bouquet Of Fairtrade Flowers Lillies And Roses In Vase On Kitchen Table
There may be a wider range of flowers available if you order in advance. Photograph: Alamy

Another benefit, says Aron Gelbard, the chief executive of the online florist Bloom & Wild, is that if the flowers arrive midweek, they often look more spectacular on Mother’s Day itself.

You may also be able to choose from a wider range and get better value for money if you order for delivery in advance, before the most popular bouquets sell out.

Buy seasonal flowers

For those keen to buy blooms when they are in season, at the moment Annabel Lamb recommends opting for classic British springtime flowers such as tulips, hyacinths, irises, scented narcissi and daffodils: “They are our British beauties.”

Lamb and her family have been growing flowers in Lincolnshire for 40 years. Just over a year ago she decided to start selling the farm’s own produce directly to the public, and set up an online nationwide delivery service for her flowers called Love Delivered. All the flowers sold on it are grown in Britain, either at Lamb’s nurseries or those of a smaller British grower, and are hand-picked the same morning they are sent out.

Cutting out intermediaries enables the family-run farm to keep its costs down. She has also taken steps to reduce the impact on the environment of growing flowers commercially in the UK: her nurseries are heated by biomass and irrigated with rainwater collected from gutters and stored in reservoirs. “It’s all ethically done. We have solar panels on our glasshouses and packing facilities to facilitate our electricity usage. All the packaging the flowers come in is fully recyclable – even the flower food wrapper is biodegradable.”

Prices start at £12.99 for 60 daffodils or £25 for 32 tulips, while a more expensive Mother’s Day bouquet of 36 flowers – made up of eight roses, six hyacinths, 16 tulips and six ranunculus – costs £35. The cost of next-day, timed DPD courier delivery on a weekday is included in those prices but if you want delivery on Mother’s Day itself, expect to pay an extra £5.

Bloom & Wild - the Nova £26
Flowers are often cheaper if you send them to arrive before Mother’s Day. Photograph: Bloom & Wild

At the budget end of the spectrum, many of the big supermarkets, including Waitrose, Tesco and Sainsbury’s, are currently selling small bunches of UK-grown daffodils for only £1 a pop. These will often have been grown in Cornwall.

Give it a few weeks and the UK’s tulip season will be in full swing in many locations.

Buy local

Instead of buying flowers from a nationwide company online, you may wish to use a local florist or grower.

Many people will have a local florist they already use regularly or wish to support, although these may not always deliver to someone who lives some way away.

A good website to try for locally grown British blooms is that of Flowers from the Farm, a membership association for cut flower growers in the UK. It has members from Cornwall to the Scottish Highlands, and its website lets you key in your town or postcode to find the nearest flower growers to you. We tried it out on a few locations and it suggested some great-looking growers including the London Flower Farmer in Walthamstow, east London, Clem’s Garden, a social enterprise based in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, and Flowers at Forty Hall Farm in Enfield, north London.

With some of the UK growers, bear in mind that as it is still March, it may be a little early in the season for them, so you may have to try elsewhere for this coming Mother’s Day.

Clare Cook runs the Flower Project, a small independent florist in Cambridge, and delivers all her flowers and house plants locally by bicycle. She says she often receives online and telephone orders from customers outside Cambridge who want to send flowers or plants to someone who lives in her delivery area. Prices start at £35 for a medium-sized seasonal bouquet of tulips, alstroemeria, narcissi and hyacinths, and she charges £3.75 for delivery.

“Supporting an independent local business is really important, especially at the moment,” Cook says. “A lot of independent florists use other local businesses as well, so it creates that chain effect.” The money goes into the local economy and the local community of the person you are buying flowers for: “You’re not just supporting me, you’re supporting a whole ecosystem.”

She thinks local florists also provide a more personal service: “I think you get a better selection and different varieties, and if you spoke to your local florist, you could probably get a bouquet that’s more custom-designed or special.”

Cook tries to ensure her flowers are environmentally friendly by buying from local farmers and making deliveries by bicycle, and says a big advantage of using a local florist is that the person who makes up the bouquet is often the person who delivers the flowers to the recipient’s door. “You’re not going through a big courier like DPD. So if anything goes wrong, we know what’s happened.”

The Flower Project in Cambridge gets puts deliveries in a bike ready to go out
The Flower Project in Cambridge delivers flowers and house plants locally by bicycle. Photograph: Julian Eales for Indie Cambridge

Interflora is the best-known network of local florists (it works with about 900 in the UK and Ireland), although other players have muscled into this space – notably Floom, which launched in 2016.

Cook says that if you place an order directly with the local florist, as opposed to using a brand such as Interflora, all the money goes to the florist..

Consider ‘letterbox flowers

If you want your flowers to be a surprise and are not sure when your chosen recipient will be home to accept delivery, consider sending “letterbox flowers”. With this option, a bouquet is posted – often via Royal Mail – in a long cardboard box that can typically fit easily through a letterbox.

Bloom & Wild pioneered this method of delivery, and Gelbard says it offers particularly good value for money for consumers. “We are able to offer our best prices on letterbox bouquets. They cost a bit less to produce because we don’t have to hand-tie them in our studio, and their box and packaging costs are smaller.” Prices start at £22, including delivery, for 12 British tulips.

Bloom & Wild flowers in a box
Bloom & Wild says letterbox flowers ‘cost a bit less to produce’. Photograph: Bloom & Wild

Choose multistemmed blooms

In general, if you want to maximise value for money, it’s a good idea to opt for a multistemmed flower.

“A multistemmed flower is going to have more heads on it, and then when they open, it really fills the vase,” says Dani Turner, a spokesperson for the online florists Bunches. She particularly recommends chrysanthemums and spray carnations, which are usually cheaper than roses and often last longer.

Another tip is to look for a bouquet with a good range of different flowers and foliage, as this can also give a bouquet volume. Gelbard says: “Freesias stick out sideways and help create a sense of width.”

Take out a subscription

One growth area is flower subscription services. Many florists offer these, although what you get and how much it costs varies greatly.

Bloom & Wild offers a range of subscriptions you can buy for yourself or as a gift. For £70 you can get three bouquets delivered over the next three months (so £23.33 a bouquet). Freddie’s Flowers delivers regular boxes of blooms to people’s doors. The standard price is £25 a box, although you will find offers and codes online. Other firms doing subscriptions include the London florist Appleyard.

Love Delivered flowers.
Love Delivered has taken steps to reduce the impact on the environment of growing flowers commercially in the UK. Photograph: Taran Thompson/Matte Black Media

Meanwhile, Interflora sells annual delivery passes. For £12 a year you get unlimited, free next-day delivery for a year.

Look for cashback offers and discount codes

It’s often possible to get cashback when you make purchases from flower retailers at this time of year, and then use a discount code on top to reduce the price even further.

At the time of writing, Santander and Lloyds current account holders could get up to 15% cashback on purchases made with their debit cards at Flying Flowers by activating this specific reward on their account. Prices at Flying Flowers start at £19.99 for a bouquet of 12 mixed alstroemeria, including delivery by post, and you can include free Lindor milk chocolates with the code FREECHOCS.

Cashback websites also currently have some good offers available. Quidco was this week offering between 13.5% and 18% cashback at Eflorist, and between 11.25% and 20% cashback at Bloom & Wild, depending on what you order and the delivery date.

TopCashback is offering all members 25% cashback at Bloom & Wild on Tuesday 22 March, and if you are new to the site, you can claim £10 cashback on top of that.

To find a discount code, Google the name of the retailer you would like to buy from and the words “discount code” or “voucher code” to see what comes up. At the time of writing, there is a good selection of codes available on websites such as vouchercloud and VoucherCodes.

Many of the big flower retailers Guardian Money spoke to have also provided discount codes for Guardian readers. The discount code Mum10 will give you a 10% discount at Love Delivered until 25 March, while Guardian20 will give you a 20% discount on most purchases at Bloom & Wild and Bunches.

Bloom & Wild
Bloom & Wild is among the online florists offering discounts to Guardian Money readers. Photograph: Bloom & Wild

What if there’s a problem?

“If your flowers arrive in a sorrowful state, such as wilting or with browning petals or leaves, they are not of satisfactory quality and you should be entitled to a refund,” says the consumer organisation Which?.

Adam French, a consumer rights expert at the body, says: “Take a photo of the flowers upon arrival, and grab a picture and description of the flowers from the retailer’s website as well if you can – as this evidence will be helpful when lodging your complaint.”

If the flowers were a gift, speak to the person who sent them and let them know you think they have been let down by the retailer, he adds. It is likely the retailer will only discuss, rectify or refund an order with the person who made the purchase.

Or buy a plant?

Instead of buying flowers on Mother’s Day, why not get a gift that is more sustainable and will last longer?

“I’ve always found it strange that we celebrate the important people in our lives by giving them cut flowers – dead flowers that might last a matter of days, leaving a puddle of browning water and a stained vase behind them,” Stephen Folwell says.

Plants on sale at the Flower Project, Cambridge.
Plants on sale at the Flower Project, Cambridge. Photograph: Julian Eales for Indie Cambridge

His company, Muddy Trowel, works with British nurseries and growers to create plant kits that can be delivered in three to five working days. Each kit consists of seasonal flowers and plants, planted loosely in a pot, with a separate bag of soil for planting them properly in a pot outside so that they last until at least autumn. Prices start at £15 for a Japanese alpine cherry planted in a 23cm wide pot, plus £5 delivery.

Alternatively, the website Plants4Presents has a wide range of house plants it promises it can deliver on Mother’s Day. Prices start at £22 for a colourful gerbera, and a pot and card are included. Delivery by DPD courier normally costs £6 – but on Mother’s Day this rises to £11.

If you want an “almost unkillable” houseplant to send to someone by post, there is a good range for sale on the website of Patch, a plants and gardening firm, with prices starting at £12 for a snake plant. However, you must spend at least £25 to be able to check out, and delivery costs £5 on Mother’s Day.

Bear in mind that a local florist is likely to sell plants, too, and should be able to provide advice on how to look after the plant and, for example, the size of pot it will need. “When you phone an independent shop, they can give you all their knowledge and expertise,” Cook says. All her plants are British-grown and bought locally in Cambridgeshire or Lincolnshire. “Plants are a nice gift to give because they can last indefinitely,” she says, “as long as they’re well looked-after”.

Best buds: which florists are top rated?

When you look at which florists and delivery firms are rated the best by the likes of the ethical comparison website The Good Shopping Guide and the big-selling lifestyle magazines, there are some names that keep popping up.

Arena Flowers is joint top (along with Prestige Flowers) of The Good Shopping Guide’s ethical rating table, and is also number one in BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine’s latest list of the best online flower delivery services. Arena Flowers claims to be “the UK’s most ethical florist” and was also recently named “best for socially-conscious shopping” by Good Housekeeping.

In second and third place respectively on the Gardeners’ World list are Bunches and Bloom & Wild. The latter was named best flower delivery service by Good Housekeeping, while the publication named the former as best for next-day delivery, and Prestige Flowers as best for supporting charities.

Last year Which? did a pre-Mother’s Day quality test and said its two top picks were The Great British Florist and Marks & Spencer.

Latest news

Related news