Why choose local, seasonal funeral flowers?

Lilian Highmoor, florist in her garden with yellow and orange flowers

Four minute read

We’re delighted that Poppy’s is now working with local florist and grower Lilian Highmoor to offer beautiful local and seasonal flowers to our clients.

In this blog, Lilian tells us about how she got into floristry, where her flowers come from and shares what’s in season right now.

I used to work in marketing, but twenty-four years ago, when I was pregnant with my son, I took a class in flower arranging and I fell in love with it. I went on and did an NVQ and started my business. For me, floristry is a creative outlet. I love experimenting, learning new things and helping people to celebrate.

I’ve been working on funerals for years, but I’ve always felt uncomfortable with how formulaic the funeral industry can be. When my parents died, I had the experience of needing to make decisions, while feeling I didn’t have enough time and being presented with limited options. Poppy’s is so different. It was a revelation!

When I started my floristry training, there were a lot of rules. You can’t put this colour with that colour and so on, and I thought, why are there these rules? It seemed a bit strange. The industry has evolved so far since I started, and breaking the rules has always really appealed to me!

The floristry industry used to be very competitive, but now it’s more collaborative. I first got involved with Flowers from the Farm through the Strawberry Hill Flower Festival. Flowers from the Farm brings together sustainable growers and florists. We’re all members together. In floristry, many people work on a small scale on their own. It makes sense to help each other out.

In the old days, when I got flowers from a wholesaler, they wouldn’t really care what I did with them. But now, when I get them from a farm, they want to know how I’m using them and see the pictures! They check that I am going to look after the flowers well, they don’t want to see their product ruined!

I’m a florist with a garden. For funerals I use lots of flowers that I grow myself. All the flowers I use are grown locally, without artificial heat and without chemicals. They come from my garden in Hampton Hill, from nearby Chobham or from Chiswick House. I also source flowers from a grower in Hackney. I love it that flowers are being grown here in London, you don’t always have to go out to the countryside for them.

View some of Lilian's flowers in the 'greener choices' section of our catalogue.

I send Poppy’s a monthly update of all the flowers that are in season. People can tell me what colour or feel they’d like to have and I use what’s seasonal to achieve that. It’s always changing, so you’ve got to keep your eye on it. If someone brings me something from their garden, I can include it in the arrangement too. There’s nothing I can’t put in. A bit of tree, anything.

Young woman in pink dress distributing seasonal funeral flowers from a wicker basket

Funeral flowers have to be robust, which has usually meant florists using oasis and plastic trays to keep them in place. But I don’t. I use alternatives, such as moss or chicken wire, and I’m learning new ways all the time. We can’t rest on our laurels, there are new developments always coming.

For one funeral, we used tiny pots of lavender which people from the funeral took away afterwards to plant in their own gardens. Some was planted on the grave too. This is just one way that arrangements can be designed to be divided up and used again. For example, you can have bouquets in compostable bags, which are then detached and used at the wake.

I get very distracted sitting and looking out at my garden. I want to be outside the whole time. Right now, through the window, I can see the sedum coming through from green to pink. There are lots of floaty flowers around now — Japanese anemones, zinnias and cosmos, and winter jasmine as well.

When it comes to autumn and winter, there’s so much that is possible. We use more foliage. Some growers dry stems in a way which beautifully keeps their colours. Dahlias and chrysanthemums flower until the first frost. Scent and texture are as important as colour. We try to be creative with what we use all the time.

When someone says they have no idea what they want, I can show them pictures, ask about colour, size and shape, whether they’d prefer something neat or more wild. We have a conversation, and often find they have more idea than they think do at first. Some say, I don’t mind, anything as long as it’s seasonal. Then I ask if there’s anything they don’t like. If everything else is kept open, I can pick the best of that particular week.

Part of my job is to give advice about what’s seasonal or not. I love the opportunity to talk to clients. Recently I took one client round my garden while we were on the phone, so that I could show her the flowers that we were discussing. I’ll draw pictures for clients of how the arrangement is going to look. I like chatting with people — flowers can be an outlet to things that are close to their hearts.

Read more interviews with Poppy’s sustainable suppliers of willow coffins and woollen shrouds.

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