Floral Angels was founded in 2013 to recycle and reuse flowers from events, weddings and retailers and is based at Pinstripes and Peonies in the Flower Market. The charity’s Chair and driving force Frances Hunter tell us about the inspiration behind its mission
Can you give us a potted history of Floral Angels? Floral Angels has been around for nearly 10 years now - we started off in the old flower market in 2013. We put word on social media that we were looking for volunteers and a base, and Covent Garden Market Authority kindly offered us a place. We receive flowers from events and from florists and recycle and donate them to elderly care homes, hospices, charities such as Age UK, and women’s shelters. We are fully supported by the floral industry, and we now work in full partnership with many florists and event companies. Rather than wasting flowers, we believe in recycling them to add joy to the lives of people who don’t normally receive or have access to flowers.
What are the values of Floral Angels? Our values are to reduce waste, recycle, reuse, and our mission is to bring some joy to people that normally wouldn’t see something as beautiful as flowers, or that are going through a rough time - flowers brighten up everyone’s day!
On the Floral Angels website, you say that you believe that flowers have healing properties. How do you believe that flowers heal and enhance people’s lives? There have been many studies that demonstrate that any living thing in a room- plant, flowers, bring a particular positive energy…we have often noticed that when flowers and bouquets are delivered to residents in care homes and hospices, they bring a flicker of light. With dementia patients especially, flowers can prompt a memory and spark unexpected conversations…staff always say that they bring an energy to the room. Additionally, flowers become a focal point, prompting conversation… and they can also be quite stimulating, for example bouquets with herbs like thyme or rosemary evoke the senses.
Are there any particular flowers or bouquets that help the volunteers on a difficult day? The volunteers absolutely love what they do with us as they are constantly surrounded by flowers. They are often excited about the change in seasons and the new variety coming up, for example spring flowers and autumnal flowers…change in seasons is really exciting, so we don’t have a particular flower, but we do look forward to the flowers at the start of each new season, as this brings in a fresh range and variety.
It must be a very fulfilling role in which you can learn a great deal from some of the people you deliver to…what words of advice or conversations from anybody that you have delivered flowers to have had a lasting impact on the team? Many people have been overjoyed to receive our flowers and one lady at a womens’ shelter said that it was the first time that she had ever received flowers. So, it felt really nice to make her day and provide her with a joyful new experience.
Once a year we deliver flowers on Mothers Day to mothers with sick children at Great Ormond Street Hospital, and Ronald McDonald House, in their rooms. One evening, one mum had had an extremely difficult day on the ward with her sick child and receiving the flowers in the room really meant something to her. It makes all the volunteers feel like what we do has value and is worthwhile.
Who do you wish to extend and expand your help to in future? I think its important to keep doing more of what we are doing…it is important to expand and support worthwhile organisations and places. We have a great volunteer group who recycle the flowers and create the bouquets, but we are always on the lookout for drivers to volunteer to do deliveries.
Has your charity changed since the pandemic? We were of course closed for 18months as there were no events and care homes were closed…the safety of our volunteers was also very important. But, we started up again last September and things have gone from strength to strength. It is nice to experience the event industry is blossoming again… the nature of what we do hasn’t changed, and life now feels pretty much back to normal.
How does being based at New Covent Garden Market help your trade and add value to your charity? It is key. There is no question in anyone’s mind that New Covent Garden Market is the natural home of floral angels and it’s key to our success. We are based at Pinstripes and Peonies due to the generosity of the owner Ruari McCulloch. We have a caged area upstairs in the car park that allows us to have a 24-hour drop off and they have been very supportive in so many other ways.
The Flower Market is the focal point in the floral industry, when florists are coming to do their buying, they often drop off to us. If we were based in north London or somewhere else it wouldn’t work, but because they are coming to the Market, it makes sense for us to be here. We were also a part of British Flowers Week, a campaign created for the floral industry by the Market, and the Duchess of Cornwall opened British Flowers Week in 2021, which was one of the first events after the pandemic.
What’s on the horizon for Floral Angels? Well, lots of lovely new bouquets and donations, and we are particularly looking forward to celebrating 10 years next spring.
Floral Angels has also been in the news this month, thanks to its patron, Queen Consort Camilla, who arranged for flowers from a state banquet held at Buckingham Palace to be donated to a London day centre for the elderly. As reported in the Daily Mail online, the Floral Angels team worked with the donated berried ivy, flowering viburnum, cyclamen, nerines, rosehips, anemones and crab apples to produce wonderful flower displays for a number of charities.
Age UK Wandsworth, which provides social activities for around 25 elderly people a day, was one of the lucky recipients. "When we were told that the flowers had come from Buckingham Palace, we simply couldn’t believe it," said deputy manager Frank Colley. "The smiles on the faces of our users [were] really something to see. Floral Angels is such a brilliant charity."