You’ve seen his lovely flowers, but just who is Freddie? And how did this whole flower delivery thing come about anyway? Here’s a Q&A with our own Freddie Garland…
Are you really called ‘Freddie Garland’ or did you change it by deed poll for marketing reasons?
I really am called Garland. And my parents really are florists. So I suppose I had no choice but to do something with flowers for a living. Luckily, I really, really love flowers.
So did you and your family permanently wear garlands in your hair, strew flowers in the street as you walked along and that sort of thing?
Only at weekends.
How did you come up with the idea of Freddie’s Flowers?
I got the idea when I was working for Abel & Cole, who of course deliver organic fruit and veg boxes to people’s doors. I saw the joy that brought people and one day I just thought, imagine if this was flowers?!
Sending flowers to a friend is a lovely thing, but having a regular flower delivery for yourself is really when the fun begins.
I thought, why can’t we deliver flowers in the same way, so that as well as great food in our kitchens, we can have beautiful lilies and roses – and colours and smells – in our sitting rooms?
I wanted to carry that same idea of carefully grown and chosen produce, plus a lovely element of surprise, so you never know quite what’s going to be in the box. Plus also a bit of art…
Art, you say?
Well, some people assume flowers have to be gifts, but they tend to get the idea of Freddie’s Flowers once they realise how lovely it is to have a steady supply of gorgeous flowers coming into your home.
There’s definitely a creative, arty element to it. When you have a weekly flower delivery of fresh flowers that last ages like ours do, you can make your own arrangements and mix and match and use flowers in different vases and rooms in their own way, like a big evolving artwork. If that doesn’t sound too pretentious…
Anyway, it transforms your house and just generally makes life better… I know I would say that, but it is what customers tell me, too.
Did you personally deliver all the flowers then?
These days we have a fantastic team delivering flowers, but that’s how it started – with just me and my brother. A typical day would be: wake up at 3am, go to Covent Garden to choose the day’s flowers, and drive them back to our tent – which we had set up in our mum’s back garden in Wandsworth. We’d stick on the radio and spend a few hours strimming, cutting and pruning the flowers, and by then Mum would wake up and come down to help load up the boxes.
By about 11am I was ready to load them onto the flowermobile and do make all my deliveries. After that I’d head out onto the streets of London to do some door-knocking and spread the word. Then it would be back home again to make the leaflets for the following day’s boxes. And then I’d do it all over again the next day.
Ah yes, the infamous flowermobile! How did you come by that?
I bought the milk float on a whim because I thought, ‘what a fun way to deliver flowers – and what could possibly go wrong?’ So I spent a few days hunting on eBay and found what seemed the perfect one in Leeds. I rented a pick-up truck, drove up the M1, had a quick look, straight away said I loved it and brought it back to London.
It was only when I got the milk float home that it dawned on me that I should have done a bit more test-driving. As soon as I boarded it properly I knew something was very wrong… it had a top speed of 8mph. And this was highly embarrassing. For my first delivery round I put a sign on the back saying ‘Please don’t hoot, I can’t go any faster’, and trundled off down the Trinity Road in Wandsworth. A queue of about 70 cars built up behind.
I did use it for very local deliveries, but unfortunately for anything further afield I realised I needed something a bit less likely to annoy all my neighbours… and get my daily deliveries done within the same month!
So you learned your lesson about buying things on eBay then?
Sort of. It’s certainly easier to buy flowers online than it is tents… I’ve had no less than three cheap eBay tents blow to pieces in the garden and had to get up in the middle of the night armed with duct tape to fix them back together again, so I could do the next day’s boxes.
But you learn all sorts of things as you go along that seem obvious in hindsight. Like checking the flowers you’ve bought aren’t dead before you carry them all the way back from Covent Garden on a bicycle. I did that a few times actually – but your brain doesn’t function in the usual way at 4am.
What’s the best thing about delivering flowers to people’s homes?
Our lovely customers, of course! We’ve got some amazing ones – sometimes you’d knock on the door and a random celebrity would answer.
In fact, in one of my very first flower box deliveries I nervously tapped on the front door and there stood Madame Hooch from Harry Potter, aka Zoe Wanamaker! She was really nice though and she even invited me into her fantastic home to discuss her love for flowers. (Read more about Zoe and her Freddie’s Flowers here.)
Okay, last few questions. We understand your dog, Claude, is the most controversial character in the office – is she as ugly as people say?
Here’s a photo – I think you and our readers should judge. For some unknown reason she has become known as bat-dog (sadface).
Have you ever rolled over in the clover?
And one blatantly obvious last question: favourite flower and why?
Well…I like peonies because they look so modest initially, before opening into whopping flower heads – and also their bizarre variety names, like ‘Dr Alexander Fleming’. I like dahlias because of their deep colours and funky shapes. And I actually like twigs in Autumn to add some structure and lend a bit of whackiness.
(One of the good things about us delivering our boxes rather than sending flowers by post, is that we can include interesting foliage and other cool flowers in our boxes.)
But really I think flowers look better together, and that’s why I like an arrangement.
Fancy getting some more natural loveliness into your life? Sign up for Freddie’s weekly flower arrangement deliveries to your door for £20 a pop.