When you think of Manchester, what comes to mind? Football maybe, or great music. Industry, technology, Coronation Street or Old Trafford perhaps. But flowers? Surely not.
Manchester might not have the floral reputation of Amsterdam, but I’ve spent a lot of time there recently and when not ‘avin it large I’ve discovered a world of flowers I didn’t know existed. I thought I’d share some of what I’ve found.
The floral revolution
In the 19th Century, Manchester was the beating heart of the Industrial Revolution and it still has a reputation for innovation. However, like everything in my life, there is a floral connection. Manchester – and the towns of Lancashire and Cheshire – was the centre of the cotton trade, from cotton mills to processing, modern Manchester is founded on the humble cotton plant. The damp weather that Mancunians know and love actually provided the perfect climate for cotton spinning, often using Manchester inventions such as the famed Spinning Jenny spindle. In fact, the cotton flower has become an unofficial symbol of the great city.
There’s a Picadilly up North!
If you want to hark back to that era, head to Piccadilly Gardens. Created at the tail end of the Industrial Revolution, the site has long been a haven of green in the centre of the city. Between the top of Market Street and the Northern Quarter, this little spot is a great place to soak up some verdant greenery and to spot a flower or two. Added, Piccadilly Gardens is home to a great little flower market which is ideal for picking a few elements to add to a Freddie’s Flower bouquet!
War of the Roses
At the Piccadilly Flower Market, you’ll be sure to find red roses. If you do, snap them up as they’re the perfect flower for the area, especially if they’re a Rosa Gallica. This rose was the inspiration for the red Lancastrian Rose, the heraldic symbol of the very local House of Lancaster. During the Wars of the Roses it was the red Lancastrians versus the Yorkists with their white rose, so if you’re flower shopping in Manchester you’re red through and through (sorry Man City fans, but roses don’t come in blue).
To get away from the city centre – and it’s footballing rivalries! – you can take a trip down the Oxford Road to the fabulous Whitworth Park. Home to a gorgeous variety of flora and fauna, this haven is right next to the bustle of Manchester’s many Universities and Colleges. It is best viewed in the Spring or Summer, but never fear; if the weather is a bit Mancunian (read: a bit wet) you can take shelter in the beautifully renovated Whitworth Gallery. You’ll still be able to enjoy the fabulous parklife, as the cafe has a fantastic panoramic extension which thrusts right into the greenery.
Get on the flower band-wagon
The student area of the city has spawned many of Manchester’s great bands, all of whom seem to be into their flowers. From the album covers of New Order to the name of The Stone Roses, Manchester bands have looked to florals for a bit of a contrast with the harder edge of industrial city life. However, nobody did it better than Morrissey who, when playing Top of the Pops with The Smiths, brandished fronds of fabulous gladioli as he sang. The Smiths are Manchester’s greatest band, and gladioli are one of my favourite flowers – when we have them in our boxes next year, I might have to whip out my Morrissey impression!
Out ‘n About
Manchester has long been known for natty dressing, and it remains a very trendy place. Floral prints are very in right now, and you’ll be sure to find a great flowery shirt or two in the Northern Quarter’s fantastic vintage shops. Or pop into Piccadilly Records to root out some of those flower-inspired album covers from Manchester bands. Added, head across to Fig and Sparrow for coffee and a slice of one of their famous rose-petal topped cakes. Don’t worry if they’re closed, their shutter has been spray-painted with a Sparrow amongst leaves and flowers!
You’ll be busy as a bee
A more recent symbol of the city is the Worker Bee. Thought to represent the industrious nature of the people of Manchester, the symbol was adopted into the city’s crest in the 1840s. I love the little Manc Bee; it links the beautiful, natural surroundings of the North West with the Industry that made the city the hub it is. In fact, they remind me of our brilliant drivers who deliver boxes all over the Greater Manchester region. We depend on them, just like we depend on bees!
I hope I’ve given you a good idea of the great floral things to see and do in Manchester. I love this city and am thrilled we’re getting to spend more time there, bringing our weekly flowery magic to the North. Please do let me know if there are any other great floral finds I need to check out in Manchester!