Nine elms covent garden flower market

I’ve been going to New Covent Garden for years to buy flowers wholesale: my mother used to arrange flowers for weddings, and she would often drive down from Northamptonshire the night before to stay with me, so that I could give her a hand at 5am at the market.

Nine elms covent garden flower market

We’d buy a carload of flowers, sundries and greenery before retiring to the (now sadly closed) cafe in a tiny room up on the gallery overlooking the halls for a full English and cups of tea so strong you could practically feel the hairs growing on your chest.

Nine elms covent garden flower market

Now that I often have gigs that require me to provide and design the flowers, I frequently find myself there at 530am to choose the flowers I need. I’m based in Camden in North London, and the 6 mile journey to Nine Elms, in between Vauxhall and Battersea where the flower market moved to from Covent Garden in 1974, could take anything up to an hour in traffic, but takes a blissful twenty minutes tops first thing.

Nine elms covent garden flower market

It costs £5 to enter the site, and you can park right next to the Flower Market. (Make sure you head to the flower market, and not the wholesale fruit and veg one on the same site.)

Nine elms covent garden flower market

The Flower Market’s core trading hours are 04:00 – 10:00 Monday to Saturday, but do check if there is anyone specific you are heading to as not all wholesalers are open on Saturday. Although there are flowers as far as the eye can see, some of the more desirable or unusual flowers sell out quickly so it is worth getting there as early as you can face. Prices quoted are ex-VAT, which will be added when you pay, and flowers like tulips aren’t sold in bunches but in wraps of five bunches.

Nine elms covent garden flower market

A couple of weeks back I went to buy the flowers for the Nespresso consumer press event at John Lewis that I designed. I bought these flowers above  – a huge wrap of parrot tulips for another job, and the roses, spray roses, ranunculi and narcissi and, along with some veronica,

Nine elms covent garden flower market

a huge bunch of rosemary and one of eucalyptus from the greenery wholesaler, turned them into the designs below.

grey red white tabletop design

Although in this case, I knew I had a grey tablecloth and red coffee machines, so was looking for reds, pinks, oranges, and creams, I haven’t always decided on my colour scheme before I arrive.

Nine elms covent garden flower market

Although I have my favourite wholesaler from whom I generally buy nearly everything, I like to walk around the entire site to see if anyone has anything exciting, and often plan my designs on the hoof, depending on the colours and flowers that I see.

sophie conran

For the Nespresso event I hadn’t planned on making plate decorations, but came across the most beautiful long stemmed orange and red roses. I bought a dozen and bound a stem of rosemary to them with wired raffia (also bought from the market).

Nine elms covent garden flower market

Nine elms covent garden flower market

In the twenty or so years that I’ve been going there the market has changed dramatically. There are probably only 50% of the flower traders there – the huge Dutch wholesale vans that sell direct to florists have taken a lot of trade and vast amounts of space are now taken up by event supplies.

Nine elms covent garden flower market

If you want a silver dinosaur table centre you will find one here.

Nine elms covent garden flower market

There are also more sundries suppliers in the main hall, rather than tucked away under the galleries – these are where you buy everything floristry-related: the little notecards to slip into delivery arrangements, Oasis of every size and shape, thorn strippers, secateurs, wire, raffia, flower paper, glue guns, tissue paper and so on.

Nine elms covent garden flower market

One of the great changes is that, thanks to florists like Vic Brotherson at Scarlet & Violet, you can now buy more long stem herbs, spray roses, and pretty English country garden flowers, along with the more traditional offerings.

Nine elms covent garden flower market

Of course flowers from the market aren’t prepped in the way they are when you buy from a flower shop or stall. It takes a few hours to strip and cut all the stems, and remove thorns.  (Below are the wonderful orange and red roses I bought for the plate decorations.)

Nine elms covent garden flower market

Then it’s a good drink, plunged in flower buckets for at least 24hours, and preferably 48, to allow the flowers to open. (Especially if I am using anemones or ranunculi.)

Nine elms covent garden flower market

grey red white tabletop design

 

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18 comments

Reply

This is one of my favourite places to go in London – such a treat. Real life My Fair Lady. Haven’t been in a while and interested to see how much else they now do – have a Spanish lunch coming up so think a trip will be in order!

Reply

Wow! Beautiful. But I imagine you must be an early bird for these flower markets.. Thank you for taking us out there! xxSol

Reply

Yes, FAR TOO EARLY! LLGxx

Reply

So glad you blogged on this, my husband has a stand there, C Best (your pics of vases etc are his stand). Love it there also, but sadly don’t go that much, too busy doing school runs to get up at 4.00. x

Reply

ah yes, it was you, I think, that Tweeted me on my last visit? I didn’t have time to take many pics last tome, as was too busy buying/working, but I really need to return to do a proper story. LLGxx

Reply

I LOVE flower markets! I’m going to keep this one in mind for when insomnia strikes me (I can never wake up that early)! x

Jasiminne | Posh, Broke, & Bored

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me too! But god the amount of times I have planned to go, and then gone mmmmmmmm way too comfortable in my bed…do go though if you can. It’s a wonderful place, and I think it’s important to support them. LLGxx

Reply

Hi Sasha, great post. I know you say this is wholesale – so how do the prices compare with the average florist?

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Hi! And thank you! They are cheaper – but it really depends on what you are buying. Volume is obviously going to be better value. There’s no point in rocking up for a bunch of roses. And the quality and fresh ness is so much better so roses for example might be the same price as the High Street but ten times better (longer and thicker stems, bigger heads, smell, interesting variety etc) LLGxx

Reply

I have always wanted to go there and never made the effort, but seeing the amazing flowers and images in your post is definitely making me think that I should get some extra strong coffee for the morning and bite the bullet!

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Love your post! It’s great to see the flowers transform into amazing arrangements. This flower market is great and has so much to offer, the only downside is that it works only at night.

I have a few pics of the market on my blog just in case you are interested.
http://www.thesmellofroses.com

Reply

Nice story!

I’m thinking of going myself, but only for potted flowers and/or plants. Are they being sold there? Cheers!

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Hiya, the ideas you have look amazing. I wondered if you did weddings in London?

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i had been going for 35 years but had to retire when my husband died ,..i miss this run twice a week.Originally a London florist , trained ,,born and bred but living in Hampshire now and although it meant getting up at 3.00 to do the market run ,i would not have had it any differently.So.if you live nearby you should make the effort to get there,but beware the salesmen can spot an ….oddmark…..their nickName for joe public….a mile off…….. . As a Chelsea gold medalist may i wish you all the best of luck with the with the Chelsea flower show Exhibit Its long overdue,.oh, how i miss my market runs….its the best flower maqrket in the country and certainly worth an early start for a once in a lifetime experience.

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