Friday, 20 March 2009

What Flower are you and will you be getting yours??

If Lorraine Whittle could be a flower she would be a deep red Peony. Its romantic old-fashioned form, colour and heady scent speak to her like no other.

Lorraine’s personality is equally fragrant and sunny. She is often seen to laugh ear to ear so broadly that I am frightened she will split in two, and then I rather think she is a bright and welcoming sunflower.

Fifteen years ago, I gave birth to a second child. So joyous was this occasion that my husband and I threw caution to the wind and threw the best party we have ever been to. No expense was spared –we hired top caterers, “now” musicians, and of course I wanted the best and freshest flowers. A friend suggested The Dutch Flower Shop and, being of Dutch origin myself, this seemed meant to be.

On the special day, every corner of our house was dressed in informal arrangements of lilies and wild flowers, in shades of white, all so amazingly fresh that a month passed before I had to reluctantly discard the blooms, wash the vases, and return them to the florist.

The pincipal secret to The Dutch Flower Shop’s success is Lorraine herself. A generous, but astute woman, she is a natural publicist and a firm believer in listening to her customers. It is not unknown for her to offer blooms free of charge if the moment suits, and similarly she knows when to get tough. Whatever the occasion, her flowers are always fresh, arriving daily from Holland in the confines of a capricious truck so long that it seems to swallow the row of modest shops, in Woolton Road, behind it.

When I came to photograph Lorraine she was deep inside one of these trucks, talking to the charming Dutch drivers. I climbed aboard and saw shelf upon shelf laden with crisp fresh blooms. Lorraine was selecting the loveliest and most unusual. Have you got any Ranunculus, she asked? (I googled this later and can tell you they look just like peonies). Then, coffee, she asked in the same breath to no one in particular. We all said yes.

The business opened in 1980 when she was heavily pregnant with her first child so Lorraine can honestly say she has not had a Mother’s Day off in twenty-nine years. But her two sons would never dream of buying her flowers. “My son once thought it would be a good laugh to get me a bunch of daffs from another florist. I nearly hit him with them.”

Traditionally this is the busiest time of the year for her, even more so than Valentine’s when it has not been unknown for one man to order romantic bouquets for more than one woman!

But as busy as she is, come evening she kicks off her heels, and loves nothing more than to cook intricate meals for her family while relaxing with a glass or two of wine. There is not one cookery program unfamiliar to Lorraine, no mean achievement considering the plethora of them around. Perhaps it is somewhat ironical then that the oddest request she ever received was for a funeral wreath fashioned to look like a McDonald’s hamburger. It had been the deceased’s favourite dish and perhaps it is best not to ponder this too deeply.

Not least amongst the many notables Lorraine has prepared bouquets for, there is the Queen (three times), Princess Diana and yes, even the Pope. She giggled when telling this, and her staff joined in. And that is the second secret of her success. Chez Lorraine everyone has so much fun. No wonder then that Vogue recently listed The Dutch Flower Shop as Coleen Rooney’s favourite florist.

The Dutch Flower Shop
123 Woolton Road L15 6TB
Telephone 0151 737 1595