The Flower Girls of London

19th century London, as history recalls, was a tough ride for most, regardless of whether you were rich or poor. Many people went hungry, cold, and worked tirelessly for their money.

Due to a myriad of reasons, whether it was due to losing loved ones from disease or just a lack of income, hundreds (if not, thousands) of children became orphans at a young age.

With living conditions the way they were, children as young as five had to find themselves work. Stall merchants and street sellers were a common sight on the cobbled streets of our capital. Among them, you could find both children and adults selling seasonal flowers from baskets. They were known as the ‘London flower girls’, and this is where our story begins.

Fear of the Workhouse

The workhouse. A word that struck fear into the hearts of the working class. People dreaded these bleak and overcrowded institutions and did all they could to avoid them. From 1834, paupers would be sent to workhouses, giving them accommodation in exchange for gruelling work and subpar conditions.

Before this, those in need were looked after via money that was collected by the wealthy. After The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, the poor could no longer receive this relief unless they lived in workhouses and performed tedious tasks and jobs daily.

Pictured: Young boys in a Victorian workhouse.

Image via www.historic-uk.com

Workhouses existed long before this amendment was passed, but Rev. John Becher set the standard for the notorious workhouse and its conditions. Building his very own institution in 1834, it’s said that he wanted the workhouse to emulate prisons, both in its decor and daily regimes.

Becher made no secret of his love for social reform. His intentions for his workhouse became legendary, setting the standard for the rest of the country’s institutions.

Actively supporting segregation and strictness in his workhouses, Becher believed that if you make living conditions unbearable, people will work harder to avoid them.

Pictured: Rev. John T Becher

He had exceptions to his rulings, particularly for those who he deemed ‘blameless’. This applied to people who were either too old to look after themselves or too ill to work. For everyone else, workhouses weren’t very pleasant, and many people lost their way once admitted to these institutions.

Whilst living in workhouses, it was common for families to be separated. Parents would be given jobs within the workhouse, carrying out remedial tasks like cracking stones, whereas children could be sold to different industries.

Child Labour in Victorian England

Until 1879, most working-class children didn’t go to school. Kids as young as 4 or 5 could be found working in mines, mills, and factories, helping their families to buy food and pay for lodging. Usually, boys would be encouraged to enter a trade as an apprentice, whereas girls would become servants or factory workers.

Pictured: Boys from the slums of London would be used as Chimney Sweeps.
Credit: www.historycollection.com

As children started work, they would be given jobs that the average adult couldn’t. For example, young boys would work in mines as they could fit into small, enclosed spaces. As you can imagine, many of these jobs were unsafe, and hundreds of kids would get injured on the job.

From sweeping chimneys to making matches, children of the industrial age had very little time to be kids, to play, to have fun with their siblings or friends. The main concern for the working class was simply to stay out of workhouses and put food on the table for their families.

London’s Flower Girls

It was quite common to see people selling various goods or services on the streets of large cities. Street sellers, or ‘costermongers’, could be found flogging literally anything you can think of, whether it be fish, soup, clothes, drinks, homemade items, or even flowers.

You couldn’t go a place in London without coming across several flower merchants. As they were often sold by young girls and women, they became known as the London Flower Girls.

Pictured: Street Sellers in London. Credit: Daily Mail Online

According to the word of Henry Mayhew’s ‘London Labour & London Poor’ (published 1851), there were two types of flower girls. Those who were in their teenage years and early twenties and had, apparently, fewer ‘pure’ intentions, would sell their goods late into the night. The other half of the coin would be much younger children, helping their families or themselves by selling their seasonal picks.

Sunday is the best day for flowerselling, and one experienced man computed, that in the height and pride of the summer four hundred children were selling flowers on Sundays in the streets. 

Henry Mayhew, ‘London Labour & London Poor’, 1851.

From roses and pansies to daffodils and primroses, these girls sold anything they could get their hands on and sold them well.

Fifteen years before Mayhew’s publication was released, flower girls weren’t as common a sighting on the cobbled roads of our cities. If people wanted flowers, they would have had to go to markets or nurseries, and the prices were much dearer. This also meant the poorest of classes found it difficult to afford their favourite blooms, so once the flower girls came along in their abundance, the working class leapt at their cheap prices per bunch.

Hundreds of child street-sellers were orphans. They would prepare their bunches themselves at the crack of dawn before people started their morning commutes. People believed that it was rare to come across a flower girl that wasn’t Irish. According to Toilers in London; or Inquiries concerning Female Labour in the Metropolis, [Anon] 1889, they would leave their homes searching for a better life but found themselves selling watercress and violets on the streets.

It’s easy to picture these young women, running around the streets of London, selling their hand-prepared bunches of flowers to passersby. Henry Mayhew describes their selling technique in his written work as a harsh pester. “They are generally very persevering, more especially the younger children, who will run along barefooted, with their, “Please, gentleman, do buy my flowers. Poor little girl!” or “Please kind lady, buy my violets. O, do! please! Poor little girl! Do buy a bunch, please, kind lady!”

London Flower Girls, circa 1900. Credit: Retrograph.com

Thomas and John’s Rescue

As the industrial age roared on and Queen Victoria’s reign came to an end in 1901, children weren’t seen selling on the streets as much as before. This was influenced by several factors. By 1890, several acts were passed making it a legal requirement for children in workhouses and factories to be given six half days of school per week. Eventually, this was amended, and the government gave school boards funding, allowing them to accept children of poorer status.

Then came Dr Thomas Barnardo and John Groom. Barnardo felt that workhouses were a poor environment for children, and made it his mission to create proper children’s homes, helping thousands of orphans and those from poor families. He then later went on to create the self-named charity, Barnardo’s, which we know is still up and running to this day.

In 1866, John Groom founded the ‘Water Cress & Flower Girls’ Christian Mission’, or what later was known as ‘John Grooms Crippleage’.

His mission outlined that he wanted to provide the flower girls with mugs of hot cocoa every morning and a hot dinner in the evening. There were also facilities for washing and mending clothes, helping the girls stay warm, dry and clean. In 1876, the crippleage moved to larger premises that included a schoolroom, holding around 350 students and a soup kitchen. The crippleage then became a floristry factory, where many of the girls worked.

Donations to the charity helped to house children that worked there and allowed them to hire ‘house mothers’ who looked after the girls at their accommodation.

Image: John Groom’s Flower Girl Crippleage & Florist. Credit: childrenshomes.org.uk

With flowers now much more affordable to the average person, and easily accessed, people started to grow their own from seeds and bulbs in gardens and allotments. Eventually, the rise of the Netherland’s flower market overtook most countries, providing us with both cut flowers for florists and bulbs for wholesalers and retailers.

Although the flower industry has changed dramatically throughout history, we still remember the London Flower Girls and the love they had for their craft, whether it be from the art of selling or simply being near sweetly-fragranced flowers each day.


Read more from J. Parker’s

How to Prune Your Roses

pruning roses

Roses are a hardy plant and are often happy to grow undisturbed, so it can be difficult to tell when to prune your roses. However, light pruning at the right time of year helps to promote healthy growth and flowering as well as helping to maintain a sensible size for your rose plant.
To see your beautiful roses effortlessly bloom year after year, it’s best to prune them at the start of each year. But when? and how?

Keep reading this rose pruning guide to find out how and when you should be pruning your roses.

When Should You Prune Your Roses?

single yellow rose after pruning

Your pruning window may be slightly different depending on where you live. For example, if you live in the south, you can get away with pruning in mid-February. If you live further north, you should probably wait until March when the weather is warmer. Pruning can also depend on the type of rose plant.

Rose Shrubs should be well pruned in mid-March in Southern England, or in the second week of April when you get further north.

Climbing Roses shouldn’t be pruned for two years after planting and then only sparsely, removing unnecessary growing tips. It’s best to prune this rose type in autumn.

How to Prune Roses – Best Methods

pruning roses in the garden

For most roses, you can prune in late winter. Take care to remove dead/diseased wood and deadhead faded blooms which can be done with your annual pruning. Cut no more than 5mm above a bud with a clean, sloping cut away from the bud so water cannot gather. Keep your secateurs sharp for a clean cut.

Pruning Tip 💡 – Use fertilizer on your roses once you’ve pruned them to encourage healthy growth throughout the year!

Shop Our Entire Rose Range

How to Create a Cottage Garden

Mesmerising and enchanting, the wild yet simple beauty of cottage gardens have been loved by British gardeners for decades. The cottage garden look is all about unstructured borders, bright and bold colours, and delicately scented blooms. To kick off your own cottage style designs, here are our favourite plants for creating your very own traditional English cottage garden.

Peonies

A pretty perennial shrub that products classic, frilly blooms from late spring in the garden.

Gladioli

Tall, statuesque blooms that will take centre stage of any beds or garden borders. Blooming from late spring and available in an array of stunning colours.

Dianthus

The perfect cut flowers. Dianthus (or Pinks) are one of the most traditional cottage garden plants. These long-lasting colour flowers are perfect for borders.

Lupins

A pollinator favourite! These bright, colourful floral spikes will bring bees and butterflies flooding to your garden.

Roses

Aromatic, beautiful and versatile, there’s nothing quite like Roses. These striking shrubs are perfect for growing as a feature shrub, at the back of a border, and they also make great hedging plants.

Hydrangeas

The clustered blooms of Hydrangeas are unmatched in beauty. These large, spherical flowers are perfect for the back of the border.

Check out some of our other blogs:

What to Plant with Roses

Roses are enchanting flowers, enticing the appraisal from everyone around them. However, roses do not have an extensive flowering season, which can make your garden look a bit bare even in the height of spring and summer. With that in mind, it’s always a good idea to combine your roses with a collection of other flowers that compliment and enhance the appearance of your garden, but won’t take away the main stage if the roses are the focus.

We’ve taken the liberty of picking our favourite companions that will look beautiful alongside your roses through the height of their flowering season and will add that extra bit of colour once your roses start to dwindle at the end of their run.

Alliums

Alliums are perfect for adding height to your garden. You can partner these with any of your roses to create a cottage garden theme.

Shop Our Alliums

Allium White Cloud
Allium Pink Jewel

Foxgloves

Foxgloves are beautiful and capture that British garden aesthetic that many gardeners strive for. With their tall flower heads and strong stems, they’re a brilliant addition to your rose garden.

Shop Our Foxgloves

Digitalis Hardy Mixed
Digitalis Hardy Snow Thimble

Lavender

Lavender are great pollinators, which makes them an essential flower to any garden throughout spring and summer. Plant in your beds and borders for a classic companion look.

Shop our Lavender

Dwarf Lavender Munstead
Lavender Rosea

Verbascums

Similar to the Foxglove, Verbascums are a quintessentially British flower that is often found in many cottage-styled gardens. Pair with any rose plant for an exceptional display!

Shop our Verbascums

Verbascum Rosetta
Verbascum phoeniceum Mixed

Enter Our NHS Green Garden Giveaway Competition!

Where to Plant Roses in the Garden

climbing roses

A truly classic English beauty. With beautiful scents and long-flowering blooms, Roses are a treasure in the summer garden. Since autumn is the ideal season to plant Roses (bare root or potted), keep reading to discover where to plant Roses in the garden with our handy gardening guide.

Miniature Roses

Miniature Roses are the perfect compact plants for adding fragrance and colour to patio pots and containers. Place the pots near doorways so you can enjoy their aromatic scent!

Cascading Roses

This cascading, dwarf variety is perfect for adding an elegant, trailing effect to the front of a border or in raised patio pots.

Climbing Roses

Fast growing and vigorous, climbing roses are perfect for training on arches, fences, pillars and walls. Great for adding colour to any bare space in the garden.

Floribunda Roses

Boasting clusters of gorgeous blooms, the compact, upright nature of these shrubs makes them perfect for beds, borders, or a flowering hedge.

Hedge/Shrub Roses

Transform the border of your home with colourful Rose hedging. Plant where you can enjoy their strong, beautiful fragrance such as along walkways, doorways or around a patio.

Hybrid Tea Roses

These hybrid Roses are unmatched for their flowering time and huge blooms. The perfect Rose for beds, borders or containers. They also make stunning cut flowers too!

Check out our other Rose blogs!

Climbing Roses – How and When to Plant Them

Climbing Roses are quintessentially English. They are often found in gardens across the UK and are a popular plant for cottage-style gardens as they add height to your garden. However, climbing roses can sometimes be difficult than some plants to grow, confusing many of us who are new to gardening.

That’s why we’ve gathered our expert knowledge to help those at any level achieve the cottage-style aesthetic they’ve always dreamed of. From planting to caring for your roses, we’re going to talk you through the entire process in this handy guide.

How to Plant Climbing Roses

Firstly, you need to decide what kind of roses you’d like to grow. Climbing roses are available in many popular rose variants, including English, single, double, scented, etc. You want to make sure you pick the perfect rose for you as they can last for decades.

A rose plant in its bare root form

Our climbing plants are sent in bare root form in mid-autumn. To plant your roses, dig a hole twice the depth and width of the root ball. Gently tease out some of the roots and place them in the hole; cover with soil and water once finished.

To train climbers up trellises and walls, put supports in place and prune out stems that start to grow in the wrong direction. Eventually, the rose plant will grow in one direction, needing pruning every so often.

Where to Plant Climbers

Climbers can be trained to grow on walls, fences, pergolas, and trellises.
When thinking of how and where to plant your roses, make sure you pick the area that catches a lot of sunshine and is planted in well-drained soil.

Ensure that you have chosen the ideal place for your roses, as they can become quite unruly. This suits the cottage-style aesthetic perfectly but can become hard to manage if you don’t keep your eye on it throughout the seasons.

When to Plant Your Roses

Bare-root roses should be planted in late autumn and early winter before growth resumes in the spring. Avoid planting them when it’s icy in the deep winter months, as this will affect the plant and will stop it from growing in the springtime.

Caring for Your Rose Plants

Once your climbing roses have been planted, the most care they need is to be trained up their supports. Pruning and caring for your roses usually comes a year or two after planting, once they’ve grown to a certain point.

Climbing plants tend to grow horizontally, as it is their natural response to do so. They can grow upwards with the use of supports and gentle encouragement.

Eventually, the stems should develop shoots that grow vertically, which will carry the flower heads of the plant. Once this happens, you can prune back the horizontal stems, encouraging the flower to grow upwards in future seasons.

Shop Our Climbing Roses

Rose Climbing Zephirine Drouhin
Rose Climbing Golden Showers
Rose Climbing Compassion

How to Plant Bare Root Roses

Beautiful and fragrant, roses are a staple of the British summer garden. From climbing to compact varieties, roses can be grown to fill pots, create hedging or climb walls and fences; the possibilities are endless!

Many of our roses are supplied in bare root form, and those unfamiliar with bare root Roses can be taken aback when first encountering them. To make your gardening jobs easier, we’ve created this essential guide to planting bare root roses, and what time of year to do so.

What is a bare root Rose?

Sourced from the best growers, our selection of Bare root Roses are supplied dormant without foliage or flowers and without soil or pot.

When do you plant bare root Roses?

Late autumn, late winter and early spring are the best times for planting bare root Roses. These times allow the Rose to establish in the ground before their growth resumes in the spring season. 

Tip: Avoid planting bare root Roses in the late winter when the ground is frozen.

How do you plant bare root Roses?

Learn how to grow beautiful summer Roses with our step by step planting guide:

  1. Position

    Roses love growing in full sun, but most will thrive and bloom happily with four hours or more of good sun daily.

  2. Soil preparation

    Make sure that the hole is wide enough for the roots to comfortably spread out and deep enough so that the graft point will be about an inch below soil level.

  3. Add compost

    Add some well-rotted manure/compost to the bottom of the hole and add fertiliser of your choice.

  4. Planting

    Place the bare root Rose into the hole and firm it in (make sure that graft is at soil level).

  5. Keep on top of watering

    Water well after planting, and then water at least once a week after growth commences.

  6. Prune

    Trim or remove any thin, weak stems that can effect the Rose’s growth.

Late Spring-Flowering Roses:

Garden Gifts for Mother’s Day

With March 22nd just around the corner, instead of purchasing the usual prearranged bouquet from your florist, why not try these thoughtful alternatives? From symbolic flowers to crafty creations, check out our gift guide to find the ideal Mother’s Day gifts for the mum who loves to get out in the garden.

Symbolic Gifts

For centuries, flowers have been gifted as symbols of specific feelings, thoughts and memories. So instead of your standard floral bunch, why not gift something that your mother can grow, love and enjoy for years?

Peonies

A popular choice for summer gardens. The pretty Peony is often seen as a symbol of beauty in all forms, so what better flower is there to tell your mum just how beautiful she is?

Day Lilies (Hemerocallis)

Big, bold and bright. The Day Lily is a flower that symbolises motherhood. These beautiful, vibrant blooms are the perfect treat for your mum to enjoy in the summer garden.

Roses

Show your mum how much you love her this Mother’s Day by sending her a stunning Rose bush to grow at home. Pink roses are often given as a symbol of gratitude and appreciation and yellow shades of Roses are gifted to express joy.

Gladioli

A classic summer perennial. These wonderful flowers are easy to grow and make stunning cut flowers for your mum to showcase around her home. Symbolising strength, these striking flowers send a strong message of support and love to the person you are gifting this flower to.

Get Crafty

The time and love that goes into creating a homemade present shows nothing but care and admiration. Whether your 2 or 42, here are some crafty Mother’s Day creations to brighten her day!

Fresh picked Spring flowers

With Spring underway, Daffodils, Crocus and Snowdrops are now coming into bloom. So to add a personal touch this Mother’s Day, why not head into the garden and pick a spring bouquet?

Bookmarks with a natural twist

Pressing leaves and flowers to create art is a fun and easy craft for adults as well as children. If you’re feeling crafty, why not use fresh flowers and foliage to diy a personalised bookmark? The perfect present for all the bookworms in your life.

DIY Bird Feeders

A wonderful wildlife-friendly project is the perfect creative gift for any wildlife-lover. This teacup feeder is a great elegant choice that simply requires a tea set, superglue and some rope – simple!

Bulbs to Plant in March

With Spring fast approaching, it’s finally coming up to the time when we can start to enjoy getting out in the garden again! With Daffodils now starting to show their cheery faces, we can enjoy the beauty of spring and start prepping the garden for summer.

Not all summer bulbs can handle the early spring weather, but these are 7 exceptional favourites that are both beauty and hardy.

Lilies

Large, showy and exotic. These easy to grow bulbs can be planted up until May and will naturalise annually for continued pleasure.

Begonias

One of the most popular summer flowers in the British garden. Easy to plant and grow, you can start planting these versatile tubers now. Perfect for pots.

Gladioli

A traditional and well-loved summer flower. This perennial makes a beautiful cut flower for the home in summer.

Ranunculus

Add a dose of colour to any summer garden. As one of the easiest bulbs to grow in pots, why not add some of these beautiful frilled flowers to your containers.

Roses

Bare rooted Roses can still be planted until May. These much-loved flowers add ornamental value to the garden and make stunning cut flowers.

Bulbs in the Green

Didn’t have time to plant your spring bulbs? Our bulbs in the green are an easy and efficient way of adding your favourites spring flowers to the garden straight out the box.

Perennials

Perennial plants are the backbone of nearly every flower garden. Plant now from March-May to brighten up the garden year after year.

Valentine’s Day Flowers to Grow at Home

With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, there are flowers in every shop and supermarket. Why not grow your own for next year? Anyone can grow cut flowers! It’s a personal, economical and rewarding way to show love to your family and friends.

ROSES

Roses are the flower most associated with love and romance. In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Juliet says to her lover “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” to express that love has no boundaries. The rose has also been England’s national flower since The War of the Roses in the fifteenth century.

Blue Moon

Rose ‘Blue Moon’ is an unusual icy-blue colour and have a lovely fragrance, which makes them an eye-catching addition to bouquets and displays.

Fragrant Delight

This stunning rose is one of the most popular variety of Floribunda! Its blooms are coppery peach-pink blossom in colour and are highly fragrant.

Scarlet Queen Elizabeth

This bold red rose produces glamorous scarlet flowers with a subtle fragrance. The gorgeous red colour is a classic for a Valentine’s bouquet.

DIANTHUS

The name Dianthus comes from the Greek words ‘dios’ (god’) and ‘anthos’ (‘flower’). The common name ‘Carnation’ was derived from the Latin word ‘incarnation’, meaning the incarnation of God. It symbolises admiration, passion, affection, love and gratitude. One of the world’s oldest cultivated flowers, the popularity of Dianthus has remained throughout many centuries.

Doris

This delicate pretty pink flower has a wonderful striped red centre which makes it stand out. Doris has a subtle fragrance and is ideal for a cut flower display.

Scent First Memories

Memories is a beautiful creamy white flower from our ‘Scent First’ range of Dianthus which produce amazingly fragrant flowers.

Valda Wyatt

Our Valda Wyatt produces frilly vibrant pink blooms and have a lovely scent. They make fantastic cut flowers and a bright addition to bouquets.

IRIS

The Iris’s history dates back to Ancient Greek times when the Greek Goddess Iris, the messenger of the gods and the personification of the rainbow, acted as the link between heaven and earth. It was said that the flowers had the power to bring bliss and favour to earth and the people living on it. They symbolise faith, hope, wisdom and royalty.

‘Dance Ballerina Dance’

Ths beautiful and easy to grow Iris produces brilliant lilac-pink petals with pale pink ruffled edges. The flowers stand on sturdy stems ideal for cut flower displays.

‘Beverly Sills’

This new germanica Iris produces an abundance of delicate coral-pink flowers. Paired with lance-shaped green foliage, it makes for a lovely cut display.

‘Concord Crush’

This Iris sibirica produces ruffled violet-blue flowers with a yellow centre on each petal. Their unusual markings and colour are a wonderful addition to bouquets.

JASMINE

The flower symbolises love, beauty, good luck and purity. Jasmine has always been considered a symbol of eternal beauty. In parts of India many people believe that jasmine can purify an individual, specifically when they grow into different life stages, which is why it is also symbolic of hope and spirituality. This makes it an ideal gift for a loved one, especially a partner.

Trachelospermum Pink Showers

This Star Jasmine produces delicate pink star-shaped flowers with a bright yellow centre. These blooms look dainty when clustered in a bouquet.

Nudiflorum

These bright yellow flowers are delicately small but pack a punch with their vibrant colour. They are highly fragrant and add a pop of colour to cut-flower displays.

Trachelospermum jasminoides

This highly fragrant Star Jasmine has crisp white petals and a vivid yellow centre. Due to their dainty size, they add a lovely whimsical look to bouquets.

DICENTRA

The Bleeding Heart plant symbolises speaking about your emotions, passionate love, compassion and unconditional love, and spiritual connection. This flower got its name from its peculiar appearance, so does its scientific name. Known as Dicentra Spectabilis which translates to two spectacular spurs. In literal translation it means two spurs worth looking at, which fits the flower beautifully as it really is eye-catching.

Spectabilis

This Dicentra variety produces show-stopping deep pink heart-shaped flowers, which ‘bleed’ white petals. Dicentra Spectabilis add a great splash of colour to bouquets.

Sulphur Hearts

This unique variety of Dicentra is a lovely golden yellow tipped with a soft lilac colour at the bottom. These flowers make a lovely centre point to a home-grown bouquet.

Valentine

This remarkable variety of Dicentra produces stunning red heart-shaped flowers with a white droplet hanging from the bottom. The classic shape is perfect for a Valentine.

Cut-Flower Garden Top Tips:

If space allows, dedicate a part of the garden to growing just cut flowers. The advantage of a cutting garden over picking from borders is that it avoids depleting beds and borders, as well as providing a more productive planned area for the cut flower gardener.

  • No room for a big garden? You can squeeze about 20 plants into a 3ft x 6ft raised bed.
  • Plant or sow in rows; this makes weeding, staking and picking a much easier task.
  • Pick your flowers often; the more you pick, the more flowers the plant will produce.
  • Enjoy the rewards of growing your own, personalised cut-flower displays!