Inside the box: Christmas has certainly arrived at Flower Box - St Albans charming bespoke florist.
- Credit: Archant
Flower Box sits neatly at the end of the Village Arcade in the centre of St Albans. Its name is quaintly apt. “When it first became available the window panels were painted red. From across the street it looked like a telephone box,” recalls owner Zoe Lafbery. Today, the name evokes images of the crates of freshly cut flowers delivered three times a week from the Netherlands to this florist’s door.
Petite rather than small, the shop is currently even more jam-packed than usual with its extensive stock of Christmas items – seasonal flowers, boughs of fir, stick wreaths, miniature trees, nutmeg scented candles and delicate handcrafted ornaments.
“My favourite item is the Dutch white door wreath. They’re made with twigs and fairy lights. We had them last year too and they were so popular that one customer was so disappointed when we sold out I took the one I had at home off my lounge wall so she could have it.”
Only one and a half years old, Flower Box appeared in St Albans in June 2014 and is the second florist that Zoe has opened. The first was when she was just 18. This was successful for six years until she decided it was time to do what all twentysomethings get the urge to do – travel. She then married, had children and has now gone back to her roots (literally and figuratively!) “I just love flowers. I get so excited buying the products for the shop. I get a bit carried away,” she says.
Despite everything coming from her supplier in the Netherlands, there are flowers in the store that have travelled from as far away as Kenya.
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“I like to find things unusual and sell them at a reasonable price. This isn’t London. I don’t want to scare people away. I have a great clientele,” Zoe says.
A St Albans native, she started out working at “Flowers by Val” on Saturdays when she was 13. Perhaps she has lucked out with the fact that St Albans is ideal for this type of business. Nonetheless, Zoe points out that, sadly, most of the florists that used to line the city streets 20 years ago are no more.
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Zoe is infectiously passionate about her trade and has aspirations of potential expansion one day, and to set up a flower academy. “It’s food for thought,” she says, “but I want to keep my business local to this area, because I just love St Albans.”
Christmas at Flower Box
The season begins for Zoe at the end of October, when she finalises the stock she’ll be offering to her customers for the festive season.
The clientele start appearing as early as the beginning of November, on the early hunt for new decorations, floral ideas and to start ordering Christmas arrangements and bespoke wreaths or centrepieces.
Flower Box has ready-prepared arrangements and decorations for customers, but will also take requests for personalised items, which the in-store florists will happily advise on.
The store entices the passer-by with its over-spill of Christmas greenery around the entryway to the Village Arcade. On entry you are met with a wash of multi-colour from the freshly cut flowers on display in large clear glass jars. There’s a scent in the air – a sweet taste of petals and cinnamon (from the candle range also on offer). Everything is tremendously fresh (their stock arrives three times a week).
For Christmas this year, there are some items you won’t find anywhere else. Wreaths made from driftwood, a unique take on a decoration that’s very au naturel. Continuing this theme, several of the tree ornaments on sale reflect the nature trend that has appeared over the last few Christmasses of incorporating deer into seasonal decorating. Flower Box stocks wooden antlers that are selling fast, providing an almost Nordic/Canadian style that’s exceptionally wintry. Also popular are beautiful glass balloons. Ornaments range from around £2-£7.
- Amaryllis are so popular at this time of year and Zoe orders boxes and boxes of them to cover the demand at Christmas. They’re £3.50 per stem and last for around 10 days. She reccomends inserting a stick into the amaryllis to keep it standing tall. Due to their soft and hollow stems, she suggests using cellotape at the base of the flower to stop them curling.
- Blue pine is stunning at Christmas and will last through to January. So even when the tree is down and the New Year blues have set in, that fresh woody aroma will still scent your home. Flower Box offer bespoke garland making for stairs and fireplaces.
- Ilex berries are long-lasting and very striking as a floral Christmas display. Poinsettias are typical festive fare, but Flower Box sell miniature ones that make for unique table décor. Twigs, in silver and gold, provide an extension of your Christmas tree, ideal to hang baubles and trinkets on and to drape with lights.
- If you’ve not got a tremendous amount of space, Flower Box sell small potted Christmas trees for a very reasonable £24.50.
- Bouquets tend to start at £15 and can be custom designed to match whatever colour palette you use when decorating your home for the holidays. Don’t be afraid to go off-season. Stems such as calla lilies and tulips may typically be springtime flowers but displaying them at Christmas, in striking whites, reds or pinks, is unique, original and very striking.