It is the sort of angry dispute between green-fingered combatants that could only ever occur at this time of year.
With Valentine’s Day almost upon us, the flower delivery network Interflora and the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) have provoked a furious backlash from growers after collaborating on what was marketed as a “mainly British-grown” Valentine’s product.
Since the first tweet was posted promoting the £195 Ultimate Love Bouquet online, eagle-eyed experts disputed the Union Jack symbol indicating a British source.
Flower growers said that many of the varieties shown could not have been produced in the UK at this time of year – as one blogger put it, “having Agapanthus in the same bouquet as Hyacinths puts two fingers up at seasonality”.
Interflora initially tweeted its insistence that 60 per cent of the bouquet was British-grown, while it had five of the 10 varieties listed online tagged with Union Jacks. After ongoing discussions with growers, however, the company was forced to remove the tags because they admitted they “could not guarantee the source” used by individual florists.
The growers’ attention then turned to the RHS itself for endorsing the bouquet. Grower Gill Hodgson of The Flower Farm in York told Horticulture Week: “The RHS are the main British gardening organisation and they should be promoting British growers and not endorsing a product that appears to be predominantly imported. To see the RHS championing scentless flowers mass-produced in Holland is soul-destroying.”
Oh dear, RHS - Royal Horticultural Society endorsing this very nonseasonal, very imported bouquet from... http://t.co/G7i66D0gl9— FlowerCollective (@FlowerCoOp) February 6, 2014
Somerset flower farmer Lara (@MFCFlowers) tweeted: “Shame on the RHS for it's collaboration with Interflora, why aren't they championing the cause of British grown flowers?” Nick Mann, who runs the the organisation Habitat Aid, said: “What on earth is the #RHS doing? I despair.”
In a statement, Interflora said: “Following consultation with our network, we highlighted the stems which could have been sourced as British Grown on our website.
“Our network of florists are all independent and therefore ultimately have control and responsibility for sourcing their own stock, so to avoid being misleading in any way we decided to remove the union jack icons from the website.”
The RHS said on Twitter that 50 per cent rather than 60 per cent of the planned bouquet had been grown from UK sources. As Interflora operates through a series of franchises, it said it could only “hope most florists would use these”. “We definitely appreciate the concerns though, and will ensure other initiatives help put British flowers back in the spotlight,” it said.
A spokesperson added that the Ultimate Love Bouquet was just “one initiative in a huge calendar of events”, and that the RHS is “absolutely committed to supporting British horticulture”.