Sending flowers to a family member or loved one has always been one of the most valued ways of expressing emotion.

But during lockdown, the florists at Carlisle's Vandella Flowers found that it took on an extra special meaning.

Vandella Flowers on Newtown Road has long been a popular choice for Carlisle residents planning weddings, funerals or other events, for those looking to mark a special occasion or to simply show a family member or loved one that they care.

The florists, explained manager Alison Routledge, remained open throughout the coronavirus lockdown, trading exclusively online and over the phone.

She said the team found themselves busier than usual during the height of lockdown, as people turned to them to help keep in touch with their family members and loved ones when in-person visits were impossible.

"We were probably busier than we would normally have been," said Alison, who has been a florist for 34 years.

"People couldn't visit their families initially, for that first six weeks, so I think one of the only things that could be done for birthdays or other events was to send flowers."

Alison said that being able to help families stay connected during lockdown meant a lot to the team of nine at Vandella Flowers, and also clearly meant a lot to their customers.

"We got more emails and cards to say thank you than normal," she said.

"We got a lot of heartfelt messages from people to show their appreciation after we sent flowers to people's family members."

Another aspect of Vandella's service during lockdown that took on a special meaning was the flowers and wreaths sent on behalf of customers to funerals.

"At the height of lockdown, when people couldn't go to loved ones' funerals, we were sending more tributes than we would normally," Alison said.

"It definitely had a different feel at the height of lockdown, sending tributes to funerals on behalf of people.

"It felt important in a different way to normal, because we knew that the people we were sending tributes on behalf of couldn't be there themselves in person."

Life at Vandella Flowers is closer now to normal, as the retail shop has now reopened following a relaxation of the lockdown rules.

One initial change made by the team was to knock through several walls in their sizeable workroom, to enable effective social distancing.

"We had staff coming in at night to work, to help ensure there was no more than three people at a time in the workroom," Alison said.

The team also had to alter its supply arrangements due to the Covid-19 disruption.

"Supply was hit quite badly. Our flowers usually come via ferry through Holland, but all that stopped.

"Delivery times were changed, it was quite a challenge.

"But we managed to source our flowers through a different route to normal."

Now lockdown has relaxed somewhat, Alison said things had returned largely to normal at Vandella Flowers.

"We're back to being as busy as we would be normally, but we're not as busy as Covid-19 made us initially."