A range of businesses and industries in Cumbria were impacted overnight by the Coronavirus lockdown as the economy was shutdown sharply in March.

Nearly all industries were hit across the board on an international, national and local. One which seemed to slip under the radar of public attention was Floristry, between florists, nurseries and garden centres, the flower industry is worth millions to the Cumbrian economy, employing hundreds of people across more than 50 businesses.

The Lake District and surrounding towns have numerous venues which are hugely popular for weddings and events, not just with locals but people from all across the country who want that perfect special day with the scenic backdrop of the Lakeland fells.

From Penrith’s Roundthorn Country House Hotel to Sharrow Bay Hotel overlooking Ullswater, Armathwaite Hall Hotel by Bassenthwaite Lake and Longlands in Cartmel, it is a big industry reliant on an international supply chain with around half of all flowers coming from the Netherlands and other items such as greenery, dressings and fillings from China, Italy, Ireland, and Columbia and Venezuela in South America.

Laura Tuer, co-owner of the award winning Greenwheat Flowers & FIKA in Penrith with husband Lee Cooper, is one such florist who felt the full effect of lockdown, losing thousands of pounds worth of business through weddings being cancelled or postponed.

The 39-year-old mother-of-two, whose got nearly 20 years experience, kept working throughout the majority of lockdown while keeping within the government’s guidelines and said it has been a “pretty unique but difficult time”.

Speaking of the impact on her supply chain, including the Flower Bank in Wreay, Carlisle – which is linked to Tom Brown Wholesale in London, and The Fellside Flower Company near Appleby among others, she’s been surprised at what they could get.

She said: “I speak to my suppliers every day and you build that relationship, I know they have worked tirelessly and gone above and beyond to help, and that’s kept us all going. If I lost even one supplier then I would really struggle as we get busier. If this happened 20 years ago, when there was even less British flowers available or if I was less experienced then it would have been harder.

“Most of my flowers come from the Netherlands and special roses from Columbia or Kenya and foliage from elsewhere, so we have used more British flowers but there just isn’t the quantity as it’s so difficult with our climate.

“It has been hard, I have never known a year like it as it is completely unprecedented. I thought at one point that we would have to close as had already ordered loads of flowers for weddings that were then cancelled at short notice. But while the wedding season was cancelled and I only did our first wedding at the end of July, which was quite emotional, we’ve been really busy with funerals and delivery orders, because of lockdown people couldn’t celebrate or be with each other then instead they would send flowers.

“I use three main suppliers, and two of them specialise in Dutch flowers such as lillies, hydrangeas, tulips and delphiniums. We’ve used a lot of flowers which are less popular but look just as nice, as its just been about what you get, and people have been less choosey about that and given us more creative freedom which has been nice.

“And now because less flowers have been produced as all the growers stopped during lockdown, the prices on what is available is going up as we get busier, so we’re still going to have to use some flowers which are less common and we wouldn’t usually. A number of weddings booked this year have moved to 2021 so we may see a small boom”

Of the 50 or so Cumbrian companies involved in the flower industry, very few florists, growers and nurseries have paid the ultimate price with only two having to close.

The British Florist Association, which represents around 8,000 florists, confirmed they knew of two out of their 700-plus membership going out of business during lockdown and accepted that while the industry has “suffered heavily”, it has also shown its resilience.

Tracy Tomlinson, BFA manager, said: “We saw a mixed response, florists who work in studios and focus more on photography suffered the most while ones which have both a retail unit and online orders have fared better while many who have also spoken to us have seen an increase of funeral work.

“There has a lot been a greater focus on British flowers, our season used to be really short from May to August but is beginning to stretch to go from March and October now and UK growers like Cornish Blooms have actually expanded due to foreign flowers being less accessible.

“With a lot of weddings and events cancelled until next year, now that we’ve survived 2020 we should see a bumper 2021 and many have reported to us already being fully booked for April and May.”

“Lockdown happened just after Mothers Day and it came as a shock to everyone in the industry. Many were left with hundreds of flowers and plants that they had to decide what to do with.

“Florists are professional but emotional people, we have spoken to a huge number that have had to furlough staff, cancel arrangements and lost a lot of money. Many instead gave flowers to hospitals, care homes or left them in public places for people to take.”