From our special correspondent in London,
An ocean of flowers and a human tide. Since the announcement Thursday evening of the death of the Queen Elizabeth IIthousands of Britons and tourists flocked to Buckingham Palace to lay flowers, cards and candles in memory of their adored queen. A royal palace whose gates were quickly transformed into walls of flowers, so many passers-by left. So much so that this Saturday, it is now a few hundred meters away, in Green Park, that the British are invited to pay tribute to their deceased sovereign.
It is in this park which adjoins the Palais-Royal that a memorial has been set up where royal subjects and tourists flock to lay bouquets and armfuls of flowers for their queen. Enough to generate an extraordinary peak of activity for London florists, who have been doing royal business since Thursday evening.
“We bought our bouquet at the other end of town”
Coming out of the tube station in Green Park this Saturday, almost everyone has their arms laden with flowers. And in the heart of the park, a dense crowd has gathered, and has already transformed the green space into a colorful flowerbed. Roses, sunflowers, orchids and varieties with petals as far as the eye can see adorn this improvised memorial to welcome the tributes of British.
And many anticipated the blow so as not to arrive empty-handed. “We were afraid of not finding any here, so we bought our bouquet at the other end of the city, before taking the metro”, tell a father and his daughter, who paid 20 pounds for their bouquet composed . A little further on, a woman in her thirties has her arms barely long enough to hold the superb bouquet of pale pink camellias that she is about to place. “I ordered it last night, it cost £80, but I really wanted to give her something beautiful.”
At the foot of the trees and on the large lawns of the park, the beautiful floral compositions quickly form an ocean of bright colors. And Sue is very proud of the one she’s about to drop off. “I’m a florist in a small village, confides the one who spends the weekend in London with her group of friends, all equipped with splendid armfuls of flowers. I chose my most beautiful flowers and composed all the bouquets myself before hitting the road”.
“Customers order bouquets from the United States to leave for the Queen”
A few hundred meters from the park, at Wild Things Flowers, “since Thursday, we have had a lot of customers come to buy their flowers before going to Buckingham, explains Louise. We had record crowds, and on Friday, the demand was unprecedented, we had to restock the store twice. Fortunately, we had made pre-orders and planned a large stock, so we didn’t have any supply difficulties. Even if this Saturday, certain colors were harder to find, in particular white and green, very rare on the flower market that day”.
A florist who sells a lot of flowers directly in such circumstances seems quite logical. On the other hand, “surprisingly, we had many people from the United States and other European countries who, wishing to convey their condolences, called us to buy bouquets to be delivered by us directly to Buckingham Palace and in the park, failing them to be able to drop them off personally”. Something to add a few touches of color to the clouds of flowers that fill this improvised memorial.
“We have never had such a request, it is unprecedented”
But for those who arrive empty-handed at the gates of the royal palace or the park, getting flowers at the last minute quickly turns into an almost impossible mission. “I’ve been walking around the neighborhood for a while now and I can’t find anything,” annoys Anna, who calls out to a passer-by to ask her where she found the bouquet she has in her hands. “At the supermarket, right here, his interlocutor tells him, pointing to the business in question. They’ve just restocked, hurry up, it’s going fast.”
In the supermarket indicated, Anna breathes relief: an entire aisle of bouquets of roses is offered to her. And the one who spun her good plan hadn’t lied, it goes fast! “We have a flower department that is usually well stocked, with a wide variety of compositions and prices,” says the manager. But since Thursday, we have an unprecedented demand, we had never seen that! Just today, we had several out of stock, we sold everything and completely restocked the department at least four times! Fortunately, our supplier assured us of a direct delivery”.
“All we had left were houseplants, and people were buying them”
“This morning again, we had a choice with a variety of bouquets and for all budgets, from 3.50 to 35 pounds. But here, we only have bouquets of roses, yet we usually don’t sell that many, unless it’s Valentine’s Day, she jokes. But today, it’s really crazy: at one point, the sales were such that all we had left were houseplants, and people were buying them! We are expecting other deliveries for the next few days, hoping to be able to meet the demand”.
A request that has not escaped a few clever ones. In the park, Jimmy, 26, is busy. “5 pounds a rose, 20 pounds for 5,” reads a sign stuck on his two buckets, one half-full of white roses, the other with only a few red roses left. “I moved in this morning, and business is going very well,” he rejoices before selling the last three red roses he has left.