Gifting flowers is an age-old way of showing love and giving thanks. Mother’s Day – or Mothering Sunday, as it was formerly known – is among the most common times of year to buy flowers as a gift. The holiday is rooted in the Christian calendar, falling on the fourth Sunday of Lent and three Sundays before Easter, writes Holly O’Mahony…

Mother’s Day dates back to the 17th century, when it was established as a holiday for household servants, who would take leave from their employers to visit their mothers. The servants would reportedly gather fresh flowers on their journey home to give as a gift. Other aspects of the tradition, such as visiting your ‘mother’ church in your hometown and eating simnel cake, are no longer associated with Mother’s Day, but gifting flowers has remained a custom three centuries later.

Mother’s Day experienced a lull over the years, but was revived in 1913 thanks to an English Anglican woman called Constance Smith. Inspired by the recent take-off of the Mother’s Day in the US, Constance campaigned to revive the holiday back in the UK. The tradition in America was relatively new, held in May (rather than a particular Sunday during Lent), and was brought about for entirely different reasons to the original holiday in the UK.

American Mother’s Day was established by a woman called Anna Jarvis, who began a campaign to make Mother’s Day a recognised holiday in the US after her own mother passed away in 1905. In 1908, Anna held her first memorial for her mother at their local church in Grafton, West Virginia.

Not long after Constance Smith reinstated Mother’s Day in the UK, merchants saw the commercial opportunity for it and so, little by little, the holiday we know today with its cards and flowers was born.

The borough of Greenwich is in no short supply of flower shops, but on my latest search for a bouquet I came across Crimson Rose, a flower shop in Plumstead selling ‘traditional and tropical flowers’. The shop is run by three women – Kim, Maria and Chrissy – and has been providing the multicultural community with blooms for a range of events and occasions for the past 17 years.
“I bought a shell of a shop in Plumstead Common Road,” says co-owner Kim, reflecting back. “I had no experience, no staff to assist and I had never been taught [about shop management].” Kim was working in the City at the time; her background was in law and IT, but she had always loved flowers. “I am always amazed by their beauty and how such beauty has come from the ground,” she says.

Over the years, Kim has had a number of memorable and bizarre requests for flower arrangements. “We’ve made tablets, fish and chips, and cartoon characters – all out of flowers.” she says. “We always go the extra mile to ensure our customer has what they want, especially if it’s a last farewell.”

For Crimson Rose, Valentine’s Day on February 14 comes with very particular stresses. “The logistics of sourcing red roses is massive and you can actually buy them a year in advance directly from growers,” explains Kim. “However, be prepared [if you’re buying them from flower shops], as the prices can increase by up to five times per stem to what they would cost on any other day of the year.”

Mother’s Day is even more popular for Crimson Rose, but because there’s less of a fixation with one particular type of flower, it’s less stressful to organise. “The choice of flowers available is better too, as most mums like carnations and chrysanthemums,” Kim says. “Having said that, if the flowers [we’re sourcing] are in the Interflora catalogue, growers are likely to increase the prices. Buying wise, for us florists Mother’s Day is still better [than Valentine’s Day].”

“We start preparing for Mother’s Day at least three months in advance when we buy our sundry items – if we leave it to the last minute they won’t be available,” explains Kim. “As for pre-ordering flowers, we do that at least a month in advance.” In Kim’s experience, sourcing certain flowers last minute can sometimes even be favourable price wise. “It’s a case of supply and demand,” she says.

The Crimson Rose website boasts an array of pinky-purple or vibrant yellow bouquets, priced from £21.95 to £75.95. However, Kim insists they don’t stick to set prices and can make things work whatever the shopper’s budget.

Why are flowers such an enduringly popular gift? For Kim, not only do they convey thought, love and care, but the simple sight of them makes people happy. “You would be amazed how a bunch of daffs can brighten your day and lift your spirits,” she says. “If you want to make your mum smile on Mother’s Day, flowers certainly do that. No matter how much you have spent or whether you’ve gone for a bunch of daffs or tulips, a bouquet of lilies, tropicals, or a single rose, all flowers say you’ve thought about your mum.”

Crimson Rose, 119 Plumstead Common Road, London SE18 2UQ. Monday – Saturday, 9am – 6pm. Sunday closed.