When Teddy and Meg Betts opened Betts Flower Shop on Nelson Road in Greenwich back in 1946, they probably didn’t imagine that in 73 years time, a grandchild of theirs would open their own florists a stone’s throw from the site. But this is exactly what Joanna Betts, co-owner of Betts & Twine florists on Turnpin Lane in Greenwich Market, has done, writes Holly O’Mahony…
For Joanna and her sister Madeline, opening a florists so close to the site of their grandparents’ shop feels like a homecoming. “This is where we belong and we can’t wait to bring lots of beautiful colour and fragrance into the homes of SE10,” says Joanna. The new shop specialises in both traditional and contemporary floristry, and caters for weddings, special occasions and funerals.
When Teddy and Meg opened their florists back in the 1940s, they were quite literally shaking up the market. At the time, Greenwich Market was dominated by wholesale fruit and vegetable stalls and the offering of a neighbourhood flower shop was a new concept. It proved popular, and the couple built up a reputation for being one of the best florists south of the river.
Teddy and Meg passed the business onto their son, also called Teddy, who took things even further, becoming the first floral wholesaler outside of Covent Garden. It was a bold move, but the family say Teddy Jr was inspired by the prospect of no longer having to get up at 1am to travel to Covent Garden to pick up his stock for the day.
Joanna began working in her parents’ florists when she was 13 years old. She started out as a Saturday girl, learning the ropes from her parents, and worked her way up to become the owner of one of the family shops. The Greenwich store wasn’t the only site the Betts owned. Others were close by in neighbouring areas, Woolwich and Crayford among them. Joanna’s parents eventually retired, leaving Joanna to carry the family name and business forward.
Betts & Twine isn’t just a flower shop. The site also boasts a downstairs studio, where Joanna and co-owner Adrian Evans are hoping to hold weekly floristry workshops. “The classes will be for local people who like flowers but want a different idea to just putting them in a vase,” explains Adrian. “The classes will be part of a six or eight week course. We’ll get everyone sitting around the large workshop table and week by week they’ll learn hand ties, posies, floor displays and placements,” he says.
Unlike Joanna, Adrian’s background is not in the floristry business. A former carpenter, the new shop is his first voyage into dealing with flowers. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do for years and years but never had the opportunity,” he says. “I’m still learning about flowers as I go.”
Adrian approached Joanna and the pair soon realised they’d make good business partners.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s with friends, family or strangers, you’ve got to have the same drive and vision,” says Adrian, on going into business with Joanna. “It takes guts as well as insight and with floristry, you’ve got to be flexible: trends change like they do with clothing and you have to move with the tide.”
How have they found running Betts & Twine together so far? “It’s been enjoyable but extremely hard work!” laughs Adrian. “It’s long hours. We open at 9am and often stay open until 7pm.” Despite largely using local suppliers, special requests for particular blooms often require the pair to be up early dealing with deliveries. And despite Joanna’s dad being responsible for diluting the wholesale market, the odd trip to Covent Garden is still sometimes unavoidable.
“Our personal brand is traditional flowers with a modern twist – nothing pretentious or fancy,” says Adrian, adding that like all florists, he and Joanna must bend to the fashion whims of the moment. “Everybody is in love with peonies right now,” he chuckles, a trend which is tricky for florists because of the flower’s short growing window and the fact they need three years to come into full bloom. Another popular trend, says Adrian, is meadow flowers. “So the style is very natural as opposed to bright colours and tropical breeds.”
Since opening Betts & Twine in Greenwich Market, Joanna has met several customers who remember her parents’ florists. “We’ve had people go past and say the name ‘Betts & Twine’, and ask if that’s part of Betts. Then they say to Joanna, ‘I remember your mum and dad’,” says Adrian.
Joanna is no longer at the end of the Betts family line of florists. Her 14-year-old daughter Sasha is now working in the new family shop on Saturdays, much like her mum did when she was a teenager. Sasha is currently responsible for sweeping up – a fundamental role when you get a lot of deliveries which generate a lot of mess – but she’s also receiving training from her mother in matching colours in bouquets, learning how to do arrangements and putting displays together. In short, Sasha is well on her way to becoming a fourth generation florist.
Betts & Twine, 2 Turnpin Lane, Greenwich, London SE10 9JA.