Columbia Road Flower Market, Shoreditch, London

Droopy tulip anyone?

Columbia Road Flower Market, Open Every Sunday 9am to 3pm.


Maybe it’s the recession, or simply the wrong time of year, but my trip yesterday to this world famous market was a complete let down. This was my 5th visit to the market and over the years I have seen a marked difference both in the quality of the goods and the service provided.

My first visit was back in Christmas 2005, when I went with a small bag and £50 and returned home looking like a walking Kew Gardens. My second visit, summer 2006, I went with £75 returning home with flowers, shrubs, herbs and vegetable plants of all kinds and people wondering who this mad person was travelling on the train with the entire contents of Chelsea gardens in her numerous bags!

On my 3rd visit, which was about Summer 2008 I made the mistake of informing my friend about the market. My friend had a large car at the time. I made the wise move to leave my purse at home and only took enough change with me to buy us a cup of tea and a slice of cake each. Despite this we still managed to overfill the car and for safety reasons had the avoid the motorways and major roads in order to get all the items home. However, I did notice that the usual buzz between the customers and the sellers wasnt as evident as my previous visits. I had also noticed a slight increase in the prices.

My 4th visit, which was last Summer 2009 almost made me want to never visit this market again.The largest stall with seemingly the largest selection of plants, at the top end of the market was so appallingly run, one wonders if they were a legitimate enterprise. The staff were extremely rude not only ignoring people’s requests for information and help, but would literally turn their backs to potential customers and pretend to be in deep conversation with their colleagues. Coupled with the extremely poor quality plant stock, I was severely put off the entire experience.

However, having been inspired by a Christmas decoration video click here to view video where flowers were used, I thought I should give Columbia Market Flower Market another chance. This time the experience was better, the stall holders more polite and willingly to give more help and advice, but the bargains and quality simply were not there. I managed only to spend £10, £5 for 3 long cotton stems, and £5 on what was meant to be 20 roses, but only turned out be to 19, as 1 was too badly damaged to use.

There seemed to be less stall holders than ever, but I put this down mainly to the time of the year and the predominance of Christmas tree sellers. I did notice that there were loads of bargain hunters, but not a lot of actual buyers. In fact there were more people carrying cameras than carrying flowers. One stall holder was desperately trying to sell a bunch of flowers apparently worth £25 for £5. A good deal yes, as they were sizeable bunches of mixed flowers, but who wants pastel coloured flowers in Winter, let alone at Christmas?

All in all, if you want to create a wonderful flower centrepiece for your Christmas dinner table, at an affordable price, you are better off going, as much as I hate to say this, at your local super market. There is no point going all the way across London, for poor choice and then only to get ripped off in the process.

Verdict: Good for a one off visit to get ideas for your garden or home decoration, or if you have nothing else better to do on a Sunday.

Rating: 1/5

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