We’ve said we would like to make the Chiswick Flower Market ‘the Columbia Rd of west London’. The 150 year old market in east London is one of the capital’s top tourist sights, with more than 50 market stalls, catering originally for the immigrant Hugenot community, now so packed with visitors that since the lockdown, they are asking people to stay away if they don’t live locally.
The Chiswick Flower Market is slightly more modest in its ambitions – 20 stalls rather than 52 – and keen to get the post-lockdown balance right, but who better to start us off than Steve Burridge, a market trader who’s been selling flowers all his life, and his father and grandfather before him, since 1926.
“I have been buying and selling plants from when I was seven” he told The Chiswick Calendar. “I’ve owned a stall since I was 21”.
He is literally related to half the traders in Columbia Rd. His grandfather Joe started the family tradition in 1926. He had five sons and all Steve’s uncles, brothers, cousins, his mum Josephine Ferguson, sister Denise, sister in law Lisa and now the next generation, his nieces and nephews are all involved. Of the 52 pitches at Columbia Rd, he is related to 26 of the stall holders.
Whereas his late father and grandfather used to buy and sell plants only, for the past 25 years he and his brother Peter have owned their own nursery in Hertfordshire, growing their own plants to supply their three pitches as well as other markets where they have stalls – at Waltham Abbey on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and now Chiswick Flower Market on the first Sunday of every month.
Taking a gamble
He is leaving his Columbia Rd stalls in the capable hands of his niece to come west because he is confident, he says, that the new market will do well.
“I want to come because I want to sell more plants and make more money! It’s not easy to get market stalls and I have a good feeling about this one. Although it’s a gamble leaving my stall in Columbia Rd on a Sunday, I have a lot of confidence about it. It’s the right area and I’m looking forward to a change of scene, a fresh start. It’s going to be a busy one!”
Gardening the new national hobby
Although his business was hit by the coronavirus pandemic because markets were shut, with hundred of thousands of plants to get rid of from the nursery, he found himself out delivering 50 orders a day.
“Easter Friday it was mad. Normally everyone goes away. Well everyone had the same thought – I’ll spend a bit on money on the garden instead. Good Friday I had 189 text messages from people asking for plant deliveries”.
Images above: Echinacia, Penstamon, Rudbeckia
What will be be selling in September?
“It’s a tricky one. There are still 50 different types of late flowering perennials, but it’s also the change over period to winter plants. We might not quite have the winter plants ready, that might be October, depending on the weather.
So we will definitely have lots of late flowering perennials – Rudbeckia, Penstamon, Salvias, Echinaea, Coreopsis. We might also have some of the winter stock – Winter Pansies, Primroses, Cyclamen and Heathers.
Images above: Salvias; Coreopsis
Read More Stories on The Chiswick Calendar
See also: Chiswick Flower Market