Greenery is the new black

Written by Alastair Owen
March 28, 2011

... has to be my favourite title for a piece about foliage. Did you spot the quite inspired play on words?! Let’s take a moment to reflect on that.

For many poor florists across the country, foliage means the cut green stuff used as "filler" to bulk out a design. These deprived souls only ever get to see the pretty non-descript green stuff that their Dutchman or Dutch-supplied wholesaler deigns to show them. Ruscus, salal, a bit of euc, the odd palm leaf, some aspidistra and not a lot besides. Shame.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Close your eyes and imagine instead of a riot of form, height and even colour, and you will be transported to the famous Foliage Row at London’s New Covent Garden Flower Market. And, did you know, they can now deliver to addresses nationwide by next day courier? Be foliage-deprived no more!

The folk on Foliage Row are the unchallenged experts in the wonderful world of foliage. David Gorton of GB Foliage stocks foliage from Britain and mainland Europe, whilst Barry and Bryan Porter of Porters Foliage are the fourth generation of foliage specialists, sourcing from Britain and the wider world.

Right now on Foliage Row, you’ll find seasonal British-grown materials such magnolia in bud, forsythia, umpteen varieties of eucalyptus, viburnum tinus, various ivies, prunus, early blossom, contorted hazel and plenty more besides. Soon there will be branches of birch, cornus bursting into leaf, and all manner and shades of scented blossom, fragrant witch hazel and cornus mas, fabulous stems of pussy willow smothered in velvety catkins and bunches of flowering camellia against a backdrop of rich green glossy leaves.

At Porters Foliage, you will also find curious and inspirational foliages from growers in South America, the Caribbean, Australasia, Asia and Africa. Porters’ encyclopaedic knowledge of world foliages is truly fascinating, and has won them a devoted fan base amongst London florists such as Paul Thomas, Hayford & Rhodes and Neill Strain.

They can tell you where and how the plants are grown, whether they are best in or out of water, how long they’ll last and when they’re available, so you know which product will be the best for the job. They have four different climate zones to ensure that their stock is kept in tip-top condition. The folk from The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew often come down to play an informal game of “spot the foliage”, testing their knowledge of plant material out of context.

Come Chelsea-time, and Porters Foliage are in demand to supply the many show gardens and floral exhibits. Last year, I bumped into them as they headed into the Chelsea showground with Kazuyuki Ishihara, designer of the Japanese Kazahana garden, whom Porters had supplied with dozens of boxes of bun moss. Barry, a keen photographer, later clambered over the exhibit to get those ultimate shots, as a team of Japanese meticulously cleaned bun moss with fine tweezers!

So, embrace the world of foliage and pay Porters and GB Foliage a visit one morning this Spring. It’ll be a revelation!


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