A RETIRED social worker from Wirral is looking to force out the Dutch importers and one day monopolise on providing her own locally grown willow to florists.
Sylvia Briercliffe has already successfully secured two supply contracts in the North East Wales region.
Now she is planning ahead for the next season, where she hopes to market her product to the floral shops and designers in Ellesmere Port, Wirral, and across the North West.
Sylvia, of Eastham, has been growing willow at the Welsh College of Horticulture in Northop since 2002 along with Margaret Norwood, John Scrivener, Sally Ward, and Catherine Lynch.
The group are part of the volunteer group of past WCoH students named the ‘Friends of Celyn’, who last year gained the status of holding the National Collection of Hardy Fuchsias in North Wales.
Sylvia enrolled at the Welsh College of Horticulture after retiring from Cheshire County Council and gained her RHS General, and Advanced Certificates, and a HNC in Environmental Science. She then studied with the Open University on part of BSc in Environmental Studies.
After finishing her studies she joined the ‘Friends of Celyn’ who together designed a Willow Park in a boggy area of the college grounds, providing an educational resource, and recreational area with arbours, tunnels, and sculptures, and seating.
She went on to supply stock to florists.
Sylvia approached the head florist at Northop Garden Centre, who confirmed that willow used in many floral designs often came from Dutch importers.
So she took samples of her willow to the centre’s shop, where staff agreed to test the samples out within some of their work.
More than impressed with the result, the shop ordered stock to cover the Valentines Day, Mothers Day, and Easter periods.
Another local florists also approached Sylvia and the team for supplies to cover the Mothers Day and Easter periods.
Sylvia now has her sights set on a bigger crop for the next year, and is booked on courses to allow her to preserve the crop to supply throughout the year.
She said: “We are proud to supply a sustainable product, which has not travelled hundreds of miles, in different varieties with attractive catkins and coloured stems. The customer can choose exactly to suit their requirements.”