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Almost 21 years since the death of Diana, Princess of Wales
by Art Drysdale
by Art Drysdale

email: art@artdrysdale.com

Art Drysdale, a life-long resident of Toronto and a horticulturist well known all across Canada, is now a resident of Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, just north of Nanaimo. He has reno-vated an old home and has a new garden there. His radio gardening vignettes are heard in south-western Ontario over radio station Easy 101 FM out of Tillsonburg at 2 PM weekdays.

Art also has his own website at http://www.artdrysdale.com


April 1, 2018

Above, Just one section of the floral tributes left in London for Princess Diana back in 1997. Below, the U.S.-introduced rose Diana. Princess of Wales introduced in 1998 by the Jackson & Perkins Company.



 


 



 

In early September last year it had been my intent to write about what would have been then the 20th anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales on August 31, 1997. However, a number of other items presented themselves and I ended up not getting it done. For that reason I thought it might be appropriate to use the information from an article I did write about her death on October 5, 1997. I have updated several aspects of the item this week, so here-with.

“Princess Diana's death had some horticultural implications about which many readers may not have been aware. We all were astonished by the sheer numbers of floral tributes that were placed at such locations as Buckingham and Kensington palaces.

But, did you stop to consider the value of those floral bouquets? And what about the growers of the flowers? Which countries' growers benefited the most? It wasn't those in the United Kingdom.

Then there were the thousands of notes and letters that accompanied the flowers. These tended to take on moisture from the floral bouquets and if they were to be preserved, had to be carefully and lovingly dried.

And still as this is written, my good friend David Welch, head of London's Royal Parks, told me from his Hyde Park office that new placements of floral bouquets were presently averaging 100 per day, depending on the weather. These are now being removed daily and taken to local London hospitals, with the notes and letters again being dried and kept.

The one million plus floral bouquets that were placed at Buckingham and Kensington palaces were removed over a 2½ week period, primarily by a core of volunteers including boy scouts and girl guides. Basically the most time consuming part was removal intact of the notes, poems and letters, and the taking of these to facilities where they could be dried and preserved.

What happened to the flowers themselves? David told me in a radio interview that these all went to London composting facilities.

Soon after the floral tributes began arriving, I asked the question of London friends, where were all these flowers coming from. British growers are relatively small in number in the World realm of things. Actually the greater number of British flower growers are on the Channel Islands of Guernsey and Jersey--where I visited about 11 months ago then. The reply came back that though cut flower growers were in a low volume season, until the fatal Paris accident, the available flowers from Channel Island growers were soon exhausted.

That's when growers in Europe, predominantly Holland, began to ship their crops, through the famous co-op "flower clocks" at such places as Aalsmeer and Westland. Aalsmeer ships on average 17 million cut blooms daily--and the Paris accident, while it added considerable demand, did not affect the total World consumption as much as you might have thought. Of the total exports from Aalsmeer, the increase to the United Kingdom just went up .5 percent. However, the actual increase to London itself, over the regular anticipated shipments, went up a full 20 percent.

It was not just Dutch growers who benefited from the demand for cut flowers. Many types that were in demand are grown as far away as Israel, southern Africa (Kenya, for example, where I visited the cut flower industry farms in 1964), and South America. In general Dutch growers, as well as the flower clock markets in that country, were the major recipients of the unexpected increase in cut flower business.

Locally in London, England, my friends in the business told me that it was the supermarket chains who were the major retailers of the thousands of individual bouquets of cut flowers. According to one industry watcher, these mass market retailers were instrumental in having thousands of small-size bouquets, particularly of the numerous white flowers, offered for sale at low, often loss-leader, prices.

Without doubt, the handling of the well over one million personal notes, letters and poems that accompanied the floral bouquets all having been separated out from the flowers and then carefully dried and preserved for future unknown use, was the most outstanding aspect of this out-pouring of grief for the "people's princess."

Ave atque vale, Diana!” 

   

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