Charlotte Harding finds a business in Eastbourne doing things a little bit differently when it comes to flowers.
Flowers can instantly brighten up a home and add a bit of colour.
But for those with hay fever or people who are time poor keeping them alive for any amount of time can be a challenge.
“We all love real flowers,” says Caroline Tradewell of The Secret Garden based in Eastbourne.
“They’re such a treat, but of course once cut their beauty doesn’t last long.
“Many find that a stunning artificial display brightens up their home beautifully, decorating their space for a fraction of the overall cost of keeping fresh flowers there long term.”
The Secret Garden specialises in replica and artificial flora and fauna and offers a complete range from flowers to plants, arrangements, trees and hanging baskets.
“Over the years we have provided floral decoration for many restaurants and hotels, special events and corporate functions, local councils, train stations, the National Trust, even Disneyworld Florida,” she says.
“But our main clients have always been those looking to brighten their homes and gardens with our products, which is an absolute delight to be part of. “We also offer a corporate rental service which is currently available in Eastbourne, Brighton and Lewes, whereby our floral displays can be rented and changed on a month-by-month or season to season basis.”
What they offer are relatively low maintenance which Caroline says it ideal for our busy lives and for keeping costs down especially in corporate environments.
“On top of this, they don’t require the optimum conditions of real flowers and plants so they are ideal for brightening up dark corners or less hospitable areas,” she adds.
“They are also fantastic for hay fever sufferers.”
While a few years ago saying you had artificial flowers in your home may have been met with dismay Caroline has seen a huge surge in popularity in the last ten years.
“Ten or fifteen years ago they were still pretty out of fashion and would not have been considered by many,” she reveals.
“Since then many more people have discovered the beauty and functionality of high quality artificial flowers.
“Artificial botanicals have a far more fashionable reputation nowadays and, while of course it is still possible to find pretty awful ones, most people now appreciate the benefits of good quality replicas and are discerning enough to search them out.
“As with many things, you really do get what you pay for with artificial flowers, and it is well worth investing in the best quality you can find – after all, you are going to be enjoying them for a long time.”
Many of the trees and plants can also be used outside as Secret Garden has a range that are UV treated.
“Many of our exterior products are perfect for contemporary landscaping schemes, and can transform exterior spaces from messy and unused to smart and striking with just one initial investment,” explains Caroline.
“A well thought out artificial planting scheme can be a very worthwhile investment for homes and businesses.
“Our advice is always to keep things simple – too much colour and style variance can be overwhelming whereas a simple, clean look is more striking and generally more pleasing to the eye.
“Also, especially in more traditional planting schemes, try mixing artificial in alongside your natural planting. It will be a challenge for anyone to spot the difference.”
The business was set up in 2005, Caroline was working part time in a little shopping centre in Eastbourne having had her daughter two years before.
“I knew that I wanted to run my own business in a creative area, and an artificial flower shop came up for sale in the shopping centre,” she recalls.
“It was small and tucked away upstairs, with little footfall, but I saw huge potential for the high quality products and I took the leap and bought it.” From there she took the shop out onto the high street and traded in the town centre for more than 10 years.
“In the last five years or so our online sales have grown hugely, to the point where running both the shop and online business was taking too much of a toll on my family’s lives, and we decided last year to close the shop and concentrate purely on our online operation,” she says.
“It was a big but wonderfully freeing decision, and we are now focused on selling nationwide from our website and other online sales platforms, and we are less tied to having to be running a shop at specific times.”
Caroline reveals that when she first saw the products she was amazed by the beauty. She loved the idea of a business specialising in all things floral only with a twist ‘a secret’.
“Replica flowers have huge advantages for our modern busy lives and I have always been excited to bring these products to those who would enjoy their benefit,” she smiles.
“Poor imitations have had their day, and the quality of replicas these days can be remarkable.
“We hand select our floral imitations to be the most botanically accurate replicas available, and they are hard to tell from the real thing.”
So much so Caroline says that customers have asked their family and friends to water their plants when they have gone away only to return and find their artificial flowers or baskets have been watered too.
“People delight in showing off their beautiful flowers to friends and neighbours,” she says.
“And it’s up to them if they share they secret or if they want to keep it quiet.”
For the full selection visit Secret Garden’s website www.secretgardeneb.co.uk Contact them on 01323 640931 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
And for their latest news and offers follow them on Facebook @secretgardenartificialflowers
This first featured in the May edition of etc Magazine pick up your copy now.