Plans underway to fill Norwich with flowers this spring
- Credit: Samuel Mathewson
A centuries-old tradition welcoming people to Norwich with flowers is being revived for May Day
Garlands will greet city centre shoppers and visitors over the first May Bank Holiday weekend.
Businesses are being asked to decorate doors with flowers from May 1 in an initiative led by Norwich Bid (Business Improvement District) and Visit Norwich, designed to create a colourful, optimistic and welcoming atmosphere as the city opens up again.
The flower festival with a difference is inspired by a Norwich tradition from almost 400 years ago known, as the Florists’ Feast, in which the city was decorated with flowers and people feasted, enjoyed entertainments and bought and sold plants.
Rowan Whiteside of Norwich Bid said: “We’re asking businesses to decorate their doors with a spring garland. These door decorations can be floral, designed from stock, or inspired by another concept completely, and all businesses are invited to participate. All we ask is that your spring garland is up on your door by May 1.”
And she said businesses were embracing the imaginative idea, with a bookshop planning to make paper flowers from the pages of books and a pub creating one from bee cans.
The first Florists’ Feast took place in Norwich exactly 390 years ago, on May 3, 1631.
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It celebrated some of the spring flowers grown in the city and was so successful it became an annual event. Run by the Norwich Society of Florists, it also featured a feast and a specially written play and is thought to have been inspired by the ‘Strangers’ who had not only brought their weaving skills across the North Sea to Norwich, but also a love of growing flowers.
Many of the protestant refugees invited to Norwich in Tudor times would have maintained links with their Dutch families – and been aware of the passion for flowers in general, and tulips in particular, which was sweeping the Netherlands. Dutch people made and lost fortunes as they traded in the prized bulbs and in France, it was rumoured that entire houses would be exchanged for a single bulb.
Tulip mania was at its height in the Netherlands in the 1630s. By then Norwich was already known for its horticulture and from 1631 The Florists’ Feast celebrated its spring flowers. The festival became the ideal occasion for competitive growers and gardeners to show off flowers and buy and sell bulbs.
Today the Florists’ Feast is back – and everyone is invited. Although the spring garland weekend is inviting businesses to decorate their doorways individuals can also take part in the floral flourish of creativity and colour, by brightening up their own doorways with a spring garland or pot of tulips.
Norwich Bid is asking businesses and individuals to share their spring garland pictures online with to help promote Norwich (tag @NorwichBIDUK on Instagram and Twitter and @VisitNorwich on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.)