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What Flower are you?

Photographer Stephanie de Leng meets one mum who won't be getting treated this Mother's Day

Published on May 13th 2009.

What Flower are you?

If Lorraine Whittle could be a flower she would be a deep red peony. Its romantic old-fashioned form, colour and heady scent speak to her like no other.

Lorraine is equally fragrant and sunny. She is often seen to laugh, ear to ear, so broadly that I am frightened she will split in two, and then I rather think she is a bright and welcoming sunflower.

Fifteen years ago, I gave birth to a second child. So joyous was this occasion that my husband and I hurled caution to the wind and threw the best party we have ever been to. No expense was spared –we hired top caterers, “now” musicians and, of course, I wanted the best and freshest flowers. A friend suggested The Dutch Flower Shop and, being of Dutch origin myself, this seemed meant to be.

On the special day, every corner of our house was dressed in informal arrangements of lilies and wild flowers all in shades of white and all so amazingly fresh that a month passed before I had to reluctantly discard the blooms, wash the vases, and return them to the florist.

The secret to The Dutch Flower Shop’s success is Lorraine herself. A generous but astute woman, it is not unknown for her to offer blooms free of charge if the moment suits, and similarly she knows when to get tough. Whatever the occasion, her flowers are always fresh, arriving daily from Holland in the confines of a capricious truck so long that it seems to swallow the row of modest shops, in Woolton Road, behind it.

When I came to photograph Lorraine, she was deep inside one of these trucks, talking to the charming Dutch drivers. I climbed aboard and saw shelf upon shelf laden with crisp fresh blooms. Lorraine was selecting the loveliest and most unusual. “Have you got any ranunculus?” she asked (I googled this later - they look just like

peonies). Then, “Coffee?” she asked in the same breath to no one in particular. We all said yes.

The business opened in 1980 when Lorraine was heavily pregnant with her first child. She can, therefore, honestly say she has not had a Mother’s Day off in twenty-nine years. But her two sons would never dream of buying her flowers.“My son once thought it would a good laugh to get me a bunch of daffs from another florist. I nearly hit him with them.”

Traditionally this is the busiest time of the year for her, even more so than Valentine’s when it has not been unknown for one male customer to order romantic bouquets for more than one woman!

But as busy as she is, come evening she kicks off her heels, and loves nothing more than to cook intricate meals for her family while relaxing with a glass or two of wine. There is not one TV cookery programme unfamiliar to Lorraine, no mean achievement considering the plethora. Perhaps it is somewhat ironic then that the oddest request she ever received was for a funeral wreath fashioned to look like a McDonald’s hamburger. It had been the deceased’s favourite dish and perhaps it is best not to ponder this too deeply.

Not least amongst the many notables Lorraine has prepared bouquets for, there is the Queen (three times), Princess Diana and, yes, even the Pope. She giggled when telling this, and her staff joined in. And that is the second secret of her success. At Chez Lorraine everyone has so much fun. No wonder then that Vogue recently listed The Dutch Flower Shop as Coleen Rooney’s favourite florist.

*Stephanie’s first book “People in Liverpool” is available for £19.99 from Waterstones, Liverpool, or directly through her website www.stephaniedeleng.co.uk

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7 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

smiggaMarch 19th 2009.

EDITORIAL SAYS: Rant removed for the usual reasons

ChickMarch 19th 2009.

EDITORIAL SAYS: Rant removed for the usual reasons

younger-than-twiggy-anywayMarch 19th 2009.

I really do not understand this comment above from dig. I find it offensive and wish it would be removed. It also has nothing whatsoever to do with the above article which, like all Stephanie's articles, is pro-Liverpool in the extreme!

DigMarch 19th 2009.

The usual suspects try and fail again. The fact that they attempt to offend us Scousers shows their massive inferiority complex. If they were confident in themselves and their identities they wouldn't feel it necessary to try to offend us. Just like bullies at school. Only do it to look and feel hard to their friends to compensate for the deep rooted inadequacies they actually feel. The bullies when I was at school was usually the academic underachievers and the lads from broken homes jealous of the intellect and security their victims had. Reading the insults above you would think Liverpool was the only city with crime and drugs, which shows our detractors closed minds at work. Just so you know, I'm not offended, just bored by these weak efforts at offending Scousers. Step it up and entertain us please. If you're going to make the effort you might as well make it worthwhile!!!

ShaunMarch 19th 2009.

I have never been given flowers on Mother's Day, or been taken out. But then it's all so commercial, isn't it. I have come to expect a cup of tea in the morning, but feel quite guilty about that, so this year I shall be ignoring it as usual.

EditorialMarch 19th 2009.

Dig was responding to some very nasty postings, which we have since removed, by an unhinged person who does not really have an opinion about anything and who goes around this site and the Machester site wasting his time thinking of things to put, which we then take down (it takes us a second flat.)

AnonymousMarch 19th 2009.

Dig, stop rising to it. You're doing a good job of looking offended if you're not. Just ignore it and it will go away, those posters do it to get a reaction and you've just given it them as usual. Stop letting the side down Dig!

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