Classic Paintings with added Panache

If you’ve ever considered classic fine art to be a bit stuffy and perhaps lacking colour, we have a remedy.  After a recent visit to the International Floriculture Trade Fair in Holland, we’ve found some art with added extras.  We can now see some classic masterpieces with some lovely floral ingredients added.   With artists ranging from Monet, Manet through to De Vinci, we’re going to give you a rundown of our favourites and a little background to each piece.

1) Mona Lisa

This classic painting by Leonardo Da Vinci has had many people wondering; just what is she smiling at as well her relationship to the artist.  Theories have been researched and conjectured upon but no one shall ever truly know (unless Da Vinci kept a secret journal of course).

However the image is a bit bland.  Granted, you could say that the detail is in the background and in the encapsulating smile, but doesn’t it look so much more colourful with Roses? We think it does so we’ve posted the picture here for you.

2) A Bar at the Folies-Bergére

Manet is the next artist we’re about to brighten up.   Created in 1882 this was the last major work by the French maestro.  Showing a scene from a bar in Paris the original painting had an assortment of champagne bottles, glasses and fruit but little in the way of floral design except a small Rose in a glass. Well as you can see the image has been accentuated here to have a full blown Rose in the foreground to bring some much needed colour to the scene. Who doesn’t like pink Roses!?

3) The Milkmaid


Johannes Vermeer is the creator of this masterpiece; you may recognise his style from the more famous piece ‘The Girl with the Pearl Earring’ about which a movie was recently made.  In the original composition there is a rather drab table with some loaves of bread and a few pitchers. Nothing really stands out although it has to be said that there are some striking blue tones for which Vermeer was well known to produce. If we wanted to add a little something extra then what better way to offset the yellow top that the maid is wearing by introducing a yellow bouquet of Roses which makes it even more stunning.  No matter what daily chore the servant is instructed to do, we’re sure that every task would be made that little bit easier if you had a bit of extra colour and this is beautifully demonstrated here with yellow Roses.

4) Café Terrace at Night


This painting of a Café in Arles, France was made by the great Vincent Van Gogh in 1888.  Van Gogh was an inspiration to the great impressionists such as Monet, who were to come later, it is a tragedy that he was never recognised in his time as being the great artist he was.

This painting is of a scene that is still visible today, with Van Gogh’s unmistakable style of sky and foreground with large brush strokes clearly visible.  However, in the original the table is a little drab.  The recreation has added a little colour with some delightful orange and pink Roses which combine with the colour of the wall and floor perfectly. They may be a little out of proportion to the rest of the painting but Van Gogh was never a stickler for perspective himself, so I’m sure he’d understand.

5) Luncheon of the Boating Party


One of France’s truly great artists and an early impressionist, Pierre Renoir mastered his technique with beautiful and subtle brush strokes with an excellent use of light.  Still very much an impressionist but with perhaps a more realistic approach than compared to his contemporaries such as Monet, Renoir’s scenes are often associated with dignified glimpses into everyday life.   Indeed, one part of the manifesto of the impressionist movement was to capture what was before them, rather than creating a false impression or composition.

In this piece we find a group of what we can presume to be well to do friends enjoying a summers’ day.  There are plenty of things to keep the eye occupied across the piece as your eye follows the various gazes of the main characters.  What you may notice is that in the original there are no flowers on the table.  Instead, the flowers are in the hats of the women sitting at the tables.  Something is wrong here, so in this recreation there’s been a bit of a reworking of the table decoration with some beautiful pink Roses to give the scene a bit of added sparkle.  I’m sure you’ll agree that the scene is now set beautifully and this masterpiece is now perfect, though in fairness to Renoir it was pretty good originally.

These paintings are masterpieces but I think it’s fair to say that the additional flowers make the scenes look more striking.  If you’re searching for a bit of extra colour you can’t go wrong with a Rose to brighten up the situation.  Although we believe these paintings do look better for having flowers in them, we don’t condone or encourage anyone to start defacing pieces of fine art, you’ll get arrested and we’d get in trouble.

3 Sordid Secrets about Flowers – Drugs, Stress and Fire

Drugs, stress and fire. They all share just one unlikely thing in common, flowers.  Indeed, from bud to bouquet, a flower’s life is not quite as innocent as one would think…
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1)      From The Netherlands with drugs

On occasion, the Dutch flower industry has been utilised by criminals as a cover for some of the most lucrative drug smuggling enterprises known to date.

Chrysanthemums and cannabis seems a highly unlikely coupling. Yet on March 10th 2010, British police unearthed a staggering ten tonnes of skunk with an estimated street value of £30 million in a farm near Swindon. A gang were found to have been purchasing boxes of chrysanthemums at the enormous international flower market at Naaldwijk near The Haig before concealing cannabis inside each and exporting them to Britain.

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Cannabis is by no means an isolated drug in its occasional illegal relationship with the Dutch flower trade.  Indeed, on September 15th 2010, the Spanish National Guard uncovered 120kg of speed masked in a shipment of Dutch flowers. The 400,000 doses of amphetamine sulphate were seized in time to prevent it flooding the market, a strategic move in the preservation of the Spanish population’s aesthetics, as the pictures below of methamphetamine users attests to.

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Rest assured, the only drug with which the flower-buying public has any contact is the crucial plant-food used during the growing process to make flowers beautiful and long-lasting.

2)      Dawn duels for the farmers’ jewels

It’s 6.30am and Europe is contemplating a shower over its morning coffee. Meanwhile, a fierce battle is underway in a small town in Holland where everything is at stake for those who dare to partake. The peaceful lakeside town of Aalsmeer boasts the largest flower auction in the world. The daily auction, frenetic, fast-paced and disturbingly competitive, is an event restricted to only the most stout-hearted members of our species.

After rising at an unseemly hour of the morning, 3000 buyers flock to the Aalsmeer auction house to make or break their fortunes in “the New York stock exchange of flowers”. Each morning upon entering an auction room, one will encounter an auditorium of anxious buyers, eyes frantically darting between the thirteen prominent clocks above and the convoy of flower laden carts below.

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The clocks, invented by a Dutch cauliflower grower in the 1870’s, rapidly tick down the price of the displayed batch of flowers. In order to buy the flowers, a buyer must press a button on their desk which freezes the price at its point on the fast-moving clock. Press too soon and the price paid will be too high, press too late and the competitor to your side will have beaten you to the bunch. Either way, a mistake will prove costly.

3)      Fiery funeral for a flower

A fiery end awaits those ill-starred flowers which remain unsold at the culmination of the auction. These hapless flowers enter a frightening incinerator, never to grace a table.

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As the auction sets a minimum price for each group of flowers, if no buyer stops the clock before it lowers beneath this price, the flowers are deemed unsold and are burnt. Greater numbers of flowers meet this fiery fate during the summer months when the flower yield is greatest yet holiday-making Europe exerts less demand. On a happier note, growers are paid this minimum price by the auction, a Dutch rose earning €0.05 for example.

Not For The Faint Hearted – "Flower Skeleton Sculptures"

When travelling around the web, one comes across lots of funny and bizarre things. The “flowers skeleton sculptures” below from Dutch artist Cedric Laquieze must rank amongst the more bizarre offerings we’ve seen recently though. Not a product  / service we’ll be offering at Flowers HQ anytime soon…

Flower Skeleton One

Flower Skeleton Two

Flower Skeleton Three

Flower Skeleton Four

Flower Skeleton Five

Original source.

Celebrating Our Fifth Birthday and A Look At Our Past Birthdays

This post is in fact a little overdue as our Birthday was back in July so please excuse the tardiness (what can I say, it was a big party :). Its also been a while since I last wrote a post so seeing both are overdue I thought I would pen this particular post.

Somehow the years have slipped by, summers and winters have come and gone and we have quietly got older and dare I say it, wiser. We celebrated our fifth birthday in July and whilst this may be just a fraction of ones lifetime it is noteworthy as it is a long time in business. Truth is, celebrating our birthday in July is a bit formal as that is based around the paper work of setting up a business and moving into our new warehouse. For me the fun began on the 19th September 2006 when the florists moved in and we made our first sale (so perhaps this post isn’t late, just perfectly timed!). Seeing your hard work come together like that is genuinely priceless.

There have been many exciting times at Arena Flowers, with each year showing growth and innovation in numerous areas of the business. I am lucky enough to have been at Arena from the start and so have watched as we have built upon our foundations and grown up. As a parent I can say this as watching a business evolve is not unlike watching your kids get older, you take pride in each new development and want to tell your family and friends why yours is better than the rest. Will, our MD, may not be a dad (yet) but as the father of our business he will be the first one to talk your ear off about how amazing Arena Flowers is. :)

Much like the pencil marks in my kitchen that show my kids’ growth, I thought I would use this post to highlight some of those moments that have helped grow Arena into the business it is today.

Year One, March 2006 > June 2007

For me the first year starts a little earlier, back in March of 2006, when Will, Steve and I met in my local pub to talk about a website they wanted to build. The plan was to sell flowers, online! That first meeting quickly formed a plan and from there a first draft of a website, this grew and grew until it was something that Will felt confident he could show investors. A short while later, in July, we found ourselves in a board room in Pall Mall signing the incorporation document.

Like any new business our first year was all about setting up. We had set ourselves a significant benchmark, to be the best online florist out there and that required attention to detail in all areas from floristry, customer service, delivery and even our photography. We set about kitting out our new warehouse with a bespoke built fridge for all our flowers, hand made benches for the florists and the necessary phone system and computers.

Will quickly found his feet as MD and was soon immersed in paper work, buying a fleet of vans for our London deliveries and negotiating with suppliers. Steve, who had a background in the flower industry, got to work with the florists getting our ranges together (whilst also working on our SEO and Adwords). With the website up and running (we had finished building it in August 2006) I started work on a long to-do list to add more features to the site with our developer Zach. Having a background in photography and design I also set up a studio upstairs in our warehouse so we could take our own product shots. Jackie was kept very busy building the customer service team which quickly grew to match the increase in orders we were getting. Mariusz our head of distribution, was tasked with managing our London drivers, organising their orders each day and then managing the next day delivery orders. Everyone had their own department to manage and it quickly became evident that there was much to do!

Our first bit of development for the year (enter Henry, developer number 2) was an integration with Parcelforce so that our customers would get instant notifications of the orders being delivered. We also built our own SMS tool to extend this feature. Cool hey! This was followed by adding cross sell to the checkout, so you could add chocolates and balloons etc to your order and our Upload Photo tool which lets you upload a digital photo for us to print out and include with your message card. We had fun building our first Facebook app, Flowers&Fun which lets you send our flowers virtually to your friends on Facebook. As you can see from the links to past posts we also launched our blog. Not a bad start.

Year Two, July 2007 > July 2008

12 months later and with a successful Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day under our belts we felt ready to start building on to the business. We added our International Flower delivery section, allowing our customer to send flowers all over the world. Our chocolate sales impressed our supplier Prestat so much that they asked us to build them their own chocolate website and manage their CS. We also took our first step into Europe, setting up a warehouse and business in Holland and launching ArenaBloemen.nl (which meant a lot of translations and adding Euros to our code base). Hot on the heels of the launch of our Dutch website we set our sights on Germany and armed with our new translations database we set about building ArenaBlumen.de and launched it in April 2008. I had fun branding our vans and my son Luke was born and Will stepped in as Godfather :) A good year all round.

Year Three, July 2008 > July 2009

This year marked our entry into B2B partnerships with our first white label website for Cancer Research UK. We also launched our Arena for Business service which allows approved businesses to order flowers on our website and add them to an invoice rather than getting their credit card out. In July 2008 we were invited to the IMRG online green awards and were delighted to win an OLGA. Enjoying our European expansion we launched our French website ArenaFleurs.fr . With four international websites operational we started building up our bi-lingual marketing team, employing a bright young team each one fluent in their native German, Dutch and French languages, as well as English. Keeping the development ball rolling we released our Calendar Reminder feature allowing our customers to add important dates to their account and we then remind them in time to send flowers next time the Birthday or Anniversary comes around.

Year Four, July 2009 > July 2010

At the end of July 2009 we launched our Dutch language Belgian website ArenaBloemen.be which was followed by the French language Belgian website ArenaFleurs.be. This marked our fourth country in mainland Europe and the realisation that we needed more boots on the ground in Holland. Steve took up the not insignificant task of moving to Holland and learning the language! His dedication to the task at hand and love of the country was confirmed when he married Elsa (who he had met when she joined us to help set up the Dutch website). Meanwhile we completed our API designed to allow larger partners to send us orders through a seamless XML service that manages prices, stock control and delivery dates to name a few. This milestone began some exciting conversations with some very interesting brands, all hush hush as I am sure you can appreciate :) In the later part of 2009 Pascale joined us to head up our marketing team and grow our European roll out. Perhaps the most significant addition to the Arena engine for the year came when Steve set to work planning a new stock control and buying database. Destined to revolutionalise our purchasing and warehouse management in the UK and in Europe the project rapidly expanded and we employed extra developers to help us build this crucial tool. In February 2010 we launched our Twitter app, FlowersFun.co.uk which instantly took off. Winning the Smarta 100 award was a nice way to conclude a very exciting year!

Year Five, July 2010 > July 2011

Seeing the business grow over the past years has caused us all to have to focus on our own specialist tasks. Gone are the days of multitasking, so much so that we hired a Group Financial Controller, Adnan, to manage our group finances < lucky him :) The snow in the winter of 2010 was eye watering to the extent that we are now integrated with 3 full time couriers. Despite this we had a successful Christmas and that was followed by a very slick Valentine’s Day And Mother’s Day. With Steve’s mega database live and monitoring our every step we had complete visibility of all our teams both here and abroad, a system that allowed us to fulfill over five times the number of orders that we delivered over our very first Valentine’s Day. With a larger management team we outgrew our offices in the warehouse and marketing, product and web development and admin moved to shiny new offices opposite BBC Television Centre. Once installed I set to work redesigning our website and in May we released the new design on our UK website and the rest followed shortly after. We also redesigned our product page to better display the photography our new product development team have worked so hard on. Finally, our international focus has caught the attention of the eCommerce Awards for Excellence 2011 and we have been nominated for the International e-Retail Award. The nomination alone is worthy of raising a glass, or two :)

Phew, that wasn’t supposed to be a long post, I guess we had been busier than I though and believe me I left a lot out! As I said at the beginning, five years is a long time in business and knowing we have done all this is testament to the hard work put in by each and every person (past and present) at Arena. To plagiarise Mr Newton we have only come this far today as we stand on the shoulders of giants. Here’s to the next five years.

Good times!