Blooming Marvellous!

Westender Insights by Anne Marie Hillan

The cut flower and house plant industry is massive in the UK but as with all sectors, our independent plant and florist shops are up against stiff competition from the supermarket giants – and times are tough. For this Westender Insights Anne Marie Hillan talks to Debbie and Brian O’Connor of Wildthings Florists and to plant enthusiast Jordan Trainer, who runs Plantique, to find out what it’s like running an independent business in 2024.


Debbie and Brian O’Connor started running Wildthings Florist together in November 2002. Based in Whiteinch, Debbie and her team of florists create the most amazing bespoke floral arrangements for all occasions. 

Debbie has been a florist since she was a teenager, her love of flowers coming from time with her grandmother tending rose bushes and walking in all seasons picking wildflowers and brambles. Debbie remembers these as very special times and when, on leaving school, she saw a small flower shop packed full of seasonal blooms, she knew floristry and running a florist shop was to be her chosen career. 

As the other half of the husband-and-wife team, Brian is involved in every aspect of the running of the business, also doing many of the local and not so local deliveries, ferrying flowers and all things floristry to the many wedding venues they attend around Glasgow and all over the country. 

Wildthings is full to bursting with the most beautiful blooms. Debbie prides herself on being a creative seasonal florist. She orders the best of flowers from her Dutch suppliers who she stresses aim, where possible, to buy from smaller independent flower farms. The shop is always cool – the conditions always being just right for the blooms, if not always for Debbie! She also uses biodegradable products to ensure that the flowers are arranged in the most eco-friendly way. The Wildthings team work hard and take a tremendous pride in the flowers and arrangements provided to their loyal customers.

Being so long established, the shop plays a valuable role in the local community. Debbie has young mums who come in for blooms walking home from school and nursery. She has ladies who come in for their long-time favourites and a chat in the shop. There are house bound clients who phone to organise deliveries to their family and friends! They also like a wee chat. And there are the customers who phone from America, Canada and afar, to have regular flowers delivered to mums, grannies, aunties and friends.              

Many of these are regular orders and Brian gets to know the lucky recipients of these Wildthings flowers personally allowing him to find out their favourites and feed that information back to Debbie. That social interaction with the recipients – who sometimes don’t often get out – or with folk in the community who want a chat as well as flowers, is such a lovely part of being a florist in the heart of a community and Debbie and her team are on first name terms with many of their customers. 

Wildthings cater for more than just the West End of Glasgow – they will deliver  throughout Glasgow, to Baillieston, Newton Mearns, Bishopbriggs, Kirkintilloch and as far as Old Kilpatrick, throughout Renfrewshire, Bearsden and Milngavie 

With a 22-year history Wildthings have also been entrusted to provide wedding flowers for entire families of sisters and for whole groups of school friends. Debbie says that this loyal personal referral business is really humbling and so appreciated especially in the current climate. Each bride wants the established reputation of Wildthings but are confident of achieving that distinctive look for their individual wedding. 

The weddings come in all sizes. From simple wedding bouquets only, to larger scale affairs with pergolas, arches, flower walls and pew end flowers. Debbie describes their wedding service as boutique and bespoke. She prides herself in using well established methods to ensure that flowers, even on pergolas, are arranged in such a way as to maintain flower freshness all day long. Wildthings can have up to eight florists working on the arrangements on the morning of a wedding to make everything perfect. 

Like all businesses there are online orders but phone calls and personal visits to the shops still make up an enormous part of their business. That community connection, getting feedback and speaking directly to their customers is the strength of this local business. 

There are also a good number of – sometimes very nervous – young men entrusting Wildthings to advise them on the best flowers to send to their girlfriends or even sometimes, their mums. Now that is a big responsibility for the Wildthings team. But how lovely is it that these young men and indeed all of us, can visit or call to a local florist where we can be so well served.


Further along Dumbarton Road towards Partick Cross, Jordan Trainer from Plantique was only a toddler when Debbie and Brian set up shop. At 24 he is definitely the new kid on the block in terms of West End businesses. But Plantique is a unique store and is going from strength-to-strength. 

Jordan has been in business on Dumbarton Road for four years now, initially in his first shop Green Living Glasgow and now in Plantique. Jordan’s love of plants started when he was still in school. By age 16, he had an Etsy store. When he was 20 years of age the world was in lockdown and the availability of empty shop units gave him the opportunity to open his first shop. Jordan traded on that resurgence of love and interest that everyone had in their homes during lockdown and supplied plants to the folk of the West End. After two years, he moved into the larger premises that is now Plantique. 

In addition to having an amazing range of houseplants, Plantique also hosts the amazing work of over 70 small creators and artists. There is such a range of products:  amazing handmade botanical soaps made in Partick by Haelsa soaps @haelsahandmade; a local clothing firm @hakonclothing; nostalgic prints from @turadhdesignco, and @bonny_and_blythe selling vintage and mid-century homeware. In addition, there is jewellery by @north_sea_gifts_by_d, antiques, photography prints, hot sauces, stationery and cards, art prints and so much more. It makes Plantique an entirely unique and varied shopping experience and Jordan aims to have 100 different suppliers in Plantique within the next few months.

The shop is also the venue for terrarium and jewellery workshops. The range of plants and planters and all things house plant related is so impressive and there are a range of terrariums available for purchase all made by Jordan in store. It’s such an interesting shop – a true emporium and very worth a visit.

In the run up to Christmas last year, Plantique was busy. Jordan realised that there were some customers who would be alone for Christmas and had nowhere to go. So, he decided to open Plantique from 11am until 2pm on Christmas Day. The community response to this gesture was amazing with customers and locals handing in cakes and drinks. In a true community-based initiative, on Christmas Day Jordan was host to 10 local folk who without Plantique would have been alone for the day

So back to my initial question. How are these small businesses faring in these difficult times? Well, Wildthings Florist and Plantique are thriving because of the massive effort and hard work that their owners, Debbie, Brian and Jordan, make to provide an excellent and personal service to their customers and local community. They make time to talk to their customers and provide that personal service which local people clearly value so much. And I think that’s of real value. In a climate when so many small businesses are struggling and, in a society where folk can feel alone and isolated, this excellent and personal service is something to really appreciate and support.

And how do I know all this – well I have experienced it personally. Long before writing for Westender I was a new customer in both shops and can highly recommend, not just the flowers and the plants, but also the customer care and personal service. 

Small businesses may need our support, but I happen to believe that we really need small businesses in our community to provide exactly the personal service that Wildthings and Plantique give back. So, a big thank you to Debbie, Brian and Jordan and all the small businesses in the West End. We really do appreciate you.

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