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Victoria’s Flowerman, a nightlife mainstay for generations, has died

Alfred Sillem spent decades selling flowers in downtown Victoria

By Michael John Lo
March 20, 2023
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Victoria’s Flowerman, a nightlife mainstay for generations, has died

Alfred Sillem spent decades selling flowers in downtown Victoria

By Michael John Lo
Mar 20, 2023
An old photoshoot of the Flowerman in full regalia, recently reposted in a widely shared Facebook tribute by Dixie-Rae Lee
An old photoshoot of the Flowerman in full regalia, recently reposted in a widely shared Facebook tribute by Dixie-Rae Lee
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Victoria’s Flowerman, a nightlife mainstay for generations, has died

Alfred Sillem spent decades selling flowers in downtown Victoria

By Michael John Lo
March 20, 2023
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Victoria’s Flowerman, a nightlife mainstay for generations, has died
An old photoshoot of the Flowerman in full regalia, recently reposted in a widely shared Facebook tribute by Dixie-Rae Lee

Hundreds on social media have paid tribute to well-known travelling florist Alfred Sillem, better known as Alfred the Flowerman. He died of natural causes at 77, his eldest son Nik told CHEK

Sillem is most remembered as a tuxedoed fixture of city nightlife. Decked out in a top hat, bow tie and a colourful bouquet of flowers, Sillem sold his wares to Victoria’s bar and restaurant patrons for decades, only stopping for the pandemic. Many remember him for his gregarious nature as well as his singing talents—which he also sold a tape of during his nightly rounds.

A striking figure in Victoria across multiple decades, the entrepreneur was once called the “most popular man in Victoria” and was the subject of multiple profiles in the Times Colonist through the years.

Born in Holland, Sillem apprenticed as a flower arranger in the Dutch Royal Palace at age 16. He moved to Canada in 1968 at 22 and worked as a commercial fisherman. After marrying in 1979 he returned to the flower business to be closer to his growing children, first working at a flower wholesaler before striking out on his own in 1983.

Originally, his focus was on selling flowers for businesses and hotels, but it eventually turned into selling to patrons themselves. He described his routine to the Times Colonist in 1997: He started his circuit at 4pm, going to neighbourhood pubs, beer parlours, lounges, and restaurants. After a quick dinner, he would hit the streets again—this time to the cabarets, working until 2am or later.

His flowers were sourced from fellow Dutch immigrants at Eurosa Gardens in Brentwood Bay. In the first few years, Sillem would get nervous every night about people potentially judging a fisherman turned flower seller.

“It wasn’t a real manly thing to be selling roses,” he told the Times Colonist. But he stuck with the job and at times brought in his wife and sons to help with the work.

In the '90s, Sillem worked six days a week, selling his wares at 93 restaurants. Victoria’s nightlife was once substantial enough to make $200-$400 in sales on a Tuesday night—an equivalent of $350-700 today.

An amateur field hockey and tennis player, Sillem once played in the 35+ Canadian Masters field hockey tournament. He and wife Susan, who died in 2013, were known for their generosity to the children in their Gordon Head neighbourhood.

Sillem leaves behind three sons, one daughter, and numerous grandchildren—as well as countless friends, acquaintances, and appreciators across the city.

In the past few days people of all ages have taken to the comments of Facebook tributes and an old video interview (below) to voice their appreciation for the iconic Flowerman. It’s locals’ way of laying some flowers for the man who gave out so many.

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