Official Flower-Farming Florist11th September 2016
Dahlia Time28th February 2017
A Year Ago Today
15th October 2016
A year ago today I climbed over a gate and onto a field. A grass-filled, nothing-much-to-report-on field. But a magical field none the less. Cocooned on three sides by an ancient oak forest, and sitting opposite a beautiful rolling hill with views of the hills beyond and the hills beyond that. It was incredibly quiet and still because of the friendly oak wood neighbour, and perfectly gently sloping which reminded me of the fields in Cornwall where thousands of Daffodils grow. As I made my way around the perimeters of the field I asked myself all the same questions that I had on the countless other field perimeters I’d trudged around. What soil is it… chalky… that’s good for meadow-esque flowers and flowers that don’t like their roots sitting in damp heavy soils. How much sunshine will it get? Lots and lots! Being south facing is bonus enough, being south EAST facing was just amazing. This means that the field is in the sunshine all day – which equals happy plants (okay maybe not Fox-gloves, but actually the ones I’ve planted aren’t complaining!) Was it close to home? Also a huge yes; 10 minutes down the road in-fact. And that was it, I was sold! I was captivated and very pleased that, FINALLY, I had found the field for me to start my flower-farming adventure on.
I was introduced to the world of flowers by my mother. I can remember being surprised when my friends, aged 7, didn’t know the difference between a Beech tree and a Hazel. Even more surprised, aged 15, that they’d never seen a pod of peas before, but that’s beside the point!
I’d become known as the ‘flowery’ girl by that time – Having worn lots of flowery prints and clipping my hair back with a faux flower clip. I would pick little bunches of flowers from the garden, or from school borders, and ‘not another one Alice!’ from Exeter Uni campus at 2am on our walks home from nights out to put in vases in my room. But I never really put two and two together that this could be my career until I worked for a week in the summer holidays in a local florist shop. The lady I worked for was one of those amazing creative push-the-floral-boundaries type of florist who would go up to New Covent Garden Market twice a week and bring back all sorts of incredible wild and unusual flowers, in wild and unusual colours. I remember when I first encountered stems of un-ripe blackberries in the shop, green and blush coloured and completely thornless, and was so amazed that they could be used to create bouquets with. Another time was the black Parrot Tulip, crinkly and almost velvet in its dark purple colour. Something I’d never seen before, even in the garden. Then there was the trailing Jasmine, the floaty Ammi, the chocolate Cosmos, the Mint, the branches of Mock-orange and wild Dog-rose, the sky blue Delphinium, the funky Dahlias and the peach blossom. Possibilities of what to use in arrangements seemed endless. She, and her lovely employees, taught me everything I know, showed me how unusual colour combinations could create something completely delicious, and how floristry didn’t have to be a bunch of Lilies, or Gerberas, or anything plastic-looking in a perfect circle tied with bright yellow ribbon.
So there it was; my love ‘bloomed’ for the wild, the meadow-esque, the romantic seasonal bouquets that would last for a few days and then go over, but give you a bloody good show; a better show than any of the chemical dipped flowers from supermarkets could that last for weeks but do nothing, smell like nothing and evoke nothing. Its about the fleeting beauty for me, the delicate beauty, the ability to watch stems grow in the vase, pushing their little necks forward for the light, showing that they are alive. And remind you you’re alive. And how amazing nature is. And how lucky we are to be surrounded by it.
After working in that wonderfully quirky and inspiring florist shop for two years I decided that wedding floristry was really what I wanted to be most involved in. I love the excited conversations with brides (and their mothers) opening their eyes to the endless flowery possibilities that can really make their wedding unique, totally original, and completely ‘them’.
And then, two years back, for a Harvest festival I decided to grown my own flowers in a tiny patch of my mum’s garden. Zinnias, big purple ones and wine reds and oranges, green and red trailing Amaranthus and some Ammi. And that’s when I realised that there is something magical about sowing a tiny seed, giving it enough water and some soil and some light, then a big enough container and then getting it into the ground where it flowers so happily for you. I felt a huge sense of accomplishment, achievement and love from those pretty plants. A sort of ‘thank you for helping me live.’ And from there I was hooked and knew that the growing process of the flowers I used in my floristry was something I hugely wanted to be a part of. Hence the flower-farmer and florist dream emerged, and the search for the right piece of English countryside began!
Having worked in a florist shop I know what flowers are not often widely available to local florists. This means I can grow flowers that local florists can’t buy from their usual suppliers (most commonly round me off the back of a Dutch lorry), allowing them to experience the exciting, eye-opening ‘wow, can I really arrange with those??’ moments as I had when I first started my floristry journey. It also means I can give brides the option of having British-grown, meadow-esque, wildly romantic flowers at their wedding too – which is lovely for me to do!
So here I am, after a year of searching for the right piece of land to turn into a flower farm, a year after I jumped over a gate and into a meadow that felt ‘right.’ I’m now busy turning that grassy meadow into a flower farm that can give brides, and grooms, and anyone else, the option to choose seasonal flowers, all grown with love by me on a meadow near Winchester.