I thought we would try and bring some light to these short winter days, by sharing some of our photos taken from over the last 2 years. Neither of us have camera phones, so we have to make a little more effort to capture images. We don't mind so much, but it makes keeping our instagram profile up to date a bit of a task - swapping memory cards and saving images etc. Anyway winter is wonderful, but I think we could all do with some sunshine and magical flowers in our life.
I love this picture of Sarah. Beautiful. She'll tell me to take it down. If it's still here you know I've not got her editorial approval.
This image was captured in our first year. We got lots of compliments about our flowers whenever we included the Rye in our bouquets, and it became one of our signatures. We intended to carry this through to the next growing season, but we somehow forgot to sow it. But don't worry it's destined to return! Although, the mice have already munched their way through two beds of late Autumn sown Rye. We're hoping for more luck in the spring. Fingers crossed.
We also utilised Stargazer lilies quite a bit in our first year. We weren't 100% sure we liked lilies all that much, but we soon fell in love with their heavenly scent and we found when used sparingly they go very well with a variety of other flowers.
Incidentally, we have a book called Flower Confidential that looks at the good, bad and ugly of the global flower industry. It devotes a chapter the Stargazer lily. Apparently, it was first developed by an old and struggling grower in the United States, but ended up in the hands of a large Dutch flower company who went on to make big money from it. Sadly, the grower who created it received nothing and died a pauper. A lesson for us all, perhaps?
We seem to be prolific at growing Dahlia's. We've just dug up some tubers so we can separate them in the Spring and they are like footballs. Cafe Au Lait in full force here.
What can I say - such a sensational mix of flowers and colours. What a joy for the butterflies and bees!
Both our daughters are named after flowers. Here's bluebell in her strawberry patch. I'm convinced that one day she might be a strawberry farmer - she absolutely loves strawberries. I can vouch for these they tasted very sweet. We try and grow quite a bit of fruit and veg. This year we are aiming to grow more to sell alongside our flowers at farmers markets. Perhaps...
This a lovely simple wall hanging idea for an event, party or wedding. We'll be experimenting more this year with flower garlands, wreaths and arches.
Six buckets of flowers for someone's big day.
We grew lots of lupins last season and soon fell in love with them for cutting. They are not quite as delicate looking as delphiniums, but lavishly striking all the same. I think that has to be one of the advantages (among many!) of British grown seasonal flowers - you get bouquets that include cottage garden stalwarts like lupins and delphiniums that don't transport too well and are not suitable for supermarket sales because of their shorter shelf life. But remember when you buy direct from a British grower the shelf life of flowers is extended - no long freight journeys from other countries and no sitting around in warehouses etc. Just a point worth making.
Our youngest daughter Marigold. Barefooted and in flower bliss. When the children are picking flowers, making posies and arrangements, it gives us a breather to get on with jobs. They often get lost for some time doing this and its a joy to watch.
Mind you it's easy to get lost in a world of flowers, quite nice too, especially in deep winter. I hope you enjoyed these musings.
“No we don’t have a business plan, we need to find our feet first, test the water a little and build from there” – I have found myself saying this quite a bit over the last two years. Usually, people look at you like you might be insane, or at least naïve but are too polite to say so.
We did begin with a general direction of travel, we had a broad vision, but was it wise to pin down every step of the journey we need to take. I’ve been involved in start-ups before and often the business plan is what kills off a new business – it stops you seeing the wood from the trees, your ideas can become too prescribed, and as a consequence costs can spiral.
Ok it’s clichéd, given we are organic flower growers, but an organic, more patient, gentle approach to growing our business has taken shape – resting on a belief that the smallest seeds grow the strongest roots. We have spent the last two years learning, exploring and reflecting.
Blooming good and blooming bad
Has our approach worked? Yes and no, but overall Yes.
I mean we have been in a fortunate position, because one of us has worked away from the farm to subsidise what we do on it – so while we have been impoverished, we have not gone hungry. But the business still exists and is thriving in its own little way. We have not ploughed our life savings into something, that has then failed.
But while one of is away from the farm, progress slows down. Especially with 3 home educated children at our beck and call. The weeds and the children grow as fast as each other and sometimes its hard to find a balance.
We live 100 meters from the farm, but at times that 100 meters may as well be 1000 miles because some days there is just no way of getting the children ready and off. It’s a battle, but we keep going.
We are not just building a business, but also a farm – which means infrastructure, such as fencing, polytunnels, staging, irrigation, ponds, barns and sheds. We started with a blank canvas – even without a water supply. We still don’t have our barn (it’s coming!) and our water supply is troublesome – but its all in the pipeline and when things like this start to be ticked off the list, it’s a massive boost.
I can’t wait to get our barn up, to organise our tools properly, dry reems of flowers and create a studio space for floristry workshops and flower arranging. Icing on the cake – that’s what we are aiming for in 2020.
Learning never stops
We’ve learnt a great deal in two years – about flowers, about ourselves, about each other. We’ve fought and made-up, we’ve cried, pulled our hair out and laughed – sometimes all on the same day. We’ve got things wrong, we’ve got some things right. But most importantly, we love growing flowers, we love enriching the land and seeing a monoculture start to become incredibly diverse.
Time to grow
We’ve laid our foundations, and now we are much clearer where we want to take the business. We are so glad we’ve had chance to reflect, learn and explore. It’s made us feel ready for the next stage – bringing focus to what we want to do and how we might go about it. But we don’t ever want to stop learning, reflecting and growing, because if we do what might we become…?