Thursday, 27 November 2014

REQUEST PLEASE Photos of cut flower growing in 2014

Note to self. Must resurrect this blog now the main season is over and there is a little more time (in theory!) Three months since the last blog is not satisfactory...
Now I'm tapping the keyboard in the hope that some of you cut flower growers (experienced or complete beginners) may be interested in participating in a photo archive project.

I’m trying to collate photos to show what’s happening in cut flower growing in the Uk today. Please can you help.  If you’d like to.

I’m looking for photographs of the widest possible range of cut flower gardens/ small scale cut flower businesses which will show various approaches to cut flower growing – and the reality of the hard work and the mercurial weather.

Photos don’t have to be glamorous, I’m not looking for perfection, I’m not looking for photos of beautiful flower arrangements, just glimpses of different situations at different times of year. I’d really like to see some pictures of gardens at the down times as well as bursting with flowers. It would be great to see some gardens preparing for the season as well as in full swing. I feel that people will be just as interested to see the nuts and bolts (sowing, planting, weeding and more weeding) as much as the beautiful rewards. I would like to show different ways of cut flower gardening, on different types of sites, with different approaches.

There are two reasons for trying to collect varied images, one is for some online teaching about cut flower growing – I want to broaden this so although I'm the one with the mouth it's not just about me and my style but to show how there are many many ways to pursue cut flower growing, so everyone’s photos will be credited with your website details to provide a resource pointing to the current crop of UK growers . The other  reason is to try and get a picture of what’s going on in the cut flower growing world in 2014, partly because it would be interesting to get the broad picture, and partly because there’s a possibility of a collaborative ebook including features about different growers round the UK.

Photos need to be reasonable quality, but if you’d like to mail me some snaps first to take a look at that would be fantastic.

I look forward to hearing from you as soon as you have a chance. Preferably sooner! THANK YOU!

Monday, 1 September 2014

August passes 2

....and judging by more August hanging decorations and garlands, things just keep getting wilder

August passes.....

Weddings, courses, bouquets, bunches, churches, tents, roses, even vegetables and another month in flower world has flown by.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

A perfect day in the office

If only every day at the office looked like this

garden and office envy anyone?

Apart from days at the BFS, there have been weddings, parties, large funeral, sunshine and more sunshine. No time to weed so lots of them too....

A brief flavour in pictures:

Monday, 14 July 2014

Weddings, courses, summer....

So busy there's just no time to blog..... a brief preview below of last Saturday at Symondsbury, the new Tithe Barn, a lovely new west Dorset venue

Gardens are blooming, lots of lovely people on courses at The British flower school, and a fun day with Boden on the road last Friday, here's a snap of my wonderful helper Jessies Booth putting the bags out containing all the bouquets the Boden crowd made in a quick workshop at Mapperton, and typical scenes in the flower studio ...More soon I hope.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Rock My Wedding

Check out the beauties of our home grown flowers on the current RMW....

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Where are British flowers heading?

There's a bigger than ever buzz about British flowers, it's not just the noise of bees, but the noise of hundreds of busy small growers. But where's it all heading? 

There are too few traditional commercial growers of favourite blooms left in this country, we all know how the industry has declined, how the government are happy to support for example Colombian flower growers to encourage them to plant something other than poppies, to support Kenyan growers to encourage economic self sufficiency etc etc but meanwhile no support is given to traditional excellent British growers who are allowed to slip out of business while cheap imports slip in. 

At Covent Garden market last week Helen, who heads the team running the market for the owners, bemoaned the difficulty of getting good British supply. it is not just that market traders are set in their ways of doing business (they are,  it works for them) but that they can't get a reliable British supply chain, or, when they can (there are still some wonderful commercial growers in this country) they can't get the flowers at a competitive price compared to imports. Helen recognises that there is a huge growth in interest in British flowers, and a huge growth in small scale producers but most are, as she put it, hobbyists, rather than potentially commercial suppliers. 

Now many of today's small growers may feel that "hobbyist' is an unjust label. And it cannot be applied with a broad brush. And everyone has to start somewhere. But it does seem to be the fact that most of the new breed of small scale growers are working for themselves and direct selling rather than supplying florists or anything resembling the wholesale market. I too am guilty as charged. From our larger gardens in Herefordshire we were producing some spot crops for florists as well as direct customers, and sold many later summer and early autumn crops wholesale as well as direct, but we started the business specifically to sell direct, setting up deliberately to deliver flowers by mail order as a) no one else was providing entirely home grown mixed bouquets at that time and b) geography. And that has always been what our business has been based on.

But it doesn't help the wider British flower "industry". Where are the suppliers coming from to make sure there can be an effective supply chain to provide British flowers for eg contract florists and general florists. And if there isn't an effective supply chain how can it become realistic for British flowers to be preferred to imports?

It is no longer difficult for a flower buying customer to find British bouquets, there are hundreds of companies now offering mail order British flowers and some supermarkets have deals with larger growers to take all their stock to provide British blooms on their shelves. (which means they don't h8t the wholesale market as they go direct to the supermarkets) So the awareness and expansion of choice for the customer is good. But how are British flowers going to get into florists buckets at a reasonable (by which I mean realistic) affordable price?

In setting up The British Flower School I have had many conversations with different scale growers as well as flower enthusiasts. Of the dozens of small growers I have contacted disappointingly few feel able to supply us with any good flowers for courses (I don't want only to use flowers we have grown ourselves as that is not sustainable in that they cannot be available to everyone, I want to provide choices and recommendations for participants from different parts of the country so I can tell them where they can get good British blooms from), and disappointingly few have even expressed an interest in being recommended as possible suppliers to the florists and individuals who have so far been on our courses. 

I realise that it's early days for many newish growers, but I want to be able to point to a good network of reliable British flower providers so that people who come on our courses can go away knowing they can get hold of the type of flowers they want. It is adamantly not about keeping business for The Real Cut Flower Garden, it is about finding a good supply chain. Luckily I do of course have several amazing colleagues round the country who I happily recommend to anyone, and I have found some brilliant commercial growers of particular blooms, but a handful is really not enough. 

And there's the question of price. Growers who are wholesaling sell at a very reasonable price but others don't. Over and over again I hear "Well I would buy British but they are just so expensive." We've all got to get over this somehow. There may be comparisons with early days of the organic movement when only elite customers could pay the premium, and comparisons also with quality - just because something is organic does not always make it better than something non organic, it depends on when it was picked, where, how long it's been hanging around, how it was grown etc. In the same way British grown does not, sadly, automatically mean it is therefore better than something grown elsewhere. Those of us who grow do need to step up to the mark so that British can mean better in all ways, or we have to market ourselves so that customers realise they are buying something different rather than comparable to trad imported florists blooms. 

Everyone has to try to make a living. Most of us have mortgages and or rents to pay, ourselves and others to provide for, bills to service, staff to pay so that our businesses can thrive. We have to put a realistic price on what we produce to pay our way. But that is just it, realistic. Not extortionate. There's some funny pricing going on, from tiny bunches to big bouquets.

So where is it all going? Gill Hodgson has a full house for the Stoneleigh British Flowers seminar in June, and hopefully some of these questions will be raised and solutions proposed.

Meanwhile, if anyone wants to be on the list of recommended suppliers for The British Flower School, do get in touch

May Garden

The end of May has to be one of the most exciting in any garden, so much arriving, so much more to come  - the palette in the mixed cutting beds here currently includes nigella, pinks, mints, aconites, delphiniums, campanula, pinks, astrantia, salvia, lysimachia, hesperis, nepeta, alchemilla..... an embarassment of subtle and scented riches such as could not be found in a conventional florist mixture. The bling of ranunculus is over here but bright colours are emerging in cerise sweet peas, knautia, gladioli, bright tradescantia, flouncing peonies, a vast range of roses opening daily.  And that's not counting the annuals, blue and black cornflowers, ammi, bupleurum, larkspur, clary, corncockle, snaps, stocks (sorry, no pictures as I'm afraid the annual beds are really rather too weedy as yet, been too busy to get quite that far, that's next week's job!)

So it's a good time of year to be a flower grower. Lots happening, myriad blooms to come.