Monday, 12 July 2010

Back from Hampton Court

Well, we survived. There couldn't have been a pleasanter place at the Hampton Court Flower Show than the Gardens Illustrated Pavilion. It was spacious and as airy as it could possibly be but it is not particularly pleasant spending a week under canvas when the outside temperatures are over 30 degrees! However, wonderful colleagues in the tent with excellent kit, absolutely no tat (unlike elsewhere), great camaraderie and lots of laughter even when wilting desperately. I was terribly proud of my flowers for standing up for themselves in the heat, and kept apologising to them for taking them away from the field .... But they seemed happy enough and were much admired, so it was all rather pleasing. Thank you to everyone who helped me there and to all the visitors who made such incredibly positive comments and to the GI team and James and Therese who organised it. My neighbouring standholder Rosemary from The Plant School (Oh that I had the time to go on her courses, they look so utterly fascinating and brilliant) kept me smiling when I was wilting terribly and I think I probably have her to thank for keeping me at least relatively sane.

The best thing about a Show is that you do have some fascinating conversations and bump into old friends and new, including quite a few people who are doing similar things so it was great to chat with them about the trials and tribulations as well as the joys of growing flowers. As an inveterate earwigger I also loved the passing comments. Possibly my favourite was from two women standing at the end of my stand, next to my Victorian hip bath filled with flowers so it looked a bit like a piece of my garden. One said to the other "Just goes to show, if you use an interesting container you can get way with having nothing in the garden..." Then there were the two who came into the tent, said "Oh no, this one's just for country bumpkins" and turned tail and fled back to another part of the Show... and there was the lady walking past with a rather fab collection of water plants (Always interesting seeing what people are carrying), I said something about how she must have a wonderful pond, to which she retorted "Don't have a pond, have a lake". That told me!


  1. Hi Charlie and anyone else, just read your article in Gardens Illustrated about your flower farm which I found really interesting as I have been thinking about a flower growing business. Particularly pertinent, your comment about a renaissance in British flower growing. But I'm trying to explore the business viability side but am not wanting to go down the route of flower arranging/wedding flowers, so I am wandering what other way would it be possible to sell the flowers? Whilst working was it always clear that this was the only route to take in the industry or was it a choice you made? Would really appreciate your thoughts on the subject.

    Thanks, Natalie

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  3. Hi Natalie, I seem to be having trouble posting a comment but hopefully this will get through.

    I've always wanted to play with the flowers as well as grow them, so never had to choose another route, but I think you could well look at the wedding side without having to arrange anything yourself. More and more florists are asking whether I can supply them with flowers for weddings, and more and more brides are keen to do DIY weddings and just have the flowers to arrange themselves rather than buying the whole florist deal, so have a look at how that could work for you. It's hard to give advice because we all do things so differently, and I'm increasingly aware that what works for one of us may not work for another. I started my business mainly to do mail order and weddings/events because we are not geographically placed where I can easily get to big markets or near urban centres where I could sell direct, but mail order is definitely not the way ahead for lots of other small scale growers who have other possible outlets. It also depends on how you grow and what you like growing, if I started again I might do things completely differently as my business started to support my passion to grow more flowers, rather than with any sensible business plan behind it, I wanted to grow stuff, so I had to think of a business to support that growing passion, and the rest has just had to follow on. But this isn't a very sensible route really, I've just been lucky that it seems to be panning out!
    Good luck!