A few weeks ago, I saw a tweet on Twitter from @MarketFlowers at New Covent Garden Flower Market mentioning @WithypitDahlias and the fact that this UK grower was now supplying the market with dahlias.
So I decided to do some further research and what follows is an exclusive interview with Richard Ramsey, the man behind Withypitts Dahlias.
When did you start your business and where are you based?
Withypitts Dahlias was started as an enterprise in January this year following a number of years as a hobby activity that sold a few plants during the spring time. This followed an increase in plant sales in 2010 and a realisation that I needed to scale up and become a business.
I did do a little test marketing during the summer of 2010 to see whether or not I could reach a market for cut flowers. This was successful and provided encouragement to starting a commercial enterprise. We are located in Turners Hill, West Sussex.
Could you tell us all about the different types of dahlia you grow?
We grow most types of dahlia with the exception of single flowering types. At the present time, the range of cultivars offered is limited and added to year on year.
There is a predominance of small decorative waterlily types. We also offer a few pompons, miniature decoratives, small cactus, medium cactus and decoratives, and giant decoratives.
Do you sell tubers and cut flowers?
We sell established plants from mid-April to June and cut flowers. Our focus in 2012 and beyond is to deliver to our customers a premium product whether it be young plants or cut flowers.
The plants we sell will be established young plants already grown on in 9cm pots and are ‘garden ready’ although anyone receiving plants from mid-April to mid-May should pot on into 12.5 cm pots before planting out when all risk of frost has passed. We may have surplus stock of tubers that could be available this winter.
All our own plants from which we are cropping for New Covent Garden Flower Market have been raised this year. To get the quality of bloom needed to produce a premium product, this is the only way.
Plants that grow from tubers will produce a mass of smaller blooms on a bigger and bushier plant, absolutely great in the garden, but they will not produce the quality of bloom that a this-year raised plant will.
Do you sell to the general public as well as to Alagar at New Covent Garden Flower Market?
Yes. We sell direct to the public and cut flowers may be collected if one lives near to us or we use an overnight courier service with two delivery options; next day and next day before noon.
What are your plans for the remainder of 2011?
2011 has, and is, a bit of a whirlwind year! The sale of plants during the spring time surpassed our expectations and the cut flower side has really taken off.
By using the internet, we have established a solid presence in the market place. Withypitts Dahlias has had a website for 4-5 years now so that is a constant, although the site has progressed through a number of evolutions!
What has really assisted is careful and strategic use of social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, although I personally see Twitter as the way forward for any new business to promote itself.
As with everything, it matters little if what you have to sell is really good if you cannot get it to the market. The internet and particularly social media sites have enabled me to establish that route to market and Alagar in New Covent Garden Flower Market are just fantastic for us. They really understand flowers, they have a focus on British growers and their clients are the perfect market for our product.
As for the remainder of 2011, I hope the weather is kind and that we can continue with the cut flowers for another 4-6 weeks. The main pre-occupation will be planning for 2012 and up-scaling once again as the demand for our premium cut flowers far outstrip the volume we can supply this year.
Do you have a favourite type of dahlia?
It generally depends which one I am standing next to! I think my all-time favourite is a giant decorative called Lavender Perfection, but as a type it is the medium decoratives that really do it for me.
P.S. The photographer, Helen Jermyn, has also written a lovely post about her visit to an Open Day at Withypitts Dahlias last month.
(Images : Withypitts Dahlias)