Today, I’m delighted to feature another member of the nationwide network of British cut flower growers, Flowers from the Farm.
And it’s the turn of Vanessa Collins of The Flower Mill Cornwall.
When did you start your business and where are you based?
I’m based in South East Cornwall on the edge of Bodmin Moor at a former flour mill, hence the name of my business.
My love of growing started from an early age. As a young child, I had my own small plot to cultivate.
It’s something that has always been with me, deep-seated, waiting for the ‘right time’.
I completed an RHS Horticulture course several years ago and have since worked as a volunteer at the beautiful and inspiring RHS Garden Rosemoor in North Devon.
More recently, I studied floristry with a work placement at the Tregothnan estate.
I started selling my flowers about eighteen months ago and was thrilled that there is clearly a demand for naturally arranged locally grown flowers, which are at their best in their natural growing season.
I’ve had some really positive feedback on how long my cut flowers last. And I know, when I’ve picked a bucket of flowers and a bee lands on them, that I’ve made the right choice.
People describe my flowers as ‘real flowers’ which ‘make them smile’. I couldn’t agree more. They are all grown with a lot of love…my flowers have ‘soul’.
What types of flowers do you grow on your farm?
Whatever I grow has to be beautiful, have a long vase life, preferably scented and good for bees and butterflies.
I grow a wide range of British favourites for my seasonal bouquets, wreaths, funeral and wedding work.
The season starts early here in Cornwall and the first sweetly scented narcissi appear around Christmas, with tulips following closely behind.
I grow plenty of annuals (cornflowers, sweet peas, larkspur, sunflowers, cosmos, scabious, nigella, ammi majus…to name a few), biennials (wallflowers, sweet william, honesty, sweet rocket and Iceland poppies), grasses, foliage and herbs together with dahlias and chrysanthemums and some mainstay perennials and bulbs.
I’m also able to supplement my flowers with glorious seasonal foliage, berries and seed heads from the well-stocked garden, which has been established over the last twenty-five years here at the mill.
I always grow something new each year. I can’t resist buying seeds. But it won’t appear in following years if it doesn’t perform well and have a good vase life.
That’s really important to me. I want people to enjoy my flowers for as long as possible.
Where do you sell your flowers?
People can buy from me direct. I always like to discuss what’s available and looking at its best, or via my website.
Boxed cut flowers, bouquets and seasonal wreaths can be sent across the country.
I also supply a number of local farm shops who support my growing ethos.
Could you tell us about your edible flowers?
Edible flowers are so versatile. They can be used to flavour butters and oils, frozen into ice cubes, crystallised to use on cakes or added to salads and savoury dishes, where they impart their delicate flavours.
I grow a range of wonderful edible flowers which are available to caterers, restaurants, festivals, hotels or anyone wanting to make their food look beautiful.
They are particularly special for weddings or celebrations, where they can be used to decorate cakes or frozen into ice cubes for cocktails.
I grow delicate violas, vibrant blue borage (great for adding to a jug of Pimm’s!), cornflowers, calendula, lavender, roses, nasturtiums, dianthus and scented pelargonium amongst others.
Edible flowers sprinkled on to sweet or savoury dishes make any meal more beautiful.
What are your plans for 2013?
I have a feeling that I might be expanding my growing area!
There is a real resurgence towards buying more ethically sourced flowers, knowing where your flowers have come from, appreciating their seasonal availability and knowing that they have been grown without using any chemicals.
It’s an exciting time for British flowers and I’m thrilled to be a part of that.
What is your favourite flower?
That varies from season to season, but I can’t resist the intoxicating scent of the first winter narcissus, made all the more special in the dark winter months.
There is something so promising about waiting for that first hint of spring. It fills me with hope and excitement for the growing season ahead.
Many thanks to Vanessa for all her help in compiling today’s blog post.
(Images : The Flower Mill Cornwall)