British Flowers Week 2016 - Paula Baxter

To celebrate British Flowers Week 2016, Gardens Illustrated will be posting a series of interviews with some of the amazing cut-flower growers and florists supporting the British-grown revolution. Here we talk to Paula Baxter who runs Mill Pond Flower Farm in Berwickshire, Scotland.

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Paula Baxter 

Mill Pond Flower Farm

 

Paula runs a successful flower farm, Mill Pond Flower Farm on her smallholding in Berwickshire despite having virtually no local market. She grows mostly outside but she also has two poly tunnels, which help her to extend her growing season. She sells mainly to florists based in Edinburgh, which is an hour away, who supply flowers for events as far north at Fife. She also hand dyes her own natural ribbon which she sells to florists for wedding bouquets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why did you start growing British Flowers?
We’ve got a small four-acre smallholding, which we moved into without any idea of what to do with the land. I decided I wanted to grow a few flowers to sell outside the house but then I discovered Flowers from the Farm, which helped me to think I could do more than I thought. When I started growing British cut flowers my neighbours couldn't believe I was going to try and grow flowers in Scotland, but the Scottish are mad gardeners and you can grow all sorts. I would have always sold flowers in a small way but because of the support from the organisation, I could see that more was possible. 

Why do you think support for British growers is important?
The community of growers is incredibly important because we’re all on our own and when you get knocked back by someone who doesn’t agree with the price your selling at, it’s really important to have people out there, doing the same, having similar experiences and being able to share what we’re about, what we do and what we grow. It’s the pricing and business side of being a cut-flower farmer that can be quite daunting if you’ve never done it before.

Do you think there is a need for a more official organisation for British flower growers?
There are horticultural organisations and there are farming organisations but we’re flower farmers so we slot between the two. I haven’t found it a major problem, partly because if you get strategic bodies involved they would make you do what they wanted you to do, and we benefit from being flexible and adaptable. We’re able to adjust and respond very quickly as a group, not just as individuals.

Do you benefit from British Flower Week?
I benefit from the hashtag on social media, yes (#britishflowersweek). I think the campaign has been quite London centric and perhaps isn't reflective of the rest of the UK (because New Covent Garden Market set it up and they deal mostly with London florists), but it does help and has certainly raised awareness that British growers are out there.

What is your growing season like up in Scotland?
It’s slightly shorter. I can’t grow all year like they can in Cornwall but it is partly about what you sell. Every year my growing season can be extended; the first year I started growing on a really small scale, I had flowers from June until the end of August but last year I started selling in March and I was still selling branches, foliage and holly at the beginning of December. I’ve built a following of florists now, which I hadn’t intended on doing but it means I have people wanting to buy what I grow.

What would you say is your unique selling point?
It used to be that I was growing flowers in Scotland, which was very unique but it isn’t anymore. In Scotland, the options are quite limited, especially if they buy from a wholesaler and florists end up buying the same selection of flowers. I have loads of different varieties and because it’s seasonal, it changes, so it gives florists the opportunity to achieve the look they want and it’s different to everybody else. The problem is that there aren’t enough growers to supply the florists' demand, which is why I’ve been encouraging more people to grow flowers at events such as Gardening Scotland - and as a result growers are spreading much further north.

Do you have any advice for people thinking about starting their own flower growing business?
Talk to other people. We learn a lot from each other and we work together a lot. Go on to British Flower House on Twitter using #britishflowers, ask questions and don’t feel like an idiot asking them. Between us all, we’re developing a body of expertise. It’s the passion of the growers and their love for doing what we do that keeps the industry going.

 

Useful Information

Mill Pond Flower Farm
New Mains Farm Cottage
New Mains
Foulden
Berwickshire
TD15 1UL

Phone: 01289 386538
Email: paula@millpondflowerfarm.co.uk

 

To read more interviews with British flower growers and florists, click here

For more information on British Flowers Week, visit britishflowersweek.com

 

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British Flowers Week 2016 - grower and florist Sara Willman
previous feature Article
British Flowers Week 2016 - Founder of Flowers from the Farm Gill Hodgson
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