This week, British Flowers Week returns for an eighth year, shining its annual spotlight on the British cut flower industry to raise awareness of the benefits of locally-grown, seasonal, scented cut flowers. Considered a rarity less than fifty years ago, imported, hothoused blooms shipped in from Holland or flown in from Kenya, Ethiopia, Colombia and Ecuador now dominate the UK market. British cut flowers have become the new exotics.
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In 2011, a Yorkshire flower farmer founded the organisation that has started to turn the tide on imported cut flowers. Gill Hodgson of Fieldhouse Flowers observed people’s emotional reactions on seeing and smelling her home-grown flowers at the farm gate and at farmers’ markets: “It was immediately obvious that flowers went straight to the heart of everyone who saw them, and who had believed that seasonal flowers were a thing of the past. I wanted to join an association of other growers: people who were as excited as I was by the possibilities of British flowers. I searched for such an organisation without success and one breakfast time in 2011, between one bite of toast and the next, decided to form one.”
Flowers from the Farm, the award-winning network founded by Gill Hodgson, now has 823 grower members in all four corners of the UK from Ullapool to the Isles of Scilly, Aberystwyth and County Londonderry. The size of their plots varies widely from allotments and cutting gardens to flower fields and polytunnels covering nine acres or more.
Quite apart from the fact that the variety of seasonal British cut flowers is wonderfully wide, there are obvious other positives to focusing on British-grown flowers. A flower industry with no air miles and no need for artificial heat and light, focusing on flowers which work within the landscape they are grown, speaks directly to the climate crisis we face today.
And it looks as though things are beginning to change. In 2018, DEFRA announced that after years of decline, British cut flowers had increased market share by 2 per cent to 14 per cent, an increase that was attributed to the rise of Flowers from the Farm. Since then, membership has leapt by a further 65 per cent in the past 18 months with 23 new flower farmers joining during lockdown.
Demand for British cut flowers has also surged during lockdown, as people looked to buy flowers for the family and friends they were unable to visit and found traditional florists, wholesalers and importers closed. A snapshot membership survey by Flowers from the Farm has shown that 97 per cent of members have seen an increase in demand for their flowers during lockdown. “It’s like Mothering Sunday every day!” said grower, Beth Hillyard of Cornish Blooms, whose family run flower farm specialises in sending flowers by post. Black Shed Flowers in Dorset reported a 500 per cent increase in bouquet sales on the previous year, and many growers said that they were ‘selling as fast as they could grow’.
“After the initial shock of weddings, events and workshops being postponed or cancelled, the phones thankfully started to ring with orders for bouquets and funeral flowers or from florists desperately seeking flowers,” says Justine Scouller, Co-Chair of Flowers from the Farm. “Whilst the increase in bouquet orders will sadly not make up for the loss of wedding and event income for many of our growers, the more people who discover the benefits of beautiful, locally grown, seasonal, scented cut flowers over hothoused, imported flowers, the better. We hope to inspire local buying habits that will last well beyond lockdown.”
What you can do in British Flowers Week
New Covent Garden Flower Market’s British Flowers Week initiative is calling on flower farmers, florists, wholesalers and the public alike to place a stem or a bunch of British flowers in their windows to show their support.
Don’t miss our video with Justine Scouller of Far Hill Flowers in Monmouthshire, who tours us around her plot and hand-picks stems of ranunculus, angelica, garden roses, briza maxima, oriental poppies, foxgloves, scabious and philadelphus and creates a lush arrangement of seasonal blooms.
This week marks #BritishFlowersWeek and so we have an exclusive tour around Far Hill Farm just for you. Let Justine Scouller take you round her plot and offer a little bit of insight into what it takes to be a flower farmer in this country.
Posted by Gardens Illustrated on Monday, June 15, 2020
To find your local flower farmer visit www.flowersfromthefarm.co.uk and search using their online map tool. British Flowers Week runs from 15th to 21st June 2020 and you can find out more at www.britishflowersweek.com.