A revolution in British cut flowers is happening across the nation. Despite British-grown flowers accounting for a mere 10% of flowers sold in the UK, there is a change underway. A grassroots movement of artisan flower growers is spearheading a revival in British cut flowers, creating gorgeous floral designs and supplying independent florists up and down the country. British Flowers Week (19-25 June) is set to shine the media spotlight on the locally grown.
These dedicated people care passionately about nature, the environment and the fragrant beauty of seasonal cut flowers and want to share their passion. Working collaboratively, these mostly small and micro-businesses share information and advice within the Flowers from the Farm network of more than 500 grower members.
One such grower and florist is Fiona Haser Bizony, artist and curator, who like many has come to flower growing later in life. Fiona founded the Electric Daisy Flower Farm in rural Wiltshire in 2011 and has since been named RHS London Florist in Residence and amongst The Telegraph’s 20 most creative florists and AD Architectural Digest Germany magazine’s top 20 florists in the world. Here Fiona talks about her daily routine of picking, arranging and growing flowers.
A day in the life of a flower farmer
5am Every day is different on a flower farm. That’s why I love my life. There’s always some interesting task to complete, something new to learn. If I had to choose a favourite day it would be a 5am start in mid-summer. It sounds terrible I know, but I love the peace and quiet of that magical time when everyone else is still tucked up in bed. I drive to my flower fields with my empty buckets and cut what is needed for the next few days. I love the meditative, rhythmic task of snipping and bunching. Knowing that I’ve grown and nurtured the flowers myself makes the harvest all the more satisfying. I stop picking as soon as I feel the heat of the morning sun on the back of my neck.
9.30am Back at HQ the flowers are stored in a cool dark basement where they ‘condition’, which is a technical term for having a long, cold drink. I strip off the lower leaves so that only stalks are in water. This helps the flowers to stay healthy and last longer in the vase. If the flowers are destined to go to other independent florists or DIY brides I will sort them by flower variety into buckets. If they are for me to use I leave them overnight before they go onto the next stage of their lives.
11am At my desk catching up with admin, replying to brides or sending invoices. I should also be ordering seeds in summer for biennials, which we need to get started for planting in the autumn so they’ll be flowering next spring. One of the most important things about growing flowers is orchestrating the seasons and getting ahead of what we will need next year. I spend hours with my head buried in seed catalogues, ordering bulbs and unusual plants that I think will keep us be ahead of the fashion trends.
1pm At the moment I employ three people, part-time. We always cook a healthy vegetarian lunch and eat together. It’s an important team bonding time when we discuss what’s coming up, plan our schedule of work and just have fun together.
2pm I often have a sneaky siesta if I got up early. Don’t tell anyone…
2.30pm As this ‘day in the life’ is in mid-summer I will probably have a wedding to prepare for. My favourite brides are the ones who give me free reign to work my magic. Turning my flowers into arrangements is the part I love the most. When I’m making bridal bouquets and corsages, I’m in heaven. I work with Rhiannon Marshall who is also one of our gardeners. Because we have grown the flowers together, we have a sort of synergy with our product. We often listen to repeats of Radio 3’s Jazz Record Requests which Rob Powell (another of our gardeners) tells me is very posh.
6pm If we’re lucky, we’ll have made all the bouquets and cleared the studio of all the compost we’ve generated. For a morning wedding I will have another 5am start to get everything as fresh and as amazing as possible for my bride. I’m always a little nervous handing over the bridal bouquet. There’s a lot of responsibility to deliver not just what she thought she wanted but to exceed expectations and bring joy through flowers. I am no spring chicken, so I need to look after myself and make sure I have a nice bath and a glass of chardonnay before I’m out for the count, ready for another day of flowers.
Electric Daisy Flower Farm 11a Wine Street Terrace, Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire BA15 1NP
British Flowers Week was started by New Covent Garden Flower Market back in 2013 as a way of highlighting British cut flowers and foliage. Each year a selection of florists is chosen to celebrate the wealth and variety of British blooms on offer through their impressive displays. Find out about his year’s florists.
The annual event has extended to include lots of activities at florists and growers up and down the country. Find an activity near you.
There’s lots to follow on social media too – search the hashtags #britishflowersweek #Britishflowers #Grownnotflown #Britishgrown #Slowflowers
Flowers from the Farm is a network farmers, smallholders and gardeners, who are using their knowledge of horticulture and floristry to grow and present a different range of flowers from those available in the supermarkets and the wholesale markets. They offer lots of advice for would-be flower growers, too.