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We have always had the odd local volunteer here on the workforce and some have become good friends and loyal companions over the years. A suitable trade of skills, time and fresh produce can always be made and of benefit to both parties.

However, we were able to cast our net a bit wider last year (as we had our first year in a ‘proper normal house’) and so were able to offer accommodation, learning, grafting and food to a select few over the season. It was a bit of a leap of faith for us, but it has been a really positive experience and certainly helped out on the labour front a wee bit.

When I was younger and travelling around Australia, I did quite a spell of volunteering on organic farms and smallholding under the WWOOFing scheme. This can be a really easy way to get practical experience of different horticultural set ups as well as enjoying a cultural exchange and window into another country’s culture. Of course, not every visit was that rewarding but we had a camper van and were able to escape from tricky situations or locations fairly easily. Some farms took the opportunity to take advantage of new blood to send you down to plantings that had not seen anyone for years and were not visible anymore or just use one as plain weed fodder for days on end….But for a couple of months it was a great way to see how people made money from small plots of land, each environment posing its own challenges.

Camper van and times of adventure


So we were able to play hosts this year and our very first first intern, Monica, came from Finland in March, during a particularly cold and wet spell. She was in a position to stay for 3 weeks as part of a sabbatical/workplace retrain scheme and was keen to learn about flower growing as she had acquired some land. We’ve had lots of contact with Anya in Norway over the years but this was our first visitor from Finland (She brought salted liqourice which I was able to use in some great ice cream combos over the summer). Her incredible mastery of English meant we could have a true cultural exchange and hopefully impart sufficient knowledge to get her really set up for a Scandi summer.

Monica & Jesse bonding

Ben, our second recruit, was introduced to us via family contacts in Florida and was able to stay for a few weeks in early summer. He had some horticultural training and was able to help me set up irrigation tape for the coming summer. A good thing too as it then stopped raining for about 7 weeks….As it was his first time in Europe he was able to visit London and Oxford from us and then go on to Paris.

Min (Smoke Bush Flowers) was our next willing helper and as an experienced florist was put to work on just a few events going on….

Min earning her keep in a muggy marquee

Florists who wish to supplement their supplies with their own grown speciality cuts are a common client here at G&G and we have taught many of them and advised others over the years. Both Min and Lydia who came shortly afterwards were keen to learn some growing skills to help their floristry stand out.

Lydia from Rose and Ammi flowers was interested in growing flowers as she had moved to a new southern location and had some land available. As well as the florists in Edinburgh, she also manages a silk ribbon business and so there was lots of natural dye chat going on. She was able to slave away on a busy floral weekend but she’s coming back to see us this year so it can’t have been all bad.

mustard as a cover crop and soil improver
mustard cover crop I got Lydia to sow before she left

So, with appropriate vetting and filtering (emails and phone calls advised) a suitable intern fit for your flower farm can be found, especially with the power of social media to get news around. It can also be a way of learning and sharing all sorts of other skills and interests with fellow like-mindeds, as well as a cultural exchange for farmers tied to their plots. We are already pretty full up for places and slots this year….

Ash

Flower Farming – Through the Seasons

Green and Gorgeous celebrated it’s tenth anniversary this year. In 2008 I started growing on about 1/4 acre, squeezed in amongst rows of organic veg, the flowers proved their worth and slowly they crept across the entire site, with further tunnels being installed to protect the more delicate blooms and extend the season. Here we are today on four acres with our home and workshop overlooking the fields….

A series of practical on-farm workshops looking at how to grow, harvest and sell quality cut flowers.

Over the past decade I have seen a huge rise in the number of people throwing in the day job to boldly go into the flower patch, from nurses to accountants, many with no horticultural or floristry experience – just a love of flowers and a need to do something they are interested in and inspired by for a living.

Delphinium picking
Delphinium picking

I decided to become a flower grower after being a gardener for many years and was still unprepared for how much and how quickly I needed to learn so that I did not end up wasting enormous amounts of time and money.

Bucket of Ranunculus
Bucket of Ranunculus

Even with good horticultural skills and plant knowledge I had to find ways of scaling up my gardening practises without completely exhausting myself.

Using a hedge trimmer to cut back perennials

There was also the small matter of learning how to arrange flowers to make them irresistible to my customers, which in turn brought up many other questions. What were the right flowers to grow that would meet their tastes and requirements, how to ensure a continual supply against all the weather would throw at us and how can I organize all of this into the space and time that I have so I can still have a life outside of work?

August Bridal Bouquet

Together with my partner Ash we have been tackling these questions by finding techniques and systems that have allowed us to reduce our acreage and labour but turn over more profit. Over the years we have slowly improved – our site layout, tools and equipment, ways of selling, what we grow, our branding, how much we charge, who does what – to make the business as efficient, profitable and sustainable as possible. It is a work in progress and there is still much to do and learn but I like the challenge and the never ending process of learning which flower farming brings. 

There are many courses out there now on growing cut flowers for business and pleasure with the majority being just for a day. These are worthwhile but can only work as an introduction to the subject, to get people thinking along the right lines. Many of the people that have attended my ‘Flower farming for Beginners’ course over the past five years have been glad to know about pricing and finding the right customers but they need more detailed information on what I call the ‘nuts and bolts’ of growing.

My feeling is that if you are planning to make a career out of floriculture, a series on growing flowers for business would be even better, where you can keep checking in, reinforcing what you are learning in real time. I want to offer a course that runs through the season so that people can learn as they grow.

So this year I am offering ‘Flower Farming through the Seasons’ a series of three timely workshops that will take you step by step through a growing season. This will be a real time experience that is completely practical and business orientated, it is aimed at people who are new to Flower Farming or perhaps have done a season and have even more questions than when they started.

For more information about the course and to book online just visit our shop. If you are interested in staying with us the night before we have two rooms available in our farmhouse on a bed and breakfast basis, please get in touch for more details.

Styling my Brand

It was ten years ago that we dreamed up Green and Gorgeous, after a  long dog walk I finally found the name that had been just beyond my reach for months. A graphic designer and illustrator were employed and soon we had a logo and it was time to start growing some flowers!

I have always been very fond of our name and brand identity, it certainly has set us in good stead but as our business has grown and changed it is no longer the right fit.

A decade on and Green and Gorgeous has grown up and is a very different enterprise to when we started out so I wanted to create a new brand identity that would convey our matured business.

Our rebrand has been a year in the making, it has been a process which has been both fascinating and nerve wracking at times.

Initially I did what I always do when I want to get something done, I bought a book, Fiona Humberstone’s How to Style your Brand. The more I read the more I realised I needed help, I felt too in my business to have any clear perspective.

I approached branding consultants Opal and Co, as soon as I spoke to Clare I was reassured that I was in good hands she helped me with the brand blueprint which is really a branding strategy which gets to the heart of your company’s purpose and who it is for – your target customer. My discussions with Clare really helped to clarify the direction I wanted to take the business in over the next ten years and how I could stand out from my competitors.

Once I had my brand personality document it was time for the visuals and I already had Caz Harrison from Making Waves booked in. She had a waiting list and seems to be rather in demand. After seeing some of her recent commissions including Lucy the Flower Hunter I was pretty excited about what she would create for us.

Caz visited us here on the farm to get a sense of what we are about. We had a good look at my mood board on pinterest…finally it was my turn to get the pinterest out! Caz stated that G&G was definitely an Autumn personality with a touch of Winter. At this point I will direct to you Fiona’s book or website to explain the importance of knowing which season your business falls into if you are to use colour psychology to its full potential.

A few weeks later the Brand Snapshot file arrived in my inbox, it was a nerve wracking moment what if I hated it? Thankfully I didn’t in fact it felt very comfortable, almost familiar.

Caz started with an overview “The new Green and Gorgeous brand identity celebrates the gentle colours and textures of nature and honest British heritage”

This is followed by a mood board which included some of my favourite brands, fonts, colours and artists. I think putting this together begins to set the tone and gets Caz in the right mind set to start sketching and pulling out pantone colours.

Next up our new colour palette, based on some of the keywords that came out of my brand blueprint. Caz has moved away from the obvious greens and seems to have miraculously chosen similar colours to the ones I am using to decorate our new home.

So it goes without saying that I really like them, particularly Beetle which is the colour she has taken through into our signage and printed material.

I wanted something timeless with the font, with a heritage feel. I like the fact it isn’t too defined and has a letterpress, handmade feel, I also thought it was high time we had an ampersand.

I was keen to have an abbreviated form as our name is a bit of mouth full and does not always fit on printed material. This is where Caz really worked her magic and came up with our mirror image icon.

She added in some mock ups so that I could visualise how the new brand would look on stationary, signage even on a tote bag, which would be great for course goodies.

So here it is just in time for Spring 2018 and hopefully it will stand us in good stead for the next ten years of ‘artfully cultivating flowers’.