Tag Archives | flower farming

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.

Machinery musings for the flower grower


As horticulturalists, we all have to use our bodies about ten times more than the average punter, so I think we are in the best position to appreciate the odd spot of motorized help. I know it can be daunting to the newbies out there but getting to grips with some machinery is going to be essential to your growing business and fading body. So I have outlined a few options for making your life easier with small machinery, but you are going to have to fill up the odd jerry can on the way. I have saved rotovators for another day…


Hedge Trimmer

A beefy hedge trimmer can be very useful, as well as doing the obvious gardening duties. It can help you chop up woody waste and bulky stems on the compost heap to permit faster breakdown and allow rain to penetrate the heap. You will have lots more bulky and woodier material growing flowers, so your compost heap needs to be adjusted accordingly – you will need to find some greener, more nitrogenous material ideally to move things along. If you have a hedge trimmer it can save you getting a shredder and also makes clearing easier. You can sometimes cut down stems above and below bean netting to make extracting it easier from larger crops – there’s a Top Tip.



I myself haven’t got on with the multi tool system with the various ends that attach to a 2 stroke unit, I find the Ryobi one I have (for emergencies) underpowered and a real pain to use for anything. It’s a very attractive proposition however, it’s probably just another example of ‘you get what you pay for’ or ‘should have bought a Stihl’.


Ride on Mower


NOTE MACHINE FOR SPARES IN BACKGROUND, never been able to get the Ag tyres off it

I think these are almost essential kit to help out growers on a small scale, especially as 2nd hand decent machines are still available, they are simple to maintain with lots of spares and technical info freely available. Apart from mowing grass paths whilst you are carting waste or manure in a trailer (2 jobs for the price of one), they can also clear some crops and cut green manures.


Green and Gorgeous trailer


In conjunction with a small trailer they really can be motivational, compared to barrows that get full up with plant material in a jiffy (even with a 120L one). It can make clearing crops or cutting back with more than 1 person much more practical. They can make mucking beds easier as you can shovel directly from the back of a trailer…Ok, I’ll stop going on now.


MOWER FAIRYLAND or a trailer full of weeds…

The kind of thing I’m talking about is a Mountfield, Countax or Westwood and old enough to consist of  a lawnmower engine, with belts that run a cutting deck and back to a simple gearbox that drives the wheels. Usually 8 to 15hp in size, I have a 13hp Westwood that was only £350 on ebay and can tow large chicken coops. All the moving parts are on show and it is usually easy to spot problems – many parts and diagrams available from this website, Westwood Tractor Spares (they support lots of other makes too). If you do keep it cheap and cheerful with an older machine then if mechanical problems are more serious than swapping out easy parts (starter, solenoid, belts, blades, battery, possibly carburettor) then keep it for spares and get another one!



So, it’s not the first thing to go and buy as they are expensive but they enable you to compost more effectively, although you have to factor in the time taken to shred your waste. You can also shred back onto beds directly and let material break down in situ (ok, not rose clippings but you’re burning those right?), which is quite a useful winter cover idea and labour saver. I covered a bit on our shredder in a composting blog a while back.



Compact tractor

Our site at G&G was designed with access to a compact tractor, (up to 20hp) like a Kubota/Iseki/Yanmar, so we have wide paths accordingly. They can be a really good investment if you have a larger plot as they can do all the things a ride on can but with the bonus of rotavating/ploughing, spreading manure too. If you get a larger one, a loader/bucket on the front is feasible and it can be your ‘goto’ solution for everything (See Floret’s Farm for example).



We were able to borrow the farm’s Kubota initially when we started out growing vegetables – a bright yellow ex-gritting thing from Scotland that even had a cab, which was a real squeeze. We don’t use one now as we have a large tractor and C8 rotavator but I wouldn’t say no if one was available. We have gardening, market garden and field scale plots at G&G so that visitors/attendees can see the space that suits them, but we always stress planning your beds around practical aspects like machinery, as well as the more obvious factors like irrigation, shelter, aspect and soil considerations.


THE SCOTTISH JALOPY with a Kubota rotavator

The Japanese/Asian brands I mentioned earlier are the most common at this size, especially second hand. Kubotas certainly hold their value and tend to be pretty bombproof and go forever. Beware the cheap Chinese rotavators and toppers often supplied with compact tractors as ‘smallholder packages’.


Maintenance and Repair

So, of course with some considerable gain comes a little pain – there will be a spot of winter TLC. I tend to just make sure I look at the filters (cleaning air, replacing fuel), with general greasing and lubrication and an do an oil change every year. Anything else is a bit OTT for the mostly old and tired fleet of machinery I have, but there are many resources online now and many hours can be wasted on YouTube in this area…You are supposed to run the fuel tank dry for winter storage, but hands up I have never been able to be organized enough to do that – preferring the ‘use it every now and then’ to stop it completely seizing up or giving it an excuse to let you down come Springtime.



Obviously Ebay is a great starting point to familiarize yourself with makes, models and prices with garden maintenance shops also selling older mowers and strimmers. The down season is perfect to spend some months keeping an eye out online. The usual ‘buyer beware’ common sense rules apply here, so do your homework and try and have a conversation with the buyer. If they don’t know anything about it or how they have been maintaining it, it could well be stolen or not in very good condition. You have to be prepared to be a tyre kicker sometimes when handing over cash after inspection and the machine is not a good deal. I have only done it once and got a barrage of swearing as I walked all the way back to the car. But I have also paid cash for a 2nd hand Stihl strimmer in a dark car park ten years ago and it’s never let me down.


So do share any other favourite motorized aids for the flower grower, or if you’ve gone cordless instead!





The Friday Buzz – getting ready for a summer weekend


During the season Fridays tend to be rather frenetic with weddings to arrange and flowers to be picked for our Saturday shop, last minute pick ups and arrangements to be made for all the Saturday goings on and of course there are still the plants themselves that need looking after.



I am fortunate to have a more than capable team of both growers and florists to help me make all of this work possible in just one day.



Back in September I had the pleasure of being visited by photographer Mark Lord who was keen to record all these activities and capture a few good animal shots at the same time.


I first noticed Mark’s work whilst looking at Waterperry Garden’s website where he spent the last two years capturing some sublime images of their gardens, flowers and gardeners. Mark has both a garden photography blog in which we appear and a website for his wedding and portrait work.


I have to confess I particularly like his animal portraits and I am always keen to get my whippets photographed as much as possible!


Mark arrived bright and early which is always the perfect time lighting wise to photograph the garden but perhaps not my most attractive hour – oh well, as ever the flowers must come first!


We always pick for a Saturday wedding on a Thursday apart from some of the key blooms, in this case dahlias and roses which I want to look as ‘vital’ as possible.


So my first job is selecting specific flowers for the bouquet work. I am a bit of a control freak when it comes to picking roses and unless I am really up against it always cut those precious blooms myself, despite the thorns it is a job I savor.



Everyone else is sent to the field to ‘walk the line’ as we affectionately call our 100 metre long dahlia row. Flowers are picked into our trusty dutch buckets which we buy in from Holland by the pallet load. Once back at the packing shed they are conditioned and stored in our walk in chiller.


A coffee break….followed by lots and lots of floristry……


Lucy and ‘Scratch’ are on buttonhole duty and I take up my usual spot at the bouquet table.


I have quite a structured approach to making bouquets especially when there are multiple bridesmaids. Each bouquet has a bucket in which the prepared ingredients go into, that way I can ensure everyone has their fair share and all the arrangements are consistent.


Once assembled I tie them off with raffia which will be replaced in the morning with tape and silk ribbon, this helps to loosen them up and achieve the wild, ‘grown in’ look I am after.


Ash brings in the Saturday shop haul from the field in our back-saving harvesting buggy – it’s saved us a lot of walking this year. Looking like it originates from a pre-atomic era, it is a lot of fun to drive and there’s space for a lucky passenger. The one wheel at the front results in a nifty turning circle and it makes quick work of harvesting, essential on hot days.


Everything Ash and I do is centered around my mantra ‘minimum effort maximum results’ with six acres to cultivate and seventy weddings to supply and arrange it is the only way to make it work.


I am working on a new series of full day floristry workshops at the moment, some I hope will be collaborative and all will focus on capturing the essence of each season. I plan to release the dates in the New Year with my next blog post.


Talking of seasons I have always claimed to be a Spring girl, I love the freshness of everything and I guess I feel pretty good at the beginning of the season too. But I am becoming increasingly fond of the end of the season when there is a lot more to play with in both our cutting fields and beyond on my regular dog walks.