Region: North West
Location: Next door to Jodrell Bank, Cheshire.
As a keen gardener, in love with dahlias, Philippa Stewart decided to turn over her Cheshire veg patch to these flowers in 2016. By August she was drowning in dahlia blooms so popped some buckets into her car and drove round to a few of the local florists. Met by gasps of delight on opening the boot, Philippa quickly realised there was a market for the flowers that could help to fund her obsession. Fearing that she would bore her friends to ‘death by dahlia’ on her personal Instagram account, Philippa decided to a start a second instagram account featuring only these flowers to reach out to similar addicts. In this way, “Just Dahlias” was born.
In 2017, she expanded her growing area into her field, creating 5x25m beds, and by 2018, having filled all those, she decided to use the veg plot area for café au lait dahlias only, due to the demand for this favourite from florists and brides across the county. The majority of her customers are event florists who do mainly weddings, but this year Philippa has also started to run workshops and says: “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed these as more opportunities to share my passion with like-minded people.”
Philippa remains a a one woman band in all respects of the growing and picking but cites her husband as ‘a demon mower’.
What does being part of FftF mean to you?
Instagram led to Philippa to Flowers from the Farm and she took the decision to join straight away and she's eloquent about the benefits that she has enjoyed from joining our network: “I’m not sure I could have continued along the flower farming path if it hadn’t been for FftF. An electronic engineer by training, I have no formal horticultural background. The help and advice I’ve received have been invaluable in converting my hobby into a business. I’m also a pretty sociable person so if it had just been me digging a hole in a field that wouldn’t have been very appealing.
"With FftF I feel like the members are sort of floating above me and through the wonders of the internet I can ask questions and share experiences with over 500 experts, many of whom have become great friends. And we have a real laugh too! I would have thought that the openness and sharing of knowledge between our members for the benefit of the group as a whole must be pretty unique.
"I loved hosting the NW group meeting here in September 2017. Visiting other members’ farms and plots has been wonderfully inspiring too. I have found the conferences invaluable: for example, since hearing Charles Dowding’s no-dig talk at Edinburgh, I’ve adopted this approach to cultivation, and at last year’s Birmingham conference, Rachael Siegfried’s (Green and Gorgeous) talk on running workshops was full of helpful advice to consider when I set out down this route myself.”
Is there anything you’d like to see FftF doing in the future?
Like many new business owners, Philippa says that pricing is the area she has found most difficult, but that she is getting better at it through both experience and a growing confidence in the quality of the product and service which she offers her customers. Whilst acknowledging that it is a tricky area for any small business, Philippa says that she would like to see more sharing and guidance in this area across the membership, to help everyone to price what they offer with confidence in a business-like fashion.
What are your hopes for your business next year?
Philippa explains that dahlias are very labour intensive so she is thinking carefully about how to improve her growing techniques and address issues like crop rotation. To this end, she’s hoping to enrol on Withypitts’ Mentoring for commercial growers.
She also says: “I do too much deadheading so my goal is to sell every flower I produce next year – a bit of a big ask I realise.”
The preceding revelation that she has a veg patch full of Café au Lait, might just have made it that little bit easier for her to fulfil this goal - people in commuting distance of Jodrell Bank, Cheshire, engrave her details in your contacts book! You can follow Philippa's progress along with her beautiful photos via her Instagram: www.instagram.com/justdahlias