Cel Robertson’s one acre site in Norfolk is a masterclass in flower farming efficiency, and Cel is passionate about sharing the knowledge she has gained over her 20+ year career in horticulture and 7 years as a British cut flower grower. In British Flowers Week, we asked Cel to share a glimpse of her flower farming life and how it all began...
Can you tell us about the spark that first inspired you to become a flower farmer?
I have always been interested in food provenance, and what followed was a natural progression to investigate flower provenance. With my love of colour and design, I gradually gravitated more towards flowers and away from vegetable growing.
What is your background?
I studied Horticulture and Garden Design at Capel Manor College in London over 20 years ago. I ran a Garden Design and Landscape company with my husband until our relocation to North Norfolk from London.
How and when did you get started as a flower farmer?
I searched for some land to rent and was lucky enough to find a small site in Aylmerton, just a few miles away from where I live in Sheringham. I started Forever Green Flower Company in 2013.
Do you consider yourself to be a flower grower, a florist or both?
I am a flower grower and my interest is in horticulture, not floristry.
Where do you grow?
My flower farm is located on the North Norfolk coast, just a mile inland from the North Sea. The site is an acre in size, and is a south-facing, windy, exposed sloping field at approx. 220ft above sea level.
How do you sell your flowers (online, markets, farm gate etc) in a normal year and to whom do you sell (public, florists, hotels etc)?
I sell to a number of different customers: I wholesale flowers to florists and to four local shops; and I sell retail regular flower subscriptions, seasonal bunches and gift bouquets; and I offer a Bouquets and Buckets wedding service for DIY brides.
What’s been the highlight of your flower-farming career so far?
The highlight is definitely being able to help other flower growers move their businesses forward through my Advanced workshops.
Do you offer workshops usually?
Yes – I offer a Seasonal Flower Club for retail customers who would like to come and cut their own flowers at the flower farm. For flower growers, I offer a Beginners’ and an Advanced workshop. I also travel across the UK to deliver my Advanced workshop to groups of growers and have taught in Edinburgh, Herefordshire, Northumberland and Berkshire. I also offer a one-to-one consultation service for growers which takes place either on my farm or on location as required.
What are your hopes and visions for the future of your business?
My aim is to eventually purchase a larger site for expansion.
What aspects of being a Flowers from the Farm member do you most value?
Working alone in a field can be quite a lonely occupation. As a member of Flowers from the Farm, I am part of a network of growers who are always at the end of the phone should you need a chat or some support. I have friends across the country who I would never have come into contact with had I not been a member of the organisation.
Images courtesy of Andrew Crowley