I set up my business in 2006 after faffing about as a hobby since 2002. My first cutting garden was in a garden centre. At the time there were very few people who were growing cut flowers as a business and also no social media so there wasn’t anyone to ask for advice or discuss things with. Any floristry training was done with imports so it was very much make it up as you go along – although I realise that actually this is still the case! I had two Sarah Raven books and the optimism of youth to keep me going.
I moved to Catkin’s current home, Doddington Hall, in January 2009. I dug up my cutting garden and moved everything in a Luton van and restarted on a different site. This is when I learnt that peonies are as tough as old boots – I moved them in January and by June the same year they were flowering their socks off!
Five years into my business, I was doing much as I do now: I was a wedding florist using my flowers and I ran courses and did a little bit of retail. On 18th October 2011, I had an email from Gill asking if she could bring a group along to the garden – she had secured LEADER funding to encourage people grow cut flowers and was putting together a programme of activities for an interested group of 15 or so. She invited me to join Flowers from the Farm and this is the email I sent her in response:
“I would absolutely love to be a member – this looks fantastic and EXACTLY what is needed – I am such a strong believer in trying to support anyone who wants to grow cut flowers and having a network of people to share experiences and flowers with is fabulous, so yes please sign me up.”
Gill brought the group along to the garden in June 2012 and it was just so fabulous to meet a group of people who shared the same passion for British grown flowers and who totally got it. It was my first experience of sharing knowledge and tips with other growers and it is this cooperative approach that has kept me in the organisation for 10 years. I was in regular contact with Gill via email and it really was wonderful to feel part of a community. I became the East Midlands regional co-ordinator in the autumn of 2012 and we had our first East Midlands meeting at Doddington on 15th April 2013. Linda Clark of The Spotted Dog Flower Company took over from me in the East Midlands a couple of years later.
During my 10 years as a member I’ve made some fantastic friends for life and it’s such a bonus to know that there are people who totally understand my business and who understand exactly the pressures and challenges it brings. It’s wonderful to have people you can call on if you need to. The difference it made having that network around me, having grown for 5 years without one, can’t be overstated.
Other highlights from a decade of Flowers from the Farm membership include: