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Sandra’s story

Inspired by her dad’s garden full of perennial flowers visited by bees and butterflies, Sandra had already started to grow her own flowers before she came across a fledgling organisation called Flowers from the Farm quite by chance.

A keen grower of fruit and vegetables, I also kept goats and bred chickens so it was pure luck that saw me casually browsing through the ‘Smallholder’ magazinein 2011 where I spotted an article about Gill Hodgson starting a flower growing network called Flowers from the Farm. This truly got me excited because the idea resonated with my beliefs about growing your own, locally and nationally and benefiting the environment quite literally in your own back yard. I contacted Gill and joined FFTF immediately.

Along with other FFTF members, I attended Rachel Petherham’s cutting garden tutorial at Catkin – this may have been FFTF’s first ‘official’ activity.

When I started selling I was really learning as I went along. Trial and error taught me what grew and/or cut well, what was popular with customers and how to cut and condition my flowers. I then started selling bunches locally via Facebook groups as at that point I didn’t have the confidence to tackle wedding flowers (I’m totally self taught and have always loved being creative).

It was only in 2013 that I took on my first wedding order. A bride-to-be in eastern Europe emailed me to ask if I’d decorate her venue and make her wedding bouquets and buttonholes as she was moving to England to get married. She’d found me through the Flowers from the Farm website. She wanted a wild garden look with lots of scent and this was right up my street. I have to admit that I probably undercharged her, but these days I know the value of my flowers and charge a good price for the hard work, planning, growing, stress, care, love, emotion and energy that wedding work takes.

In 2014 I took part in BBC’s Big Allotment Challenge where the other contestants nicknamed me ‘The Flowerlady’ because on my way to reaching the final of the competition, along with growing vegetables I filled the plot with way more flowers than I ever needed, lots of them!

I really love growing fresh cut flowers but I’m also obsessed with drying them and using them to make arrangements throughout the year. Drying flowers and working with them are both different arts from working with their fresh cousins and it takes time to learn what, how, when and where to dry. I was so delighted to see my dried flowers adorning Flora, our beautiful straw horse on FFTF’s gold-medal winning Chelsea display.

Over the last 10 years, here at Peacock Cottage Flowers we’ve expanded our growing areas and now have three greenhouses. I still hanker after a polytunnel but keep telling myself I have to be realistic about how much more I can manage at my age (58!).