Before starting the flower farm here, I spent ten years working as a gardener on public and private estates around the country. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I think this was my way of training myself to care for my own land, and ensure its place in my future. In my final estate job, I ended up running the cut flower garden purely by accident, but I soon knew I’d found something I had a real affinity for, that might also help me return home in a more permanent and meaningful way.
So I started the groundwork for growing cut flowers at Ravenshill in autumn 2019, and the infrastructure I put in place then is still very much the same: a small, second-hand, timber frame greenhouse; two fenced growing areas totaling about a quarter of an acre; and the wider garden, encompassing ornamental borders and shrubs, a young orchard, naturalized spring bulbs, mixed hedgerows, and a species poor wildflower meadow, which I am in the process of trying to enrich.
My relatively small growing space, and lack of a polytunnel – plus the fact I run the business entirely on my own – sets limits on what I can grow, but for the moment I’m content trying to make the most of what I’ve got. Between mid-April and early October, I concentrate on supplying local shops and garden centres with bunches and bouquets, and, although I consider myself principally a grower, I occasionally design event flowers if the brief is not too elaborate. I also offer my flowers for sale to florists, and this is a part of my business I am hoping to expand.
However, I like the freedom of growing what I choose to grow, and when. Again because of my small space, I generally don’t successional sow, but stagger my crops through the season, and enjoy the changing materials I have to work with as a result. I also grow with half an eye on drying flowers to use through the winter. I am lucky to have a very good drying space, which can accommodate a fair amount of material, so I make sure to grow plenty of ‘dual purpose’ crops, which will dry well if I do not get the opportunity to use them fresh.
As I say, my ambitions for the farm in the short term do not stretch too far, but in time I would like make community outreach an important part of what I do. I am very aware of the good fortune that has enabled me to build this life for myself, and of the benefits it has for my mental and physical wellbeing. Productive growing offers such an important opportunity to engage with the natural world, and I think it’s imperative to share that opportunity in any way one can. Flowers from the Farm is an organization built around sharing, mutual support and inclusion, and as such is a wonderful place to start thinking about socially conscious models of growing.
Michael not only grows beautiful flowers, but takes gorgeous photographs too!