End of the season – what have we achieved and what have we learned?

The glut of flowers just starting in early June, after a disappointing shortage in May

I can see that my last post was right at the start of the season, which shows just how crazy this year has been. When I started my career change last autumn and tentatively ordered bulbs, plants and resources to convert my land into a serious full time flower farm I had been desperately hoping I wouldn’t be throwing money down the drain. I am now wishing we had invested more as I have sold absolutely every stem I have cut.

I planted around an acre with a range of plants . My vague plan to have a continual supply of fresh flowers from April until October. My main problem on the growing side was running out of prepared space and time. We were learning on the job, so issues such as how to control weeds or have useable pathways developed while planting up beds. In May we had to rotovate two large new beds because I had run out of space. Because I was so busy planting and cutting in April and May I did not get as many succession sowings completed as I would have liked. So inevitably I had some times when I had shortages – May was tricky because of limited range of flowers being grown, when the tulips finished earlier than expected I had an awkward week with hardly any flowers, which of course coincided with my first stall on a local farmers market! Late summer was tricky because although I had dahlia, cosmos and zinnia most of the other ‘filler’ flowers were finished because I had not done my final summer succession sowing.

We started off the year with a small roadside flower shed for sales direct to the public, hoping people passing would stop and buy flowers. My conviction was that if I offered flowers that were high quality and completely different to anything else being offered locally then they would sell. This was a good strategy, flowers sold so well that on top of passing trade we built up a core of regular customers who came out weekly to buy flowers from us. Every one that brought from us told other people. By the end of the season we were selling out every day. Selling our flowers has been the easiest part of the job, no doubt also helped by the recent huge rise in interest in British grown flowers.

So by the end of our first year we have:

  • Built up a good and loyal customer base
  • Teamed up with local independent florists
  • Had a successful stall at a local farmers market
  • Exhibited and had a stand at Woburn Abbey Garden Show, for which we were awarded a gold medal
  • Started to supply a shop in town with seasonal mixed bunches
  • Teamed up with two other local flower farms to supply larger events
  • Hosted a variety of workshops and fully booked up all of the workshop spaces for next year.
  • Booked out to supply as many wedding s next year as we feel comfortable with
  • Been on an advanced flower farmers course with Cel Robertson of the forever green flower company to help with future planning

What does this mean for next year?

We are expanding, another acre is being planted up at the moment – the demand is there we now just have to meet it. Hopefully what we have learned this year will mean I will be more efficient, better prepared and so able to grow more. However I am aware I will need to employ someone else to help with this. I am putting in a wider range of shrubs, perennials and bulbs to try to rectify the problems with shortages as certain times of the year. My greenhouse is now a factory run by the sowing dates on the calendar not somewhere to work on a rainy day or when all the other jobs are done (the greenhouse is my favourite place to be and so I always left working there as the last job on the list!)

Over the winter I will be running wreath workshops and continuing to sell seasonal plants and flowers. I will be planning another show garden and floral installation for next years Woburn Abbey Garden Show ( yes they’re are letting us back and giving us more space!) And planning for next years British Flowers Marquee at the local Young Farmers rally And writing a free course aimed at helping new flower farmers in the UK get started. And updating website and social media pages, mailing lists and business accounts. Maybe I’ll sit down for a bit. Just maybe.

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