Gillian Harvey discovers why our home-grown flowers are becoming more popular.

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The monthly Food Produce swap run by Sustainable Fawkner on Saturday 11 February 2012 at the Fawkner Community House.

There’s nothing quite like a beautiful bouquet. Whether an elastic-banded bunch of daffs from the local grocer or an elaborate mixture of scented stems from a florist, flowers can brighten the dreariest of days.
However, the popularity and convenience of
imported blooms sold at the local supermarket or garage forecourt has led to Britain losing a little of its floral diversity over the
years.
Whilst many of us are familiar with roses, tulips and other common blooms, other cut flower varieties are being overlooked.
But change may be on the horizon. With a more public focus on air miles and local producers popping up, interest in British-grown flowers is growing.
Self-styled “seedling” Liz Wilkinson from Craig’s Flowers in Newcastleton only growing flowers for sale after retiring from her work in the NHS.
“My late husband was a farmer, and as I moved towards retirement we began to search for a smaller farm where he could keep his beloved pedigree cattle, ” she explains. “Sadly, he died before we were able to move.”
After a period in rented accommodation, Liz went on to purchase her own smallholding in 2015, It was then she was inspired to start flower-growing.
“I’ve always loved gardening in an amateur way,” she says. “Then I read an article about two ladies from Lancashire who’d started growing flowers — building a business from six packets of seeds! The article mentioned an organization called Flowers From The Farm — a network of flower growers who support each other
across the UK.”

Inspired, Liz joined the online organization in 2017 and started to
explore what she could grow on her rather challenging plot: “Four
hundred feet up, with sixtyinches of rain a year, on a
slope with not much soil.’
She also joined the local college, signing up For
courses in horticulture and floristry.
So far, it’s going well, “I’ve been selling flowers, making up bouquets and have even done a wedding!” she says.
“I’m trying new blooms including Korean chrysanthemums and vanilla ice sunflowers.”
Grower Cel Robertson, from the Forever Green Flower Company in Norfolk,
started her enterprise in 2013, “I started growing part-time when my youngest child was eleven,” she explains. The idea was to expand the business so that I was working full-time
by the time my children finished school.”
Cel, who rents an acre of land, now produces around 200 varieties of flower, selling mixed bouquets to the public and supplying local florists.
Over the years, she’s noticed an interest in British flowers increasing. “I have more inquiries than I can provide for now,” she says. “There is
definitely much more demand for locally produced flowers — customers want something that hasn’t been flown halfway across the world.”
Flowers From The Farm founder Gill Hodson of Fieldhouse Flowers in Yorkshire started growing flowers a decade ago, after identifying a demand for locally grown stems.

“I already grew a few vegetables in the garden,” she explains, “Then one year a friend asked if Id grow flowers for her wedding, Unfortunately, the flowers bloomed too early, so in order to keep them growing I began cutting”.
Gill put the excess blooms at the end of her farm’s drive in a bucket with an honesty box and was astounded by how quickly the bunches of flowers disappeared.

“The net year I planted twice as in any seeds, and the following year I started to do flower markets,” she says. The idea for Flowers From The Farm — which has enabled local growers and hobbyists to link up,
share resources and support each other — came about after Gill saw the
public response to her British blooms close up, ”lid see people who’d
perhaps grown up only really seeing roses and lilies amazed by my belles
of Ireland dahlias and geraniums: she says, “Their reaction was wonderful to see, and I began to think that more people ought to be growing
flowers to meet this demand.
“1 actually started the website to support farmers who wanted to diversify,
but it took on a life of its own,” One of the reasons for the popularity of British flowers, when they do hit the markets, is that international imports have narrowed the variety of blooms available.

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