Bou­quets of danc­ing flow­ers

Florist Ge­orgie New­bery grows flow­ers to cre­ate bou­quets that bring to­gether the sights and scents of the sum­mer coun­try­side

Landscape (UK) - - Contents -

Amaze of small fields sur­rounds a Som­er­set farm­house, each filled with a rain­bow of softly coloured flow­ers. This seven-acre plot is home to Com­mon Farm Flow­ers. Here grower-florist Ge­orgie New­bery tends to her flow­ers from seed to fi­nal, glo­ri­ous bou­quet. Blooms range from stately white al­li­ums and sil­ver-leafed stachys to clumps of mauve sweet Wil­liam. Strik­ing, inky blue irises flour­ish in rec­tan­gu­lar beds. Wild­flow­ers are en­cour­aged to grow in any re­main­ing spa­ces along the path edges and among the grass. One field is en­tirely given over to wild­flow­ers. In early June, this is a sea of grasses dot­ted with white ox-eye daisies, but­ter­cups, pink cam­pion, yel­low birds­foot trefoil and wild or­chids. When Ge­orgie and her hus­band Fabrizio moved to Com­mon Farm in 2004, she worked as a free­lance writer. Six years later, how­ever, she was find­ing the de­mands of her work and bring­ing up her two young chil­dren too dif­fi­cult. Then a friend sent her a bou­quet of flow­ers through the post. This gen­er­ous act was a turn­ing point. “I thought ‘I could do that’,” she says. “I was plant­ing sweet peas even when life was crazy be­cause I found grow­ing and pick­ing my own flow­ers so sat­is­fy­ing. I de­cided to turn this love into a busi­ness.”

Grow­ing suc­cess

Ge­orgie was brought up sur­rounded by flow­ers and had al­ways made bunches of flow­ers for friends. “I wasn’t a trained florist but I was handy with a pair of scis­sors and a gar­den,” she says. Her grand­mother was an en­thu­si­as­tic gar­dener and her mother was a pro­fes­sional florist. The lat­ter had some sage ad­vice for her daugh­ter. “Never try and force a flower to bend in a di­rec­tion it does not want to go. You’ve lost that bat­tle be­fore you’ve started it,” she says. In the first year of busi­ness Ge­orgie did the flow­ers for five wed­dings and five postal bou­quets. In 2014, she sent out over 1,500 bou­quets and did ap­prox­i­mately 50 wed­dings. She now em­ploys two staff, hosts work­shops, runs gar­den tours and has writ­ten two books, The Flower Farmer’s Year and Grow Your Own Wed­ding Flow­ers.

Feed­ing the soil

Com­mon Farm’s po­si­tion on the edge of the warm and wet West Country is ex­cel­lent for grow­ing flow­ers. On the east­ern bor­der of the Som­er­set lev­els, the farm nes­tles un­der­neath the Stour­head es­carp­ment. The flat coun­try­side sits on Som­er­set clay, which means wa­ter re­ten­tion is not a prob­lem. Ge­orgie treats the soil with her home­made com­post tea, made from a mix­ture of cut net­tles, ma­nure and wa­ter ev­ery year. She uses mu­nic­i­pal green waste, from Cas­tle Cary re­cy­cling cen­tre, eight miles away. Mixed in with horse ma­nure from her neigh­bours, it tops up the nu­tri­ents in the soil. “We feed the soil a lot as we ask so much of it,” she says. Her main en­vi­ron­men­tal chal­lenge comes from the frost

and wind. The net­work of high hedges was de­lib­er­ately planted to pro­vide shel­ter from both. Frost is also com­bated us­ing two un­heated poly­tun­nels to over­win­ter early plant­ings of flow­ers such as sweet peas. More than 250 va­ri­eties of flow­ers and fo­liage, all na­tive Bri­tish species, are grown. If one crop fails, there is al­ways an­other to fall back on. At the heart of the plant­ing are sev­eral sea­sonal sta­ples in­clud­ing sweet peas, roses and dahlias. To en­sure a sum­mer-long sup­ply of one of her favourite flow­ers, sweet peas, Ge­orgie grows four dif­fer­ent plant­ings. Two batches are grown un­der cover early on and the two later ones out­side. She grows 20 va­ri­eties of rose but prefers the ones with big, highly scented flow­er­heads. In early sum­mer th­ese are sup­ple­mented with bi­en­ni­als such as sweet rocket, fox­gloves and white for­get-me-nots. The lat­ter are a vi­tal part of Ge­orgie’s crop as they of­ten flower be­fore the an­nu­als and peren­ni­als are ready. All are com­bined with an­nu­als in­clud­ing one of her floristry favourites, the lacy Ammi ma­jus, and peren­ni­als such as del­phini­ums or al­li­ums. All th­ese are grown from seeds. “We col­lect some seed and or­der some,” she says. “My seed bill through the year is about £400. We mostly di­rect sow as we grow a lot, but I would rec­om­mend smaller grow­ers start in seed trays. This way they con­trol the num­ber of plants they’re grow­ing.” Other plants grown in her poly­tun­nels in­clude del­phini­ums, and hon­esty. There is also the white lace flower Or­laya gran­di­flora, anemones, and pit­tospo­rum for fo­liage. Many are sown early in the year to get a long and ear­lier flow­er­ing pe­riod.

Um­bels of soft, frothy Ammi ma­jus, also known as lady’s lace, bring clouds of white to Ge­orgie’s bou­quets. Tall stems of al­lium ‘Pur­ple Sensation’ help add struc­ture and height to ar­range­ments. Beds of Aqui­le­gia vul­garis, sil­ver fo­liage of Stachys byzantina and scented pur­ple hon­esty, Lu­naria an­nua. Tak­ing the freshly picked flow­ers in for ar­rang­ing.

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