I’ll never forget meeting Linda Clark whose affinity with flowers gave her life a whole new meaning and a flourishing business
From her home on a farm in Nor thern Ireland, broadcaster Helen Mark tells us about her life
Ever ything happened at once! My job as an IT assistant was being relocated to somewhere I didn’t want to go, my husband was changing careers and my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer.”
This cauldron of emotions was to completely change Linda Clark’s life – but in an unexpected way, as I was to discover when she led me to the half-acre of land at the back of her house near the village of Blyton, near Gainsborough in Lincolnshire.
“It was a difficult time for us all. By chance I saw an ar ticle in the Yorkshire Post about Flowers From The Farm, which is run by volunteers to encourage small scale local flower production across the UK. And I just said, I’m going to do it, and it’s now or never!”
A great mantra, especially when you see what it can achieve – although I think that her strong spirit and lively personality had a par t to play, too.
“I’d never run my own business but after four years of hard graft, experimenting with what grows and how best to grow it, The Spotted Dog Flower Company has taken shape.”
Linda was a keen gardener but this was on a whole new level. She completed classes run by Flowers From the Farm – basics like seed sowing – and has learned more, year on year. She now does some teaching, floristr y and gives talks and demonstrations.
She’s ver y generous with her knowledge, encouraging others into growing flowers; roses, dahlias, sweet pea, peonies… a glorious, scented array to grow and sell locally.
Lincolnshire is famous for its vast tulip fields but this is much more intimate. There’s a personal connection to the plants in the long borders across her growing area, where there’s also a polytunnel, greenhouse, and ver y big compost heap.
“When we moved here the soil was like a deser t, lifeless, there wasn’t a worm to be seen. However copious amounts of horse dung brought it back to life.”
I visited Linda in midMarch for Radio 4’s Open Countr y. Despite a long and bitterly cold winter and the snows of The Beast from the East, I could see some emerging growth in the beds. At that point the challenges of the summer drought were yet to be faced. I suspect that strong spirit kicked in full-time.
“There’s been a resurgence in people wanting locally grown British flowers. Brides come to choose their blooms, which I think makes the floral arrangements on the day a little more special. People come for flowers for other celebrations and of course for funerals.”
That personal touch must be so comfor ting.
As I was leaving I couldn’t resist asking her advice because I was pondering growing flowers to make confetti for my son’s wedding in September. Without hesitation, she said, “Do it!” So I did, which is why ever y day I have an abundance of flower petals dr ying in my airing cupboard. I love the pretty blues, pinks and purples of the cornflowers, the gold of marigolds. I do have to remember to open and close the door slowly, though, or they waft ever ywhere!
“When you throw the confetti,” Linda said, “yes, it’s momentar y – but it’s grown with love, and shop bought is never going to make you feel that!”
Linda is very generous with her knowledge
Linda with her helpers
Flowers From The Farm’s display at the Chelsea Flower Show