FLOWER LADY

I’ll never for­get meet­ing Linda Clark whose affin­ity with flow­ers gave her life a whole new mean­ing and a flour­ish­ing busi­ness

My Weekly Special - - Sailing Through The Menopause -

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

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