It was when Gill Hodgson began selling her flowers at farmers’ markets that she recognised the massive popularity of British flowers and the business potential for new growers.
“I’d always sold a few bunches at the farm gate but bringing them to a wider audience and meeting my customers face-to-face opened my eyes to just how very desirable and different my own flowers were,” she explains.
Having always been a farmer, her life revolves around the changing year. But Gill quickly realised that an unawareness of seasonality had crept over the country. She noticed that, whereas a few decades ago people would exclaim over a new exotic imported flower – the position had reversed: now, the ubiquitous imports appear very ordinary, but home-grown Solomon’s Seal, Phlox and Sweet Peas sell like hot cakes. It was then that she knew she was onto something.
And so, Gill set up Fieldhouse Flowers.
Over 80 varieties
Nestled in the rural backroads of the East Riding of Yorkshire, she grows a bountiful mixture of foliage and flowers that provides picking material from early March to the end of October with new batches of seeds sown constantly to refresh the supply. For Gill, the season starts early with bulbs and Hellebores: goes through the high summer of Sweet Peas, Delphiniums and Roses; then melts into autumn with the coming of Dahlias; Rudbeckia and Sedum. In total, she now grows over 80 flower varieties, and, whilst hard-pressed to choose a favourite amongst such plenty, she admits that the perennial Scabious enchants her with its mauve petals and delicate stamens.
The growing business
As part of her expansion, Gill increased her sales at farmers’ markets. She also stimulated high demand for bespoke bouquets and wedding commissions, with brides encouraged to visit the garden and flower field to see the abundance of flowers growing for themselves, whilst still maintaining her stand at the farm gate (which has attracted a dedicated following over the years).
“By growing flowers and selling them here in the East Riding of Yorkshire I’m spreading the experience, the joy and the scent of blooms that have graced our gardens for generations,” Gill enthuses.
To accommodate the growing demand for her flowers, Gill increased the area of her flower plot to over an acre: a size which she acknowledged from the start was perhaps a little too big, given the solo nature of her venture!
“I made the conscious decision that I wouldn’t let weeds bother me,” she concedes. “They grow alongside and between the flowers and occasionally surprise me with their beauty.”
Fieldhouse Flowers | www.fieldhouseflowers.co.uk
Flowers From The Farm Ltd
Gill’s passion for British flowers is clear to see and she is a steadfast advocate for British-grown. That’s why, in 2011, she founded Flowers From The Farm Ltd – a not-for-profit organisation with the simple aim of promoting British flowers and to encourage more people to start growing them for market.
“I wanted to make others aware of the opportunities that flower farming offers,” she adds. “There were no grower groups out there at the time that did that."
“I could hardly believe how quickly the organisation would grow and attract growers,” she says.
Flowers From The Farm now has over 260 members from central Scotland to the Isles of Scilly joining together to share knowledge, advice and flowers, and showcase their glorious blooms all over the country. This year is seeing growers from the network displaying at Harrogate Spring and Autumn Flower Shows; Gardeners World Live at the NEC; RHS Hampton Court; RHS Tatton Park; Gardening Scotland and many more.
Gill notes that one of the great strengths of growing to this type of scale is that no two members of Flowers From The Farm have exactly the same business idea. Encouragingly, more and more are working full time at a job that began as a sideline: testament, perhaps, to the burgeoning trend in local, seasonal flowers.
Flowers From The Farm | www.flowersfromthefarm.co.uk