Founded in 1949, Smith & Munson Ltd has a long history of flower growing.
Starting out in bulbs and non-flower farming, the family have been growing on their land since the early 1900s. However, it wasn’t until current owner, Stephen, returned from Writtle Agricultural College in the 1980s to start working with his parents, Neville and Betty, that flowers became the primary crop.
Today with Smith & Munson
Today, Smith & Munson is run by 4th generation flower farmer Stephen and his wife Jo. They specialise in two main flower crops, tulips and lilies, both of which have their own specific growing needs.
They grow around 7 million tulips hydroponically in trays, which allows them to deliver a perfectly balanced, pH-adjusted nutrient solution directly to the roots in a highly soluble form and a soil-less environment. Not only does this keep things clean, but it allows the plant to take up its food with very little effort, this is in contrast to soil where the roots must search out the nutrients and extract them.
They aim to have at least seven colours in crop at any one time to maintain the quality of their mixed packed box; variety-wise they grow a glorious mix of single, double, fringed and parrot varieties. As a result, their tulip glasshouse is a riot of colour.
They also produce around 1.5 million lilies, offering a wide range of varieties throughout the season, including Orientals, Oriental Trumpets, LA-Hybrids and they are currently trialling some Roselily varieties.
Committed to the enviroment
Not only do Jo and Stephen grow a beautiful and diverse array of cut flower varieties, everything they grow is crop assured.
They have also invested in bio-mass boilers (which don’t use fossil fuels like oil or gas to heat their glasshouses), solar panels and a reservoir for recycling run off rainwater as part of their commitment to the environment.
“Growing flowers is so rewarding,” enthuses Jo, “but the intensive crops that we grow require attention seven days a week,” she adds.
When asked for her favourite, Jo maintains that it’s very difficult to choose from the extensive range that they grow. After all, every last variety is arguably stunning in its own right and they grow over 50 varieties of both tulips and lilies.
But Jo admits that she does have a soft spot for the tulip ‘Columbus’: a double tulip that is pink with a peachy white edge. She also couldn’t pass on mentioning some of the fabulous Oriental Trumpet lilies that they grow, in particular Table Dance for its amazing pink colour.
Delivered to the market
Jo and Stephen get their flowers to market by using local transport companies who specialise in delivery to the major wholesale markets across the UK.
“We supply over 40 wholesale florists around the UK, including Pratley and Zest Flowers at New Covent Garden Flower Market” says Jo. “We have a good relationship with them and speak on a regular basis to discuss their requirements.”
“We like to choose modern varieties both in tulips and lilies to keep up with trends,” reveals Jo. Bulbs are ordered up to a year ahead, and varieties need to be carefully selected. As a result, they maintain good relationships with their Dutch suppliers.
“One lovely part of our job is now that we can use the power of social media to see who is buying our flowers and the wonderful work they do with them,” says Jo. “When a British designer tells you they have used your flowers it is amazing,” she adds.
It is clear that Jo is very grateful for her customers’ loyalty, not just because they are supporting British but because it demonstrates that they recognise the level of care and skill that has gone into growing such a quality product.
Family business will go on
That’s particularly reassuring for Jo and Stephen, having recently welcomed their son, Edward, into the family business.
“We are so proud that Edward, who has just graduated from Harper Adams University, is the 5th generation to join the business,” says Jo.
For those who love Smith & Munson’s flowers, they can rest easy knowing that Edward is there to continue his family’s illustrious floral tradition in the years to come.
Smith & Munson Ltd | www.smithandmunson.com