Rachel, here, looking back on all the flowers grown this year and sharing my thoughts on how it went, learning and where next.
Planning for growing flowers in 2022 started back in October 2021 with planting of daffodils and tulips. Tulips are a super expensive bulb in flower growing often costing 50p each unless you are buying in massive bulk. If you consider that therefore a bunch of 7 tulips needs to cost £3.50 plus VAT (£4.20) before you’ve even covered the cost of the bulb, never mind the time planting and harvesting – you quickly get to grips with how massively cheap supermarket flowers are. Tulips (unlike daffodils) also are not really a bulb you can plant and then cut from again next year. When you cut a tulip you cut away everything – leaves and flower. Whereas a daffodil you only take the flower stem and leave the leaves. This means daffodils can keep soaking up the energy from the sun through their leaves and replenish their bulbs ready for next year. But tulips can’t. They may come back next year but they will be weaker and less productive. Lots of flower farmers therefore treat them as annuals. Now if you compare other annuals like the sweet pea – a packet of seed will cost around £2 for 20 seeds (10p per seed) and that one seed could give you (with care) 30-50 flower stems! Not all flowers are created equal.
This early plunge into the economics of flowers was a helpful reminder that keeping on top of costs is super important. Me and Doug (our Farm manager) have had several discussions about vegetables versus flowers and pricing. Doug has often said to me that he feels that flowers are accepted more readily by consumers for their true cost. Whereas people are less inclined to spend £20 on a basket of vegetables. Yet in terms of labour and resources they are very similar.
The downside of starting out in October 2021 was that I missed the window for biennial sowings (foxgloves, sweet rocket, honesty etc) and I found Spring more challenging when trying to pull together a full flowery offer. In 2023 these won’t be missing! Seeds have been sown and plants already in the ground and growing away ready for the longer days to return in Spring.
The main area I was growing on was a 60m x 1m strip running the length of the market garden. Cultivating the ground and planting it up with baby plants after the risk of frost had passed in May was a big task. Much bigger than I’d anticipated and I was grateful for all the help I got from the farm team and some volunteers. As a rough calculation I had around 3 rows across and plants at around every 20cm. That’s roughly around 900 plants that I planted. Which now I sum it all up its not surprising that I was feeling a bit tired! Wherever possible, I would also sneak some space in the polytunnels. Some things I grew in there included early sweet peas, ranunculus, zinnias and cinnamon basil.
Next year the plan is go a bit bigger. Keep the 60m strip plus the bed of biennial bed (probably around 6m x 1.5m) and another strip within the market garden block which are around 30m long.
Things that went well:
- Sweet peas and sunflowers – offering these to customers as a single type of flower was popular
- Offering the option to send bouquets on a specific date of delivery (not just in the veg boxes)
- Working with a handful of local florists
- Pick your own flower events
- Growing flowers for drying
- Joining Flowers from the Farm for networking and learning
Things that went not as well:
- Not enough flowers early in the season
- A greater variety of colours including more white next year will help
- Markets were super tricky this year for both flowers and veg, spending was low and it’s very time-consuming
What to expect in 2023
We’re doing weddings! We’ve got two weddings booked in already for next year which is super exciting. Our wedding offer is bouquets, buttonholes and buckets. So if you are keen to do some DIY decorating round the venue buckets are a great option. You can check out our price offer here:
We’re really keen to work with more local florists too, offering buckets of flowers at wholesale prices.
If you’d like to get in touch about buying Regather flowers from April onwards, drop me an email: [email protected]
Thanks for reading, and I hope you have enjoyed hearing more about my journey and hopefully have enjoyed some of our flowers during the year too!