Thursday, 10 July 2014

RHS Hampton Court Flower Show 2014: Flowers from the Farm

As I mentioned in my last post, Flowers from the Farm is a network of flower growers in the UK, who have their first display at the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show this year.

Some have small plots in a garden and some big farms, but they are all passionate about growing flowers and foliage that local people can use rather than importing flowers from another country or even another continent. In the same way that we've gradually been getting the message about buying local, seasonal food - Kent strawberries in June rather than November imports from Spain or China - the network hopes that we will also get the message about buying seasonal, local flowers. Many others promote this idea of using local, seasonal flowers too (see The Lonely Bouquet ethos).

As well as the air miles and the carbon emissions involved, there is also the freshness of the flowers to consider. Sometimes flowers spend days being transported from one country to Holland for the flower auction, and then transported to Britain. There are chemicals used to preserve them, but preserved or not, imported flowers are sometimes several days old by the time they get to the customer. The chemicals and the time factor mean that if you hold the flowers up to your nose, they are less likely to be scented. For instance, I had no idea that phlox was sweetly scented until I started growing my own. There's British phlox in the photo below, along with British snapdragons (antirrhinums) which are also scented sometimes.

There's also an ethical dilemma with flowers produced in conditions that would cause an outcry in they happened at a place of work in the UK. I think this could be helped through legislation and transparency, such as including the provenance of every wrap and box of flowers on the packaging, but I don't know if this will change unless customers demand it. I feel as though market forces place more value on the product and the cost rather than the people and environmental factors.

Back to the Hampton Court show - you can find Flowers from the Farm in the Roses and Floristry marquee, at the opposite end of the tent to the floristry theatre (stand RF3). There will be Flowers from the Farm members at the stand, happy to talk to you about the beautiful blooms on display and about the work they do.

When I visited on Tuesday I saw Claire from Plantpassion, who I mentioned yesterday, whose sweet peas and alliums, amongst other flowers, were included in the display. I met Frances from Moat Farm Flowers and Fiona from Purple Daisy Flowers for the first time. I just missed Sara from The Handpicked Flower Company, who has just started her own flower farm but was able to contribute some of her flowers, including delicate Gypsophila 'Covent Garden', to the display. Great work for a new grower! If you follow #Britishflowers hour on Twitter on Monday nights, you'll have seen Sara hosting some nights, alternating with another Sara (Willman, of My Flower Patch, who supplied some gorgeous grasses as well as flowers).

All of the pictures in this post are my photos of the display, but photos don't really do it justice, so if you are lucky enough to be visiting the show this year, do go and see it for yourself. When I went, they had a posy of scented sweet peas at hand for people to smell. If you're not used to scented flowers, as I hadn't been (apart from roses and hyacinths) until a few years ago, then the first time you smell sweet peas, you are likely to fall in love with them!

There was such an abundance of flowers, it was hard to know where to look first! There were scented beauties such as roses (including a mystery rose - which turned out to be 'Elizabeth Harkness', grown by Frances Boscawen), sweet peas and stocks, showstopping lupins (which were Paula Baxter's), sunflowers and one of Sara Willman's artichoke flowers, and delicate prettiness in the form of dill, ammi and cosmos. There were also some of this year's popular flowers used in the gardens and displays: achillea, crocosmia, echinops and eryngium.

You can see a detailed list of the flowers used for each arrangement here. There is also a list of growers who contributed to the display, which I'll copy here. Next time you need British flowers, you know where to look!

Arrangements created by:

Willow horse supplied by:

Circus caravan supplied by:

Flowers supplied by:

  • Sheila Hume – Blue Hen Flowers
  • Emily Rae – Fletchling Flowers
  • Cel Robertson – Forever Green Flower Company
  • Frances Boscawen – Moat Farm Flowers
  • Fiona Ringwood – Purple Daisy Flowers

With additional seasonal flowers provided by:

  • Juliet Bennet – Babylon Flowers
  • Rachel Petherham – Catkin Flowers
  • Julia Bigham – Farm Flowers
  • Rachel Siegfried - Green and Gorgeous
  • Heather Clark – Green Cottage Flowers
  • Sara Davison – The Handpicked Flower Company
  • David and Julie Clark – Hillcrest Nurseries Cut Flower Garden
  • Sue & Wendy – Holme Flowers
  • Paula Baxter – Mill Pond Flower Farm
  • Melinda Newbery – Little Strode Flower Farm
  • Sara Willman – My Flower Patch
  • Claire Brown – Plantpassion

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