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05 November 2019The British Flower Story (Talk)
01 October 2019Cottage Gardens (Talk)
10 September 2019Coach Trip to Parcevall Hall in Appletreewick near Warfdale
13 August 2019Visit to Eggleston Gardens
10 July 2019Visit to a Members Garden in Ravenstonedale
09 July 2019Visit to Pear Tree Cottage in Dalton, near Burton-in-Kendal
18 June 2019Gardeners of Eden visit Yorkshire 18 - 20 June 2019
11 June 2019Visit to Deer Rudding in Wigton
27 May 2019May Plant Sale
14 May 2019Visit to Winderwath near Temple Sowerby
09 April 2019Visit to Haverthwaite Lodge and Lakeview Hotel, Newby Bridge.
11 March 2019Visit to Dalefoot Composts
05 February 2019Annual Lunch
04 December 2018Christmas Party and Planning Meeting
06 November 2018Talk - Ferns from the Fern Nursery in Lincolnshire
16 October 2018Visit to Thorp Perrow Arboretum
12 September 2018Talk - Artist and Gardener
04 September 2018Visit to Treetyme in Kirkoswald
07 August 2018Visit to Park House and Pudding Poke Barn, in Barbon near Kirkby Lonsdale
19 July 2018Three Days in Scotland
10 July 2018Members Gardens in Malllerstang Valley
10 July 2018The Woodland Trust
03 July 2018Kiplin Hall near Richmond, Yorkshire
08 May 2018Constable Burton Tulip Display
07 November 2017Northern Gardens - with Photographic Tips for Gardeners
30 October 2017Visit to High Close Arboretum, Grasmere
05 September 2017Visit to Yewbarrow House
01 August 2017Visit to Orchard Cottage
01 July 2017Visit - Three Days in Shropshire

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The British Flower Story (Talk) Emma Greenshaw Tuesday 05 November 2019

Emma Greenshaw has developed a business called The Fellside Flower Company at her home in Long Marton. She is enthusiastically growing native British flowers for the floristry trade, for brides and their weddings and for everyone who wants to send flowers that have no air miles and are as fresh as it is possible to have a cut flower. Her flowers have not been grown under enhanced conditions and have not been treated with any chemicals, they are hardy and grown slowly in their native conditions without any shelter. They are picked early in the day or later in the evening before or after the heat of the day, and plunged into deep water overnight. Only then, in the morning after this conditioning, will they be sent out to florists or made in to bouquets to order.

One of Emmas enduring memories is that every time she visited her grandmother, they would always pick a posy of flowers from the garden. And she remembers receiving one hundred daffodils from a boyfriend. These memories have stuck in her mind, and she is aware of the pleasure that flowers bring. Living outside London in the 1970s, she can recall all the small nurseries and flower markets that abounded at that time. It seems they are on the up again and small businesses are springing up everywhere. To deliver cut flowers in peak condition, the distance to travel needs to be quite small, up to 30 miles.

The British cut flower industry as a whole is worth £2.2 billion pounds a year, we were told. British flowers account for only 10% of that figure. There are  very many Dutch companies supplying us here. They are big businesses, very efficient and mechanised, on robotic farms using chemicals - herbicides, fertilisers and preservers. Silver nitrate is used to kill the flower, to put it into a state of stasis, once picked. Who has not received flowers that never open, that may remain in that state for a fortnight and then suddenly flop and die? The carbon footprint of such a bunch of flowers is ten times what a locally grown bunch would be.

From the earliest beginnings when Emma made her vegetable garden into flower beds, the business has grown. At first she grew cosmos, cornflowers and ammi. When the family moved in 2016, the new property had a field and this was to become the flower farm.

Jill Hodgson started  Flowers from the Farm in 2011, a network of growers all over the UK, including Emma. The members support each other, learn from each other, and when flowers are finished in the north for example, the southern members are willing to help supply the northern growers. This network now has over 700 members, all flower farmers. There are 7 flower farms in Cumbria, and Frances Rawson at Clodhoppers Blooms is our own local flower farm just north of Kirkby Stephen.

Emma attended a course in Berwick in 2016 at Millpond Flower Farm, and learned a great deal, she said. Around the same time, the family moved a short distance to Long Marton, and work on the farm began. Fences were repaired, hedgerows checked, and at first just a small patch was dug out from the grassland. Demand has grown and more beds have been dug out and extended. Almost no herbicides are used. Occasionally the leaves of a particularly difficult weed are painted, nothing is allowed to spray onto adjacent plants. The birds have returned and so have the bees. Bees are kept at the adjacent property and so the flower farm has plenty of pollinators and the bees make lots of honey for the neighbours. In the summer, the eryngiums are buzzing with bees. Everyone is a winner.

Flowers are picked in bud, so there is still growing to do in the vase. Popular and hardy varieties are grown, such as anemone, sweet William, nigella, sweet peas and snapdragons. Seeds are sown in October and in January. Everything is grown outside and includes perennials such as astrantia, dahlia and ranunculus, larkspur and a few delphiniums.

The flowers are not grown as a garden, but for efficiency. The beds are one metre wide, so that Emma can easily reach to the middle from either side, and 10 metres long, usually with three rows in each bed. The edges have a wooden planking to make mowing the grass pathways easier, and the 10 metre length makes calculations easy.

The farm is 4 acres and Emmas husband has his own walling and hedging business. He has been able to put up permanent posts of various heights in the flower farm so that Emma can fix horizontal netting for supports as the plants grow. This is sufficient to protect the growing plants from the storms and winds that we experience in this northern part of the world.

There is no poly tunnel and no greenhouse. Everything is grown outside. There are tall beds and shorter ones, and rotation of planting is employed. Emma grows two beds of sweet peas, partly because they are very popular, but by having two beds, they can be planted at intervals, one bed six to eight weeks earlier than the second to give succession through the season.

Flowers from the Farm had a stand at Chelsea in May 2018. With their wonderful display of a horse and cart full and overflowing with flowers from much of the membership, they won a gold medal. They had no sponsors and this success has put flower farms on the map in Britain.

A quick look at the growers year would find Emma up at between 5 and 6 am on a summers morning  picking bucketfuls of flowers from her farmland to supply florists and other customers. The picking must be done before there is any heat in the sun and the flowers must be kept cool. Supplies for weddings are picked in the previous 24 hours. Emma does not use plant food as such but uses sugar and lemon juice on occasion when necessary. In an evening, once it is cool again, Emma will be in the fields again picking any further supplies she may need to make ordered bouquets.

In September, things slow down, it starts to get dark early and anything considered a little tender will be wrapped in fleece. Once the temperatures fall to 4 degrees, the dahlias will be over. Emma loves dahlias and finds them very useful. She doesnt lift the tubers, but covers the dahlia beds with a deep mulch of straw over a layer of Mipex. Ranunculus, a member of the buttercup family likes the cold and flowers early in May. Their corms can be set in trays of damp vermiculite in September and are available from suppliers such as Sarah Raven. Tulips are also planted now and treated as annuals.

In winter the farm rests under snow and there are three main jobs to be done at this time. Fencing to stock proof, green meshing for windproofing and more robust netting dug into the ground for rabbit-proofing. Mipex is used as a weed suppressant and generally a no-dig strategy is employed.

Recently a wet one acre area was planted with native woodland trees, including willow so that Emma can employ other of her skills in making wreaths for Christmas. Included in the native mix are chestnut, oak, dogwood and hazel.

The talk was very informative and delivered with great enthusiasm. We hope to be able to visit the farm in the future.