I'm in my 12th Month of Flower farming now.- It's nearly time for a break at Christmas, but still there are flowers at Hill top farm.
These Paperwhite Narssisus are over a week old. There's plenty more about to bloom in the polytunnels, but these have been in a cafe since last Friday. sitting in bottle vases on the tables, being admired and ignored in equal proportion. It's the 30th week i've supplied flowers for cafe's locally, so that's more than 30 different types of flowers that i've turned up with in bottles, and come back and collected the following week, when i've swapped them for something new.
It's an excellent way of finding out which flowers last. The table tops of the local coffee shops are not the safest and most hospitible of places for cut flowers. They aren't topped up with water during the week, and the stems aren't recut. There are steaming drinks, swinging coats and bags, and all sorts of little fingers that have no reason to respect my flower stems. Basically if the flowers can manage a whole week in those conditions, then I know they'll be perfectly good quality to sell to all my customers, Private or Corporate, Wholesale or retail.
Of those 30 weeks i've only had to replace them before the end of the week once (Stocks at the beginning of July) and i've only turned up to find some of the flower stems withered to embarrasment on 2 other occasions. One of the cafe's does whip them off the tables for me if stems get broken, but that has happened very rarely. It was only in the height of the summer when the cafe's were steaming (literally) day and night that the flowers were looking sad by the time I came to replace them.
i've often been asked by cafe customers, why i'm taking the flowers away, and when i've told them i'm replacing them because they've been there a week, i'm frequently told they still look fresh.
I've only had 3 bottle vases broken throughout the whole year, and several times i've left behind a big vase of the week before's stems because they still look great ( the froggy Chrysanths were there for 3 weeks).
The reasons they are lasting so long I think is
- they are only picked early that morning, or the evening before, and rested before being displayed, so they are really fresh.
- They havn't travelled far, and they aren't cooled artificially in refrigerated lorries to deliver them.It's only an 8 mile round trip for me in my truck to do the deliveries.
- They are grown in natural conditions on my field. Rather than in a polytunnel. the other side of the world
(week old Ranunculus in May)
And YET, when trying to get a meeting with a local retail florist this week, to promote our flowers for next year, we were told
" No sorry English flowers aren't good enough quality, we want to use Dutch"
How have we as a nation got to the point where we have so little trust for a product that we used to be world renowned for supplying, that a high street florist won't even look at alternatives?
I'm obviously hoping that over time I can change perceptions locally, (and i'm very happy there are some Florists that realise British Flowers can be a selling point. - I'm even mentioned on the Homepage of Eden Belles Website ) and i'm confident i've made a great start on growing the best plants possible. I want to make my reputation for having better quality flowers not just the same as you can get off the Dutch lorry. Time will tell if the High street florist takes flowers from me next year, or in the future.
In the meantime though, I've got the scent of the Narsissus to enjoy in my kitchen this weekend.