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All change in Lockdown

Another month has flown by at Black Shed and as the days increase in length, so do our working hours. This is no challenge though, those gorgeous mornings and evenings in the low golden light are very special. Finding the energy is sometimes a challenge though! Our weeks have had a different shape this year. For the last three years, our weeks were concentrated around weddings, meeting our brides and grooms, walking them round the farm, choosing their favourite flowers, making notes, designing bouquets, calculating the number of stems needed to fill their chosen wedding venue with flowers. Wednesday and Thursday would be early starts, picking and conditioning the thousands of blooms ready for them to be picked up by the excited couples. All rather lovely moments and we haven't had one of these this year. I think we're missing them, the gasps and wows as they see their burgeoning buckets of flowers, wondering how they'll fit them all into the car, the bride's face as she sees her gorgeous bouquet for the first time.

Then there's meeting and chatting with all our fabulous florist friends. We supply a great many very talented event and retail florists, providing them with our very best blooms is really exciting. Seeing those flowers starring in their amazing floral creations on Instagram later is a very special thrill. We've witnessed an incredible rise in demand for British flowers from florists. The Dutch Flower Auctions have been out of action, so their normal supply chain has fallen apart. Florist's shops are still closed as I write this but people want flowers in their lives, perhaps more than ever at the moment. Birthday's, anniversaries and, of course, funerals.

We've done a great deal of funeral and memorial work in these last few months. Families seem to like our natural rural style. No formal Roses or Lilies, just the best and freshest from the field. Many of the folk whose lives we are honouring would have been gardeners, or country folk and it's lovely to be able to reflect that in their flowers.

We've been so lucky to be able to continue to work here at the farm, plenty of space and lots of fresh air and sunshine. There's a lovely happy team here too at the moment. Our volunteer, Carlyn, unable to return to her native Italy, has been with us since January, she's sown virtually every seed in the garden this year, it's lovely that she'll be able to see the fruits of our labours.

Then there's Emma and Jenny, both wildly overqualified for our simple tasks but loving working with flowers in the fresh air and sunshine, providing not just hard work but giggles and companionship. Our delivery guy, Nick's been amazing too, delivering six days a week. As he says, driving through the beautiful Dorset countryside, delivering beautiful flowers to friendly customers, what's not too like?!

Lynch pins in all this are Helen and Tabitha. Tabs has been keeping up with her remote year 6 school work in her 'study' in the back of our van but for the rest of the day has been helping on the farm, cutting, arranging, driving the tractor, mowing the lawns, helping with the deliveries, planting and sowing. It's an education in itself!

Helen's been the real star though, creating dozens and dozens of fantastic bouquets to fill the homes of all our lovely local customers and, now that we're able to offer nationwide overnight delivery, new ones all over the country. Day after day, the orders keep rolling in. It's endlessly fascinating and inspiring to see what she creates with the ever changing palette from the field. It's actually been a struggle to keep up with her demand for blooms sometimes, so we've had to buy in flowers from fellow British flower farmers in Yorkshire, The Lake District and Sussex. All are reporting a huge boom in sales and interest from florists and customers all over the UK, as everyone's attention turns to local producers and suppliers. Let's hope that continues and becomes one of the positive outcomes of this time.

All text and images ©Paul Stickland. First published in The Sherborne Times June 2020


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