We’ve aimed to make Black Shed Flowers a community flower farm, at the centre of the floral needs of Sherborne and the surrounding towns and villages of Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire. That our first year saw us supplying flowers for weddings in London, Cornwall and Yorkshire was a surprise, albeit a pleasant one. We have a great community in this part of the West Country and it’s been wonderful and often very touching to able to provide flowers for the important occasions in the lives of our friends and neighbours.
Almost everyone that visits us has discussed the concept of ‘local’ and ‘sustainable’. We were preparing to have to ‘sell’ the idea of fresh local flowers but thanks to the pioneers of locally sourced food and drink, everyone just gets it. Another pleasant surprise! That and the growing awareness of air miles and the catastrophic effect of ‘factory farmed’ flowers on the communities and ecology of countries such as Kenya. We may grumble about it but we have a fantastic climate for growing flowers, it makes good sense to source our cut flowers locally and avoid those air miles.
Come and see what we’re up to, we’re on the farm most daylight hours for the next few months! Those dewy summer mornings and glowing evenings are so special and far too good not to share! There’s always something new coming into flower, every day is different. It’s rare to see cut flowers actually growing in the field en masse and it’s quite sight. The gasps of wonder and delight from those wandering around the garden become very addictive too!
The enthusiasm and support of our visitors really motivated us in our first year and they had some great ideas as well. We hosted a fantastic floral crown party for a friend’s 7 year old daughter’s birthday. The children had a picnic in the gardens and made beautiful fresh dahlia crowns, before parading around the garden in all their finery. They absolutely loved it and so did their Mums and Dads. We’re always happy to host something enchanting and unusual, especially if it encourages a love of plants, flowers and wildlife.
We were delighted to see how much children and their families enjoyed visiting us here at Blackmarsh Farm. With all the attractions of The Toy Barn and it’s Amazing Maize Maze, we saw a lot last year! Families came for whole days. We have Mums who bring their babies and toddlers just for a potter about amongst the flowers. Such a joy to see children, amazed by the colours and shapes of the dahlias, rushing round the garden to gather a collection of vibrant mini-poms or a dazzling dinner-plate dahlia as large as their heads.
There have been of lot of ideas for floral workshops at Black Shed. We’d like to invite top local florists to give demonstrations of their skills using our flowers. Fun workshops on how to cut, condition and use flowers to decorate the home, styling events and occasions, or ideas for DIY weddings. We have two talented textile artists who use our flowers to hand dye silk and wool and we’d love to share the special alchemy that they employ to extract nature’s tints and hues in a workshop. Many artist friends have asked if they can either paint or photograph our flowers, others will be invited to create art installations using our blooms. Art and horticultural clubs most welcome.
Last year some of the most delightful memories were sharing the gardens with children with special needs. With my author and illustrator’s hat on and in the work that I do in schools, I meet a lot of children with challenges of one kind or another, so I’m well aware that our garden could be a valuable resource and sanctuary for those who find the world overwhelming and chaotic. Gardens have a nurturing and calming atmosphere which appeals to those with special needs and to be able to provide a safe and stimulating place for them to enjoy was a real treat. One darling little girl with Down’s Syndrome was beside herself with joy as she carefully gathered armfulls of sweet peas for her mother. Pure magic.
If you know anyone who would appreciate a quiet and gentle time in our garden, perhaps helping with a little dead heading, gathering a posy of flowers or simply sitting in a field full of flowers amidst a happy thrum of wildlife, please do pop in or get in touch. Perhaps you know someone who would like to explore their love of flowers and floristry, we’d love to help.
If you have an idea for a floral event, party or workshop that you’d like to hold at Black Shed just let us know, we really want to share our gardens, their lovely setting and their stunning produce with our rather special community.
©Paul Stickland First published in The Sherborne Times, April 2018