In common with the everyone else, we’ve and a very odd and unexpected month at Black Shed.
We’ve been incredibly busy, all our regular local customers and many new, local bouquets have been flying out, full of fantastic tulips, spring bulbs, our home grown Eucalyptus, a silvery arching cardoon leaf to set them off, hazel twig in bud, a few elusive Anemones, the first of the Ranunculus. Everyone seems to want to send their friends and family flowers, it’s quite understandable. Lots of older family in lockdown, what better way to cheer them up by a surprise bouquet of local flowers. So many wonderful orders for local folk from friends and family all over the world. Other high street florists didn’t have any flowers and were closed.
But we had flowers, lots.
That kept Helen busy, using all the latest treats that spring brings to create beautiful hand tied bouquets. I love watching Helen react to the ever changing palette of flowers from the field, the bouquets evolving as the seasons change.
Then we had really rather a lot of tulips, hundreds of amazing and exotic varieties. (We’d planted 6000 wonderful varieties for all our Spring Weddings and Florists…) We’d just found a courier company that specialises in the swift overnight transport of flowers all over the uk. And what’s more, it was affordable and reliable. We’d found some fantastic cardboard postal packaging.
So we put up a post on Instagram for Black Shed Flowers by Post…
We had a hundred orders in 24 hours. Our packaging hadn’t arrived, our new printer was almost hurled out of the grain silo... We did have a lovely set of Black Shed Floral Greetings Cards, stickers and business cards. I did have to somehow manage to create an online store and link it up to our payment system.
10 days later we’d sent out over 200 orders. Only a very few didn’t travel well or got caught up in the crisis. Offering full refunds if there were any problems and welcoming feedback, we rapidly improved our systems and packing. Helen, Carlyn and Tabitha making endless trips out on to the field to pick the best of those 6000 for sending out to our new customers.
Tulips are quite forgiving. They travel well out of water, so they’re a good flower to test. But we wanted to have the flowers arrive field fresh. We started with plastic food bags and wet tissues. Effective but not a particularly good look and we didn’t want to use plastic packaging. Then we found some amazing compostable flower bags that, by some miracle, hold about half a pint of water without leaking, and they came in black.
To our delight, these worked as well for a big bunch of Tulips as a bouquet, so we suddenly found ourselves able to send bunches of flowers and hand tied bouquets. Our Tulips are pretty much over now. We’re thinking of sending out Ranunculus, Iceland poppies, Peonies, Delphiniums. I’m longing to try Dahlias…
Whilst all this malarkey has been going on, we’ve been planting out a thousand seedlings, sowing more, preparing and mulching new beds, building our new polytunnnel, dreaming of it being filled with Tomatos, Chillis, Melons and Peppers, wishing we had more foliage and looking forward to Foxgloves and Scabious, Larkspur and Lupins. And some gentle night time rain please?
All text and images ©Paul Stickland. First published in The Sherborne Times May 2020