January allowed us to catch up on the maintenance tasks we didn’t have time to finish in the old year. We planted the last of the tulips and irises in all colours, some subtle fritillaries and a great deal of Pampas grass, which, believe it or not, is hugely in demand. We were able to clear all the beds of last years dead foliage and prepare for the season. We try to leave the seed heads for as long as possible to allow the birds to feed on the bounty and to provide some shelter for the overwintering insect population but we don’t want to provide too much shelter for the slug population; it’s a delicate balance. Once we removed the foliage, it revealed countless vole holes. They really are the most industrious creatures and they definitely work as a team; there is an entire subterranean tunnel network under our gardens. This sometimes gives way, leaving surprisingly large holes in our carefully tended grass paths. There is little we can do about these creatures; we aim to place owl boxes in the neighbouring barns and to provide perches for them to view and hopefully pursue their potential suppers. Herons regularly patrol the neighbouring fields, we’re told that they’re after mice and voles but we rarely see them in the gardens themselves. Perhaps we need to create some ponds to lure them in? I love watching these primeval birds stalking their way across the land. When the ground is wet, their huge feet get covered in mud and they look most comical, as if they were wearing rather too large wellies!
The new year had barely started before the first of the wedding enquiries began to come in. Weddings are a huge part of our business and are something we love doing. From simple buckets of flowers for the DIY bride to the full monty, they’re always a joy. Our field provided the flowers for over a hundred weddings last year. We work closely with some fantastic wedding florists who are a joy to work with. Not only for their professionalism - you can't mess around if you do 50 weddings a year - but for being able to tempt them with something a bit special, some new rare species, or that extra special finishing touch. These amazing hardworking florists usually order their flowers through Instagram, sending enquiries via private messages, to which we can easily respond with photos of our current blooms, quantities and prices. It’s delightfully simple. All our florists love to collect their flowers so that they can see what else we’re growing. They usually leave with many more buckets of flowers, it’s just so tempting to see them all growing in the field! We love seeing what they choose, fascinated to see their artistic skills, choosing colours in all shapes and forms to complete their compositions. Most will later post their creations on Instagram and it’s a special delight to see how they’ve used our flowers.
As well as providing flowers for florists, we provided the flowers for nearly 40 happy couples ourselves last year. DIY wedding flowers are very popular. Whilst everyone wants beautiful flowers to celebrate their happy day, not everyone can afford a full floral wedding service, so putting the flowers together for your own wedding is very popular and we aim to make that a simple and very pleasurable experience, putting together buckets full of perfectly prepared flowers and foliage ready to be collected and arranged. After an initial enquiry, we encourage our brides and grooms to be, families and friends to visit the flower field, so that we can discuss the possibilities and choose their flowers from those actually growing in the field. This is a really joyful and exciting experience and our couples invariably say what a wonderful part of the whole wedding it is. We work out how many decorations they need, whether they want us to create their bouquets, posies, buttonholes, or if they want to be brave and do the lot themselves. Whilst it’s great fun to do the table decorations, most don’t want to create their own bridal bouquet and we’re very happy to step in and do the honours. Over the last seasons, we have developed our own Black Shed style and we love it when a bride comes in having seen our previous creations in real life or on Instagram. After one Saturday wedding last July, we had two couples turn up at the farm on the day after asking if we would do their wedding flowers. Word of mouth is always the best form of recommendation and in this case, what better way to see what we do than by attending a friend’s wedding surrounded by our fresh British flowers?
©Paul Stickland First published in the Sherborne Times, February 2019