As we head towards the fourth anniversary of Black Shed this April, our preparation for spring has been very different this year. We’re still sowing and germinating seeds in the studio at home in Sherborne but thanks to our wonderful polytunnel, we’ve been able to grow a really early crop of gorgeous Ranunculus, Anemones and Tulips. We’re not using any heat to bring them on, the doors have been open in all but the most inclement weather. The simple shelter it offers allows these early spring gems the chance to really thrive at a time when we are usually just dreaming of that thrilling first flush of flowers. So this year we’ll have wonderful flowers available for Mother’s Day and Easter. Exciting!
As the world changed last spring, bringing the loss of all those weddings and events, we had to rapidly change our business model. We were lucky, our decision to offer mail order Tulips, Anemones and Ranunculus was a huge and unexpected success. Finding a courier that offered reliable and careful overnight delivery led us to offering our Black Shed bouquets by post and we’ve sent out an incredible number all over the UK since then. Flowers by Post is very definitely a thing for Black Shed now.
So what else are we planning for this year? It’s very difficult to predict! We have a huge number of wedding enquiries to start with. I feel so sorry for the brides, grooms and families, no-one knows whether their endlessly altered and revised plans will come to fruition but we’ll be there for them when they’re ready. We’re already sending out our spring flowers by post and our Black Shed bouquets are flying out as usual. Our dried flowers were very popular again last year and we’ll need to increase our production and harvest this year to meet the demand. We used every fresh flower on the farm last year, so this year we’re growing even more. We’ve sown more seeds, bought more perennials, divided existing ones, planted dozens of shrubs and trees for foliage. Our Dahlia range will increase, with many new varieties amongst our tried and tested favourites. We’ll have Gladioli and Iris galore, Tuberose and Freesias in the tunnel and an extraordinary collection of Chrysanthemums for late summer and autumn.
So there should be plenty of flowers! I’m sure we’ll find a use for them too but it’s important to make it as easy as possible for customers to find out about us and what we do. Which is why I’ve spent rather a lot of time this winter creating a new website and online shop. Feeling slightly guilty about sitting in the warm at the computer whilst Helen, Emma, Jenny and Jack toil away on the freezing wet farm of course. The task of creating a website to promote all the different aspects of Black Shed makes us realise how far we’ve come in these four years. There are pages for bouquets, weddings and funerals, fresh flowers and dried, house flowers and installations, flowers by month, a natty online store, hundreds of pictures of our flowers and floristry, hopeful pages full of workshops and events, garden openings, pick your own days…
Extraordinary to think that behind each of those images lies a story, a glimpse into our community. A glorious summer wedding, a sad passing, a golden wedding, an engagement, a new job, a gift on retirement, thanks for lockdown kindness. Flowers play an important role in so many aspects of our lives and it’s wonderful to be part of that. Even delivering a simple bouquet to a surprised and delighted recipient is a joy I doubt I’ll tire of soon!
If you want to read more about our lives in flowers, you can read all my Sherborne Times articles on the new website, they pretty much sum up our unexpected and wonderful adventure here at Blackmarsh Farm.
All text and images ©Paul Stickland. First published in The Sherborne Times March 2021