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Cut Flower Growing - The Journey and The Why

How we got here…

A little less than 10 years ago, with bright eyes and creativity running through my veins, I exited a degree in Art and Design into a world which viewed my education as, well, not very applicable! I found enjoyable employment in retail and in my spare time I put my head down and began to come up with all the ‘things I could do’... the list was long. I’d always had an entrepreneurial spirit in me, wanting to turn all my projects into a business; we once did mug and plate painting at primary school and I didn’t draw my cat or go for a colourful pattern, I created a logo for ‘Little Daisy Designs’, planning even then to have a creative business (I think I even did a trademark symbol😂). There was going to be very little that would stop me running my own empire, clearly, but whilst it didn’t seem to phase 9 year old Marianne, 22 year old me was hitting a significant stumbling block: ‘what would my business actually DO?’. 8 months later, feeling a little miserable and lost with it all, my mum suggested we do an Adult Education course in flower arranging. I think the main aim was to get me out the house, but the very moment I picked up the stems we were working with I was taken, and I’ve never looked back.

So why home grown, cut flowers?

My origin story sounds like the start of lots of creative business stories, passion, drive, coincidence, and a little bit of luck. I don’t see it as being unique, but I do think my outlook on what I’ve built and created has been moulded by people, circumstances and experiences which are certainly only mine. My journey towards British grown, cut flowers is mine and my mums.

In 2013 I knew about 4 flower names

In 2013 I knew nothing about gardening, plant types or when things grew

The closest I’d gotten to seasonality was summer = hot, winter = cold

So after that fateful afternoon in a little village hall, I began to create designs with flowers in earnest. Every spare moment was spent trying out my skills with new blooms, and as a recent graduate, living at home, with a part time, minimum wage job, I wasn’t able to spend a lot on market flowers to do my experiments. Enter Alison (my mother) who has the most sublime garden bursting with beautiful flowers that I, often without permission, would ravage in order to practice. I began following her round the garden, asking a million questions about the names of flowers I’d once whizzed past as a child. Alison, being the kind, gentle and patient person she is, obliged to share all her vast knowledge with me and I soaked it all up with relish. There was something so much more special about the flowers in the garden than the flowers from the market. They had scent, they had interesting textures, they had twisty stems and moved in the breeze - they were meant for me! I soon began to enquire if we could grow a bit more of this or that, I also started to research how best to work with British flowers and hunted out others who were doing the same. I eventually found and became part of the organisation called Flowers From the Farm, who promote British grown flowers across the UK. I’d finally found my place!

My early work as Frances and Rose included small weddings and simple bouquets alongside my full time employment at an interior design shop (a totally dreamy job!) and we (mum and I) began to grow more and more of our own stuff to use. We moved to a larger plot of land and began growing more and more things, testing out new varieties and experimenting with different perennials as well.

The rest was a bit of a blur, and I’m now going to fast forward to 2019. The intervening years went something like this: grow flowers, cut flowers, arrange flowers, wash buckets, sleep, repeat.

By 2019 I was working for myself full time, hosting workshops as well as my weddings and I was loving teaching, helping others get the most out of their experience with flowers and sharing everything I’d learnt over those last 6 years. I began to get enquiries about 1-2-1 workshops, not just on arranging flowers but on how to grow them, which brought on the scary feeling of ‘what do I have to teach people, I’m not an expert’. When you have learnt by just doing, with no qualifications, you can so easily feel like you don’t have the knowledge to teach people, but as I began to write down everything I knew about growing flowers, everything I’d learnt as a complete beginner in 2013, to the here and now, I realised, this is what people actually need to know to just get started growing flowers. I wanted to create something simple, easy to follow and not so technical that it seemed overwhelming. I own many amazing and useful gardening and cut flower books, but as a self proclaimed ‘non-expert’ I sometimes found them overly technical, the scale was too large or the images of fields and fields of blooms felt intimidating and, in my opinion, not all together geared towards your average person with a smaller garden, patio or allotment.

I used everything I’d written down to create a workbook for my 1-2-1 students, going through step-by-step on how to plan and prepare your space, manage your expectations, get going with seeds, the basic plant types and how to follow the changes of the seasons. It proved a really useful resource and when the pandemic arrived abruptly, I thought I might be able to reach others beyond my workshops and give people who were stuck at home a bit of a nudge towards how amazing it is to grow your own flowers. After some editing of my 1-2-1 workbook and additional information my ebook was born!

Less than a year later I was putting the wheels in motion for the project that would then become my real, solid book!

So, who is the book for?

The simple answer is anyone and everyone. It is completely beginner friendly and is fully geared towards your average flower loving human who just wants to try. It's not going to teach you how to manage a giant flower farm, but it is going to get you started on a journey to growing your own blooms and enjoying them in your home. The main point is to try, to learn, to maybe fail a little, to embrace the process, to slow down and watch the seasons and petals unfold.

Maybe this book is actually for me in 2013, starting from zero? It’s the resource I wish I’d had.

So let’s talk about why we all need that magic

I have certainly worked hard to get to where I am, but none of what I have would be mine without help and support. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by the most amazing people and I have immense privilege in my upbringing. I will refrain from hopping on my soapbox, but I do think everyone should be given the opportunity to enjoy cut flower growing if they want to and this is one of the reasons this book has become so important to me.

So I’m here to tell you, that even if you only have a few pots on a balcony, a tiny yard in the middle of a city, an allotment down the road, a bigger garden, whatever your space, you get to have flowers too!

Why should you grow cut flowers at all?

I will personally attest to the wellbeing and mental health benefits of growing, gardening, getting creative with flowers and taking time to notice the changes in the season. I am no social scientist or psychologist, but the evidence based research and progress in this area have come on leaps and bounds in the last decade. You can now even go to your GP and be referred to social prescribing services who can set you up with wellbeing garden projects or flower arranging sessions - gardening and flower arranging as medicine! Gardening is proven to reduce stress and anxiety, (both things I have suffered with) and whilst the world is a worrying place, especially right now, we could all do with a little time to focus on bringing beauty and life into the world.

No, flowers can’t fix systemic issues or stop war, they can’t bring energy prices down (alas!) and growing some flowers won’t make problems suddenly fizzle away, but flowers bring beauty, joy and calm. Seasons give life pace, a rhythm and moments to look out for and celebrate. If I have one message from me to you it's that growing flowers from seed, nurturing them, harvesting their produce and enjoying them in your home, feels like real life magic. Couldn’t we all do with a bit of magic right now?

So that’s everything in my brain about my book, how it came to be, what it’s about and why I think it’s really special and important. I wanted my book to be accessible, encouraging and healing, I hope I’ve achieved that.

You can pre-order your signed copy here:

Cut Flower Growing will also be available at all good bookstores.

For more information on mental health and wellbeing related to gardening please see this wonderful resource page on the RHS website:

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