Happy New Year my flower loving friends!
Wow, well 2019 was one hell of an adventure! Everything went wrong then right…. then wrong… then right, you get my drift.
If you’re relatively new to A Bunch Of Wild then hi, welcome, my name is Emma and I run my little business with my husband Richard. We’re flower farmers and I’m also an artist and interior/garden stylist.
So, this year… We kicked off January 2019 with great intentions. A house move was on the cards, we’d found a beautiful cottage a few villages away and we were so excited! As we were going to be moving we decided to hold back on sowing our flower crop. The months started to roll by and we held off from bringing the dahlias out of storage, thinking that when we move we’ll just have to be late with starting things or even take a year out. Then the worst happened and as you may of guessed… we didn’t move. This meant months of wasted flower growing time, we’d only got our perennial flowers to run the business with and we were really late getting going. Fortunately for us you still showed your support and we were back supplying our friends shop Minchin and May in Woburn. Plus we still had a really good stash of dried flowers so I got to work making wreaths and dried bunches.
It seemed to take us ages to get back into the swing of things but eventually it all clicked into place and the garden was back looking beautiful and full of flowers. We made a new dahlia bed and a new meadow bed which both worked really well and was starting to make up for all the lost annuals that I didn’t get going.
We took some time out and visited lots of NGS gardens to gather inspiration and I started working out my flower colour palette for 2020, I always work a year in advance in my head. As a stylist you’re always one step ahead and have to really think outside the box. I find inspiration comes from wandering around gardens and through walking in the countryside, I love our British seasons! My top tip to any would-be flower farmers/florists… Seek inspiration from colours and textures that you are naturally drawn to, never ever try to re-create someone else’s style no matter how much you admire them, you will always be one step behind. Break free, open your eyes, its very liberating! Do what you love, experiment, make notes and above all enjoy the process and the freedom!
It was whilst walking Lilly, my youngest daughter to her work experience placement that I happened to notice that the tiniest shop in Ampthill, the one I’ve loved since I was a child, was up for rent. My head immediately went into overdrive, I was so excited and without thinking I rang the number. I kinda thought a little but not much, I’m way too spontaneous for thinking things through, life is never dull if you act first and think later. I only had one condition, it had to be flexible, I didn’t want to be tied into something I couldn’t get out of, I love my freedom, I think this is something deeply rooted from being the granddaughter of Romany gypsies, I love to flit and change direction, like an excited butterfly never settling for long, always looking for the next perfect flower. My landlord was ace and was happy to have me set up my little business in his beautiful building without ties, perfect! Exciting huh?
The fun is in the planning! I decided pretty soon that I wanted this little space to be a place where I could pour all my passion into, not just flowers. As a flower farmer I only have fresh flowers from spring to October and I knew flowers were not enough in todays market to run a shop, not unless you go down the traditional route and do the whole weddings and Valentine’s Day shenanigans and we are anything but traditional. So with a love of sourcing vintage treasures and eclectic homeware, plus being an artist (potter & painter) I decided to open the shop as a lifestyle store. I wanted to sell beautiful things that people could buy for their homes or gifts for their loved ones, I didn’t just want it to be about the flowers but a strong sense of botanical influence. I also wanted to create a tiny plant nursery where people could pop by to pick up something for their garden. If you’ve visited my shop then you know how tiny it is but I was adamant that I could fit everything in and make it work. Seasonal flowers sit in fair trade vases, handmade ceramics and dried wreaths line the shelves along with a carefully curated homeware collection. And lastly spilling into our tiny courtyard with garden plants and vintage gardenalia.
Richard came up with our tag line Licensed to sell beautiful things… He is a genius!
We’ve had the shop for three months now and every day I come up with new ideas. It was obvious from the start that in todays world we also needed an online store, I’m just about getting to grips with this. I’ve had to teach myself web design as I wanted to be able to change things as I went. I hope to be doing even more online in 2020. I’m in the process of setting up the website for deliveries and I’ve already added click and collect to many of our larger items. Luckily I like thinking on my feet as I’m having to do a lot of it.
Ive also made some lovely new friends this year. I was able to use my local flower farm when I was in desperate need of British flowers and I’ve met a lovely couple who let me forage on their land for all my foliage.
I also had my friend and fellow stylist in with a photographer to do a photo shoot. I’m working on putting together creative workshops for people suffering with anxiety. I hold workshops in my home and teach either one-to-one or up to three people. The surroundings are comfortable and the creative process is soothing. More and more people are suffering from anxiety, my eldest daughter finds large social situations unbearable as do I come to think of it. Today’s pace seems too fast, too demanding. I hope my workshops will be a gentle relief from all the hustle and bustle of today’s world.
After saying I was far too busy to run any Christmas workshops I ended up doing two and they were amazing fun as always, little bit floored afterwards but I’m recovering now. I’ve lots more planned for 2020 and I’m kicking off with a ceramics one!
So that pretty much brings us to now. I’m planning for spring. I’ve got lots of workshop ideas that I can’t wait to share with you and I’m busy choosing my seeds for the new year. I’ll be doing a lot more work to the online store too, I shall be meeting with new suppliers over the coming weeks so I’m looking forward to sharing our new homeware collection with you soon!
Our floral style remains the same, wild and bohemian, not because its in fashion (it wasn’t when we started) but because its us. My arrangements come from a make do and mend attitude, I forage for foliage and nothing is wasted, I hate waste! Being a gardener and understanding the nature of plants and flowers gives my work a cottage garden/hedgerow feel.
I shall be open on Valentine’s Day but I should tell you now that you will not find any red in the shop! I am refusing to buy into the millions of waste and damage plus I can’t stand red and my golden rule is only sell/make what you love. You could call it bad business but I call it sticking by my morals. So instead of all that nonsense I shall be creating bouquets of love and romance, think wild and flirtatious with seasonal foliage and dashes of vintage roses in antique shades of blush mixed in with flowers that our season has to offer. I promise you it will be something very special with the subtle elegance we’re known for.
I’ve lots of new and exciting ideas for 2020 but for now they remain top secret. I am already enjoying making up spring planters as I feel that as soon as January arrives they are the perfect little ray of sunshine till spring properly gets here.
Lessons we’ve learned this year….
Always keep sowing seeds!
Dahlia tubers will will sprout into huge plants out of compost if you forget about them being at the back of the green house, tough little buggers!! who knew.
Running a bricks and mortar shop along side growing flowers and creating everything from scratch, not forgetting having no loo requires the energy and bladder control of someone a lot younger than I!
That I am more in love with growing flowers and creating floral artistry. It seems I will never ever stop being a flower farmer.
That you can still sow annuals stupidly late, way later then everyone tells you and they still grow and bloom!
That the space you have to grow flowers can always take way more plants then you ever thought possible.
Never underestimate how many dried flowers you’ll need!
So what’s new…
A move is back on the cards for the new year, only this time I shall be sowing my seeds and hopefully taking them with me to our new garden.
I’m planning on adding a few new varieties to our dahlia collection and I’m also trying out some new annuals. Plus I shall be very excited to see our new colour palette emerge from the ground.
So my dear friends, that’s about all. We wish you a very Happy New Year!
I shall be back in my little shop from the 3rd of January.
Until the north wind blows…