It feels like a total indulgence to spend a morning at Paula’s Millpond Flower Farm near Berwick.
I’ve been charting the story of seed to bouquet… There can be a rather cheap line trotted out about weddings being expensive just for the sake of it, it’s cynical and not particularly thought through. I want to show the value and work that goes in behind the scenes to that beautiful bouquet, that hand stitched dress, that delicious food.
I’ve sought out the people making weddings that I am inspired by and have gone behind the scenes, starting at the very beginning of their process and charting it all the way to the delivery on the wedding day. I’m interested in the stories of the people who physically make the weddings that the bride and groom and their guests get to enjoy. Beyond the marrying couple’s planning...
There is a mass of hard work (and passion, skill and pride) that goes into making an exceptional wedding and this is a tiny window into one small part of that: This is the story of the British grown, seasonal flowers that are to be used in a wedding later this summer: the bride’s bouquet, the flowers that adorn the tables and set the scene for the day.
So here we are at Millpond Flower Farm -Paula grows the flowers at her small farm in Berwickshire, near the border where England and Scotland meet. I first visited after the winter (technically Spring?) snow, when all was rather bleak and only the bravest shoots were poking their heads above the soil. Blankets of sheep fleece were warming the soil, and whilst Paula was hard at work, the general air was of plants that were not yet ready to get out of bed! (You can read the first blog on it here)
Spring always surprises me with it’s miraculous transformation. A month on and the acid greens of the plants in full growing glory. Teenage plants shooting skyward. Stepping into the polytunnels and the warm smell of the sweetpeas envelops. Young green tiny fuzzy peaches on the trees. Poppies bowing their heads but ready to ‘pop’ their colour out, then cut and seared in boiling water by Paula to help them last longer. Young roses cut under water, for the same reason- each flower with it’s foibles and individual care regimen that industrialised farming cannot cope with or deliver but small scale, local farms excel at- bringing diversity, delicacy, freshness and scent to their offerings.
And we are off again, cutting muscari, long stemmed as it tries to compete in the midst of the shooting ‘wildness’ (technical term). I can’t imagine Dutch lorries bringing dead nettles (far from literally ‘dead’- they just don’t sting and do have beautiful small white flowers hiding underneath umbrella-like leaves flower) or wild crab apple blossom. Paula ranges around the plot with a trolley slowly loading up with cuttings. She grows - organically- over 300 flower varieties which each bloom in their own time- each plant having it’s time in the spotlight.
Paula's wholesale customers in Edinburgh and East Lothian have told her what they need- colour themes and quantities (by the bucket) rather than decreeing 20 blush roses, all uniform and sterile. It’s a different, more personal, more sustainable way of doing business… (though far from the romantic vision of skipping around with a wicker basket and a full skirt, singing- is that just me?) It’s hard work, long hours and requires the planning skills of a military operation and needs one to have blind religious faith in the British weather.
But this visit was special for another reason. Inside Millpond’s newly converted shed, were buckets of blossom and tulips ready to go to Flowers from the Farm’s first ever stand at Chelsea Flower Show: each farmer in the cooperative, spanning the UK- is sending flowers to make the most impressive (gold medal winning, Mary Berry attracting) display. Rachael Scott of Hedgerow (who is major player in this story- soon- the florist who will make these flowers into a beautiful bridal bouquet), went down to join the rota-ed team of florists who use local, seasonal flowers, to arrange and (wo)man the stand. So much pride, camaraderie and support amongst the florists and flower growers across the UK for each other - what an amazing, growing industry to have a window into.
So next stop… next month, more flowers, cutting, arranging. I can’t wait. Loving this personal project. Thanks to Paula and Rachael for their time and accommodating my puppy like enthusiasm and many questions as I make this story… I hope you’re enjoying the ride.