Flowers are something we are irresistibly drawn to and turn to at the milestone moments of our lives, at births, marriages and deaths, to connect with an estranged friend, to send love or say we’re sorry. They colour our most formative experiences and are our gateway to finding our own personal relationship with the planet we inhabit. No matter the size of your garden, this practical, but approachable guide will instil the confidence in you to grow flowers to bring into your home and enjoy all year round.
Read on for an extract from How to Grow the Flowers by Marianne Mogendorff and Camila Romain.
How to Grow the Flowers is a compilation of lessons learned in seasonal and sustainable flower growing. Our hope is that it will enable and empower flower enthusiasts to grow and enjoy flowers at home, finding beauty throughout the entire year. It is a manifesto, of sorts, for change in the floral industry, and a nod to our floral hero Constance Spry. Spry’s How to Do the Flowers was written in 1952, an iconic pocket-sized book that already says so much of what we are passionate about: seasonality. Spry inspired generations of florists and flower enthusiasts to use and spot the best ingredients available, those that reflect a unique moment in time, and to work with the natural beauty of flowers – their curves, imperfections and growing habits. Her aim was always to reflect nature back at herself from the vase. Embracing the seasons is the first step to a more sustainable relationship with flowers and we hope our book will inspire you to appreciate the fleeting beauty of truly seasonal flowers.
‘If something is completely beautiful,
I am perfectly happy to behold it
and then let it go; even though you
think you forget it you never do.’
Constance Spry, Garden Notebook, 1940
If we can, you can
This book isn’t the musings of two veteran flower farmers, growing on acres of land. There are a host of trailblazing (mostly) women who have been growing flowers for generations before us and have written all our well-thumbed favourite flower-growing bibles. However, as relative newcomers, just four years in, we know how paralysing it can be to translate the information and images in those books into even the smallest patch of productive growing space. Sometimes the sheer abundance of beauty and opportunity in those pages are enough to intimidate even the most confident gardener. We are just two thirtysomethings, career changers, without formal training or any qualifications in horticulture.
We’re urban growers, growing on a tiny scrap of land sandwiched between terraced houses and a cemetery on Wolves Lane in North London. We hope that our warts-and-all approach to sharing our flower-growing journey, full of epic failures and head-in-hands mistakes, will boost the confidence of flower lovers whatever the space you have to grow in: from south-facing 30m/100ft gardens to postage-stamp sized patios. Really anyone can grow flowers.
Seasonal = sustainable
Back in April 2017 when we sowed our first cornflower seeds, we set ourselves two imperatives for our tiny enterprise: the flowers had to be both seasonal and sustainable. If we’d been sceptical about writing a book on flower growing pre-Covid, the pandemic changed all of that. Our tiny business was inundated with requests for people wanting to volunteer, career changers wanting to retrain, florists wanting to source
British flowers for the first time in their lengthy careers, Londoners wanting to send flowers to loved ones; it seemed that the void left by human contact was being filled with flowers.
So it felt like the right moment to harness that collective need for flowers into a book that we felt was missing. While How to Grow the Flowers is about growing seasonally at home, we also wanted it to spill the beans on an industry that falls short when it comes to sustainability. An industry that regularly exploits the idea of a natural ecological product without any clear commitment to safeguarding environmental standards, habitats and the welfare of the people growing the flowers. We hope that the information that we’ve shared will encourage flower lovers and consumers to start asking the right questions about the provenance of their flowers, to stop thinking about flowers as just another commodity but as the product of a fragile and vital ecosystem, one that we are all part of and all responsible for protecting.
Growing isn’t about getting it right, it’s about sticking close to the seasons and getting started. The cyclical nature of gardening means that there is no beginning, and there is always something you could have done six months before to set you up in a better position today. That’s OK. The best thing to do is just begin.
How to Grow the Flowers is out 29th September.