VP's VIPs: Our Flower Patch
|Sara (left) and Cally of Our Flower Patch|
Picture credit: Clare Green and
Western Daily Press
Cally and Sara are keen supporters of the British Flowers movement and earlier this year launched Our Flower Patch. They're so excited and passionate about what they're doing, I've decided to divide our interview into three parts. I didn't want to cut out any of their enthusiasm and I'm sure what they have to say is of interest to many of you.
So without further ado, here's how it all started...
How did you meet?
Several years ago in a flower arranger's garden. We were at an event for women in business. Sara had started growing cut flowers as a hobby and I was working as a freelance teacher running educational activities in primary schools and writing a blog.
Sara offered to send me some pictures of her sunflowers to use on the blog. Bringing up children took over for the next few years but we reconnected again a couple of years ago on Twitter.
How long have you been growing cut flowers/working in education?
I’ve been growing flowers on and off since I was a child but started gardening in earnest when I was a young teacher living in North London in the early 1990s. I had a balcony where I grew lots in pots and then started doing a bit of guerrilla gardening in the secondary schools where I taught.
When we moved to Wiltshire and the children were born, more time and less money led me to grow more and more. When the children started school I volunteered to run a gardening club and eventually realised that the crop we grew which fitted best with the school terms and which sold best was cut flowers. Selling flowers enabled us to run gardening activities in a self sustaining way at school. In these times, where many schools are cash-strapped, this is a definite bonus.
I’ve always been interested in gardening and used to help my Nan in her garden as a very young child. I bought heathers and other plants to pretty up the bland patio at my student shared house in University, and loved buying my first house as I could really make my mark on its garden.
Growing flowers specifically for cutting started as a bit of an accident when I was offered an allotment. I bought “a few” flower seeds, as I didn't think I could fill an allotment with veg, and soon realised I had more flower seeds than veg seeds! So my own cut flower patch was started on a separate piece of land a friend owns near my house. It has expanded several times since and is now growing as a business [My Flower Patch - Ed].
How did the idea for Our Flower Patch (OFP) come about?
I was interested in developing activities for my school gardeners specifically on growing more cut flowers for sale and asked Sara to help. She agreed and we met for a coffee. The idea grew from there. OFP was born in a coffee shop in Devizes, where we were taking advantage of their free wifi. We got through a lot of coffee and by the end of the morning we had a business name, a domain name, a long list of ideas for educational activities and a seed supplier on board.
We realised that growing flowers in schools fits really well into the school term set up, as there is something to do as soon as the children come back in September. They can be straight into sowing hardy annuals for earlier blooms next year, and with further seed sowing in the spring, there will plenty of blooms for them to harvest before they break up for the summer. There is always something to be done when you are growing flowers, so it is ideal for young people who like to be involved in a project, see it develop and follow it through.
How long did it take to get from idea to launch? What (if anything) changed along the way?
We launched on St David’s Day (March 1st) 2014 - perfect for two Welsh girls who love flowers -with a view to spreading the word and signing up members from the start of the Autumn term. It took us about 4 months from idea to launch.
We thought we’d write a package of printed materials at first but decided that teachers value ongoing support, advice and networking opportunities and bite size chunks of information so decided to make everything available online and to build a community of growers.
Our Flower Patch was born as a membership website with some publicly accessible sections and now, an additional blog where we post information, advice and ideas for growing flowers and getting children outside doing things and having fun.
Thanks Cally and Sara. It's great to have an insight into how OFP was born and how quickly your ideas grew in that first meeting.
We'll be catching up with them again in 2 weeks time to find out more about their work and have a further bathe in their enthusiasm.