Claire Brown from Plantpassion has 26 years experience in horticulture. Her career started in garden centre management all over the South East of England, including 5 years as the Plant centre manager at RHS Wisley. After the birth of her son, she set up Plantpassion to use her staff training, and customer service skills to help clients in their gardens, with advice, pruning, propagating and, garden and border design. This led to her designing several cutting flower gardens for ladies of Surrey keen to grow their own for flower arranging, and so she started to investigate why there weren’t any locally grown cut flowers for sale near her.
She has used this knowledge of plants, and drawn on her years of horticultural experience to create a unique flower farm at Hill Top Farm, East Clandon in Surrey from which she sells to florists, DIY brides and local flower lovers. She also uses her love of teaching to inform others about her favourite horticultural topics with workshops, flower clubs, and now these online course. The site at Hill Top Farm may have far reaching views over the Surrey Hills, but the soil isn’t ideal for flower farming, being dry infertile chalk, and the views come with a windy site aspect.
Through Flowers from the Farm, she met Paula and Carol, and found 2 farming friends who like her want to learn, and improve their Quality of flowers grown through productivity and efficiency. Although she loves what she does, flower growing is a business, not a hobby, and she knows how important it is to ensure that her business is sustainable and profitable and that everything she grows is sold.
Paula Baxter from Mill Pond Flower Farm started her working life as a roller skating promotions girl and has meandered through nursing, academia, working for charitable organisations and business development before creating her ideal job as a flower farmer. Paula is able to use all the skills and expertise gained in different industries to her full advantage in running a small business and loves the challenge of supplying customers with what they need and growing high quality flowers.
Mill Pond Flower Farm is the result of 7 years hard work, creating a flower farm from a derelict smallholding and developing a strong base of wholesale and retail customers. the farm is in the Scottish borders in a sparsely populated rural area, facing the Cheviot hills to the south. The site has heavy clay soil and an acre of pond. It’s cold and windy, on a Scottish hill and has a whole generation of weed seed to contend with, all managed without the use of herbicides or pesticides. Despite this, Mill Pond Flower Farm grows fabulous blooms and foliage and is a successful business.
Paula has supported and developed a new generation of flower farmers in Scotland, teaching Introduction to Flower Farming workshops over the past 5 years and as Scottish co-ordinator for Flowers from the Farm, she grew the numbers of active members from four in 2013 to over sixty in 2018. As co-Chair of Flowers from the Farm in 2017-18 she helped to lead the organisation into its current form as a co-operative.
See a short film of Paula in action at Mill Pond Flower Farm HERE
Carol Siddorn from Carol’s Garden is a grower born and bred. She grew up on a farm, and although she spent 20 years working in industry (HR), living in cities, climbing mountains in the Lake District, she eventually came back to her roots near the family farm. After training in horticulture, garden design and teaching at Reaseheath College, she moved to what is now Carol’s Garden with husband Paul, in 2011. The move was all about doing this - growing and teaching. First the house, then one field and then another, all rented from the same landowner.
The site is now 2 acres, on the slopes of the sandstone ridge which runs through Cheshire. This means light, very free-draining, sandy, acidic soil. It was once peaty, until the peat was extracted in the 18th century. It has always been conventionally farmed for cattle fodder crops - maize, kale, beets and grass - until Carol took it over. The increase in biodiversity in this time has been astonishing, and is something to be enjoyed and valued.
Carol grows a huge variety of flowers for florists throughout the North West, as well as for local customers. She loves working with her own flowers too, providing weddings - from DIY buckets to fully serviced weddings and all points in between. Sharing her beautiful site and passion for growing has always been a part of the plan.