Since a few weeks when the COVID-19 started to affect our lives we think of the future of peoples professions and how important it is do something with passion.
Polly Nicholson decided to become an artisanal flower grower and florist in a small village in West Wiltshire, UK.
At Bayntun Flowers she grows mostly tulips, that are cut daily to create scented, textural hand-tied bunches which are sold in their nursery or made for events.
They work in the most environmentally friendly way possible using traditional companion planting methods and by keeping their own British black bees to aid pollination.
Maybe starting a business out of your garden is not only a great new job but also something that can truly makes you happy.
IRMA: Tell us a bit about your garden. Do you plan it as you go or are you following a bigger concept?
POLLY NICHOLSON: When we bought our house almost 15 years ago the garden was quite overgrown and much in need of some care and attention. We knew that it could be spectacular one day, because a framework of old walled gardens was already in place, creating a series of protected ‘rooms’ within the boundary. We engaged the garden designer Arne Maynard to help us bring it back to life, and we have spent the last decade doing just that. We see it as a lifetime’s work, there is no rush.
IRMA: What was missing , when you decided to start growing your own flowers?
POLLY NICHOLSON: Flowers were missing when I started my business. There were hardly any in the entire garden. I had moved from London and was used to going to New Covent Garden Market early in the morning to buy quantities of flowers, and suddenly irony of ironies I ended up in the countryside with no flowers at all, and not a decent florist for miles. The solution was to grow my own, in ever increasing quantities. I now have a small team who help me.
IRMA: Why do you think flowers are the new elixir in fife?
POLLY NICHOLSON: Flowers bring guiltless joy into our lives – nothing else fills a room with scent, colour and texture in the same way.
IRMA: Is there a trick to wake up tired blossoms?
POLLY NICHOLSON: Accept that cut flowers have a limited life span. You wouldn’t expect the food in your fridge to keep on and on lasting, so take the same attitude with flowers and enjoy them for their natural 4 or 5 day lifespan then throw them away, preferably in the compost. There is nothing worse than wilting flowers. That said, if you change the water daily and keep cutting the stems you can keep them going a day or two longer – but who really wants to do that?!
IRMA: Why tulips?
POLLY NICHOLSON: Tulips are the harbinger of Spring, they bring in new life with an almighty explosion of colour, and in some cases a heady honey scent. Their variety is infinite, from delicate miniatures to peony-type doubles, long-stemmed beauties with enormous bowl-shaped heads to frivolous ruffled parrots. My particular passion is for historic tulips, I have a collection of over 70 different heritage bulbs which date back to 1620, even before the tulip ‘bubble’ of 1634 -1637.
IRMA: Ever thought of growing edible flowers?
POLLY NICHOLSON: We already grow a whole range of edible flowers including nasturtiums, calendulas, roses, different organum and thymes. I mostly use them in my flower arrangements, but sometimes sell them to chefs who want to buy local, organic and just-picked. Our summer salads are very pretty, alive with colour and the odd earwig.
IRMA: The English weather seems ideal to grow flowers. Is there a trick to get the same conditions for our soils in flowerpots even when not in England ?
POLLY NICHOLSON: We certainly have a lot of weather in England – we have had nothing but wind and rain for months. We are blessed with brilliant soil, rich, alluvial and free-draining, and we treat it with respect – we garden completely organically, no pesticides, artificial fertilisers, weed killers or anything toxic whatsoever. Try and copy those conditions in pots – use the best, peat-free compost you can find, create good drainage by ensuring there are holes in the bottoms of containers and include a layer of crocks at the base (bits of old broken pots are ideal). Use an organic feed such as a seaweed fertiliser, water regularly, and stake the flowers with twigs if you can find them. We are big on staking, and grow our own hazel and alder for that purpose.
All photographs by Britt Willoughby-Dyer