We’re always on the lookout for resources for florists that can be used to elevate their business.Back To Bizis a program that is not only free to users, but that can really help florists get their business on track and set them up for success.
Small businesses need all the help they can get now more than ever, and this program can assist in accelerating success and can assist in meeting goals. Learn more about this floral business tool and how it can benefit your business below.
A Free Florist Resource
You’re probably wondering what Back To Biz is. Posed to help small business owners like yourself get on track to meet your goals, this program is hosted by Creative Live. The best part? It’s completely free!
While Back To Biz is specifically curated and developed to help small business owners recover from the pandemic, it’s also the perfect resource for florists to enhance their day-to-day business. Back To Biz offers a host of classes on useful topics, which we delve further into below.
Video Classes for Florists
This free resource consists of many different class options, which span different topics from:
Marketing & Sales
Money & Finance
These classes cover subjects as simple as effective shipping practices to larger-scale topics, like how to reinvigorate your sales.
The program also features what they call “learning paths.” These are curated collections of resources that follow one overarching theme.
For instance, there is a learning path surrounding how to reach new customers. The content in this path features video classes on how to build your brand, social media marketing tactics, and more. Furthermore, the path has a collection of articles that serve to teach on this topic.
Finally, the path shares inspirational stories from real business owners that fit with the theme. These custom collections are a great starting point within the wealth of information that Back To Biz has to offer.
Instructors That Know Small Business
Another great feature of this platform is its different instructors. Creative Live takes pride in featuring instructors that don’t just love to teach but have also been in the shoes of a small business owner.
This diverse group of teachers includes many successful entrepreneurs. Most of them have helped other businesses to grow and learn.
Florists Learning On The Go!
The ability to learn on the go is something that makes Back To Biz useful. It’s no secret that life as a floral shop owner leaves little time for learning, but this resource makes it easy to squeeze it in.
Take classes on your own time and schedule with Back To Biz. No matter how much or little time you have, there’s an asset on this site that can fit your schedule. This is certainly a nice aspect to consider.
What Makes Back To Biz Worth It for Florists
Back To Biz has a few things that are special about it. First off, it’s always a plus when a useful tool doesn’t have any cost associated with it. This makes using Back To Biz completely risk-free for you and your business, allowing you to learn on your own schedule without the pressure of a monthly membership fee.
Another thing that sets it apart from other tools is that it is specifically designed to help business owners succeed in any environment. No matter what the economic climate or what’s going on in the world, this platform has advice that helps get your business where you want it to be. The behavior of consumers is constantly changing, and this resource not only takes that into account but also helps business owners understand how they need to adjust accordingly to these alterations.
The proof is in the pudding – a wide range of world-known companies have benefited from the programs hosted by Creative Live. Just to name a few – Starbucks, Shopify, Microsoft, and Chase have all learned from the platform. If these big-name businesses were able to learn from this resource, chances are that your floral business can grow from it, too!
This free tool is definitely one to consider in aiding your floral business. Are you considering trying Back To Biz? Share your thoughts on the resource below or let us know any other useful tools you’ve found similar to this one!
Results of a new study by ecologists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst show that 1,330 nurseries, garden centers and online retailers are still offering hundreds of invasive plant species as ornamental garden plants. This includes 20 species that are illegal to grow or sell nationwide.
“Once we’ve recognized that an ornamental plant can be invasive, we would hope that commercial sales of that species would stop,” says lead author Evelyn M. Beaury, a graduate student in organismic and evolutionary biology at UMass. “But our findings show that our current framework for removing invasive plants from plant trade isn’t working. States are generally doing a good job limiting sales of their own regulated plants, but we found major inconsistencies in what’s being regulated across state borders. Nearly all states had at least one of their regulated plants sold in a neighboring state.”
Beaury and her co-authors suggest that regional regulation, plus outreach to growers and consumers, is needed to reduce the ongoing propagation of plants known to be invasive in the United States. Some remedies include increasing consistency in regulations, more coordination among states at regional and national levels and providing growers with transparent information to support efforts that reduce the spread of invasive plants.
In addition to the Federal Noxious Weed Act, which identifies 105 plants considered the greatest threats to U.S. natural resources, most states have regulatory lists intended to reduce the spread of high-impact invasive plants. Other non-native plants are managed by state and federal agencies or conservation organizations.
The most concerning case of federally designated noxious weed sales, Beaury and colleagues say, is the availability of cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica), offered by 33 vendors in 17 states. It is labeled as one of “the world’s most invasive plants.” “This is a tricky case,” says Beaury, “because plant breeders are marketing a sterile cultivar. But research shows these plants are not completely sterile and can still become invasive.”
The authors report that they found that 61% of 1,285 plant species identified as invasive in the U.S. remain available through the plant trade, including 50% of state-regulated species and 20% of federal noxious weeds, with vendors in all the lower 48 states. These vendors included large online marketplaces where users can easily ship invasive plants across state borders, likely without consequence. “While patchy state regulations definitely contribute to the widespread availability of invasive plants in the U.S., it’s clear we as a public also lack awareness about which plants are invasive and how they spread to new areas.”
Although there are barriers to enforcement, Beaury says that “we’ve already heard from state regulators that have used our results to follow up with growers selling invasive species. This is great news, and if we want to continue to protect native ecosystems, regulators and managers need more resources to do so.”
For more information: University of Massahussets Amherst www.umass.edu
Evelyn M Beaury, Madeline Patrick, Bethany A Bradley. Invaders for sale: the ongoing spread of invasive species by the plant trade industry. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 2021; DOI: 10.1002/fee.2392
Plants are like people in the sense that they thrive in communities, and they tend to shine brighter in the company of good friends. This June, our Rose Garden at the farm provided a glorious illustration of the power of harmonious relationships. In a long, meandering border planted with roughly 70 Roses, each variety is enhanced by its proximity to perennials that provide complementary or contrasting color, form, and texture. As the garden hit its peak in June, it offered visitors a textbook example of how to plant Roses and their preferred companions for best effect. While the peak has now passed, the garden will continue to provide rolling waves of bloom, thanks to the perennials that keep company with all the Roses. If you happen to live nearby or are in range to make a visit, we hope you’ll come by and take a stroll. In the meantime, we thought it might be helpful to showcase some of the perennials that do such a great deal to bring magic to the Rose Garden. We hope they inspire you to plant some of your own.
Click through to our website to find more perennials that serve as excellent companions for Roses, and consider adding some to your garden.
Flowers make for the perfect birthday gift! Send the ones you love a bouquet to celebrate their special day. Check out our top ten birthday arrangements for 2021:
Surprise them with something amazing on their special day! Featuring beautiful yellow tulips, pink gerberas, purple mini carnations, and more, Birthday Confetti is a bright and happy mix. Bring a smile to their face with a gift they’re sure to love!
These bright and cheery flowers can make any occasion special, especially a birthday! Filled with striking peach gerberas, yellow button poms, purple carnations, and more, Celebrate is a vibrant and colorful mix. Send your loved ones a special birthday surprise with this lovely bouquet!
These adorable flowers are sure to make their day! With bi-colored fuchsia and pink mini carnations, lavender daisy poms, hot pink mini spray roses, white waxflower, and more, Thoughtful Expressions is sure to be a highlight on their special day.
Enjoy Your Day
This striking bouquet is sure to make them smile! Bursting with gorgeous pink roses, lavender carnations, Stargazer lilies, pink gerberas, and more, Enjoy Your Day is the perfect way to show them you care. Make this the best birthday ever by sending them this sweet bouquet!
Make their birthday spectacular with this superb bouquet! Featuring gorgeous yellow lilies, peach roses, orange gerberas, fuchsia carnations, and more, Floral Spectacular is filled to the brim with vibrant and colorful flowers. Send some pizzazz to your loved one with this stylish bouquet!
This adorable arrangement is the perfect gift! With lovely pink gerberas, orange mini carnations, lime green Fuji mums, and more, Happy Thoughts is full of bright and happy blooms, and is sure to bring a smile to their faces!
This stunning arrangement is sure to liven up any room! Filled with gorgeous pink gladiolus, white caspia, light pink lilies, and more, Garden Pink is every pink lover’s dream. This striking bouquet is the perfect way to say, “Happy Birthday!”
This vibrant bouquet is sure to liven up their day! The striking mix of brightly colored roses pairs beautifully with the green button poms and hot pink calycina, making Energetic Roses a bouquet full of color. Send them a birthday hooray with this fiery bouquet!
Give them the gift of daisies with this beautiful bouquet! Featuring a captivating mix of hot pink, peach, and light pink gerberas that are accented with white waxflower, Gerb Appeal is sure to stun. Show them the love and send them this wonderful bouquet today!
Have a Lovely Day
These radiant flowers are the perfect way to let them know just how special they are! Have a Lovely Day is a stunning mix of bright yellow lilies and gorgeous bi-colored yellow and pink roses that rival even the sunniest day. This striking arrangement is sure to make their birthday lovely!
These are just a few of our favs! Tell us your favorite one in the comments below and don’t forget to order some flowers for that upcoming birthday!
July is the month of Leo, represented by the lion as the kings and queens of the jungle. Much like these wild beasts, the Leo in your life is dominant, spontaneous and creative, while also being very loving and warmhearted.
With such charm and charisma, how do you find a birthday present that matches the same sentiment? Flowers make a gracious gift no matter the sign, but there is one set of flowers for Leos that match this fire sign’s loving and generous personality: the sunflowers. These attention-grabbing summer favorites can make the perfect impression on any Leo, showing a sign of happiness, warmth, love and graciousness.
Here are a few of our favorite summer bouquets that match the confidence, strength and spirit of your favorite Leo:
The flowers in this bouquet are almost as charming as the vase they’re delivered: Teleflora’s Retro Road Tripper Camper. This arrangement is bursting at the seams with colors that are sure to wow that Leo love in your life. It’s made up of orange spray roses, yellow sunflowers, yellow button spray chrysanthemums, green cushion spray chrysanthemums, blue eryngium, blue sinuata statice, parvifolia eucalyptus, solidago and leatherleaf fern.
A vibrant bunch of sunflowers matches the blossoming big personality of any Leo. Teleflora’s Sunny Day Pitcher of Cheer Bouquet isn’t only full of gorgeous flowers, it also leaves you with a yellow ceramic pitcher that’s perfect for mixing your favorite seasonal drink at the summer get-together. In this arrangement, you’ll find yellow sunflowers are gathered with seeded eucalyptus and green salal into a yellow ceramic pitcher.
You can’t get enough of the stunning sunflowers with this gorgeous arrangement. It’s simple and straightforward but is sure to put a smile on the face of the warmhearted Leo you love and cherish. It’s made up of bright sunflowers that are arranged with delicate oregonia, magnolia leaves, lemon leaf and moss, and it’s delivered in Teleflora’s Bamboo Cube.
Whether you want to surprise a Leo for their birthday, send well wishes after a big event or simply put a smile on their face after a long day, the Sunny Sunflowers arrangement can get the job done. Another simple bouquet that makes quite the impression, it’s made up of sunflowers, orange roses, green bupleurum, salal leaves and a curly willow set inside of a glass bubble bowl.Whether you’re searching for a set of sunflowers for that lovely Leo or you would prefer a different arrangement, Teleflora has a variety of bouquets to choose from. Browse through our seasonal flowers today to find the perfect flowers for Leos and any other confident zodiac sign!
Written by our Founder and CEO, our Celebrations Pulse Sunday Letters aim to engage with our community. From sharing stories to welcoming your ideas, we want to help you to express, connect, and celebrate the important people in your life.
Who comes to mind when you think of a caregiver? Perhaps you imagine a nurse or doctor, treating an elderly patient at an assisted living facility, or maybe you think of a family member dedicating countless hours to helping their child with special needs.
Caregiving is a broad term that encompasses both paid professionals (such as doctors and nurses) as well as informal, or unpaid individual caretakers. Their responsibilities range from attending doctor’s appointments, administering medication, managing financial and legal affairs, providing emotional support, and much more.
Caregivers are invaluable. They devote their time, energy, and resources to care for individuals who otherwise might be left behind. While some are caregivers by vocation, others expect little in return for their services and may even put their own dreams on hold to provide support to a neighbor or loved one.
That’s why we launched our Connection Communities for Caregivers last year, a no-cost online forum that allows you to connect with others who have either been there or are in the process of providing care to family member, loved one, or patient.
Today, there are more than 4,000 members in our virtual Caregiving community. We have been so inspired to learn about your stories and see the outpour of support from those that have been caregivers themselves. Many caregivers in our community, like Anna, began taking care of one or both of their parents as teenagers. Others, like Carrie and Bob, have shared resources for tracking important legal/medical documents and started weekly support groups.
Joe expresses how thankful he is to have found the Caregiving Connection Community. He quit his job to begin caring for her elderly father nearly 4 years ago, who suffers from memory loss. Talking with others who have been or are going through similar situations gives Joe validation that he is doing his best and that he is not alone.
Caring for the Caregivers
We spoke to our Connectivity Council member Dr. Chloe Carmichael on the challenges caregivers may face, signs that they are feeling overwhelmed, and how we can be more supportive of caregivers. Caregivers, by nature, tend to be very receptive of other’s needs. However, they might also find themselves being so attuned to the person under their care that they forget about their own needs. Sometimes, they may get caught in black-and-white thinking, believing their needs to be in direct competition with the person under their care.
Dr. Carmichael recommends setting clear boundaries and being open about needs. For example, a caregiver might ask the person under their care to avoid scheduling doctor’s appointments at certain times of the day depending on work and family schedules.
We should look out for caregivers who are feeling resentful, lethargic, irritable, or depressed. Dr. Carmichael recommends doing a daily debrief with caregivers, recognizing two challenges and two positive moments of the day. For caregivers having difficulty expressing their needs, Dr. Carmichael suggests reminding them that setting boundaries empowers the people under our care. It is important the people under our care feel comfortable asking for more help and that they do not feel burdensome. Dr. George Everly, another Connectivity Council member, adds that getting caregivers respite where possible and showing appreciation every day is also crucial.
How to Support Caregivers
Sadly, many of members of our Caregiver community have expressed feeling underappreciated and overwhelmed. We invite you to share the care this week. Below is a list of our favorite ways to show our appreciation for caregivers.
Say thank you with a phone call, text, handwritten note or a thoughtful little gift (or not so little)
Listen. Sometimes, all we need is a shoulder to lean on
Ask how you can help
Some caregivers need help with household chores, others may need emotional support or help sorting legal/medical documents
Pick up and drop off groceries for the caregiver
Accompany the caregiver to his/her favorite snack or beverage shop and share a treat
While Caregiving comes with undeniable challenges, it can also be an incredibly rewarding experience. For the McCann family, the topic of caregiving hits home because our brother, Kevin, has a developmental disability. Jim recalls how his family, when he was growing up, worked together to take on the shared responsibility of caring for Kevin.
Jim and Chris’ parents often rented small recreational or church spaces on Saturdays, so other families that had children with special needs could have a place where they felt comfortable and understood. The McCann family was also an early supporter of the Special Olympics (where Chris’ daughter works today).
Caring for Kevin meant creating a support system within the family. Jim believes Kevin taught himself and his siblings valuable lessons about responsibility, empathy, and compassion. These are lessons we hope to pass onto our children and grandchildren.
Kevin also inspired us to give back to others. Partnering with Independent Group Living Home (where Kevin lives) we founded SmileFarms, a nonprofit organization that provides people with developmental disabilities employment opportunities in agricultural settings.
Jim McCann is the founder and chairman of 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. as well as a business leader, author, and philanthropist with a passion for helping people deliver smiles. Devoted to helping others, he also founded Smile Farms, a 501(c)3 organization that provides meaningful jobs in agricultural settings to young adults and adults with developmental disabilities.
National Bestseller—New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, Washington Post. Floret Farms A Year in Flowers is one of my favorite florist floral design books that I gravitate to often. Learn how to buy, style, and present seasonal flower arrangements for every occasion.
With sections on tools, flower care, and design techniques, Floret Farm’s A Year in Flowers presents all the secrets to arranging garden-fresh bouquets.
Featuring expert advice from Erin Benzakein, world-renowned flower farmer, floral designer, and bestselling author of Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden, this book is a gorgeous and comprehensive guide to everything you need to make your own incredible arrangements all year long, whether harvesting flowers from the backyard or shopping for blooms at the market.
In this stunning book, Kiana Underwood shares her techniques for creating dazzling single-color displays using inspired ingredients, dramatic textures, and vibrant colors.
Features hundreds of eye-catching images and easy-to-follow tips throughout, such as suggestions for substituting flowers and options for both the beginner and advanced designer. This flower arranging book is as useful as it is gorgeous.
Organized by season, the book includes how-to’s for 40 arrangements, including a lush green display for spring, an astonishing black bouquet for summer, a striking magenta design for fall, and an unexpected, oh-so-pretty pink arrangement for winter.
Cultivated: The Elements of Floral Style elevates floral design to fine art in this richly informative work on the principles of floral style. A charming and intelligent mentor, Christin Geall emboldens designers, gardeners, and entrepreneurs to think differently and deeply about their work with flowers as she draws upon the fine arts and historical sources, exploring Baroque music, the paintings of the Impressionists, or the work of floral innovators like Gertrude Jekyll and Constance Spry.
Covering all aspects of floral design, including choosing plants to grow and arrange, selecting tools and vessels, balancing color and form, and even photographing and selling arrangements, Cultivated offers universal lessons for all levels of practitioners, budgets, and materials. Geall’s stunning photographs of her own lush designs illustrate techniques for creating brilliant arrangements that spark the imagination.
Amy Merrick is a rare and special kind of artist who uses flowers to help us see the familiar in a completely new way. Her gift is to revel in the unexpected—like a sunny spring arrangement housed in a paper coffee cup—and to overturn preconceptions, whether she’s transforming a bouquet of supermarket carnations into a breathtaking centerpiece or elevating wild and weedy blooms foraged from city sidewalks. She uses the beauty that is waiting to be discovered all around us—in leaves, branches, seedpods, a fallen blossom—to tell a story of time and place.
Showcasing 400 flowers at their peak, with stunning photography taken by Putnam & Putnam in their Brooklyn studio, this guide includes an appendix featuring perforated pages, with tips on flower care, notes on how to prepare vessels, and a list of suggested color schemes. A great gift to give, or to have for oneself, the book speaks to the most seasoned flower enthusiasts as well as those just beginning to explore the possibilities of arranging flowers.
Michael and Darroch Putnam have built a reputation for romantic, dramatic floral arrangements and installations using color as their guiding principle – here, they share their knowledge with readers worldwide: “This is the book we wished we had when we started doing flowers.”
I’ve been a huge fan of Sarah Raven since I first discovered one of her books at my local library in the very early days of my flower farming journey. At the time, I was looking for any information I could find on selecting the best varieties for cutting, growing super long-stemmed blooms, and germinating a handful of difficult-to-grow flowers. From the first moment I opened her book, I was mesmerized. Sarah’s books, award-winning website, products, and videos continue to inspire me today. Even after 15 years of collecting flower books, I still countGrow Your Own Cut Flowersas one of my very favorites.
In addition to authoring more than a dozen flower- and food-focused books, Sarah teaches cooking and floristry courses at her farm, Perch Hill, and also operates an incredible online garden seed and supply company. Her work has been widely featured in the press and on television, including an appearance on BBC2’s Big Dreams, Small Spaces. I first spoke to Sarah in 2016 as part of the The Farmer & the Florist Interview series after the release of her book, Good, Good Food. I’m thrilled to catch up with Sarah about her newest book, A Year Full of Flowers: Gardening for All Seasons, her collaboration with photographer Jonathan Buckley, and her next creative projects.
Erin: You have multiple talents, having studied history then trained as a doctor, hosted your own television program, written many books, taught gardening and cooking, and of course operating an internationally known business. What led you to really focus on gardening?
It’s growing stuff, rather than gardening, which is my passion. My garden is my shop, stocked with as many of my favourite food and flowers as I can grow easily here. I love the process of selection, and then growing things from seed — it’s optimistic, future-looking, and almost always rewarding, and all the more so if you trial the things carefully over the years as we have, so you know the time you spend is going to produce exactly what you want.
Then I love watching the seedlings settle in after planting, growing week by week, with every 52 weeks offering something different if you really look, even the winter. That’s what growing does, gets you out there every day — and as you do, you’ll see things come and others go over. I love noticing that seasonal shift from one week and bout of weather to the next.
And of course, I love the harvest, picking food and flowers from outside my door. I love cooking too, but as I get older and the family has mainly dispersed, I’m less interested in day-to-day food.
Erin: Please tell our readers about your new book, A Year Full of Flowers, and the process of putting it together.
I love teaching, using photographs of the garden Jonathan Buckley and I have collected over 25 years, to show people what you can do with a plot of even the heaviest Wealden clay. That is what we started with at Perch Hill. I love seeing that spark in someone’s eyes that they’ve suddenly clocked into the whole gardening malarkey — how creative, how rewarding, how much fun it can be.
With lockdown preventing me doing face-to-face teaching, I really want to carry on showing people the best plants I’ve come across in our trials over the last couple of decades, moving through the year to show what we can all have out there. I don’t like tricky, stamp-collector plants. They’ve got to be easy to look after.
And as well as showing what I think are the best, through the year, I want to teach people the quickest and easiest ways to grow the plants we have here, what our main tasks are month by month.
So that’s what the book does, with 10 chapters. January/February and November/December are blocked together, but all the other months have a chapter to themselves. And in each chapter, there are my favourite plants for that moment to start each section, moving on to the jobs we’re doing to grow all the plants included in the book.
Erin: This is another project you’ve done with Jonathan Buckley, your longtime collaborator. I wonder if you’d talk a little about the importance of working with partners who really get your vision.
It’s such a privilege working with people who really know who you are, what you like, love, and want. It means you can really crack on without having to say too much and leave more time and headspace to be creative — to invent new combinations, move on to new ways of doing things and embrace new varieties.
Jonathan (@jonathanbuckleyphotography) and I have now worked together for 25 years — and on three different photographic themes — gardening, cooking, and wildflowers. They’re related but very different, and he has kind of reinvented how he photographs each, but above all I feel Jonathan has perfected a whole way of getting close-up plant portraits, so that they look glamorous and beautiful and yet are true, without nifty wide-angle lenses and pulled focus. This is one of the cornerstones of our mail-order plant and seed business. So even though our shoots are exhausting, I love them.
We now also have my friend and colleague, the florist and gardener Arthur Parkinson, helping us on all our shoots, Covid allowing, and he just knows what I want and like, so has hugely helped lighten my load.
And we wouldn’t have incredible plants and flowers to shoot without Josie Lewis, our head gardener, who leads the growing and gardening team.
My husband Adam has helped me style the whole place, much better at materials, interiors, and the organisation of space than I am—he has a brilliant eye.
We all work together really closely and have done so now for years.
Erin: You and your husband spent eight years living at Sissinghurst Castle, your husband’s family home. I wonder how that time, and your study for your book about Vita Sackville-West’s garden, inspired your own work as a garden designer and as a teacher?
I love Vita’s vision of faded grandeur, and it informs what I do every day. I love the abundance, the on-the-verge-of-chaos-but-not-quite-there-yet look she did so well, as well as the faded tapestry colours with sharp highlights of cobalt blue or brilliant turquoise.
Sissinghurst is one of the most beautiful built places in the world, I think, with the tumbling, full, romantic garden within its red brick walls, and apparently slightly softly crumbling buildings. They’re not really crumbling at all, of course, because it has been perfectly restored by the National Trust. I absolutely love visiting Sissinghurst — we share one part of the house with our extended family now — particularly when the light is fading or at first light. Then it looks its best.
Erin: How did you choose your farm, Perch Hill, and how has your vision for its design and its function as a teaching center evolved over the past 20 years?
When we left London, Adam was keen to find somewhere quite near Sissinghurst, where his father Nigel lived. We came on lots of trips to look at farms, barns, and bits of land. We had a second viewing of a place up the road from Perch Hill, which was in the end too small. Adam already had three sons when we married, and we had a new baby, and much as we liked that place, there wasn’t enough room for us all. We really loved the spot it was in, very wooded and hilly with a sort of hidden, private feel. It reminded me of the valley of the Lot River (France) where I’d spent holidays. I asked the guy selling the first house where he’d go for a walk and he recommended Willingford Lane. Adam had stayed in London, so I went for a walk with the baby and saw the for sale sign on the road. That was it.
We didn’t have the money to do the place up straight away, so little by little we’ve made the garden, and restored the buildings, with only one building now left to go which we hope to do this autumn. The place has evolved with us and around what we need. Corona has changed things here — with very few courses now possible, but we open the garden and serve people lunch in an open-sided marquee on the lawn and in the barn, all pre-booked. It feels like a mini festival each time, and we all love it.
Erin: Could you talk about how your business has evolved over the years? Are there specific periods of growth or experiences, particularly recent ones, that led to key shifts that you’d like to emphasize and discuss?
My business truly is a kitchen table start-up. I took a maternity break from medicine 25 years ago and started to experiment with a childhood passion, growing flowers I could pick for the house. I chose annuals because they were cheap and easy, as well as dahlias — which were then quite tricky to find. There was very little written about growing flowers for the house then, so I started doing my own experiments, comparing square metre patches of 10 different varieties each season, and seeing how long and how much I was able to pick from each one.
This led to me writing my first book, The Cutting Garden,and then doing my first seed catalogue with 32 varieties of cut flowers. The key thing with growing a business is to recognize where your strengths and weaknesses lie, and as you can as the business grows, recruit to fill the gaps, not to double up on your skills.
Covid has been hugely challenging for us, with massive growth in our customer base and the problems with stock — and then dispatch with lack of staff through sickness or self-isolation — that goes with that, but I think we’re coming out the other end of the worst of our troubles with all of this now, and the future is exciting. We are hoping to move into glass and pottery, lovely things to live with, as well as grow.
Erin: What are some of the flower varieties you’ve recently trialed at Perch Hill that you’re excited about?
I never tire of our ever-expanding range of dahlias. We are involved with both tulip and dahlia breeding programmes now and selecting ones that we — and we think our customers — will love, but it’s been so exasperating not being able to travel. I love and am inspired by trips to the trial fields, mainly in Holland, that I go on with my business partner, Lou Farman, in spring and early autumn. I hope for those again this year.
I’m also excited about chrysanths, ones that we can ideally pick from outside right into November.
We did a big nerine trial here this year, new varieties which you can plant straight into the ground and which flower their first year. That’s exciting.
Erin: I know color and scent are super-important to you and that you emphasize these characteristics in flowers for gardens. What are some of the flowers you find people are most excited about right now?
The annual phloxes are huge at the moment — and rightly so. If well-grown, up through double layers of jute netting, we find these brilliant here.
Roses are increasingly fashionable too, particularly the not just pinks, but the richly scented and coloured forms and the washed-out oyster colours and browns.
I’ve grown groves of sweet peas here for years, and the tall-stemmed floristry varieties, which have a less powerful scent, are all the rage. I still love the less showy but massively perfumed ones such as ‘Matucana’, and that’s our best-seller.
Erin: Who are some of the floral artists and gardeners you are following?
I sat in on a web conference last weekend of the European Association for Flower Growers (@euflowergrowers). That was fun to come across: meet, be taught, and shown farms by growers from not just the U.K., but the USA, Chile, Spain, Belgium, and Holland. It was very confirming hearing what flower growers such as Anna Jane (@littlestateflowercompany) and Krishana Collins (@tealanefarm) had to say. Krishana has done lots of experimenting with postharvest conditioning, and even though I’d never heard of her before, we had concluded just the same.
Here, at the moment, I particularly love Anna Potter’s (@swallowsanddamsons) arranging style. And I adore the crazy abundance of Arthur Parkinson’s arrangements, which he does on a weekly basis here when the garden is open. They often stand 5 foot tall.
Erin: We hear from so many people who are just getting started with growing flowers and with gardening in general. Do you see the trend toward buying local flowers and growing flowers in gardens continuing to go up in the U.K.?
Yes, yes, and yes. This has changed totally since I started 25 years ago. Then everyone thought home-grown or local flowers wouldn’t last, that things such as cosmos, love-in-the-mist, cornflowers were not substantial enough and would be over in a trice. It’s true, annuals don’t last as long as lilies, but if you can get them grown locally outside, not flown or trucked in from thousands of miles away, that doesn’t matter. People are increasingly treasuring their delicate beauty and garden style, not polytunnel/monocultural style.
Erin: What advice would you have for someone starting a flower garden for the first time?
Choose annuals which are cut-and-come-again. You’ve only then invested in a few packets of seed — and with these long-cropping plants (such as cosmos, zinnias, and sweet peas) combined with a good range of shapes and colours of dahlias, you’ll have an easy flower shop outside your door. The more you pick, the more they flower. It’s an ever-filling cup, easy to do, and hugely rewarding.
If you have the time and room, to these, I’d add a handful of your favourite coloured tulips and a few long-season roses with good vase lives.
Erin: What are you excited about and inspired by these days, and what new projects do you have on the horizon?
I want to do more and more writing, recording the trials of the edibles as well as the flowers we’ve grown here over years, so that’s my next project — which I’m working on now — writing A Year Full of Vegetables.
I also enjoy telling the stories of what we do here, with little films and daily posts on social media, and Arthur and I are just launching a podcast of our favourite plants we’re sowing or are flowering that exact week.
Our third lockdown has been hard for everyone in the U.K. because it’s winter — grey, wet, and pretty gloomy here in Sussex. One of the optimistic things I’ve been enjoying is posting (@sarahravenperchhill) a photograph of a bunch or mini vase of flowers I’ve picked — from the greenhouse or garden — every day since January first. I’m going to try to keep going till we’re let out!
Erin: I love this photo series, Sarah, and I’ve enjoyed this interview immensely. I can’t thank you enough for so generously sharing your knowledge and experience with Floret readers.
To celebrate the release of Sarah’snew book, A Year Full of Flowers: Gardening for All Seasons, we’re giving away 5 copies. To enter, leave a comment below. In your comment, tell us what plant you’re loving most in your garden or neighborhood right now. Winners will be announced on Friday, July 23.
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