British Flowers Week with Kate Owens of Verdley Flowers

British Flowers Week (26th to 30th of June) was introduced by the New Covent Garden Market as a national celebration of the magnificent British floral industry that shines the spotlight on those who grow and arrange flowers and foliage in Great Britain. One such florist is Verdley Flowers, led by Kate Owens and her team, who create custom bunches and bouquets using a combination of home-grown, foraged, and fresh market flowers. These beautiful arrangements are available to buy at Cowdray Farm Shop.

Kate founded Verdley Flowers in 2015, cultivating her flowers in her cottage garden on the Estate in Verdley Wood, West Sussex. We recently interviewed her about her experiences as a florist and flower grower in the Sussex countryside.

Kate in her cutting garden

Can you tell us about your favourite flowers that are currently in bloom?

Right now, Love-in-a-mist is coming into bloom and they have been a long-time favourite of mine. They are a beautiful blue, are delicate but also have lovely structural elements and if left, form gorgeous seed pods. I also have a good crop of Larkspur at the moment which is very pretty and extremely useful when making bouquets and bunches. And grasses – I grow a wide selection of different grasses to add texture and wildness to my bunches. At the moment I’m using Quaking Grass and Canary Grass. A little later in the season, I’ll have Pennisetum – an all-time favourite, and Miscanthus. Of course, the Cosmos is just flowering now and is a summer classic.

Why should people consider buying locally grown British flowers? What differences would they expect to see compared to flowers brought into the UK?

Well, it’s better for the environment if the flowers have to travel less distance. Also, many flowers grown here, such as the ones we grow at Verdley, are grown with no pesticides or fertilizers. No chemicals whatsoever. Just manure (locally produced!) and a feed made from comfrey and nettles. Also, if you buy locally grown flowers, you’ll often see unusual flowers that can’t be grown and transported from overseas because they don’t travel well. And you’ll get the most perfect blooms because they haven’t been wrapped and transported in boxes.

What is your top tip for making the most of cut flowers during the warmer summer months?

Just fresh cold water, changed quite regularly, a good clean vase, and to keep the flowers out of direct sunlight for long periods. I don’t really go in for adding chemicals to water but a brilliant tip for straightening bendy tulips is to add a couple of pennies to the water in the vase.

What do the summer months typically look like at Verdley Flowers?

Very flowery! And busy. Lots of watering and I cut from my cutting garden every day so most of the flowers you will see at the farm shop were cut that morning. Also, a fair amount of weeding goes on too.

What is your favourite part about being a florist and why?

I love that every bunch we make is a new and unique creation. I also love the seasonal aspect of the job – the flowers are constantly changing. And there is always a new flower or plant to discover and try to grow. I also enjoy the way that my cutting garden evolves. Every year I say that I will not create any new beds and every year I squeeze one or two more in.

What would your ideal go-to bouquet consist of and why?

I like bouquets and bunches that have lots of different textural elements and where each flower stands out in its own way within the whole. Right now, I think my favourite bunches are wispy meadowy ones – with grasses, and tall pretty flowers like Love-in-a-mist and light blue or white Scabious. I also love Craspedia – they are like little yellow lollipops – poppy seed heads, Larkspur and Eryngium or sea holly (thistles) and maybe some Ammi Majus. A bunch or bouquet like this is like bringing an English summer meadow into your home.

Kate’s stunning locally grown bouquets are available from Cowdray Farm Shop. Find out more about Kate and her team at Verdley Flowers on her website here.

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