Gardening: A flower for all seasons is found on family farm

Gillyflower flowers

Gillyflower flowers - Credit: Archant

I pulled into the library carpark in Berkhamsted on Monday evening, where I was due to be meeting Trevor - it has been lashing down with rain all day, and I hadn’t been sure whether I’d still be able to meet with him and his wife Bettina.

Gillyflower flowers

Gillyflower flowers - Credit: Archant

I’d covered their business previously in one of my columns, but I hadn’t been able to get over to their flower farm to see where they do their growing.

By mid afternoon the rain had eased - we were on. As we drove along a twisty road into what seemed like the middle of nowhere, I spotted a couple of people working in the middle of a brightly coloured part of the landscape. Trevor pointed out the field to me, and I was itching to get over there.

I was met with another friendly welcome from Bettina - we’ve been chatting on and off for some months now, and it’s so easy to see why they love what they do.

Standing there, in the middle of fields, surrounded by the beautiful flowers that they have grown - I talked to Bettina about what brought them to this point. She explained to me that she’d been at a career crossroads, and had decided to make the leap, and so their business grows. Working with flowers is a personal dream of mine, so it’s easy to understand why anyone would grab the opportunity to do that given a chance.

Gillyflower flowers

Gillyflower flowers - Credit: Archant

Gillyflower are based in the charming market town of Berkhamsted. At first thought, you’d not think there was anything particularly unusual about a florist in a town like Berkhamsted - but there is something special about Gillyflower; something which marks them apart from many others - they grow their own flowers - hence why I am meeting them in the middle of a field, and I can’t help but smile when Bettina apologises about her soil stained hand as she shakes mine - I tell her that mine are very rarely any different, and I don’t mind at all. This is it for me. This is what it’s all about.

Don’t get me wrong - I adore the Chelsea Flower Show, I like nothing more than walking around pristinely preened and manicured gardens in National Trust properties, and I do enjoy looking at a striped mown lawn, but that’s not what gardening is all about for me.

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Growing up with parents who very rarely, if indeed ever, didn’t have mud under their fingernails, I feel very at home with people who really get involved when they are gardening.

It’s so obvious that Trevor and Bettina are passionate about what they are doing here. They are growing seasonal flowers, and Bettina does the floristry herself, so they really are a one-stop-shop!

I chatted to Bettina about how the seasonal aspect of it works. If they have been asked to do flowers for a wedding for example, and a bride wants something specific.

Although people are thankfully becoming more aware of buying local produce, and of the air miles that many of the flowers in the supermarkets do - people (and some brides in particular) can have very set ideas about what flowers they want on their big day, or for whatever event they are getting flowers for.

Bettina told me that most brides are very good - that they might come with a set idea about what they want, but when they ask for something which will be totally out of season on their wedding day, she will explain to them that those flowers won’t be available at that time of year, and will go through with them about the options that they do have.

It’s these personal touches which I can see would make the whole experience a great one for anyone wanting to source their wedding flowers.

Listening to Trevor and Bettina talk about their business, about the way in which they grow, pick and store their flowers, and the fact that Bettina does the floristry herself, is incredibly inspiring.

So often these days, people will buy a bunch of flowers, which has had input from so many people - likely people from thousands of miles away will have grown and picked the flowers, but will never see the end result when the florist here puts the bouquet together.

The same amount of love which goes into putting a bouquet together with flowers that you’ve actually nurtured and grown yourself, can surely not be rivalled?

I had a stroll around the growing areas - a polytunnel is filled with the scent of sweetpeas - I could have just happily stayed in there, the heady aroma most too wonderful to bear.

This is one of two plots that Gillyflower grow on, and I look forward already, to visiting their other plot. The crops at the moment are heavy on the roses - there are also the most incredible inky blue delphiniums, delicate nigella, and a haze of cornflowers.

I get the feeling that I could visit dozens of times throughout the year, and would never be disappointed at the selection that was there. I watch as a bee buzzes in and out of a foxglove - in fact, I’ve not seen many bees so far this year, but there are dozens here - they are drinking in the beauty of this oasis, just as I am.

I brush past a rose, and have to bend to smell it - the smell of old roses - a scent evocative of my childhood; it’s almost impossible to describe the smell - a bittersweet heady aroma which I can still smell now when I look at the photos. I already can’t wait to go back and visit again - the people, their passion, the whole ethos behind what they do - I can’t extol the virtue of buying locally enough - and it doesn’t come much more local than this!

Check out their website to see more of what they do.