Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Right weeds, right place.

Serendipitous weed growth is what I like.

Hidden under netting, my little crop of peas has been coming along nicely over the past few weeks.  But each time my eyes wandered over to them as, crook-backed, I picked the laden blackcurrant bushes, I shuddered at the sight of the yellow flowers and bindweed, twining their insidious way through the black fabric of the protective net.

My horror turned to jubilation when yesterday, with blackcurrants finally and safely gathered, I was able to turn my attention to other harvests.  Peas, fat and juicy in their pods, hung from stems which ignored the twiggy sticks I'd supplied as supports.  Instead, the woody stems of the weeds which had sprouted up amongst my careful sowings did the job admirably.   I wouldn't normally be grateful for a crop of weeds, but for every plant there is a time and place: and this time, happily, I found it.

If you know the name of this yellow-flowered pea supporter, let me know for future reference!

If you know the name of this yellow-flowered pea supporter, let me know for future reference!

Monday, 7 July 2014

And they wore flowers in their hair….

CoCoMad is our local festival - a free affair comprising of dad-bands, tasty local food, hand painting, face painting, henna painting and any other type of painting you care to mention.  Along with drum-bashing, wood-whittling, teddy-naming and many a hyphenated activity.

Decorated trollies arriving at the park announce the start of festivitiesA trolley dressed as an owl.

In my case, it was flower-crowning.

Wildflowers.  Home grown flowers from Birmingham by Tuckshop Flowers.Ready for action - crown making station.

 As I sat in front of the World Cup footy on Friday evening, threading cornflowers onto wire stems, I did wonder if I was a bit mental.  But no.  The flowery hunch paid off, and crowns were very much the festival thing in the Saturday sunshine.  And the great thing is that they made everyone really happy,  from the violet-shirted cub scout girls with cornflowers adorning their curls, to the women who hadn't worn flowers in their hair since their wedding days years ago.

The crowns proved popular at the festival

If you can't sprout a hair flower at a festival, when can you?  And so they flourished, keeping my wiring and fixing fingers busy well into the late afternoon.  The more people they adorned, the more interest they generated. Indeed the steward ushering cars off the field at the end of the day said they'd really be one of the abiding memories of the event.  The smiles they put on people's faces really made my day - whether on the faces of people looking on, or on those wearing them - my flowery adornments clearly gave a lot of pleasure.  I was very, very chuffed!  Especially when I got a few men to sport them too.

The word about Tuckshop Flowers has definitely spread a little further into the locality as they really got noticed.   All in all, a job well done.

A local policeman gets into the festival spirit with a flower crown.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

From seed to stall.

Gardening for one of my clients yesterday, we got chatting about jobs and the bits of them that we don't see.  Her husband is a retired gemologist and used to choose the raw stones to be cut and set by one of Birmingham's fine jewellery companies.  It's a long journey from a lump of rock to a finely cut sapphire and we were musing on how little we think about what goes into the various end products that we use or wear everyday - and its the same with a bunch of flowers.

When my stall is set up for markets, people constantly murmur and exclaim about how pretty it all looks (and smells, if I'm not set up next to a generator or sausage stall!!) and that, I guess, is combined result the loveliness of flowers, and the art of presenting them.  But behind that visual appeal, what makes them different from other flower stalls?

Firstly, they are all locally grown - cut the night before market and kept in the cool and dark to be fully hydrated before being arranged early the next day.  Secondly, they are different because I can offer varieties which aren't currently commercially grown on a huge scale because they're more delicate and don't travel brilliantly well - cornflowers have flown out of my buckets in the past few markets.  And thirdly, I love them!  I know their names, and in many cases I've watched them grow from seedlings, picked them, arranged them  and I'm sending them forth into the world to spread the word about British flowers.

I had a huge smile on my face at the last market when a gentleman, who'd bought a bunch of cornflowers and tansy daisies as  one of my first customers of the day, came rushing back half an hour later saying that they'd looked so gorgeous in his house that he come back for more flowers for his kitchen!    The two florists who've used them for wedding photo shoots recently have both said that my flowers had also stolen the show from their commercial counterparts, attracting universal oohs and aahs about their natural charms.

But it makes me smile, somewhat wryly, when people call them 'wild flowers' - having them on the stall (and in the garden) involves a bit more than a happy accident!  I know they mean that the flowers look natural, relaxed and just gorgeous in themselves, with that freshly picked feel (that's because they are).

So I thought I'd share the market day of some Tuckshop Flowers:

The evening before market, as the day fades and cools, the best blooms are picked and inspected, then left to fully hydrate in  water overnight.

Very early next morning- arranging and bunching begins - with a fortifying cup of tea.

 8.30am - the welcoming sights and smells of Tuckshop Flowers are ready for market opening time.

Come rain, come shine, the market bustles and there's lots of chat to be had about flowers with interested customers.

Any leftovers get labelled up with my details on lovely new cards (from Moo) and are sent out to work to do some marketing for me. They're delivered to hand-picked local cafes to spread the word about British flowers so when the last delivery of the day is done, finally it's time for sit down with a well-earned cup of tea!   And I wouldn't have things any other way…..

I've just ordered a copy of 'Gilding the Lily' - a book about the journey of imported cut flowers to market, and I think it is going to be a very different kind of read from the one above.