Country Garden Flowers
I'm Sue Narbett, and I own Festooned Flowers.
Having put my first career on hold to bring up a large family, I decided to change course completely, and work for myself, doing what I love most.
In recent years I have become particularly interested in growing cut flowers and in floral art. When we bought the family small holding above St. Catherine's Valley, just outside Bath, I recognised that this was the perfect opportunity to grow beautiful cut flowers.
We call ourselves a ""green florist and flower farm", because we strive to minimise our impact on the natural world in which we live, and particularly on our beautiful smallholding which is a haven for wildlife.
In recent years, we have been busy preparing the flower farm by planting many trees and shrubs with a view to extending the cut flower period into all four seasons.
In the coming months, we hope to create a natural pond close to the ploughed cut flower field in order to try to encourage a greater population of fauna and flora. If we facilitate the proliferation of frogs, hedgehogs or even wild ducks, then these will help control the slug population and so on.
The land is arbitrarily divided into several sections;;the cut flower field, the woodland, the hay field, the willow plantation, the bees, the horse field.
Mother Nature rules the roost, so life is full of fun and surprises in our flower field.
We have no heated greenhouses or climate control, so she decides when our seeds germinate in the field, and how quickly our lovely flowers grow and emerge from their sepals.
We give the bees and insects a fighting chance by not using pesticides, providing a habitat which is conducive to their survival. Many of our flowers are bee and butterfly friendly. We don't use herbicides either, as we prefer not to introduce toxic chemicals into the soil.
Our beloved horses provide us with their "special mix"which we incorporate into the soil, and use as an excellent mulch.
We also grow "green manure" This is a crop such a grazing rye or phacelium, which suppresses weeds on bare soil, and then introduces organic matter when ploughed in. What a brilliant idea!
Florists foam is known to be toxic both to the environment and to us, so we don't use it. We use traditional methods of supporting flowers, which requires a little more skill.
We are the custodians of our beautiful mature woodland which comprises mainly beech, oak, ash and hazel.
Our aim is to just let nature be, with minimal intervention.Sometimes we remove dead trees, but often they are left to decompose, and so accommodate a whole natural ecosystem. Similarly, we allow ivy to grow, and trees to self seed. We also confine our cat to the garden!
The woodland houses a diversity of wildlife, including tawny owls and woodpeckers.
We often see buzzards hovering, and kestrels perched, or diving into the hay field.There is an abundance of mice for them to feed upon.
Our reward is the privilege of enjoying nature in all its diversity, and what a setting for our semi cultivated flower field.
The willow field supplies us with fuel for our heating system and the lovely catkins and whips for our floristry. We grow several varieties providing species diversity, and the willows allow a safe retreat for birds and insects.
The horses are not stabled, and enjoy perfect freedom. Nigel is our grey percheron, a heavy horse breed originating in Northern France. He is extremely strong, and weighs in at not much less than a tonne.
Sandy, in contrast, is our miniature Shetland. She is Nigel's soulmate, and they are inseparable.
They are first and foremost our beloved pets, but Nigel also helps us with some jobs on the smallholding.
In the flower field, he helps us plough the land and weed between the rows with his cultivator. He can pull heavy loads for us behind a hitch cart and also drags a harrow over the hay field. He can pull logs for us from deep within the woods where there is no tractor access.
There are many problems facing pollinators as a consequence of modern farming practices. We try our best to help, by keeping honey bees within our smallholding. The hives are amongst a few apple trees below the flower field . This area is a little more sheltered than the main part of the field, as the bees prefer less windy conditions. As well as improving the biodiversity of the area, the bees of course supply us with delicious honey.