Through the garden gate

PUBLISHED: 10:57 24 April 2013 | UPDATED: 15:12 24 April 2013

Becca Stuart and Marion Parish from  the Garden Gate Flower Company

Becca Stuart and Marion Parish from the Garden Gate Flower Company


It's a wet and windswept day as I approach the farmhouse on the edge of Fowey and the only place to be is indoors and yet for Becca Stuart and Marion Parish the warming cuppa as we talk about their new business venture is but a brief respite.

For the stock for their burgeoning business needs looking after and as their business is growing and selling organic Cornish flowers that stock is in the polytunnel and field outside, which means they spend the majority of their time at the mercy of the elements.

Its a good job we love our work and thats why we got into this in the first place, laughs Becca, grateful for the chance to shelter from the weather as we gather in the cosy living room of her mum Penelope Dunn and step-father Christopher Dunn, who have kindly leant some of the land at their farmhouse to the venture.

Its been a whirlwind and busy few months for Becca, 33, and Marion, 35, friends for almost their entire lives and who have now gone into business with each other.

But as Becca basks in the satisfaction of a grateful call she has only just received from a bride who was insistent she wanted only organic flowers for her wedding, its clear they may be onto something with their venture.

And its also a certainty that their reasons for starting The Garden Gate Flower Company as organic seasonal flower growers goes way beyond any trendy reason to ride the wave of interest in the subject.

We are growing on already certified land, explains Marion, but the reasons for growing organically go further.

I guess it is about an ethical responsibility, lots of coverage has been given to declining bee populations possibly due to monoculture, pesticides, herbicides and other agricultural chemicals for example.

The way we work is the polar opposite of this with a huge diversity of plants, attracting different species of insect at different times of year. Rather than just focusing on the goal of producing flowers we are, I suppose, growing laterally with the effects of our practices in mind beyond the microcosm of our cutting garden.

What we do is part of a bigger ecology with knock on effects, and it feeds back too. As producers we have an environmental responsibility which can have knock on effects for human health too.

And as consumers we think it is a good think to have a choice about where your flowers come from, and to have a pesticide free option.

This means that, unlike some of the more corporate mail order flower companies, it wont always be the case that flowers of all kinds are available for use in bouquets and arrangements.

It really is a case of us seeing what is ready to be picked and that will make up the kind of thing we can offer at any given moment, reveals Becca. It can be a challenge to make sure we have the right kinds of flowers, but its also the beauty of nature that you can go out there one morning and something is ready, whereas a couple of days before it didnt look like it would be.

But within these constraints not being able to just summon any flower to order, under the careful guidance of Marions planning, they are managing to cultivate and grow a wide range of flowers while remaining true to their Cornish, organic traditions.

They are trying to establish a range of perennials for flowers and seed heads and have planted Echinacea in white and pink, yarrow, penstemons, peonies, roses and honeysuckle, crocosmia, asters, astrantias, knautia and scabious in various forms.

Add to the list heliopsis, oriental poppies, salvias, shasta daisies, euphorbia, lavenders and rosemary among others, all cultivated with native broadleaved hedge around the perimeter and you get the picture of a business which is both a viable commercial enterprise and a sustainable one, with the added bonus of not being harmful indeed its proving to be beneficial to its surroundings.

And as the Christmas season approaches, thoughts turn to how the flowers produced by The Garden Gate Flower Company can be accommodated into wreaths and arrangements.

We love the artistry of making something special with our flowers and seeing the finished results and the feedback from customers so far has been wonderful, says Becca.

Indeed, to pass on their skills to others the pair are organising two wreath making courses, one on 6 December and an other, which is in aid of Breast Cancer Care on 14 December. Full details on the website.

The final word on their efforts rests with Marion as she attempts to explain the philosophy which guides them: For sustainability to work it has to offer more than just a clean conscience. Offering a beautiful alternative to the mainstream - a natural, looser look is becoming quite fashionable in terms of aesthetics as well as politics. Ethical and beautiful go hand in hand here and are neatly inseparable.

The Garden Gate Flower Company, Trezare Farm, Fowey, Cornwall, PL23 1JZ. Tel: 07427 686558

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