Scents and seasonality
You may have seen Gillyflower flowers before. I first spotted them on the tables in Here last year. A few weeks later, I remember seeing them in the barn at Frithsden Vineyard. They can also be found at The Rex. These are flowers that look as if they’ve just been picked from a cottage garden or even a hedgerow. They’re as far away from mass cultivation as you can get. And while home-grown blooms might exceed all expectations in terms of perfume and looking natural, if you’re partial to peonies in December, it may be a case of going further afield. The Gillyflower approach is akin to eating asparagus in spring, and strawberries in summer.
Bettina and Trevor Davies founded Gillyflower in Berkhamsted two years ago. They started out with a simple allotment, with plans to grow and sell vegetables. This blossomed into a more ambitious vision to grow flowers. They now have two fields: one in Wigginton and one just over the border in Chesham.
Setting up this floral business has been a labour of love. They both bloom with creativity from their fingers to their toes, as well as having green thumbs. Bettina worked as dancer and choreographer before studying horticulture at Capel Manor. Trevor still works as an actor and musician. He once appeared in Game of Thrones. When I meet them at their home in Berkhamsted, they tell me about how they worked to make the plots deer-proof (and you really can’t go far without seeing deer in the Chilterns), dug big stones out of the ground and forked in large quantities of horse manure.
Gillyflower is part of Flowers from the Farm, and at this time of year, Bettina tells me that she is busy plotting ahead. If you’re planning a wedding or a significant birthday or celebration, you can talk to her now about the kinds of flowers you would like. She says that people love being able to walk around the fields – when the flowers are in bloom – to point out which flowers they would like in their bouquets, or on the tables.
And we’re talking blowsy blooms such as peonies and roses, and cottage garden staples such as lupins, delphiniums and stocks. You’ll find parsley, snapdragons, cornflowers and sweet peas. You get the picture. Sounds just about right for all those hay bale, yurt, and naked sponge cake affairs.
Oh, another thing. If you’re into DIY, you can buy flowers by the bucketload and then go freestyle. Greenery is on tap (kind of), and later in the year, there are dahlias by the dozen. Before then, Bettina tells me that the roses have that old-fashioned rose perfume. You won’t find that in supermarket bunches.
As you might expect, the flowers are available from April to October. I’m looking forward to visiting this micro flower farm later in the year.