Stormy weather, Valentine’s hearts and an education.

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It seems that stormy weather has been unconfined this week – outside my window and even on my PC. As a teacher I’m all too aware that children are whipped up to a frenzy by high winds and it would seem that the same is true for parts of the Twitter community, much of it centering on this ‘bouquet’ – for sale to you at £195 (including vase).

For those of you who don’t know, it is this year’s ‘ultimate’ Valentine’s Day bouquet from big business Interflora in collaboration with the RHS. Every flower was chosen because of its symbolism. A flowery expression of love. Yet it has whipped up members of the relatively small but passionate and vocal British flower growing industry because of its lack of seasonality and ‘Britishness’, something which they would like the RHS to take on board.

A little investigation reveals that, in fact, the RHS has taken seasonality and ‘Britishness’ on board by linking with Tregothnan, the ancient Cornish estate which takes its sustainable credentials seriously and supplies beautiful, seasonal cut flowers. It’s just that the RHS are not exclusively promoting British-grown, cut flowers.

Whatever your views on the aesthetic beauty (or lack of it) of the Interflora bouquet, its homage to the language of flowers, the tightrope that charities have to walk between awareness raising and fundraising (often by their links with big business) and the need for all businesses (multi national and artisan) to make money, it has certainly caused a bit of a stir. It has also confirmed my long-held feeling that the key to changing people’s attitudes about local, seasonal produce and getting them to see things from your point of view – even if they still don’t agree with it – is education.

The day before this hit the headlines I had been discussing the very topic of seasonality and flower symbolism with my Year 5 gardening class. (The ones who are growing a cutting patch.) We are mid preparation for a poppy meadow in school to commemorate the start of the Great War. We also plan to sell poppy seedballs and instructions to members of the school community to sow in their gardens at home.

Amidst the designing of seed packets, the writing of sowing instructions, the construction of signs to mark the area where the meadow will grow and posters to sell our poppy packets, we discussed the irony that a flower which means so much on November 11th is not in bloom in Britain on that day. After some debate about the problems of artificial poppies (all that paper and plastic weighed up against the need to sell for fundraising) and importing poppies from warmer climes (air miles and fuel versus work for those involved in their growth and the logistics of sending them here), the children decided that planting a modest meadow to bloom year after year was the very best kind of commemoration even if it looks ‘pretty uncool’ in November. “We could take photos”, someone suggested.

I had no need to take part in the debate!

At this point I’m reminded of that ancient Chinese saying that is wheeled out on every teacher training course in the land.

Tell me, I’ll forget.

Show me, I’ll remember.

Involve me, I’ll understand.

I think our flower growing project in schools is going some way towards ensuring that our young people understand the issues surrounding seasonal, home-grown flowers. Not only will they know how to grow them, but they can make informed choices about what to buy in the future and, as they are eco-aware children, you can be sure that their parents will be told all about it too.

And where Valentine’s bouquets are concerned…..well, I am a girl with simple but elegant taste; the kind of girl who would be delighted were my husband to arrive home clutching either of these next Friday.

Tregothnan hearta favourite splash of scalet from Tregothnan

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daffs to melt a Welsh girl’s heart from Sara Willman

All you need is love…. and some seasonal foliage

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Today’s blog is brought to you amidst a flurry of Christmas preparations. I still haven’t done much but at least the cards and letters are written and in the post, the American family have a sack of parcels on the way to them and a wreath had been put up on the front door. Lovely isn’t it. Made for us by my special flower farming chum Sara Willman.

The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed the use of the word ‘had’. We put it up on Friday evening and at precisely 8.25pm last night someone snipped the cord from which it was suspended and made off with it. The youngest member of the household saw it happen but when we investigated, the elderly couple getting into their car outside had seen nothing and the culprit was long gone.

Our comfort is that it was made for us with love and that the person who took it needed it more than us. We’ll look upon it as a surprise Christmas gift from us to whoever has it now. And if it makes their season brighter we’ve got somewhere towards what Christmas is all about.

The giving of gifts of love was on the minds of the flowery folk of Twitter this week. More specifically Valentine’s Day. Yes, flower growers everywhere like to plan ahead.

Here’s the summary from Sara Davison….

Specifically (we discussed) what #britishflowers alternatives could be promoted instead of the ubiquitous red roses, which whilst lovely when home grown and scented (I’m thinking David Austin’s William Shakespeare 2000 or  Munstead Wood) are in reality poor unperfumed jet-lagged things that have been flown hundreds of miles to represent love in the UK in February!

  • Anemones were first up – we did look up their flowery ‘meaning’ in the language of flowers – it wasn’t romantic, and so after a bit of a discussion we decided that as much of the ‘meaning of flowers’ was a Victorian marketing ploy anyway they all deserved new interpretations for the 21st century.  And let’s face it, anemones are very seasonal for February, not to mention totally stunning.
  • Tulips
  • Ranunculus
  • Narcissi
  • A UK grown rose plant for the receiver to grow in their garden – excellent idea and long lasting too.
  • Hellebores
  • Dainty bulbs planted in pretty vintage teacups, with spoons with the flowers’ meaning stamped on them – lovely photo from @catkinflowers
  • A suggestion that the ‘new Valentine colour’ should be a rich purple
  • Heart shaped woven wreaths
  • Hyacinths, pussy willow, viburnum and blackthorn make a lovely bouquet
  • Miniature bulbs planted in heart-shaped planters
  • Snowdrops
  • Violets
  • Myrtle proved very popular – although not flowering in February the dark green glossy leaves have the scent – it just needs a sheltered spot for protection.

Threaded through the conversation was the search for a strapline we could all use – along the ‘grownnotflown’ idea, but specifically linked to #britishflowers for Valentine’s day – any ideas, do please put them forward as we’re still looking.

There’s plenty of time to think about how you might support local, seasonal flowers for Valentine’s Day. By then I may have some flowery news of my own.

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