You might think of flower farmers as folk who tend to stay put—people who are rooted to a particular plot of land. Not so for everyone. British flower farmers often follow a southwest trajectory for more sun, more rain, a better life. Benjamin Ranyard of Higgledy Garden made that journey in a trailer and he has parked it in a glorious spot, indefinitely. From there, he's happy to mail you his flower seeds.
We follow Ben down to Cornwall and consider moving into his trailer:
Photographs by Benjamin Ranyard.
Above: Any dawn risers who tweet will know that gardening people are unnaturally cheerful in the morning. People have a habit of tweeting pictures of flowers they have grown or seed packets they are about to sow, and Higgledy Garden features heavily in these communiqués. It's part of being in a friendly, informal group: "I think people really like the idea of dealing with a micro company," says Ben. "They can contact me through Twitter whenever they have questions. Which they do all the time." Ben can be found @higgledygarden.
For Ben's tips on how to sow cutting flowers, see below.
Above: The Higgledy cutting garden in July.
Ben hooked up his trailer in January of this year and started from scratch in England's southwest tip, near St Agnes in Cornwall. But the first field he rented, arranged by phone, was wind-scorched "and so acid it almost melted my boots." Twitter to the rescue.
"A Twitter chum and his wife suggested I grow on one of their fields. It has worked well for us both, and they get as many flowers as they want. They are both into wildlife conservation and my flowers bring in lots of bees and other pollinators to their farm. So everyone's happy."
Higgledy Garden ships seeds to the EU, the US, and Canada. The Complete Cut Flower Collection is available for £19.50 for 20 packets of seeds. Free postage for this in the UK.
Above: In the beginning. One of Ben's skills is in making everything look easy, and fun. The regularly updated blog on his website is full of instructions, but they avoid making you feel guilty for all the things you haven't done, as some garden writing can. His observations make you want to try growing everything. On a white carnation he has been trialing, called 'Sensation':
"The flowers themselves have a very Higgledy vibe about them: scruffy in a cool way. The undone bow-tie look, as you leave the casino with Audrey Hepburn... and her mate. You know the sort of thing."
Above: Yellow craspadia. Ben takes quite a relaxed attitude towards flower arranging. If the petals drop, then go out and pick some more: "If you want flowers to last two weeks then you’ll have to go to a supermarket and buy ones that have been sprayed to hell and back and look like a floral version of an Egyptian mummy."
Above: How was the transition of the business from Cambridgeshire to Cornwall, I wonder: "It couldn't have been easier," says Ben. "I run the whole business through mobile Internet from the caravan. The only thing that has changed is the view from the window."
Above: A little farther along the coast—the beach at St Agnes, Cornwall—is the real reason for Ben's relocation.
Above: Calendula 'Indian Prince,' car bonnet.
Benjamin Ranyard's Incredibly Simple Sowing Calendar for Hardy Annual Cut Flowers:
- Make an autumn sowing of hardy annual seeds for good, strong, and early plants next spring. Sow these on the Autumn Equinox (September 22).
- Make another sowing in spring, to extend the flowering season. Sow them on the Spring Equinox (March 22).
- Sow biennials on the Summer Solstice (June 21).
- This marks the seasons but is not intended to be any more meaningful, insists Ben. They are just easy dates to remember. Notable exception: Sweet peas, sown in October.
Love British flowers as well as British seeds? See Let's Get #britishflowers Trending.