An interview with… Skylark Flower Company
I grew up loving flowers, surrounded by a beautiful garden full of seasonal colour. Life, love and weddings just wouldn’t be the same without them. So you can imagine the joy when I discovered that just 2 miles down the road was an artisan seasonal flower farm. After swooning over their blooms for several months I was excited to receive my first spring bouquet during lock down, delivered to my doorstep (social distanced of course) and I wasn’t disappointed, they brighten up my day and my kitchen!
After getting chatting on the door step, I knew I needed to know more, so interviewed the lovely Kathryn and Lorna to find out more about them, the flower farm, weddings and more!
Tell us a bit about you and the company
Hello, we are sisters, Kathryn and Lorna, who founded Skylark Flower Company two years ago when we decided that the time was right to merge our passions for conservation, growing and florals with our aspiration to use British grown seasonal flowers in our eco-friendly floral creations.
Based in Eastbury and East Garston, nestled in the Valley of the Racehorse, we are an artisan seasonal flower farm and eco-floristry business that embraces the beauty and seasonality of British grown flowers. We grow our cut flowers predominantly for our wedding floristry clients but we do also offer gift bouquets, natural burial arrangements and buckets of blooms to other florists and to the public.
With an inherent respect for the environment at our core, we work in harmony with the seasons to gently grow stunning blooms of unusual varieties, along with country garden favourites. We use environmentally friendly farming techniques that enable us to nurture our pollinators and we passionately believe in doing the right thing for nature – from avoiding single use plastic to dedicating slices of land to create habitats for the incumbent wildlife.
Describe your typical day
Gosh, it’s a bit of a cliché, but it’s different every day so we have to be quite flexible and ready for anything!
Our day usually starts early, always with a mug of tea and breakfast time with our dogs, followed by a check on the greenhouse and a wander around the beds to see how the plants are looking and what changes there have been over night. During the growing season, we have cycles of successional sowing of seeds, potting on, preparing beds, improving the soil, planting out and staking, watering, weeding, feeding and protecting crops. So every day involves one or more of these tasks, alongside which we plan which flowers need cut for our orders and events and we will cut either at dawn or at dusk for the following day.
Sometimes we have client consultations, which take place either in our workshop, at the client’s home or a meeting place of choice, and at the moment particularly, via Zoom or telephone. If we have arrangements to make we will usually make those up in the morning and deliver in the afternoon, by which time it is always lovely to have a chat with the recipients and have a break from the field or the workshop. We try to keep on top of e-mails and our admin tasks at various points through the day, but to be honest, this usually gets done late in the evening with a well-earned glass of wine before bed beckons and we do it all over again – our heaven!
What made you want to be part of the industry?
I always used to be in awe of the huge floral arrangements I used to see in hotels and restaurants in London and had a fascination and curious mind as to how they were put together – the ‘mechanics’ behind the beauty. Now I know those methods, I get a real buzz when I have finished a beautiful arrangement for a wedding and often still feel ‘Wow, I can’t believe that I have created that!’
I simply love flowers and the language of flowers, and weddings are one of the most joyous days in a family’s life so it is an honour to be part of that. We often witness the emotion that flowers can trigger on the wedding day, whether that is through the tears of the mother-of-the-bride as she sees her daughter take hold of her bouquet, or the when the bride and guests see the venue decorated for the first time. Lorna
Taking tiny seeds or propagating plants and nurturing them to a stage where they are producing fantastic healthy blooms and foliage to then take centre stage in amazing floral wedding décor is quite a feeling! As a wildlife biologist, I was also dismayed when I learned of the cost that imported blooms have to the environment. I don’t think that it is well know that around 90% of flowers sold to florists, supermarkets and wholesalers are imported each year from Holland, Kenya and other overseas countries such as Ecuador, Colombia and even Ethiopia. They may have been cut weeks before they land in the UK, and many will have been chemically treated to withstand the rigours of international shipping, mass production and shelf life. Many as you can imagine are destined for the wedding industry.
In contrast, we cut and condition our flowers 24hrs before they are needed – so are as fresh as you can possibly get and in harmony with the seasons. We also farm and grow based on organic principles so our flowers are not treated with chemicals or harmful pesticides and as they are typically used locally there are few road miles and zero air miles! We knew that there was an increasing place in the wedding industry for flowers were importance was placed on provenance and sustainability, so we really wanted to appeal to those couples as well as those that simply love the beauty of seasonal scented blooms. Kathryn
Are there any particular floral trends for wedding flowers this year?
We think that meadow or garden style, natural and nostalgic flowers continue to be very on trend this year. Couples seem to love the wild and whimsical look rather than a tightly curated one, particularly incorporating British native foliage and hedgerow style ingredients.
There is an increasing trend for families to be involved in the decoration of churches and venues as a fun part of the build up to the wedding day, so the ‘DIY’ flowers offering is more in demand year on year.
Also, using plants as well as cut flowers in wedding decorations as these can be given to guests or planted into gardens after the event, for example pots of herbs, bulbs, or even lovely big trees – another more ‘sustainable’ approach to wedding flowers.
How do you decide what to grow?
A combination of things really, we grow with our clients’ needs and requests in mind, we indulge ourselves by choosing a few of our own favourites and then we also have to consider our soil conditions and grow what we know will thrive.
For weddings we will grow flower varieties mainly in the calmer, elegant colours associated with weddings – peaches, corals, pinks, whites and greens. Many brides love the vintage look so the coppers and dusky tones are mixed in too. We also try to think of height and shape of flowers for adding interest and scent is hugely important for British growers as often this is what is lacking from imported flowers – and how often is the first thing you do when you receive a bunch of flowers to place your nose in them to breathe in the scent!
Our biggest specialty crop are our dahlias and they are spectacular in the jewel colour palette, so coupled with their diversity in size and texture, we love it when we get the opportunity to showcase them at their best when a bride chooses a pop of colour in her arrangements.
What’s your favourite flower – both year-round and currently in bloom?
I am afraid that my favourites change regularly but most recently the specialty tulips have been exceptionally spectacular. I’m really into the detail of flowers – so flowers such as Astrantia and hellebores always catch my eye. I do admit that I love the humble daffodil – but there are so many different varieties that I couldn’t choose just one, although it would have to be scented, and the same goes for towards the end of the season with the dahlias (which is another reason we grow so many – we love them all!) and hydrangeas. Kathryn
This is the hardest question ever! If pushed, my absolute favourites are peonies and English scented roses, although I also love the delicate beauty of the eucharis lily (which are really hard to grow but I am trying to succeed with my first few plants this year). My current in bloom favourite is ‘Vibernum opulus’ or the guelder rose as it is commonly known. It really lifts my spirits with its soft lime to white ‘clouds’ of flowers that float above lime green leaves. Lorna
Are flowers available all year round?
As seasonal flower farmers, our flowers are typically available from late March through to end of October, sometimes November depending on the weather. To fill the wintery months we use flowers that we have grown and then dried over summer and autumn. There’s also a lot of gorgeous winter foliage and berries around to help with arrangements during the leaner floral months, especially at Christmas when we make a lot of wreaths and host wreath making workshops.
We love to be able to support other British growers too if we ever need to supplement our own flower stocks through the year. There are larger British flower farmers in different parts of the country that can supply us with flowers all year round should we need, for example, the Cornish climate enables earlier seasonal crops than we can produce here.
What is the most unusual floral request to date?
My most memorable request, which still makes me smile when I think about it, was for a wedding being held in the grounds of Chester Zoo some years ago. The champagne reception was to be held in one of the beautiful glass houses in the grounds, which had at it’s centre a small ‘leaf-cutter’ ant colony surrounded by a moat with two little islands connected by a tree branch bridge. I was asked to supply a basket full of rose petals that the leaf cutter ants would carry from one island to the other, across the ‘bridge’, during the drinks reception. The guests were apparently mesmerised by this natural spectacle as they toasted the bride and groom and it sounded just magical! Lorna
Do you offer DIY flowers for weddings? If so, what’s the process?
Yes we do! As flower farmer florists, this is what makes us unique and DIY weddings are becoming more and more popular.
We offer three options:
1. ‘Style your Own’ wedding flowers: the client buys seasonal blooms from us in carefully curated buckets and then arranges all of the flowers for their wedding.
2. ‘Bouquets & Buckets’: led by the clients wishes, we take care of the more challenging arrangements, such as the bridal bouquets, boutonnieres or larger installations and family and friends decorate all other areas for the wedding using our curated buckets of blooms.
3. Bespoke Wedding Flower Styling: we work with the bride and groom to design and install all of the flower arrangements for the wedding day, using our gorgeous seasonal blooms.
We encourage people to contact us directly to have a chat with us about what they are thinking. There are so many ways of us helping couples with DIY flowers and we absolutely love the flexibility and personal touch that we can offer.
What advice would you offer for couples planning their florals for their wedding?
As a good starting point, we advise our couples to decide what is the ‘feel’ of the wedding and the ‘ambience’ that they are hoping to create through the style of the flowers and decorations. Choose colours and varieties of flowers that they are drawn to or hold a particular place in their heart then we can advise on whether they are in season around the wedding date or suggest close alternatives. Looking for inspiration on social media, pinterest, in magazines and books is a brilliant way to get ideas for what they like, and just as importantly, what they don’t like.
If they are working within a budget, try to prioritise the most important floral elements to them i.e. the ‘must haves’, be it a floral arch at the church entrance or a specific arrangement in a marquee or barn. Next list their ‘nice to haves’ for other arrangements or styling elements if budget allows. It’s so easy with flowers to get carried away but if compromises do have to be made this doesn’t mean their wedding flowers will be any less amazing or memorable – it often works better to have a smaller number of high impact arrangements rather than flowers everywhere!
Finally, trust us. Your florist is there to take the stress away during the build up to your wedding and to provide a really pleasurable experience, so relax and enjoy the whole flowery journey.
Do you run workshops? If so, what’s the next one and how can people find out about them?
We love hosting workshops and offer several options throughout the year, such as seasonal wreath making, growing workshops and teaching for our ‘DIY wedding flowers’ were perhaps the bride and a couple of key members of the bridal party wish to practice how to make their arrangements. We also do 1:1 workshops on professional floristry techniques for those that want to take their learning to the next level.
We typically advertise locally or on Facebook and Instagram, but this year we hope to have our website up and running and we will post information about forthcoming workshops throughout the year. Unfortunately, our workshop schedule has been suspended in 2020 due to Covid-19 restrictions but once the government changes its advice for this type of activity we will publish a new schedule.
Are people able to come and visit?
Visits to see our flowers are currently by appointment only as we grow in more than one area and have to arrange appropriate site access. We often send our brides photos and video updates of their flowers in bloom near the time of their wedding, which can be a lovely way of building up to the big day if they can’t visit.
What’s your favourite movie and how often do you watch it?
Haha. That’s like asking what is your favourite flower! It changes all the time although I loved ‘A Quiet Place’ recently but have only seen it twice and I’m waiting for the sequel. The acting was superb. Kathryn
Very hard to answer! I love films and I love Al Pacino, so ‘Carlito’s Way’ and ‘The Godfather’ are up there… but to lift my spirits it has to be ‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona’ or ‘Dirty Dancing’ – I’ve lost count of the number of times I have watched this whilst doing my ironing! Lorna
How can people find out more about what you do?