Looking back at 2023

The year 2023 has been my second of properly growing flowers for sale, and my first full year at the new flower farm at Child’s Court Farm on Ashampstead Common. Therefore, I thought it would be a good idea to make the most of this wonderfully quiet time between Christmas and New Year, to take stock of what went well, and what could be improved going forward. Life is a journey, and it is the lessons learned along the way that make it interesting!



This was my first year providing flowers ‘properly’ for weddings - and by that I mean for strangers that were not friends, or family, or friends-of-friends. I have to admit, I had so many sleepless nights before the first wedding in May, well a few sleepless nights before all of them really, but by the end of the day once the flowers were all delivered in fine fettle, the buzz was amazing! I really enjoyed creating something beautiful, varied and wonderfully scented for each of my brides (and their grooms). It was a real honour to be permitted to take part in their special day.
The wedding flowers offered this year were a variety of Arranger's Buckets for DIY brides, as well as bouquets and buttonholes, just table flowers, or bouquets, buttonholes, corsages, table centrepieces and flower crowns and I was so pleased to receive glowing feedback from my lovely couples and their families. I certainly have caught wedding fever and look forward to flowering many more over the coming season in 2024. If you are planning a wedding, let me know if you would like to discuss your flowery requirements here!
In addition to weddings, this year saw the start of my floral subscription service, whereby clients received a seasonal bouquet every week/month between April to October, delivered right to their door. This was brilliant and not only did the steady requirement of flowers and income help me from a business standpoint (thank you very much!), it was great getting to know some of my subscribers as I made deliveries every week. Flower farming and floristry can sometimes be quite a lonely task, so getting feedback and having a general chat with my clients really brightens up my week! 
I will be providing subscriptions again this year but this time all year round. Whilst my fresh flowers will run mostly between April-October as before, I will provide dried flower bouquets, potted bulbs and fresh spring bulbs during the cooler months (Nov-Mar). I am also going to be offering 1 month subscriptions for weekly or fortnightly delivery, so if you would like to give a subscription to a loved one, but the budget cannot quite reach the 3 or 6 month options, this is a great option to go for.
Of course, no farming year would be real if it was all joy and happiness and rainbows all of the time - I have had my challenges too. The first, best and biggest challenge of all has been juggling my time between returning to my ‘proper’ (less exciting) work from maternity leave, growing the flower farm and most importantly, raising my beautiful, excitable and downright cheeky 1 year old daughter. As a generally very impatient person, growing flowers for a living already challenges this character trait as I practise the art of patience, watching my seedlings and young shrub grow into something that I one day can harvest from, but looking out of the window and knowing I have 10,000 jobs to do on the farm but also need and want to be spending time with my daughter has been a particular struggle. Hopefully that doesn’t make me a terrible mother - I think it just makes me who I am, always wanting to do everything, and terrible at asking for help. I have not even mentioned the poor horse that is getting flabbier by the day as I struggle to find time to ride as much as I want and should!
So, with the limited time I have had to prioritise my time and jobs - my husband and I often saw one another just briefly during the summer months as we passed in the driveway - him returning from work and me scarpering to the flower field for the evening, only returning long after dark. Always at the top of the priority list was my clients and ensuring that they received the best products, even if the patch of weeds was growing rapidly out of control in the corner! So not many biennials got planted in the summer, the hardy annuals were sown very late and so still reside in the greenhouse, and I have not even begun to think about my seed or dahlia purchases for next year - BUT, my customers were happy, I am happy, and most importantly, my family is happy, so on we go!
I didn’t want to end this on a downer, so I thought I would leave my reflections on the last two months until last. The latter half of the year has been, as above, filled with juggling jobs, but has been super successful too. I spent November digging up my dahlias and drying them out well before the wet/frosts kicked in (possibly too early, but having lost most of my stock last year to frost, and then loads this year to leafy gall, I didn’t want to take any chances), and also foraging for evergreen foliage and berries for my winter wreaths (workshops and bespoke made-to-order wreaths alike). 
Living right on the Common, and having Commoner’s rights to forage as a result, Flo and I would head out with our three dogs on our daily bimble armed with secateurs, cleaning spray and at least 3 tote bags, collecting windfall pines, pine cones, holly berries and yew or cypress fir along the way. These foraging forays were essential to provide my first Christmas Wreath workshops with an abundance of material to create beautifully textured, colourful and individual wreaths. 
I hosted three workshops in total this year, two in Pangbourne during the evening, and one at the Village Hall in local Ashampstead. All were excellent fun with some brilliant ladies who evidently had been harbouring some previously untapped talents for foliage wreath design - they were stunning! We enjoyed two hours of creating and chatter, along with mince pies, festive tunes and a mug of warming (non-alcoholic) mulled wine, and everyone left with a large wreath created on a home-grown and weaved willow base, finished with a stunning hand-dyed velvet ribbon (sadly the ribbons were not made by me, but this is a skill that I want to learn, so watch this space!). Thanks to all of the 23 ladies that joined me this year - it was a blast and certainly to be repeated next year. Perhaps I will put on some other workshops during the year - do let me know if you are interested in learning any flower-farming/floristry skills and I will see what I can do!
Right, I think that is a lot of reflection and updating for now. I should really be at the farm, but the weather outside is truly frightful, so I thought I would chat to you lovely lot instead! As always, I will endeavour to write more often - perhaps the third time I promise this it will stick!?
I hope you have had a wonderful Christmas, and have a great New Year and year to come.
Best wishes,
Harry x

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