Garden of the month: Blooming Green in Linton
PUBLISHED: 17:42 27 July 2014
Pick your own bouquet at this enchanting and eco-friendly flower farm and florist
Seven years ago first cousins, Jen Stuart-Smith and Bek Bibby, both daughters of Kent farmers, began their Blooming Green cutting garden in the middle of their family fruit farm in Linton, near Maidstone.
“I have been flower arranging since the age of 12 when my father bet me £5 that I wouldn’t win a flower arranging competition at the local garden show. I won best in show and the £5!” recalls Jen.
Passion ignited she went on to arranging flowers for the church, weddings, funerals and events, at the same time pursuing a journalistic career, which includes writing for The Times.
Then 10 years ago Jen had the of starting a floristry business that would allow her to move back to the family farm.
With best friend and cousin Bek, who has a background in horticulture and a degree in Environmental Biology, the pair took some floristry courses at Hadlow College. Jen further honed her knowledge with an RHS Certificate in Horticulture, in readiness for the new partnership.
Inspiration for the direction they would take came from Sarah Raven’s books and from the interest they noticed for locally grown seasonal flowers.
After grubbing up a worn-out Bramley orchard plot on the farm, the soil was ploughed, enriched, and raised beds were put in and covered with woven weed-suppressing fabric that allowed rain but no light to penetrate, preparing the soil for organic gardening.
An annual application of compost continues the feeding of the soil. To protect the exposed site the pair planted some native birch, willow and rowan; then the task began of selecting what to grow.
“I had a list of about 500 plants and knew we wanted to include native species for wildlife,” adds Bek.
What sets Blooming Green apart from other cutting gardens is the diversity of flower and foliage grown in a naturalistic style that epitomises their style.
From dazzling dahlias and crocosmia to quaking grass and eucalyptus foliage, the scene is quite mesmerising.
“We use such a wide range of often unusual flowers that our bouquets and arrangements have a more country garden, field-side look than anything you could construct using conventional wholesale flowers,” says Jen.
“We grow all our flowers ourselves and we also still appear to be the only people in the country offering PYO wedding flowers and PYO flowers by the bucket.”
From April to October the field offers glorious flowers and foliage, along with experimental seed heads and grasses.
“We are always experimenting with new flowers as well as building on favourites. We are starting to build a couple of peony beds and our big project this year has been planting 500 rose plants, outside our plot, which we will be growing for their gorgeous orangery red hips,” says Jen.
Working part-time, Jen juggling her writing and Bek working at the High Weald Unit, this effervescent pair are on the plot Wednesday to Friday each week, open for pick-your-own days and group visits, run flower growing and arranging courses on site as well as their bespoke floristry wedding service and filling online orders.
Each Friday afternoon, July to October, you can come along between 12 and 5pm, and fill a container as full as you like for £10, or put 6 September in your diary for their autumn open day when you can pick your own, eat apples and watch demos.
“The flowers themselves make the special atmosphere of our open days, plus it is always a relaxed, unpretentious affair and a great outing for families. Children run free on the flower plot, and older family members can relax by the flower shed with a cup of tea and a piece of cake.
“I’m not sure what the magic ingredient is, but people seem to keep on coming back – and staying for much longer then they have planned!” laughs Jen. n
GET IN TOUCH
Blooming Green, Loddington Farm
Linton, nr Maidstone ME17 4AG
6 September: Autumn open day, 10am-4pm
4 October: Grow your own cut-flower course, book at: www.bloominggreenflowers.co.uk