The flowers of the forests and the fields and the hills

I’m grateful to my sister for putting me on to an episode of the BBC programme called “The Farmers’ Country Showdown”; it was shown on 9 January and is entitled “Flowers”, with the wonderful Bill Paterson as the narrator.

One of the flower growers featured is Shelley Sishton who, with her husband Ian, runs Orchard Oast Flower Farm in Kent.  They’re both ex-advertising executives and this was their first time exhibiting at the Kent County Show, displaying their own flowers all grown from seed and without pesticides.  They also make flower essences which Shelley credits with curing her chronic headaches.

Bill Paterson informs us in the programme that only 10% of the flowers we buy are grown in Britain  so the rest must come in from abroad, many being flown in from countries where they’ve been skooshed with chemicals which the workers are forced to inhale.

There are a few flower farms in Scotland: Mayfield Flowers in Stewarton, Scottish Cut Flowers in Errol, Cloudberry Flowers in Peebles, Country Garden Company in Cupar and Mill Pond Flower Farm in Foulden, near Eyemouth to name a few of them.  A few years ago, I spent a day at Mayfield Flowers; we picked from their garden and were taught how to make a tied bunch – I really struggled with this, but eventually got it standing upright on the table which is the mark of success.  I still think that having a third hand would be ideal, though we were shown how one of the secrets was to pre-cut and have handy the bit of string we were going to bind it with.

I imagine the climate in Kent is maybe more conducive to flower-growing but what flowers need in the main are mild temperatures with enough rain and sun and we do have these, almost all of the time. The businesses listed above are managing to grow local flowers in Scotland, so wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had more of a choice in our shops and supermarkets?  Obviously local flowers are fresher so would last longer in their season; if they’re organic that’s another selling point; there’d be a wider choice compared with the predictability of what’s on offer now.

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Some wildflowers growing in Scotland

I get so upset with some shops where they have their flowers in a couple of inches of very smelly water or sometimes no water at all – what a waste there must be!  I’ve drawn the attention of various managers of M & S and Morrisons to these situations and they always promise that they’ll see to it immediately but they really don’t care.  Another bugbear is dried-out plants on display which have had the merest spray of water which never goes down to their roots.

In the summertime, I’ve seen a few bunches of British-grown flowers in shops but nothing like the wildflowers on sale in a wholefoods shop in Austin, Texas.  In and around Austin too, they’ve sown the centres and the sides of their freeways with wildflowers and don’t mow until the flowers have set their seeds.  The leading light behind this was Lady Bird Johnson, ex-First Lady, and it was part of her husband’s Highway Beautification Act which became law in 1965.

How we could do with some of that in Scotland! The roundabout at the west end of Dunbar had wild flowers on it last summer and they’d sown the nearby verges too.  I’ve seen others planted with poppies in East Dunbartonshire so I wish all the other Scottish councils would take to this idea.  Or could we have a government minister in charge of beautification?

In 2015, after the General Election, I emailed my new MP to suggest that his party give up wearing their large, imported and artificial-looking white rose for a small locally-grown one and I supplied the names of a few growers for passing on to his leaders.  I also said I thought it would be more in keeping with MacDiarmid’s poem about “the little white rose of Scotland”.  To give him his due, he emailed straight back to say he agreed.  Unfortunately, he lost his seat in 2017 and his successor is quite a different sort so maybe I should take it up at a national level.

At weddings and at funerals, wild or garden flowers and local foliage make the day, I think, more individual and personal and meaningful.  A couple of years ago, I noticed a funeral notice in a newspaper in which the family asked for “small bunches of garden flowers” instead of fancy florists’ tributes and I thought what a good idea that was and then, that’s what I want.  If I go in a November, then a few trails of ivy will do me just fine.

Last summer, when we were in the North, I was trying to teach Rama the names of some trees and flowers but I have to say his recall from day to day was not great.  After a few days of this torment, he burst out with a heartfelt: “I bet Kieran Tierney doesn’t know the names of all these flowers”.  I laughed and laughed and then suggested that Brendon Rogers could make the whole team learn while they’re on a long bus journey, though unfortunately they’re not at the moment travelling up to Inverness or to Dingwall.  He could pass out pictures and then there could be a prize for the first one to spot a foxglove or a harebell or some meadowsweet.  It would need to be on the way to Aberdeen or Dundee or Perth though.

Later on, I learned to my horror that Kieran Tierney has never made a cup of tea or his own bed but my thoughts on The Youth of Today will need to wait for another time.

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Dog rose in a Sutherland wood
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2 thoughts on “The flowers of the forests and the fields and the hills

  1. Pingback: I would have given you flowers – Splendid, Bella!

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