The reality of flower farming and the unpredictability of Mother Nature
Updated: Jul 19
I hope you are all keeping safe (and sane) during this hot weather the UK is experiencing at the moment. Our thoughts and prayers are also with our European friends in Germany and Belgium whose lives have been devastated by the recent flooding.
As I write this on a hot and balmy Sunday evening, it is 30 degrees Centigrade in our fields. The sun is beating down and according to the Met Office the UV levels are the highest that they can be in the UK. Ten days ago we had heavy rain and cool (below average) temperatures. Our roses have gone from being slow to bloom to full on flower flower flower in a matter of days. We are at the mercy of Mother Nature and our roses are doing what nature intends.
In this time of consumerism, imported flowers and general disconnect from the seasons it is hard for most to understand the limitations and difficulties in growing Garden Roses the old fashioned way, in tune with the seasons.
Our season is roughly 20 weeks and the toll of farming is dear both physically and emotionally. We are constantly battling against nature and the elements, not to mention fighting and doing our best to prevent pests and disease during our growing season. We grow our roses based on a combination of good soil health, strong healthy plants and lots and lots of TLC. It is back breaking work in all weathers and we love it.
Growing flowers commercially is also much more complicated than people think. If we're running short of a variety we can't just pop out to the fields and pick more. The stems/buds don't just magically appear overnight like food on supermarket shelves. Also most people think rose farming is like living in the front cover of some glossy magazine - the reality is far from that.
Unlike countries such as Columbia, Kenya and other equatorial countries where most of the large Rose growers are based we do not have 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours night each and every day, a consistent temperature range and a huge workforce. Our light levels change daily, summertime temperatures can be anything from 8 degrees to over 30 degrees Centigrade and we have a small but dedicated workforce who work 12+ hours a day 6 days a week during the main growing season.
The roses grown by the commercial breeders are specifically bred to have certain traits. Vase life is one of them. It has to be. Roses are flown all over the world and it all takes time. Every hour in transit or sat at customs decreases the vase life for the consumer. To have a good vase life some traits have to be bred out of the plants, fragrance is usually one of them. The scent or perfume of flowers acts a stimulus for the flowers to open so it is bred out.
Contrary to almost all large scale commercial growers who cut stems just as the bud forms, then continue to grow the stem in a chemical solution to increase vase life of the flower; each and every one of our flowers are cut from the plant and is shipped to our customers within 36 hours.
All our roses grow in the soil, the way nature intended. The rose varieties we grow are true garden (or heirloom) roses, the sort of plants that people actually grow in their gardens. The difference being - we have hundreds and hundreds of plants and a lot of different varieties. Each variety flowers differently and at different times. The colour of each variety also changes as the season progresses. So what looks like a White rose in May at the start of the season will look like a White rose with a pink/peach/yellow tinge as the months progress. This is all down to Mother Nature - the changes in daylight hours, the intensity of sunlight, the temperature, humidity and rainfall are all influencing factors on how the roses grow.
The scent will still be amazing but it is like trying to predict lottery numbers. Each bloom we grow is unique and we think that's the beauty of what we do.
Despite being fixated by the long range weather forecast, planning ahead and doing our best to keep the plants flowering throughout the season, we sometimes get a 'curve ball' from Mother Nature just as we have in the last fortnight with a temperature swing of 20 degrees, heavy rain to lack of rainfall, low light to super strong light levels.
So yes, sometimes some of our roses won't be available, sometimes Mother Nature will throw an unexpected wobbly and we won't have any roses available for a week or two during the season. It's just how it goes.
Sometimes we get it wrong and sometimes we get it right. But that's part and parcel of farming in general and most definitely flower farming.
Working with the seasons and on the land there is one thing that is certain.... Mother Nature will always be boss no matter how hard you try otherwise.