How did you get started with EDFF?
I was in recovery after a stressful career in the arts. I thought I could gently grow flowers, sort of gardening leave! I started growing flowers in a neighbour’s walled garden which I outgrew pretty quickly.
Where did the name come from?
My son is a chef and he was working at the The Ethicurean, south of Bristol. He spent much of his time talking to the gardener who grows vegetables in the walled garden that surrounds the restaurant. He came home one evening very excited that they had grown electric daisies, which turned out to be a culinary shazzam. It just seemed like a gift to have such a dynamic name for my future business.
What are you trying to change about the flower industry and why?
We grow all the flowers that we use in our work, on our 2.5 acre flower farm in Somerset. My mission is to grow flowers that have the smallest carbon footprint. We grow organically, without the use of pesticides and insecticides, so we really feel that our flowers help biodiversity and make the world a better place.
What are some of the challenges in providing UK-grown flowers?
The weather is a major challenge. Growing in the field is restricted to the months of May to October because of the cold wet windy winters we have in the UK. Flowers just get battered beyond being usable. We do have some poly tunnels, but not quite enough yet.
How are you creating a bee paradise at the farm?
We care about biodiversity as much as we do about our flowers. We grow far more blooms than we can ever use, so there is always food for foraging insects. The bees we have on the farm are wild. We put two hives up, one on the oak tree and another on a set of tripod legs, and we waited for the bees to find their new homes. We don’t take their honey, and we are not interested in ‘keeping’ bees. We are much more excited to provide them with the perfect habitat where they can get on with their lives unmolested.
The calendar came about as a vehicle to try and show my customers what flowers are available throughout the year. Our work is absolutely seasonal and we need to educate people about what is possible during each season - and just as importantly, what’s not available. So, no peonies in November, and we use a lot of twigs in January. I personally love working with the restricted palette of winter, but I crave the bounty of Summer by the end of Spring.
Tell us about the flower portrait calendars that we’re using for these beautiful bags.
My daughter is the photographer in the family and she’s been my secret weapon. Her photographs kickstarted Electric Daisy. She is fiercely creative and together we drove each other on to more and more exciting projects. The first calendar, which we made in 2016, consisted of portraits of men wearing floral crowns. The second, in 2017, was about women and their pets - for instance, Ms. October with her little parrot “Tomato.” And the third calendar, in 2018, was more freeform and abstract. The floral cloud on the clutch was the August extravaganza of flowers.
How did the new Hampstead shop come about?
I had a phone call out of the blue. I remember I was sitting on the compost toilet on the farm, and a total stranger asked me if I would consider opening a shop in London. This was back in February 2018. Of course I said no….
But the man, Dan Outram, chair of community group in Swains Lane, Hampstead, was very persuasive. He and the group wanted to steer the new development that was being built in their neighbourhood, They wanted a village type atmosphere for the new rank of shops. They wanted “a butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker” so to speak, and they wanted a florist. For some reason I was on their radar and they chose me.
What can Hampstead locals and visitors expect to discover at the shop?
Well, we have designed a shop that sort of brings the outside in. We are determined to mirror the look and feel of the flower farm. We are going to show Hampstead true floral seasonality. Our flowers will change week by week throughout the year and will be determined by what is ready and blooming on the farm.
Along with plants and flowers that we have grown, we will have carefully selected items that we actually use in our gardening or floristry. We will sell the best secateurs, floral frogs and watering cans - oh, and of course we have collaborated with friends using the amazing images we already have. Our range of Tovi Sorga bags will be among the gardening/ floristry/fashion crossover items.
We hear there's a book on the horizon – what’s it about and where can people find it?
QUICK FIRE ROUND...
Top 5 sources of inspiration?
- Gucci, I absolutely adore Alessandro’s eclectic style.
- Grayson Perry for his sass.
- Toast for their well-made thoughtful collections.
- Dan Pearson’s totally on point gardens.
- Feast Magazine in Saturday’s Guardian for the culinary nudge.
4 favourite flowers to work with?
Actually, I know it sounds cliched but I absolutely love roses. There are lots of processes that mustn’t be overlooked when you grow them, and then, when you finally get to harvest, they need more processing than any other flowers to condition them properly for using in floristry.
But maybe that’s why I love them so much, because you nurture the plants and develop a relationship with them, like your family. After lavishing them with so much attention you can’t fail but fall in love with the blooms.
Top 3 tunes to listen to while you’re working?
- Radio 3 Jazz Record Requests in the propagating tunnel.
- Silence in the garden.
- Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds or Chemical Brothers when I have to crank out the floristry.
2 Burning ambitions?
Well it’s hard to see beyond getting the EDFF farm and shop up and running, but if and when I get breathing space again I would like to go on a silent retreat. I’ve read about a monastery in the Italian Alps, and the idea of being absolutely on my own in silence is very appealing. Oh, and I want to learn to play to Ukulele obviously when I come back from the retreat! I want to play along to songs with my granddaughters.
1 Best mistake you ever made?
Giving birth to my son 19 months after his sister was born.
And finally... What’s in store for EDFF in 2020?