We love to talk about our sensational students, and in celebration of British Flowers Week (19-25 June #britishflowersweek) we’re shining the spotlight on British cut flower grower and current Academy Level 3 student, Anna Brian.
Anna lives in Worcestershire and is a supreme multi-tasker! Her flower farm produces over 30 types of cut flowers for farm gate sales, DIY flower buckets and trade sales and Anna also designs flowers for weddings, local bouquet delivery, funerals. What’s more, she has a related ‘day job’ selling seeds for countryside stewardship projects.
Anna took a few moments out of her busy schedule to tell us about her business and floristry studies with the Academy…
How did you first become a cut flower grower?
I’ve always grown cut flowers and sold them in jam jars at the end of our farm drive from a young age – thanks to my gran who started if off as a small hobby!
We used to grow mostly dried flowers – statice, helichrysum, teasels and grasses. And it’s nearly done a full circle – we’re continuing growing them today as well as cosmos, cornflowers, sunflowers, dahlias and so on, inspired by Sarah Raven, who’s done a world of good for British cut flower growing.
Why did you feel the need to train in floristry?
I trained quite some time ago to get the basic Level 2 certificate at my local college, and I joined the Academy to up my game. I wanted to improve my skills to be one step ahead of other growers, if that makes sense. It’s been so good in every aspect, I’m enjoying it so much… and Julie’s really good. It’s opened my eyes to new skills, new ideas, new styles and it’s given me so much to think about. It’s a lovely weekend away every month!
It’s been a while since I did Level 2, and you can get set in your ways and routines. You learn a lot too from watching the other students. Julie gives us a design brief for the weekend and teaches us the essential techniques, and everybody’s interprets it in a different way. You learn 10 different ways of using the same technique.
Why did you choose the British Academy of Floral Art?
I have a day job as well at the moment. It’s interesting and fairly linked, so quite useful, but it means I can’t make a Wednesday class work for me at my local college.
I couldn’t work out how to study around my working life, but then I met the Academy team at BFA FleurEx and found out about their Level 3 Weekend course option. I live in Worcestershire, so it is a journey, but I stay with a friend in Exeter for a weekend once a month while I’m at the Academy. I love it. I’m so chuffed I’m doing it!
I’m quite keen to do Level 4 – and I like the idea that I could do the Academy Masters Level 4 without the theory paperwork you need for City & Guilds – but I’ll get Level 3 under my belt first!
Tell us a bit more about your flower farm…
“We still sell from the end of the drive and people love buying from an honesty box! We sell locally and advertise in local church magazines and do locally delivered bouquets for gifts, birthdays, sympathy tributes, weddings and event flowers. We try and use as many British flowers as we can and use all our own foliage and filler flowers. I’d never say 100% British-grown because I want to make sure it’s right and I can’t always grow enough of certain flowers.
I farm on four acres, and use about one acre for cut flowers with one big polytunnel and a greenhouse. We grow around 30 different types of flower every year such as phlox, sweet Williams, sweet peas, dahlias, cosmos, cornflowers, helichrysum, asters, alstroemeria, verbena, gypsophila, calendula, foxgloves, fountain grass, quaking grass, statice, clary, narcissi, tulips, peonies, roses, lupins, zinnias, amaranthus and lots of sunflowers!
I’m a member of Flowers from the Farm , which is a brilliant organisation. It’s nice to be with like-minded people and get advice and support. If you have a pest or disease on your crop, you can put an image on their forum and find advice. We work well together and help each other. There are some local ladies I do a bit of flower trading with. You can be part of FFTF’s bulk buying offers and there’s a seed swap at their annual conference. I’ve volunteered to work at my local shows on their stand – Malvern Show, Shrewsbury Show and BBC Gardeners’ World.
What will you be doing for British Flowers Week 2018?
This year, I’m working with a local retail florist customer of mine – Bluebells Florist, Droitwich – to stage a special British Flowers Week display in her shop window.
Flowers by Anna Brian