On a small, secluded field in Somerset, for seven years now, I’ve been growing traditional British cottage-garden flowers. Think sumptuous peonies, clouds of bishop’s lace and unbelievably fragrant old-English roses. Or armfuls of cornflowers, daisies and delicate poppies. I try to work with the seasons, offering flowers at their best.
Although a lot of my time is taken up with floristry and wedding arrangements, it's the growing I like most of all. With 50 or so weddings over the summer, it's easy to get lost in the paperwork and sometimes difficult to get into the field. But it's important to maintain that connection with the soil. I like to walk the rows, noticing what's coming out, and what might need attention. Oddly, my favourite job is the weeding.
The flower year starts in autumn. Hundreds of bulbs are planted - anemones, ranunculus and a range of tulips that you'd never see in a traditional florist. Then the hardy annuals are sown - cornflowers, larkspur, love-in-a-mist and sweet peas are the staples we rely on throughout the season. Come the spring, they'll be in full bloom, and the field full of colour.
Jan wears: Linen Cross Over Apron & Interlock Cotton Wide Stripe Tee
We don't dig - that job’s left to the worms. Instead, we just top-dress the beds with compost. The only other food the flowers get is an occasional spraying with seaweed solution and a gloriously stinky liquid concocted from sheep's manure. The flowers thrive without artificial fertilisers, pesticides or even slug pellets.
Behind all the beauty is a lot of hard graft: 16-hour days are not unusual. When we're working on a wedding, we start early. The flowers are picked at dawn, full of dew, and then it's into the workshop for sorting and conditioning. It can often be lunchtime before we’re ready to start making up bouquets.
There are times, dragging myself out of bed for yet another 4am start, when I wonder why I'm doing this. I'm out in all weathers, often exhausted, filthy and wet. I’m never going to be rich - but it’s not about that. In the early-morning stillness on what promises to be a beautiful day, I look around me and feel pleased that my office is a field of flowers.
Words by Jan Waters of JW Blooms
Photography by Andrea Duncan and JW Blooms