Learning the art of flower farming – a guest post from our competition winner on the Catkin cut flower workshop

Charlie / 12 July 2012

Seasonal flower arranging

Last week I set off at a very early hour for the Lincolnshire countryside to a place called Doddington Hall where I would spend the day with a group of likeminded ladies learning about cut flowers from Rachel of Catkin Flowers.  On the way I picked up the lovely Dasha Caffrey, wedding photographer and one of the lovely businesses you can find on The Natural Wedding Company directory, who took all these stunning photos.

Rachel from Catkin Flowers

Catkin cut flower workshop

Seasonal flower arrangement

If you are a regular reader of the blog, you might remember that I ran a competition to win a place on this cut flower workshop, and I was thrilled to be joined by the lovely Nik who won the competition and writes a blog called Little House In Town.

From left: Nik, Susan (growing flowers for her daughters wedding next year), Rachel from Catkin, Gill, and me with our bouquets
Catkin cut flower workshop attendees

Catkin cut flower course

Doddington Hall walled garden

I think I can say on behalf of all the workshop attendees that we had a wonderful day, chatting all things flowery, wandering around the pretty walled garden where Rachel grows her flowers, and getting to play with buckets full of garden flowers.

That’s my bouquet below!
Natural and seasonal bridal bouquet

For a bit of a refreshing change, I invited our competition winner Nik to share her experience of the day with you all, so I hope you enjoy hearing all about what we got up to whilst soaking up Dasha’s beautiful photos.  Over to Nik:

On Wednesday 5th July, a gaggle of excited ladies convened upon the magnificent Doddington Hall – a stately home and gardens, farm shop, restaurant and eco-venue all rolled into one fabulous package.  A package that is made all the more fabulous by the presence of resident cut-flower grower, Rachel Petheram, who grows the beautiful English blooms used in her sustainable floristry business, Catkin Flowers, from the walled kitchen garden.

Catkin Flowers in Lincolnshire


Catkin Flowers cut flower workshop

It was Rachel we were there to meet, for the very first TNWC Cut Flower Growing Course – a day of seasonal garden planning tips and tricks, advice on the best blooms for a novice cutting garden and to round off the day, learning how to make a hand-tied bouquet and buttonhole to take home.

Creating a seasonal hand-tied bouquet

Cut flower workshop

Roses in the Doddington Hall walled garden

I am, without shadow of a doubt, a novice flower gardener.  I even managed to kill my peace lily, and they are supposed to be invincible.  My flower garden currently consists of three begonias, a potted lavender plant and a wooden herb tray.  So, understandably, there were fleeting moments of nervousness prior to the event – what if I’m expected to know certain things?  What if I ask an utterly ridiculous question?  What if my bouquet collapses in my hands or, heaven forbid, I try to place a weed into my arrangement through sheer ignorance?

Buckets of cut seasonal flowers

White sweetpeas

Putting together a bridal bouquet

The short answer to the above is: I needn’t have worried.  The long answer is: Rachel has an incredible knack for making the complicated uncomplicated – I think she could probably train a monkey to grow flowers, and all without hint of a patronising tone or sly smirk.  A marvellous hostess she was – her natural charm and enthusiasm for her work shone through the whole day long (and she provided biscuits and mint tea, fresh from the garden, which certainly earned her extra brownie points).

Arranging with garden flowers

Catkin cut flower workshop

Herbs and foxgloves

The inclement weather made for some opportunistic outdoor dashes during periods of brief sunshine, and as we toured the walled garden ‘ooh-ing’ and ‘aah-ing’ at the beautiful shows of summer colour, I even learnt that incorporating weeds into your arrangements can be actively encouraged – especially dock!

Doddington Hall walled garden

White foxgloves and astrantia

Catkin cut flower course

We ate a delicious lunch in the on-site restaurant, with ingredients sourced from the estate itself (you can even have home-culled pigeon!  Maybe next time…), during which our little group really got chatting away.  It was a real pleasure to spend time with such a fascinating group of ladies, each with their own motivation for wanting to learn the art of cut flower growing.  I can’t wait to keep track of how we all get on and it’s great to know there are others I can turn to for support and advice if I get a little daunted.

Rachel from Catkin Flowers in Lincolnshire

Foxgloves and seedheads

Catkin cut flower course

Learning to hand-tie a bouquet really was the highlight of the day for me.  Fortunately, the flowers we were using had already been selected and ‘conditioned’ (posh word for stuck in a bucket in a cold place overnight) ready for us to use.

Creating a hand tied bouquet

Buckets of herbs and garden flowers

Catkin cut flower workshop

It was a little hard at first to get your head around the amount of foliage, and sometimes actual flower, that has to be stripped away to prepare the stem for tying.  Charlie, in particular, was pretty distressed at the idea!  But Rachel taught us ways in which we could put that discarded foliage to good use – in making nourishing tea for the other plants in the garden.  A truly sustainable craft.

Sweet peas in the Doddington Hall walled garden

English garden roses

Foxgloves in the Doddington Hall walled garden

Every single person went home with a professional-looking, distinctive bouquet full of David Austin roses, Nigella, cat mint, sweet peas, buddleia mint and other lovely things whose names have escaped me… but hey, I remembered five whole things!  That’s five more cut flowers than I knew at the start of the day.

Seasonal hand tied bouquets

Cut flower workshop

Making a buttonhole

I can’t wait to get going with my own cut flower garden, and the fantastic thing is: you can do it any time of year.  There’s always something suitable to be planting.  Come autumn it’ll be time to get those hardy annuals and bulbs going ready for over-wintering so now is the ideal time to start planning those beds!

Cut flower workshop

July bouquet of roses, mint and garden foliage

Catkin cut flower work attendees

Massive thanks to Charlie and Rachel for a truly educational, inspirational day.  Here’s Nik’s finished bouquet…

Seasonal summer wedding bouquet

A huge thanks to Nik for sharing her experiences with everyone – I am looking to set up a few more workshops with varying crafty themes if there is the interest, so do let me know by dropping me an email or leaving a message below if you fancy the idea of meeting up with likeminded people for a crafty session.

Nicola Ibberson is a freelance writer and proof reader, who is on the verge of moving to the seaside to lead a simpler life.  Her personal blog, Little House In Town is a place for all things ethical, sustainable, handmade and seaside-y.

Images: Dasha Caffrey Photography


guest post: learning the art of flower farming | Little House In Town on 13. July, 2012

[…] by to let you know that my guest post for The Natural Wedding Company, about our day learning to grow and arrange glorious blooms, is now live over on their […]

Amy Claridge on 13. July, 2012

What beautiful photography, and copy! Lovely to read a blog about your day at Doddington with Rachel. Your bouquets look fabulous as well. Hope to see you back with us another day.
Amy (Doddington Hall press officer)

Svetlana Batura on 13. July, 2012

oh… thats my old dream – to work with flowers! Your storry inspired me so much

Flowerona reflects: spitfires & solidago | Flowerona on 14. July, 2012

[…] blog post about the Catkin Flowers Cut Flower […]

Layla Mayville {Simply Savannah Events} on 25. July, 2012

I am living vicariously thru this post because it looked like such a wonderful experience! Beautiful flower arrangements too.

Sue on 1. August, 2012

Hi have just found these pics, just wanted to say that it was a fab day and I thoroughly enjoyed being with like minded people and talking flowe talk all day. Ps have been practising making bouquets too with what’s in the garden. Thank you to all. Sue milner

Vicky on 15. August, 2012

What an inspirational post. It’s so hard to find seasonal British flower suppliers so I was planning to grow my own for my wedding but thought I’d probably left it too late and didn’t really know enough. Now you’ve inspired me to try.


CharlieB on 15. August, 2012

Hi Vicky, lovely to hear you’ve been inspired to try growing your own flowers – there are some great day courses out there where you can learn the basics if you want a bit more knowledge. If you’re looking for seasonal British flowers for your wedding, do check out the flowers category on the directory as there are lots listed on there xXx

the farm menagerie | Little House In Town on 18. February, 2013

[…] trying my hand at flower growing for the first time, putting the knowledge I learnt on the Natural Wedding Company & Catkin Cut Flower Growing Course into action, and hopefully growing enough to adorn our wedding table on the 11th July this […]

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