About This Course
“The Magic of Flowers: Learn how to grow your own seasonal cut-flowers using sustainable, organically-approved methods as well as how to use them in creative and original ways”
Drawing on her horticultural training as well as her experience as an organic cut flower grower, Fionnuala will be showing participants the best, most eco-friendly ways to create their very own cut flower patch. The course will start with an illustrated slide-show giving a background to the flower farming movement and explaining the practicalities of propagation, site selection and preparation, offering advice on selecting the most floriferous, long-flowering, seasonal varieties plus tips on how to condition flowers for the longest possible vase life as well as the use of environmentally-friendly alternatives to floral foam. This will be followed by a questions and answers session, then a practical interactive demonstration of some of the techniques covered including seed-sowing, pricking out young seedlings and dividing plants. Participants will then learn how to make their own beautiful buttonholes/ boutonnieres using plant material foraged from Annmarie’s garden at Mornington with the focus firmly on using the widest range of plant material in creative, original ways.
Who is this course suitable for?
Anyone with a love or interest in flower-arranging who’d like to grow some of their own cut-flowers for their home, or as a supplement to their floristry business.
What do I need to bring?
Participants need to bring weatherproof clothes and a sharp secateurs.
Discovering the huge range of seasonal cut flower varieties (including edible kinds) that you can grow in your garden or on your allotment to use in your home or as a supplement to your floristry business
Learning how to grow cut-flowers using a range of time-efficient, practical techniques that are kind to the environment
Discovering how growing your own cut flowers opens up a world of creative possibilities, from growing seasonal flowers for a special event (weddings, christenings, other family celebrations) to the simple joy of making a buttonhole using material freshly foraged from the garden
Praise for Fionnuala
“I attended the course you gave last Saturday and loved every bit of it. The venue was perfect, the group was lovely, but most of all your talk, advice and tips were for me a much needed injection of inspiration…”
“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have”
‘I can’t remember exactly when I first became a gardener but I know that it was a moment in my early childhood, soon after I sowed a handful of seeds from which nasturtiums quickly grew – an eruption of leaves and fiery orange flowers that seemed to me both astonishing and miraculous.’
Now, decades later, Fionnuala feels much the same way. Gardening, she reckons, is the closest thing to magic, the grown-up equivalent of uttering a string of powerful incantations, of casting a spell and waving a magic wand.
Yet, strangely, this early love of horticulture had no bearing on her first choice of college course (she took a degree in Philosophy and Classical Civilisation at Trinity) or her early career, which was in the world of fine art. Instead it was only in her mid-twenties that she finally decided to enrol as a mature student at the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin. After completing her three-year course in amenity horticulture at the ‘Bots’, it was the field of garden design that offered the best opportunities for her to use her horticultural skills creatively, so she worked in this area for several years and enjoyed it.
At the same time, a kind invitation from a family friend to contribute a monthly gardening column to a magazine sowed the seeds of a parallel career as a freelance garden writer. Coming from a family of writers (both her parents were journalists as were several of her uncles, while her grandfather, Padraic Fallon, was a poet and a playwright), it was a world in which she already felt very much at home. One commission led to another and in 2011 Fionnuala became The Irish Times gardening columnist. The next year her first book From The Ground Up: How Ireland is Growing its Own was published by Collins Press. In order to write and illustrate it, she and her husband (photographer Richard Johnston) travelled the length and breadth of the country to interview and photograph a wonderful mix of kitchen gardeners. Writing and researching this project gave them huge insight into the world and skill sets of small-scale organic growers. While they didn’t know it at the time, this was to prove invaluable.
It was in 2012, in her role as gardening columnist with the IT, that she fortuitously stumbled across the fascinating world of flower farming while writing a piece for the paper about the work of organic growers Kealin and Ciaran Beattie of Leitrim Flowers. People talk of ‘eureka’ moments in their lives; for Fionnuala, this was definitely one of them. The idea of producing seasonal, sustainably grown, Irish cut-flowers for market as well as for events was something she’d never dreamt of, but it was as if all the pieces of the jigsaw - her great love of plants, her knowledge of market gardening, her lifelong interest in art and design as well as her desire to do her own small part to protect our fragile natural world - suddenly started to click into place.
The final piece of the jigsaw was the kind offer from a friend to use part of her Victorian walled garden as the home for their little flower farm. In 2015, she and her husband took over this very beautiful but overgrown plot in west Wicklow, using only organically approved methods to bring it back to full productivity.
Under the name of ‘The Irish Flower Farmer’, Fionnuala and her husband now grow a wonderful range of seasonal, sustainably produced, deliciously scented cut-flowers that are true to the Irish gardening year. Many of their most appreciative clients are brides but they also supply flowers to a growing base of regular customers as well as to other florists. They pride themselves on the fact that their blooms couldn’t be more different from those sold by most standard florists which are grown/preserved with the intensive use of chemicals before being shipped vast distances in refrigerated containers from far-away countries. But most of all, she loves the fact that the amazing palette of beautiful plant material they grow on their little flower farm brings such joy to everyone. It’s a very special kind of magic and one she’ll never tire of.