4 great flower farms to visit in Essex
With a riot of color, gorgeous scents and not to mention great photo opportunities, flower farms are the place to be this summer.
grumpy sunflowers, Chelmsford
This pick flower plot has been selling flowers and lighting up local homes for almost 20 years. The Radley Green family farm is a photographer’s delight and has been run by the Metson family for five generations. “My father was interested in conservation, so the first sunflowers were grown for birds and insects,” says Jo Pike. “However, people loved them and we decided to grow a few more to sell as cut flowers, and that’s where it grows from.”
Jo describes the farm as “a very special place” and a real family affair. “Everyone is involved, from my six-year-old son to my 77-year-old father. We get so many comments about the tranquility and beauty of this place; everyone leaves with a smile on their face. We say this is our field of sunshine.
Photographers love sunflowers. Outside opening hours, the family rents the land, the evening slots being the most coveted, a few minutes from their release. “It was compared to getting tickets to Ed Sheeran or Take That,” laughs Jo. “People have used the grounds for pre and post wedding photos and we’ve had several inquiries about pitch proposals already this year, which we love.”
This year they planted a new long strip of flowers for a sunflower walk, another photo opportunity. The farm has a small maze for children, a picnic area and regularly visited food trucks. “A new Capri tent will provide some shelter – hopefully some sun, but just in case of showers,” says Jo. “We’ve also planted a new variety of shorter flowers alongside some old favorites to give some variation.”
The flower season extends from July to mid or late August. Admission is by ticket; it’s pick-your-own, so bring your pruning shears.
Oh Happy Dahlias, Colchester
“Life is like a box of chocolates and the same can be said for dahlias – I wake up in the morning and just don’t know what I’m going to get,” says Kelly Johnson, who grew the flowers. for eight years.
“I like colors, shapes, varieties (55,000 and more). I love that in the summer the bees get drunk on the pollen and fall asleep in the flowers. I love dahlias: people who exhibit and those who grow in their gardens. It’s like this epic club of people who got hooked on something pretty awesome. There’s a dahlia for everyone, believes Kelly, who is passionate about supporting the UK flower movement.
“Every time someone buys from us, not only are they supporting locals and Brits, but they are reducing their carbon footprint. A rose from Ecuador can be the seventh hand by the time it reaches you.
As you can imagine given its name, dahlias are the main focus – over 200 varieties of them. Kelly plans to add more flower varieties – tulips and peonies are next. It offers U-pick, DIY flowers, buckets of arrangers and bouquets.
The flowering season extends from late July until the first frosts for dahlias. Tulips grow from the end of March to mid-May, followed by peonies.
“Coming to see us is like stepping into my backyard,” Kelly says. “I want everyone to feel welcome. I know each strain, its performance, and a growing knowledge of what works and what doesn’t. Next year, she hopes to offer affordable bite-sized workshops.
A second site is planned in Dedham. “It’s next to the wonderful Boathouse Restaurant, so we have a wonderful river frontage as well,” she says.
The farm will reopen to the public this year with different sites open on different days. “When the flowers are in full bloom, I’ll announce it to the world,” Kelly says.
Find Oh Happy Dahlias on Instagram @oh_happy_dahlias and Facebook
Finchingfield Lavender, Finchingfield
“We are accidental smallholders,” says Julia Dimmock. Together with her husband Ben (they now have a two-year-old assistant, Maybel), they fell in love with the chocolate box village of Finchingfield. In 2015, they picked up the keys to a farm that needed “lots of love” with nine acres of meadow.
An acre and a half of land is now home to 27 rows filled with dark purple grosso lavender. All 5,000 plants were planted by hand in 2018 with the help of friends, family and neighbours. The purple haze of lavender begins in July, gradually deepens over a few weeks, and lasts until September.
“The deep purple blooms are a stunning sight, and its long stems form beautiful dried bouquets,” says Julia.
“We grow Lavender Grosso for its high oil yield and deep menthol aroma that immediately transports your mind to a spa setting. Last year we opened for the first time for day visitors to come pick the lavender and spend the morning or afternoon in this tranquil space. Visitors can relax on a lounge chair or haystack sofa surrounded by rolling farmland and the scent of lavender. We’re small, so limit day tickets so people feel like they’re in their own private lavender field,” says Julia.
The rest of the area has been left wild and flourishes with native wild orchids, cornflowers and poppies. “Every year we see more and more wildlife, bird species, flowers, bees and butterflies,” says Julia. The couple offers eco-camping and luxury glamping in the wildflower meadow to promote sustainable tourism in a wild natural environment.
This year they introduced a shop selling lavender products, and you can get a picnic box for afternoon tea at the cafe.
The fields are open to day visitors with ticket only from the end of June to September.
Anna’s Flower Farm, Audley End, Safran Walden
“Flowers are my pleasure, they are my art, my meditation and my inspiration,” says Anna Taylor. Although she admits she will never be a hand model, she knows the good ground.
Anna has been growing flowers since 2015, first with a stand and then taking over a hidden walled garden in the village of Audley End. She describes Anna’s Flower Farm as a “magical plot”; it is there that she writes, teaches and consults.
The flower microfarm takes a holistic approach to gardening, growing varieties that are not typically used for cut flowers. “This philosophy has created a diverse local ecosystem, resulting in the most beautiful flowers and delicious edibles,” she says.
The farm hosts classes, events and experiences with Anna, florists and other small businesses where guests can learn about growing their own flowers.
Anna also offers a Cut Flower Growing Course – where participants meet in the gardens on five dates throughout the year. “This course is central to our work here, and a great starting point for flower fans,” she says. “We follow the growing season of essential plants on the farm at critical stages. I help students take the learning and apply it to their spaces.
Meals and refreshments enhance the experience. An outdoor kitchen is used to prepare fresh seasonal food for shared meals. Anna says it’s an opportunity to talk and explore other topics. “Visitors and customers seemingly leave feeling lighter for the time here, and they tell me how inspired they are and how special this place is.
“Growing flowers dramatically improves the local economy and environment,” she says. “The resulting stems are full of fragrance and energy.”
Anna’s flowers are used in courtyards, hand-tied bouquets and wedding packages.
You can book an open house ticket to visit the farm on August 9Find out about the activities and the culture course in September on the website.
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