We are Jonny and Zanna Hoskins and we are flower farmers on our wonderful 1.5 acre piece of land in rural West Dorset. Our business is called SPINDLE flowers and we grow specialist British flowers, shrubs and foliage. We sell wholesale as well as doing fabulous flowers for events. We specialise in large, wild and unusual stems.
The plants we grow are either native, or suited to growing outdoors in our cool and rainy climate. We do not grow in heated greenhouses and sustainability is key. We have been growing for 8 years, and now it's time for us to build a barn.
The flower barn, which we hope to build this summer, will allow us to take our cutting-edge eco business to the next level. We will be able to process our stems much more efficiently so that they maintain their beauty and freshness, out of the wind and the rain and the sunshine.
We will also be able to teach, and the plan is to use the barn to run small-group courses in eco-floristry and foliage growing. One of the greatest gifts we can offer is to share the knowledge we have gathered. We believe passionately in enabling and empowering other growers to grow amazing foliage and perennials. It makes British flowers a more viable alternative to imported flowers. In the fight against the climate emergency, this is what we can offer.
You can see a brief summary of this project on Zanna's website: www.spindleflowers.co.uk
We are choosing this style of building because it has the least visual impact on the area of outstanding natural beauty in which we farm. It is also an environmentally friendly choice.
- high quality and sustainable material.
- locally sourced materials and labour.
- high level of thermal insulation.
- the lowest CO2 cost of any commercial building.
- easy and fast construction.
- energy efficient.
An indoor space will mean we can store buckets of cut flowers and foliage out of the heat of a hot summer's day, or out of the rain or wind. These weathers all play a significant part in reducing the longevity and quality of cut stems. We will run courses in horticulture and floristry AND we're going to have a launch party once the barn is built!...
The barn will be a place for our family, and other people to rest and spend time together, taking inspiration from our seasonal flower farm. We will provide a few subsidised places on courses for those who have suffered mental health problems during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Zanna set out to grow British flowers and foliage to provide an alternative to imported flowers. She wanted to grow plants that would flower early in the Spring or produce berries or seed heads late in the season. The aim is to extend the summer growing season across to the shoulders of the year and provide British flowers and foliage year round.
But this isn't only about the ethos of growing flowers with a small carbon footprint. It's also about the way British flowers and foliage look and feel. The elegant curve of a stem or the subtle scent of an out-door grown flower are what makes British flowers special. Zanna's flower and foliage growing is informed by her knowledge and experience as a florist. She is looking for stems that last well in the vase, are scented, have amazing shape and structure, texture, variety, scale and freshness.
It all started with a garden. In the winter of 2008 we moved to the depths of Dorset with our 3 yr old daughter. 'Sort' was a very old thatched cottage tucked into the hillside near the village of Powerstock.
Around that time we also discovered that Zanna was pregnant with twins! Winter turned to spring and the moss and lichen from the overhanging trees dripped. Threads of fungi seemed to weave through the thatch. The overgrown garden tapped at the windows, and the lawn became carpeted in snowdrops. A few weeks later there was an explosion of daffodils. We were enchanted!
Gemma Nesbitt, the woman who had gardened this garden, now dead, was the mother of our dear neighbour Anna Best. Our friend described her mother’s love of flowers and plants, and her passion for unusual varieties. We realised we were living in a treasure trove.
The season progressed and deer wandered near the windows and nibbled at the flowers which had sprung up through the long grass and nettles. We discovered gorgeous astrantia and nectaroscordum, gladioli and hibiscus and so many more wonderful plants.
The twins were born in June, and that summer Zanna resolved to become a flower grower. Her plan was that slowly she would take cuttings and build up knowledge and plant stock, and a little bit of experience where she could spare the time.
She grew fabulous icelandic poppies the next season (the like of which she has never been able to replicate). Her sweet peas that year were too short for anything much, but in the small hours rocking a baby or in the few hours she got alone in her tiny poly tunnel she read and learnt. She learnt the names of all the plants and flowers in the garden and began the journey to now.
Buying our 1.5 acres of land in 2013 was no accident. We had searched high and low for a piece of land that we could grow flowers on. South facing, good soil (though rocky), water. It was a paddock back then, but now it is an abundant place of trees, shrubs, perennial beds, annuals (including some fabulously long-stemmed sweet-peas ;-)), and plenty of ground cover to keep back the grass and buttercups. It is our haven and our obsession!
The past few years have been a blur of raising our kids in the ways of nature. We must admit to a fair bit of reliance on screen-time too while we gardened (let’s be real). They are secondary school age now, and they know what it is to grow up in nature. For that we are very glad. It has been a flurry of sowing and planting and propagating and mulching and mowing. It has also been many, many bursts of floral highs, running courses, doing weddings and events for (and with) some fabulous people.
We soon learnt that what we were growing had value to many people. Particularly to florists with an eye for something with scent, movement and unusual colour. They wanted very different materials to what they could get from the traditional suppliers, and they began to ask us to deliver. The sense of palpable excitement when we open the van doors and they breathe in the scent of the countryside is wonderful to see. We have been so grateful for the support of our innovative florist customers. They are at the forefront of a new wave of floral artists championing British Flowers and Foliage.
Jonny is an actor and a university teacher as well as a grower. Over and above his farming experience and Permaculture knowledge, he is a trained and experienced physical theatre practitioner. Ecology and horticulture are very much part of his philosophy, and this ethos feeds into his theatre work and informs his teaching. Working on the flower farm offers him a crucial connection to the land.
We have learnt over time what grows best on our land. This site is particularly suited to woody shrubs and trees. Every year we build on all manner of specialist knowledge. We are learning all the time. There are a lot of people now who are keen to come and learn from our experience. A lot of knowledge has been lost over the years on how to farm, cut and condition garden foliage. In the 1950s many commercial growers in the UK went out of business. They were forced out of the market by subsidies on greenhouse heating in Holland. With those businesses went the knowledge of what time of year is best to cut what. We British Flower growers are trying to re-discover and share this knowledge so that the next generation of florists can make use of the treasures growing under our noses.
What S P I N D L E is about is foliage and flowers with scent, shape, freshness, texture, scale and unusual variety.
When we first bought the field it was pasture. Zanna researched which plants to grow. She did extensive market research into the floristry industry. We waited for a year, to observe the site, before putting in any development on the field. Then we put in a well, ponds and a deer fence, and began laying out the beds and adding good mulch. Over the years we have brought huge improvements to the land through our knowledge of permaculture, soil health and biodiversity.
It is the climate emergency and love of nature that drive us. The benefits of British grown flowers are many. We are environmentalists and our vision is to see a year-round supply of British grown flowers and foliage. This will help the floristry industry develop new trends and move away from imported flowers.
At Spindle flowers we believe it's time for us all to step towards a carbon-neutral future.
'Just to say a huge thank you for the flower displays, everyone was bowled over by them, they were so beautiful and full of life. Sylvia would have loved them, they were so fitting. Both sets of funeral directors said they were the best decoration they’d ever seen. I hope to work with you again and maybe meet one day under happier circumstances. Keep growing! All the best from our family.' Natalie & The Bakers, West Dorset
'Totally blown away Thank you so much . . . Couldn’t be happier.' Scarlet & Violet Florists, London.
If you want to find out more about us and Spindle Flowers you can watch Zanna's 10 minute enthusiastic ramble through the foliage beds which she made last summer:
Zanna's video - Focus on Foliage
Or click on the links below:
Spindle Flowers Facebook
Corner Plot Facebook
If you'd like to be a part of this exciting new phase and help a small flower farm to take a big step forward, in a very sustainable way, then please do support us.
The first 60 people to pledge £50 or over will receive a personal invitation to our launch party! and 10 lucky super-backers get an overnight glamping stay for 2 at the flower field, with a personal tour and a lovely bouquet of flowers to say thanks!
Looking forward, after this crowd funding campaign, we are looking for a financial business partner / significant investor in the business. If you or anyone you know might be interested, please get in touch.
Obviously we can't have hundreds of people suddenly descending on the field this summer, but we DO want to show as many of you as possible what we have achieved so far. Hopefully we'll be able to show you round our new timber-frame barn too, so if you're quick off the mark with pledging, you'll be on the invitation list!
We feel confident that what we're doing is of interest and benefit to many. We hope you agree, and we ask you to pledge now.
We'd be so grateful if you could share our Crowdfunder campaign link on Facebook /Instagram or via Email, to anyone who might be interested. Come and give us an instagram follow too! @spindleflowers.
Thank you for your support.
Zanna & Jonny, Spindle Flowers
photo credits @wildwoodmoth