At Organic Blooms we have been growing gorgeous flowers and wonderful people since 2006. Now we need to grow our business to help more people bloom and reach their potential.
We are a Soil Association organic certified flower farm and florist. We are also a social enterprise. We sell our bouquets, flower subscriptions and plug plant through our online shop and we thrive on making weddings and events even more special with our gloriously natural arrangements.
Every flower we grow and every stem we sell helps us to train someone who has struggled to find work because of a learning difficulty, autistic spectrum disorder or long term mental health condition.
Our trainees are referred to us and referrers arrange funding to cover some of the core costs of each trainee placement. As a social enterprise, our business meets some of the additional costs of supporting people and creating life changing paid jobs.
We use flower growing, gardening and floristry to improve the wellbeing and skills of each of our trainees. We see marked changes in their physical health, confidence, social skills and transferable workplace skills such as following instructions, using initiative, customer service and team working. Along the way they gain City and Guilds horticulture qualifications.
Each trainee spends at least two years with us, often longer, giving them time to really consolidate their recovery, wellbeing and skills before moving on into paid employment or further training. Some trainees have gone on to become key members of our own employed team here at Organic Blooms.
You can hear what Organic Blooms means to Katy by clicking here!
At the moment we can support up to 30 fantastic trainees at any one time depending on the range and complexity of needs and the intensity of support required. But we want to offer opportunities to more.
We are also leading the way in the growing organic British flower market – in fact we provided the flowers for the Soil Association’s 70th birthday celebrations and their BOOM Awards. This year Wendy, our lead florist, is part of a small group of grower-florists creating a major British flowers feature at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show. We are in a great position to expand our flower-growing and floristry.
We moved to our current home in the South Gloucestershire countryside in 2010, where we have developed our 4-acre field into cutting gardens growing over 70 varieties of annual and perennial cut flowers. We have three polytunnels for seed-sowing, potting on and for growing on some of our early and less hardy blooms. We also have a small floristry workshop and a training room-come-kitchen/break room that we also use as our office and a space for running a range of courses.
But things have become a little crowded and we need to grow expand!
We have taken on the neighbouring 5-acre field, which is currently under conversion to Soil Association organic status. We now need to equip our new field with a multispan polytunnel, a workshop and toilets. We want to have these new growing and training facilities up and running by Autumn 2018.
We’d love your help to raise £30,000 to contribute to these costs. This will be an enormous step towards transforming more lives.
Most people with learning differences and long term mental health conditions want to work. Work is important for self-worth, confidence and self-identity as well as creating opportunities for social contact. Most also want to earn their own money, pay their own way and be less reliant on benefits.
The truth is, people with learning difficulties, mental health problems or autistic spectrum disorders are often overlooked by employers, even though they can make positive and significant contributions to business and the workplace.
We don’t want people to be defined by their conditions. We want them to be defined by who they are and what they can do. Our work is designed to help people prove the value they can bring and help employers to see the potential employee behind the condition.
As individuals and as a team we also understand the importance of protecting and nurturing our soils and our natural environments for the long-term resilience of life on our planet. Our ethical, organic growing methods support soil health and local ecology. Flowers are, essentially, a luxury product and we are committed to developing awareness of the environmental benefits of choosing seasonal, locally- and organically-grown flowers over out-of-season flowers grown with high chemical input and imported over long distances and transported and stored using high-energy refrigeration.
Organic Blooms was founded by director and head horticulturalist Jo Wright, an expert in social and therapeutic horticulture. Jo has long experience of running therapeutic horticulture projects in the UK and overseas, including in US prisons. After many years of supporting people therapeutically, Jo recognised that the best way to help people develop and move on in their lives is to support and train them in a real business.
Jo’s realisation coincided with a resurging interest in the UK in a more natural cottage garden style of floristry, and Organic Blooms was born.
Jo teamed up with local expert florist Wendy Paul, who was looking for a new challenge just as Organic Blooms was being established. Having run small businesses for several years including her own successful florist’s shop, Wendy’s interest had shifted from the unseasonal force-grown imported flowers, grown for stem and life length rather than scent and natural beauty, on which traditional floristry relies. Wanting to focus instead on ethically grown British seasonal flowers, Wendy’s skills were a perfect fit for Organic Blooms.
Since Jo and Wendy started out the part-time Organic Blooms team – which includes five former trainees – has grown to include horticulturalist and trainer Andy, horticultural supervisors Katy and Rob H, horticulturalist and florist Lisa, florist and resident artist Debbie (who painted our gorgeous training room murals and designed our fabulous new logo), floristry assistant Faye, administrator Nic, product developer Lucy C, and seed-sower, potter-on and composter extraordinaire Alex. We are supported by our four volunteers Rob W, Gill, Pat and Lucy R.
The market for British-grown flowers is growing. Consumers are beginning to ask questions about where their flowers come from and those who are aware of some key issues, are less prepared to buy this luxury item at a high environnmental cost.
In the UK we spend more than £2bn per year on cut-flowers and house plants but at the moment close to 90% are grown overseas, usually with high chemical input, before being chemically treated to prevent ripening, transported long distances in energy-hungry refrigerated vehicles and bought wholesale through the vast Dutch flower auctions.
Organic Blooms offers an ethical, environmnetally sound alternative floristry product that outcompetes many of the mainstream offers in terms of quality, scent, and aesthetics. We would like our flowers to reach more customers, and to take back some market share from more environmentally costly imports.
And last, but certainly not least, our thanks go to some amazing people who have helped to capture the essence of Organic Blooms through our video and photographs:
Filmed and edited by Tom Adams
Additional photography: Steve Sayers, Wendy Paul
Music: Martin Ellis, Paul Ewart, Al Murray, Pat Reid.