Please introduce yourself…
What do you do at the Farmers’ Market?
I grow flowers, trees, fruit and vegetables, and make floral arrangements, wreaths and garlands, using both home-grown and foraged materials. I use pesticide free flowers, working with all the seasons and using natural forms as inspiration
Tell us about how you grow your produce?
I grow a lot of my materials in Polhill, Kent, in my woodland edge garden and on my large allotment. I live in Kent half the time, with my family and friends.
The garden is on a piece of land that had been used to park diggers while building the M25. As you can imagine, this left its mark and I have spent over ten years healing the land with massive amounts of homemade compost, manure from our chickens and leaf mould which we make in huge quantity.
I also have a small piece of land in mid-Wales, where our family has lived for nearly 30 years. I also use materials from here, and we mainly use the land for roses, willows, pines and many other trees.
Lastly, I often use flowers and foliage which has been grown by friends and family, or that grow in gardens that I maintain for customers. But strictly only those without pesticides, and only with owner’s permission.
When you aren’t at our Farmers’ Market, where can we find you?
I hold workshops teaching wreath-making, and summer workshops teaching floral head dress making. My busiest time is Christmas, making and selling wreaths and holding workshops, but I never have a very quiet time.
Sometimes I take to the road at fairs and festivals and sell woodcarvings made by my family and friends, chestnut arches, hazel plant supports and arts and crafts. I love to pick up interesting artisan objects on my travels, which I use to display plants and flowers, and I often have baskets or pots for sale, depending on where I have been camped and who I have met.
I sometimes design or maintain gardens for clients, and I will only accept work which falls in with my basic principles of natural (and sometimes wild) growing.
I work on my gardens and woods whenever I can; sometimes every day for a week but often just a few hours, 3 or 4 times a week. My garden style might best be described as relaxed and naturalistic, but this still involves a lot of work!
Why is being pesticide free important to you?
I work in a way that reflects my available time and my principles. Having worked on many farms over the years, I know that biodynamic and organic growing produces great results, but I don't align myself to their movements exclusively. In practice, this means that I would never use pesticide, industrially produced fertiliser or herbicides.
I have great results using only homemade fertilisers: comfrey and nettle juice used sparingly, for instance. I also recycle materials such as tyres to build beds, rather than buying new products. I try to garden in tune with the moon and I am very 'low impact' on my environment in terms of water use, as we collect and store rainwater to use. This careful use of water is in marked contrast to some conventional growers, who are heavy users of both natural and industrial resources.
I have always grown in this way, influenced by my mother who is a great believer in the importance of compost and is a defender of bees. We need insects to feed birds and poison will kill good and bad insects indiscriminately. We are all part of the same living system and I would love to leave a better and healthier world for my own and other children.
What does being part of the Horniman mean to you?
I am really thrilled to have the opportunity to trade at the Horniman. I visited the Museum and grounds a few years ago, and was very taken by it. The market is very friendly and the standard of the products available is high.
What do you enjoy doing away from the Farmers’ Market?
I make time to travel when I can and have just returned from a road trip to the flower meadows of the Apuseni Mountains, Romania. It was one of the most beautiful sights that I have ever seen.
On my return I was relieved to find that it had been raining in Kent, and my garden is full of fab blooms just waiting to be picked. Jim had sown the seeds that I left, so with luck I will have flowers for months to come.