In the course of my wanderings around the beautiful gardens of Cheshire, it’s always nice to go off-piste occasionally to see something different. And that’s exactly what happened when I came across Firs Flower Farm in Helsby, owned by Imogen Harrison.

This blossoming (pun intended) flower farm is a story that began in the midst of the Covid pandemic when Imogen, her husband Will and their children Poppy and Tristan were residing temporarily in Cape Town. While exploring the famous Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden and regenerative farms such as Chart, where you can pick your own roses or cherries depending on the season, Imogen's perspective on her hectic career and family priorities started to change.

Great British Life: Imogen Harrison with one of her hand-picked bouquets. Imogen Harrison with one of her hand-picked bouquets. (Image: Alison Moore)

At the time she was on maternity leave after the birth of Tristan and she became captivated by the beauty and environmental benefits of sustainable farming. Inspired by what she witnessed in South Africa Imogen was determined to create her own version of sustainable flower farming back in the UK, with a mix of perennials, annuals and grasses suitable for the Cheshire climate.

After initial online research, she discovered an organisation called Flowers from the Farm (, which champions artisan growers of seasonal, locally grown cut flowers. Founded by Gill Hodgson in 2011 to help her grow her own flower farming business, it now has a UK-wide membership of 1,000 independent flower farmers and I thoroughly enjoyed its displays, talks and demonstrations in the school flower marquee at RHS Tatton this year.

Great British Life: A field of Cheshire poppies. (c) Alison MooreA field of Cheshire poppies. (c) Alison Moore

Joining the association was the perfect starting point for Imogen to plan and acquire the necessary skills for the new venture, and at the same time, she and her family also found the ideal location for the farm. In the summer of 2022, they moved into a five-acre farm plot in Helsby, with panoramic views over Cheshire towards the Welsh hills, and the dream started to become a reality.

At the heart of Imogen's approach to flower farming lies a commitment to sustainable and regenerative techniques. By embracing the principles of no-dig gardening, the farm promotes healthy soil ecosystems, minimises soil erosion, and preserves the area’s natural biodiversity.

Great British Life: Eryngium set against a backdrop of poppies. (c) Alison MooreEryngium set against a backdrop of poppies. (c) Alison Moore

With this in mind, the first 20 beds at the farm were created last autumn, using corrugated cardboard to suppress weeds and provide a protective layer for the soil. This is a popular practice within the no-dig gardening approach, with the cardboard acting as a barrier to prevent light from reaching the weeds, thereby inhibiting their growth and eliminating the need for chemical herbicides. A thick layer of compost was added to the cardboard and topped with a layer of wood chip mulch.

The next task was to add a number of bare-root peonies planted through the cardboard layer and perfect for supplying spectacular blooms in May and June. Over a thousand tulip bulbs were also planted as a trial crop using a slightly different method. For these, a thin layer of turf was removed and raised beds were built. The bulbs were placed on the bare soil in an egg-box style and then covered with compost and woodchip mulch. Chicken wire was used to keep out the squirrels until the bulbs started to grow. The result was an array of beautiful tulips for sale throughout April and into May.

Great British Life: Grown on Cheshire soil, at Firs Farm, Helsby. (c) Alison MooreGrown on Cheshire soil, at Firs Farm, Helsby. (c) Alison Moore

When I first visited Imogen, it was early summer, and I discovered a delightful mix of flowers in various stages of bloom. As we wandered around the planting beds, Imogen told me as well as growing flowers to provide a succession of colour throughout summer and early autumn, she wanted to include varieties that could be used for dried flower arrangements. Among those being grown for this purpose were eryngium (commonly known as sea holly), achillea and one I hadn’t come across before called Craspedia globosa with bright yellow drumstick flowers. Poppies, cosmos, dahlias and sweet peas were also flowering away, filling their air with fragrance and colour.

There really is no comparison between locally grown, British cut flowers and the imported varieties we find in the supermarket, and I’m sure Imogen and Firs Farm have a great future ahead. Full details of the available bouquets can be found on the website along with the Pick and Arrange workshops that Imogen runs.