How a Wrea Green florist is saying it with home grown flowers
- Credit: Donna Clifford
Joanna Whittaker decided ‘grow your own’ was the best policy for her blossoming new business
Joanna Whittaker has spent most of her life surrounded by beautiful blooms. As a child, she helped her grandmother to grow flowers for drying and watched her grandfather weave baskets to display them at their business near Ormskirk.
When Joanna left school no-one was surprised when she decided to learn the art of floristry, initially at Ashton’s in Lytham. Eventually, she bought the business which developed into The Posy Bowl in the town’s Henry Street.
Marriage to Richard, a greenkeeper at Royal Lytham and St Annes Golf Club, led to the arrival of two lively sons, now eight and 10, and Joanna decided she wanted to change the direction of her life. But her passion for flowers never left her.
Her parents – her dad, Richard Lancaster, is a well-known agricultural contractor in Wrea Green – owned a large field in nearby Moss Side and it had been a playground for Joanna and her horse-mad sister.
After making the break from the shop, Joanna came up with a plan to not only sell flowers but also grow them. It was new ground for her so she took an online horticultural course by American experts Floret – the US is generally regarded as cutting edge when it comes to floral trends and flower arrangement.
From them she gained the knowledge she needed to take an acre of the family field and turn it into a flower farm with a weekly pop-up shop at the entrance. Under the banner, Flora & Fauna, Joanna opens the shop every Friday and Saturday morning on the main road between Moss Side and Wrea Green.
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Her dad created an eye-catching Edwardian-style wagon and from here she sells beautiful bouquets from the riot of colourful border she has created.
‘It’s gone very well,’ said 38-year-old Joanna. ‘Since we started selling from the cart we have gone from strength to strength and I’m hoping to double the growing area next year. People have been ready to support small local enterprises and they seem to like my style which is very natural and very cottage garden.’
Everything she sells has been grown at Moss Side and the local provenance led to Booths stocking her flowers. She also supplies weddings and events.
Incredibly, she does it all single-handed. ‘I’m happy doing it that way,’ she said. ‘It can be really hard work – especially during lockdown with two young sons – but I’ve no wish to employ anyone.’
The lower cost base means she can keep prices at a reasonable level and she is proud that her flower farm is chemical free, even though that means she only has a thin membrane between her and a world of weeds. ‘Imported flowers are often grown using a lot of chemicals,’ she said. Polytunnels are used for growing more delicate plants and she also keeps bees and chickens.
Everything she sells has been grown from scratch with a breathtaking variety of dahlias forming the centre-piece of the plot. However, she also has row upon row of snapdragons, phlox, clary sage and, with a nod to her gran, flowers for drying such as statice. ‘I love dahlias – there are so many stunning varieties that they never become boring,’ she said.
‘When Covid-19 started I lost my part-time job so that pushed me in the direction of spending more time running my own business.’
She is experimenting with ornamental pumpkins and multi-coloured sweetcorn for unusual displays and edible flowers for the restaurant trade. When she increases the size of the farm she plans to grow more plants with unusual foliage.
She also hopes to interest art groups and photographers looking for locations and intends to use the end of the growing season for ‘pick your own’ days.
‘I’ve got lots of ideas, I just don’t have the time!’ laughed Joanna, who admitted her day job has meant the garden at her home in Moss Side is now understandably a little less than pristine.
Flora & Fauna is at Spring Field Farm, on Moss Side Lane, near Wrea Green, FY8 4LY. flora-fauna.co.uk.