Hannah Bryce on growing flowers locally
Explore the enriching insights from our delightful conversation with Hannah Bryce, the creative force behind Minnow and Wolf Flowers—a charming small-scale flower company located in Hampshire, England. Uncover Hannah's remarkable journey in flower-growing and gain invaluable tips to nurture your own flourishing garden oasis. Whether you're an experienced horticulturist or a passionate beginner, let expert advice inspire you as you create your dream botanical haven.
How did you get into flower growing?
Flowers have always been my passion, and since moving to Hampshire from London, gardening has become an obsession. We had the opportunity to expand into the field next to our cottage, so we decided to take the leap and turn our passion into a business growing cut flowers.
What is your favourite flower season and why?
Spring. It’s full of hope and colour. This spring, our tulips were incredible and gave us the reassurance we needed that we were doing the right thing!
How do you grow your flowers sustainably?
We’ve used reclaimed and pre-loved items around the field from fence posts to the polytunnel and water storage tanks. Two thirds of the field is no dig so we have used recycled cardboard and organic peat free compost to make the beds. We never use pesticides or fertilisers and where possible we use rainwater to irrigate the beds. The beds are mulched with manure to help improve soil health but also reduce the need for so much water. Anything we don't sell gets dried or goes on the compost heap to nourish future flowers.
What are your top 5 tips for growing flowers in England?
Look at drought-tolerant plants - we had such a dry February and June, and keeping everything watered is a full-time job. We collect rainwater to irrigate the beds, but when we have a dry spell, this becomes tricky.
Consider using a polytunnel or greenhouse if one is available. We plant ranunculus and anemones in ours, and they do really well with that extra protection. We planted half our tulips in the polytunnel last year, and it made a huge difference. We had an early crop of healthy, long-stemmed tulips from March, which meant we could start selling earlier in the season.
Choose the right plant for the right place. If you have a sunny spot, cosmos, dahlias, and snapdragons will be very happy. If it's shady, foxgloves will do well. Know your soil. Our field has sandy soil, which is really free-draining. It's great if you have lots of rain but not so great if you have a hot, dry summer. We add lots of mulch and manure to the beds in autumn to help feed the plants, protect the roots, and retain moisture.
Be prepared to weed - a lot. The weeds in the field have been relentless this year. We don't use any chemicals or sprays, so we have to spend hours weeding the beds by hand. Some weeds are handy and can be used in a wild floral arrangement, but it's important to keep on top of them when plants are young, as they compete for resources like water, nutrients, sunshine, and space. It's worth investing in the right tools for the job. I love using my Hori Hori for digging deep down and getting the weed by the roots, and my weeding hoe to slice through fiddly bits. If you have the right tool for the job, it makes it much more enjoyable.
What hurdles have you had to overcome since launching your flower farm?
We have been building the field at the same time as growing and selling the flowers. Our biggest hurdle is having the flowers ready at the right time for wholesale orders. It's hard to monitor this as the weather can be so unpredictable. Too much sunshine and the flowers blow open; too much rain and the petals are damaged, especially the roses. I feel like I check the weather app on my phone 10 times a day.
What is a recent achievement that you're proud of?
I feel proud every time I walk into the field and see flowers growing and looking strong. An acre is a small space to some people, but to me, it feels huge and a constant job to keep everything alive! The best feeling is when you do an installation for a client using your own flowers. I feel like I know them personally as I've watched them grow and blossom!
What is a professional goal you're currently working towards?
I'd like to learn more about biodynamic farming. I recently enjoyed Jane Scotter's growing course via The Create Academy, learning about the core principles of organics and biodynamics and found it fascinating. There is so much to learn about growing both flowers and food sustainably and the importance of good soil health. This is definitely something I want to develop and delve deeper into.
Tell us what you love about working with Wild at Heart?
Nikki Tibbles is a huge inspiration and the most incredible friend and support. She has offered endless advice and even helped to plant out bulbs in the field. We love her passion, her style, and her creativity, so to see our flowers in her hands is a dream come true. Everything about Wild at Heart is luxurious and beautiful, so we feel very proud to see our flowers at the Turquoise Island every Saturday.