A Northamptonshire Afternoon

 "There is a flower farm I want to visit quite near to Coton Manor, how about meeting up and visiting them both?" went the conversation.  The weather forecast looked good, days out still feel a rare and exciting thing, so I said yes very quickly.

Coton Manor is a garden I have visited often over many years.  It is around 30 minutes from home and is always a joy.  
We were talking a lot whilst walking the garden, but we said hello to the flamingos and as ever I thought about Alice in Wonderland and looked around for a hedgehog....
This tulip stopped me in my tracks.  It is not quite as yellowy as this photo would have you believe, it is more of an ivory colour but look at how it ages pinkly.  Stunning!  Due to having a bad back at the time of visiting (don't move heavy plants around without a trolley - I know this, but I thought 'oh it will be ok' - sigh) I could not bend down properly to read the label.  "Elephant something" I said, "I can find it from that".  My friend (no bad back) looked at label and said with a sigh "Elegant Lady".  I am made a note of the name muttering how Elephant Lady was a much more memorable name.
The bluebell wood was past its moment yet still very beautiful.  It is a lovely peaceful walk through the wood.
The meadow was a shimmer of buttercups.  So pretty.  

We had some lunch and then wended our way to Flower and Farmer, which if we had been able to cut across the fields would have been a nice walk from Coton.  We drove the less than 10 minute drive and were greeted by Jo and Milly who are the aunt and niece behind this flower farm business.
Their business is still relatively new yet it is already well developed.
They have two main growing areas and the plants are mainly grown outside with some more tender ones or ones they want to bring on a bit faster being grown in a polytunnel.
There is something rather special about seeing row upon row of peonies.  Jo and Milly are using perennial planting where they can.  There are also roses growing nearby alongside alchemilla and malus trees and more.
As regular readers would expect, I got very interested in the poppies.  Icelandic poppies have never grown successfully for me so I was very envious of these.
In the polytunnel the sweetpeas are flowering well.
I also admired these ranunculus, a plant I also find tricky to grow.  
We also had a wander in the propagation tunnel.  What is impressive about all this is that they have to grow in big quantities to supply their customers.  They supply some florists, they do 'farm gate' sales and also DIY wedding flowers.  They are at the whim of the weather as are all gardeners and so this slow start to the year for growing due to the cold weather has meant some blooms not being as open as they would wish for the time of year.

Jo and Milly were delightfully 'down to earth' (if I may be forgiven the cliche) about the flower farm and how many things they have had to learn quickly.  What shone out from them was their passion for growing flowers and desire to see their business grow.
As we left they gave us a bouquet of their flowers plus a posy of sweetpeas.  This was totally unexpected and such a generous gesture. 

We left promising to return in the summer, I am fascinated to see what their flower field will look like at that point.  Buying British grown flowers is something that I think is very important and after this dreadful year for most businesses I think that supporting our local businesses is more vital than ever.  Jo and Milly were generous with their time, their flowers and also some very nice tea and cake.  I have said before that doing business with nice people matters and these are nice people.

It was the most wonderful day out, so nice to catch up with a friend and to visit such nice places.  After a year of such joys being missing it was a great day out.

Stay safe and be kind.

For more from the Blackberry Garden follow me on Twitter and Facebook