Country Enterprise: Growing and drying flowers and herbs for medicinal, cooking, bouquet garni use
Grow flowers for their beauty, fragrance, smell, colours, taste
The flower & herb gardens
Anyone with a garden probably grows at least a few flowers.
grow flowers for sale can be very simple indeed. You can wander
round an established garden, scissors in hand and snip off attractive
bunches during most of the summer months.
In some locations,
such as country cottage doorsteps, these are the bunches
that will probably sell best. With a nice mixture of colours and
shapes and a generous bunch for the price, such bunches do not
last very long on a good weekend.
If you decide to grow specifically, the choice of flowers depends
on your location and how you intend to sell the flowers. With no
passing market you will have to sell to greengrocers, florists or
hotels and restaurants for display. Almost all of these markets will
require standard-looking flowers.
Unless you are growing on a
large scale, it is probably not worth considering growing under
Flowers grown this way are necessarily more expensive;
even if you are not heating the greenhouse you are at least having to
maintain it. To consider growing flowers in a heated greenhouse
you must feel very sure indeed of your market.
There is a great
deal of competition in selling these kinds of flowers, including a
lot of imported flowers. Cut flowers have a short life and they do
not have a long time to sell on the shop shelf. Good strong growers,
such as dahlias grown on a well manured plot, have an attractiveness
all their own. So do well grown chrysanthemums and, going
to the other extreme, delicate sweet peas.
As with other growing
enterprises, it is worth aiming to catch the early or late markets.
To grow the earliest sweet peas you can use cloches; you can slow
the growth of chrysanthemums by leaving the pots out until the
very last moment. All these flowers must be presented to the
consumer in top condition. This is also the case with pot plants.
Although it may seem that a pot plant will happily survive far
longer than cut flowers, this is not the case unless you alone are
looking after them. A pot plant dislikes being overwatered more
than it does being underwatered. If the plant you carefully raised
from seed is left to the tender mercies of several different shop
assistants then both will happen to the unsuspecting creature and
it will die. Many outlets for flowers, cut and potted, will insist on
sale or return. If the flowers die then so does your profit.
garages and hotels will enter into arrangements for you to keep
them continually supplied with flower arrangements. Again willing
hands will overwater and careless hands will deposit cigarette ends
on plants. It is not a case of do not do the business. It is a case of
being fully prepared for what will happen to plants out of your
The public is being artificially educated to demand only a very
small range of plants.
Look at the highly professional displays of
flowers and plants for sale in the high street and in markets: the
range available is continually decreasing. It is often possible to use
this aspect of the market to your advantage. Become established in
the area in which you live as a specialist producer. If the public
know that you can supply quite beautiful blooms at competitive
prices, you will start to build an enterprise.
People buy flowers for
occasions — weddings and funerals — and for regular events. When
we produced chrysanthemums regularly, we had a customer on the
last week in October every year. It was for a bunch of one dozen
of the finest blooms to take to a crematorium. Off they went like
clockwork every year to commemorate our customer's mother.
When our aged greenhouse gave way under a heavy fall of snow,
we gave up as we felt that a new large greenhouse would not
It was hard to tell who felt the most upset that
October, us or our customer. We still miss the big blooms and no
doubt she would still have been turning up to buy them. That is
the kind of trade that is not dependent on impulse-buying and is
not adversely affected by highly commercial competition in the
An area that is always of interest in the winter is dried flowers.
Today there is a strong sale in silk flowers and other similar items
that decorate without dying as fresh flowers do. There are a wide
variety of flowers that can be grown specifically for drying.
Everlasting flowers — the pink, yellow and blue tiny flower heads
carried on spriggy branches — are popular in rural areas.
more sophisticated flower is demanded, there are still ideal subjects
to be found in rural gardens. The pearl-sheened seed heads of
dried Honesty mixed with orange dried Chinese Lanterns make an
elegant arrangement. Many hydrangeas dry well; we have one that
if picked late in the year dries to a soft green. This unusual colour
looks fresh all winter. Try adding some choice: the hazel catkins
available in January and possibly some peacock feathers (you can
buy these from stately homes sometimes).
A fabulous addition to
a dried flower selection is provided by dried hops. If you can get
them on long swags and gently dry them, you can offer them to
restaurants and hotels as large pieces of decoration; cut into
smaller pieces, they make delightful centrepieces for a table. Hops
are brittle when dry and will crush if handled harshly. If that
happens to your hops turn them into a hop pillow for sale or, if
you are really desperate, turn them into beer!
By producing a
range of dried flowers that is not already widely available through
florists, you can attract business that may well have been lost in
the past due to the standardisation of many of the dried plants on
offer. Dried flowers can be processed further to make framed
pictures and cards. If you are really proficient at drying flowers, it
may be worth advertising that you will preserve wedding bouquets.
Just a few flowers from the bouquet can be dried, arranged into a
framed picture and the bride has a permanent reminder.
A garden of herbs can consist of just a few plants to satisfy the
culinary needs of the family or it can grow to immense proportions
to provide fresh and dried herbs for sale for culinary and
There is a great deal of interest in the use of herbs
in medicine. Even if this does not involve combining herb essences
and concoctions, it can be taken as simply as chopped herbs in a
mixed salad that have a restorative effect. The herbs can be grown
to be sold in little fresh bunches or they can be dried before sale.
They can be sold growing in pots or put into sachets for dis
couraging moths, or pillows to gently aid sleep. These final herb
products often end up being made in a workshop or indoors.
growing of herbs is an outdoor occupation. You can put the
entire venture into one annual package: tending the plants as they
come to maturity, gathering and picking at the right times, drying
as you go. Then in the winter months when the outside work
slackens off, you can go inside to produce the herb sachets.
There are various factors to consider before planting a herb
garden. To produce a bulk crop of herbs, it may seem easiest to
grow the plants in rows as a normal crop. But if you intend to
have customers coming to you, this less than romantic approach
may well lower their enthusiasm.
Appearance is often important in
this market. By working out on a piece of graph paper the heights
and colourings of various herbs it is possible to produce a
garden-like setting in a field environment.
A good way to start this effect
is to plant a new lawn — a chamomile lawn.
Raise some plants
from seed and plant them in April. The plants need four inches
between them. In the first season let the plants flower freely;
from then on mow the lawn with the blades at the highest cut.
Walking on this lawn releases a gentle perfume. Chamomile tea
made from the dried flowers is good for insomnia and makes a hair
rinse for fair hair. There is a good market for nicely packaged herb
teas. Dried mint makes another excellent tea as does dried marigold.
Marigolds are another attractive herb to grow.
thyme and lavender are permanent plants. Established as a
thick border, they give a herb area a feeling of permanence. You
can make the internal layout complicated as in an Elizabethan
knot garden or plan it on simpler modern lines. A central raised
area could be planted with an exotic-looking herb such as
bergamot. This is sometimes referred to as bee balm and if you
choose a variety with red flowers, it is a striking plant.
Dill is delicious with fish; angelica can be candied. Nasturtium
seeds can be pickled like capers and lavender dried to make
lavender sachets for perfuming drawers and cupboards. Balm has
a distinctive lemon flavour — we use it in yoghurt or chopped in
salads. Herbalists prescribe its use for gastric disorders and
With such a wide variety to choose from, many
purchasers are using herbs widely rather than specifically. Continual
use of a quantity of herbs in your diet is a form of preventative
medicine (Of course, it is important not to make too many claims for the
herbs you produce. Although some people use them as a total alternative
to modern medicine, such treatment could be dangerous)
Bay leaves have been used to treat anorexia: perhaps a clue to this
lies in the fact that the flavour of bay subtly enhances the flavour of
food without being overpowering. Comfrey is grown in great
quantities by some believers. You can revert to Tudor ideals and make
bone-healing compresses from an infusion of the leaves. Comfrey
can also be used for congestion: the roots and leaves should be well
boiled and the cooking water reduced before consumption. The
old names for this apparently boundless plant were knit bone and
boneset. Apart from all this, comfrey leaves make excellent compost
and they are produced in abundance if the plants are cropped
three times a year. You can also force the young growths to eat
One of the delights of becoming involved with growing and
selling herbs is that you begin to amass a great amount of lore
from your customers.
Hyssop tea is a great standby for winter
coughs and colds in many families. Dill water soothes babies;
parsley helps with inflammation of the kidneys. The delicate
English violet can produce a liquid for soothing catarrhal
infections. (Alternatively, put the violet fresh into salads.)
For an effective salve, heat a handful of marigold petals in some
Vaseline jelly, warm and strain it. The resulting salve is soft and
soothing for the skin. Mix in a spoonful of clear honey and the
moisture-retaining ability of the treated skin is improved. Using
various herbs, salves with special applications can be produced.
They should never be designed to provide quick, harsh treatment;
the accent of all these kinds of product is to gently soothe.
A mixture of herbs in a muslin bag dropped into a warm bath
not only perfumes the bather: the bath can also have a soothing
effect if the herb mixture contains natural sedatives such as lime
blossom. If you put in rosemary and lavender, the bath is stimulating.
We always put a quantity of natural sea salt into these bath
bags and gently bruise the dried herbs to allow them to release
their oils. We sell herb bags prettily packaged with ribbons and
coloured labels. They are not expensive items and are popular as
gifts in the summer and at Christmas.
Pot pourri, which is a mixture of flower heads and leaves
preserved with some of their essential oils, is always popular.
Along with herbs like lavender and rosemary, sweet rose petals
and geranium leaves go into the pot pourri. You can either buy
mixtures of the oils and spices you need or you can make up
your own. You will need four heaped tablespoons of orris root,
one tablespoon each of cloves, ground nutmeg and allspice. Mix
this up with the juice and rind of three lemons and stir in half an
ounce of oil of bergamot. This mixture should go into a large
As you gather flowers to go into the pot pourri, mix handfuls
of them with pinches of salt and saltpetre and leave them to dry
for a few hours in the sun. Then put the dried petals into the big
bowl, stir and cover. Keep doing this until the pot is full. At the
end of the summer the pot pourri will be ready.
You can concoct
many different mixtures based on different flowers and each will
be a perfumed reminder of Summer through the winter.
Bouquet garnis can be made using tiny muslin squares.
a cellophane outer bag and prettily labelled, they are popular in
specialist groceries and as gift items. Thyme, bay, parsley and
- tarragon are traditional in these little bags. Put the little twig
bundles on to the muslin square and tie the muslin to make a little
bag. You can experiment with other mixtures. Special ones for
cooking game are very nice. We add bought juniper berries to
home-grown thyme and dried balm: this is delicious with wild
duck. Using the little muslin bags means that you can put in whole
spices and slivers of dried orange peel that would be unpleasant
whole in a casserole.
Much of the selling of herbs lies in giving
information and making suggestions. A lot of nice products such
as the bags for smelling drawers really sell because of their pretty
packaging. Even herbs growing in pots sell better if the pots are
slightly unusual, such as hand-thrown ones. If the thought of
growing all these personable plants appeals to you but the thought
of pretty packaging does not then it is a good area for a joint
venture. There is bound to be someone who would enjoy doing
the fiddly tying of muslin bags and the designing of colourful
labels who would hate to be involved with growing the initial