Churchtown Farm news
Keep up to date with latest happenings at Churchtown Farm.
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100% island based and ready to help
27th November 2023
We often get asked by people calling to order flowers, 'Are you really on St Martin's? ' Yes we are! Tucked away behind a tall hedge next to the church on St Martin's, one of the small islands that make up the Isles of Scilly, you'll find us beavering away. When you call you'll often be asked to hold for a moment. This happens because all the people who answer the phones also grade and pack your flowers so they need a moment to walk from the packing shed to the office. Because our multi-tasking team are hands on with the flowers they really know their stuff and can give you great advice.
Best time to call
In December our phones do get very busy. If you have trouble getting through please do keep trying. The phones are often a little quieter first thing in the morning and between 2-4pm. We're more than happy to give a you call back so please email [email protected] if you would like us to call you.
The adventures of Tomaz and Mirjam
24th October 2023
Originally from Slovenia, Tomaz and Mirjam came to work at Churchtown Farm in 2019. After not having been home for several years they decided to spend this summer back in Slovenia. As a very outdoorsy couple, island life suits Tomaz and Mirjam but they have taken their adventurous side to the next level by choosing to cycle from Scilly to Slovenia and back again! We've been following their journey as they've cycled their way across Europe, enjoying late summer sunshine and some enormous pizzas. They are now back in the UK wending their way towards Penzance in time to catch the last boat before the passenger ferry service to the Isles of Scilly stops for the winter. We're very much looking forward to having them back as the busy scented narcissi season starts.
Belladonna Lily time of year again
We have successfully been sending belladonna lilies for quite a few years now. When we started we scavenged them from our neighbours' fields as they popped up in the autumn, this wasn't flower scrumping we did ask! The belladonnas were the legacy of crops which had once been grown commercially to be sent to the wholesale flower markets. We have been working on increasing the quantity and quality of the belladonna stock on the Island and now have a number of actively grown and managed fields. To find out more about the different types of flowers we send please click here.
Early scented narcissi shoots - maybe an early start to the season?
15th August 2023
Once the narcissi season comes to an end, just after Easter, there is plenty we have to do to prepare for the next season. The bulbs are lifted in a 4-5 year rotation depending on the soil in a particular field and the bulb variety. After the bulbs are lifted they are sterilised and then replanted in a field where narcissi have not been grown for a while. This is done to reduce the risk of disease and maintain soil health. We also do various things to the bulbs that are staying in the ground to help us stagger the picking. At different times we cover the fields with large sheets of polythene to control the soil temperature and moisture level. We also use smoke to initialise the bulbs, basically kick starting them into growing. There is great demand for flowers in the run up to Christmas so we aim to have plenty of flowers in December. But we can only do so much and once the shoots have broken the soil, the weather has as much sway over when the flowers will be ready for picking as anything we can do beforehand. This year we have spotted foliage breaking through the soil particularly early so maybe we will be picking sooner than normal. Click here to learn more about how we grow our scented narcissi.
Less carbon out more biodiversity in
27th March 2023
As our fields are so small, some machinery we use has to be purpose built. In collaboration with two other Scillonian farms we commissioned a diddy direct seed drill that’ll improve our grassland. With a conventional drill the field has to be ploughed beforehand. This releases carbon previously sequestered in the soil and burns more diesel. The new drill cuts fine channels into established grassland and delivers seed direct into the soil amongst the grass. We are using the drill with a herbal and clover seed mix, which will increase the biodiversity of established pasture, making it a better habitat for insects and more drought resistant. Click here to read more about our diddy direct drill and what we hope to achieve.
Why scented narcissi are the perfect flowers for Mother’s Day
3rd March 2023
The tradition of Mothering Sunday goes back to the Middle Ages when on the middle Sunday of Lent people would, ‘go a mothering’, meaning they would visit their mother church. This was a church they had a close connection to, such as where they were baptised or the cathedral associated with their families parish church. It became traditional for servants to be given the day off to travel home to their mother church and as this would normally be where their family lived, it was an opportunity to visit their own Mother and enjoy a family celebration. This 4th Sunday in Lent was also known as Refreshment Sunday when the austerity and fasting of Lent could be broken for a day and it became traditional to give your Mother cake or wild spring flowers when visiting.
Over time the tradition faded until it was revived in the early part of the 20th century due to a campaign by Constance Adelaide Smith. Constance was inspired by Ann Jarvis who had introduced the idea of Mother’s Day to the USA where it is celebrated on the second Sunday of May. Constance had grown up in the high anglican Christian tradition and was keen on keeping links to the original religious roots of the celebration. Her idea was that it should be a day to celebrate all things related to mothers - the religious in terms of mother churches and Mary mother of Jesus, actual Mums, and Mother Earth.
So no matter what you choose to call the day, Mother’s Day, Mothering Sunday or even ‘going a mothering’ and no matter what form of Mother you choose to celebrate, a box of scented spring flowers sustainably grown in the UK in a way that respects Mother Earth has to be the perfect gift for all mums.
Push the boat out or keep it simple
30th January 2023
Isles of Scilly scented narcissi are of course, in our humble (!?) opinion, a simply perfect gift, especially for the traditional flower giving celebrations of Mother's Day and Valentine's. But this year Valentine's Day falls on Tuesday which is a little problematic. We don't send flowers over the weekend to prevent your lovely flowers spending extra time in a sorting office. This means Valentine's flowers will be sent 1st class on Monday the 13th and although the vast majority will arrive on the 14th we can't guarantee it. For some this element of jeopardy is fine, for others an alternative Scilly gift might be a better idea. Luckily our talented friends on St Martin's and next door neighbors on Tresco have some great alternative gifts to suit every budget.
Taste of Tresco - 3 nights dinner, bed and breakfast this March with use of their spa and access to the world famous Abbey Garden. Mention Scilly Flowers when you book for an extra little treat.
Fay Page - Gorgeous Scilly inspired jewellery made on St Martin's. Fay, Rob and their team make a wide range, from cute sliver charms stamped with iconic Scilly motifs to complex bespoke pieces.
Pheonix and Providence - Skincare for the soul, made by Ella using seaweed harvested on St Martin's. Ella has a growing range of products that harness the natural benefits of seaweed.
Inga Art - Yet another St Martin's talent! Inga is constantly experimenting with different mediums. Her work often captures aspects of Scilly's natural beauty in unique ways.
Sold out for Christmas because of cold weather and strikes
12th December 2022
We always dread a chilly December, once the temperature drops below 5 degrees the flowers basically stall and there is very little to pick and very little we can do about it as all our flowers are grown outdoors. If we get a short cold snap in the run up to Christmas this is usually manageable because we can move our delivery dates to cope. However this year with Royal Mail strikes bringing the last postal date forward we aren't able to post in the week before Christmas, substantially reducing the time available to pick flowers. With great regret, we have made the decision to stop taking any more Christmas flower orders. We can still send your Christmas greetings with one of our lovely gift voucher cards. Or after Christmas, as the weather warms up, we hope to have heaps of scented narcissi. Perfect to cheer up the house after the festivities and to wish your friends a Happy New Year. Sorry for any disappointment but despite all our planning rather too many things are out of our control this December.
Price freeze promise - great value flowers
14th November 2022
We are very pleased to announce that we've frozen the price of our scented narcissi until at least 2023. This means you will pay the same price for your Christmas flowers as you did last year.
Of course some of our costs have risen but because of the way we grow and send our flowers we have luckily been able to control some significant costs and we want to share this good fortune with you whilst we can. To find out more please click here.
The 3 wise
men people that make Christmas happen
4th November 2022
The planning needed to send all your Christmas flowers starts in earnest at the end of August. The three managers at Churchtown Farm have clocked up quite a bit of experience over the years, but sending thousands of boxes of flowers from a small island throws up some unique challenges and no two Christmases are the same. To find out more about how Christmas happens click here.
Meet the team - Mr and Mrs White
31st October 2022
Zandri and Brendon joined our team mid pandemic. Coming from South Africa, where they had both worked as safari guides, their first experience of the UK was a quarantine hotel. They have both fitted seamlessly into island life and make full use of the wildlife photography opportunities living here gives them. To see some of Brendon's beautiful photos click here.
Will the postal strikes delay my flowers?
25th October 2022
Understandably this question is one we're being asked a lot. Because of our rather unique and remote location we're used to working very closely with Royal Mail and local transport providers to make sure your flowers arrive in good time, these networks have helped us put robust plans in place. Royal Mail has been very clear about when strikes are happening and which parts of their service are affected. Armed with this information we have decided which days we're happy to send flowers for you and which days we think it's best not to. This is why, if you order online, you will see some delivery dates blocked out. We would also ask you to allow a little bit longer than normal for your flowers to arrive. We're confident that scented narcissi, which naturally hold plenty of moisture in their stems, that are being sent in cool autumn weather direct from where they grow will cope well with a slightly slower journey. Please remember if you ever have a problem with our flowers or need a bit more advice on choosing a delivery date do call the farm on 01720 422169 so we can help. For top tips on how to care for your flower please click here.
Place your bets - when will the first scented narcissi arrive?
20th September 2022
We're quite experienced at estimating when the first scented narcissi of the season will be ready. The first stems would normally be picked in sheltered, sunny fields on St Mary's by mid to late September but the quality of some of the very first flowers often isn't that high. We wait until mid-October before we're happy with the quality of the crop and are ready to start posting gift boxes of scented narcissi from Churchtown Farm. However, after the exceptionally dry and hot summer, we're really not sure what effect the weather will have on the start of this year's narcissi crop. Will the high temperatures and extra hours of sunlight advance the flowers or will the lack of any moisture retard them?
Jon, our farm manager, thinks everything will balance out and we should see narcissi at the farm by 17/10. Whereas Ben, managing partner with too many years of experience, thinks it will be more like 27/10. What do you think?
Just for a bit of fun have a go at guessing when the first scented narcissi will be seen in our farm packing shed and you could win a box of some of the first scented narcissi of the season. Click here to have a guess, good luck!
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth ll
9th September 2022
We are deeply saddened by the death of Her Majesty. We thank her for her many years of dedicated service to our country and extend our heartfelt sympathy to The Royal Family.
The Queen visited the Isles of Scilly in 2011, she and the Duke of Edinburgh toured the main island of St Mary's and opened the new school building. Both Ben and I had the chance to meet her and her famous warm smile and humour were very much apparent as she greeted the assembled groups and crowds of well-wishers. The rather bizarre thing was that we had also been invited to a Buckingham Palace garden party that took place a few weeks later. As tenants of the Duchy of Cornwall, we were ushered forward to be presented to the Queen. We started to make noises that someone else might like to take our place. It seemed a little daft to meet the Queen twice in one month but equally we didn't want to make a fuss or look as if we somehow objected to being presented! So we stood in line and when the time came we were introduced as, 'Ben and Zoe Julian from the Isles of Scilly', Quick as a flash and with a wry smile the Queen enquired if we had met recently, we slightly awkwardly confessed, 'yes', the amusing absurdity of the situation not being lost on any of us.
What is the difference between a carnation and a pink?
20th June 2022
This is a question we're frequently asked and the confusion is understandable as both flowers look similar. They're members of the genus Dianthus and therefore closely related but whereas carnations have been bred for length, size of flower head and brightness of colour, pinks breeders have concentrated on scent and more delicate shades. Pinks are a quintessential English flower. They appear in a number of Elizabethan paintings and in the planting schemes of the formal, geometric gardens of the time and have remained a favorurite of gardeners ever since. The name 'pinks' doesn't actually come from the colour, it refers to the zigzag edge of the petals, like the pattern given by pinking shears. Carnations are the pinks' bigger, brasher cousin. In both the spray type, with many flower heads on the same stem, or the stem type, with one flower per stem, the flower heads are bigger. Carnations also come in a range of bright colours but the vast majority have no scent. In the late spring and early autumn you might see we have carnations available. These carnations are not Scilly grown but brought in so we have flowers for you to send between our main crops. So which is our favourite? Well as we specialise in growing scented flowers you can probably guess the answer! With their delicate shades, pretty petals, subtle perfume and heritage it has to be scented pinks every time.
Farming on a tiny scale
26th May 2022
The current farming landscape of the Isles of Scilly is a patchwork of rectangular fields edged by tall windbreak hedging, or to use the local dialect, 'fence'. These small fields have developed hand-in-hand with the flower industry and are now an iconic feature of the Scillonian landscape. Their size and shape has been determined so that the fence can provide adequate protection, any larger and strong winds would reach the centre of the field and damage the flowers. At Churchtown Farm our average field size is about 0.2 of a hectare ( 1/2 an acre), in contrast a typical Lincolnshire bulb flower field is 8 hectares (20 acres). So you can see we are farming at a very different scale and a lot of the equipment we use reflects this. Quite a bit of our kit, particularly the machinery we use to make haylage, comes from Italy where alpine farmers, although farming in very different conditions, also have very small fields. You might well be wondering why a flower farm is making haylage. The reason is we have a small beef herd. Keeping livestock is integral to our crop rotation and helps us to maintain good soil health. To find out more and to watch a short video of us making hay click here.
New digital phones
20th April 2022
On St Martin's we aren't actually hardwired into the phone network. Along with a few other very remote places in the UK for years we have relied on a TPON link that uses microwaves to transmit all our analogue phone calls via the larger island of St Mary's. This is very old technology and if anything were to fail repairs are nearly impossible as new parts aren't being made. So in the interests of robust business continuity we're swapping our system over to shiny new digital phones. Hopefully these new phones will be clearer than our current lines and allow us to do a few more things that will hopefully improve our service to you, including, like it or loath it, playing tinkly music if we need to put you on hold - progress??
Love to know your scented narcissi varieties?
4th February 2022
The other day I stumbled across a new YouTube video that had been brilliantly put together by flower expert, Rona Wheeldon. She has just started a new series of short videos called, 'Cut flower facts' and where better to start than with scented narcissi. This lovely little video takes you through the main varieties grown on the Isles of Scilly throughout the season, from October to Easter. We don't grow or send all of the varieties shown and there are some rather obscure varieties that don't make the cut but it is so informative we have made it compulsory watching for all new team members. I hope you enjoy it too. Watch Rona's narcissi video on YouTube here.
Happy 30th Birthday to us!
2nd September 2021
In the summer of 1991, the first box of postal flowers left Churchtown Farm. In all honesty, it was more of a fortuitous happening than a well thought out marketing plan! Some holidaymakers passing by the farm asked if they could post some scented pinks home as a present. At the time, all the farm’s flowers were being sold via wholesale markets on the mainland. Seeing an opportunity, Andrew and Hilary Julian pursued this marketing idea. To start with, flowers were sent in cut-down poster tubes, and for a time (approx.5 mins), the brand name ‘Tubular Smells’ was considered! Many flower companies now offer direct delivery but few, if any, have the experience, longevity and provenance that we offer. To read more about the story of Scilly Flowers click here.
Solar flower power
24th May 2021
As we are so far south and on top of a hill on an island when the sun is shining we get more hours of sun than nearly anywhere else in the UK. We have finally reached the point where we can use this to our advantage by covering our tractor shed roof with solar panels. All year round our electricity consumption is quite high because we run a large cold store to keep the flowers as fresh as possible. This also means that our usage aligns with solar electrical production - the sunnier it is, the hotter it is and the more electricity is needed to run the cold store. By now you might be asking, 'What took you so long?' As we are tenant farmers getting the sums to add up on a long-term investment didn't quite work until the technology improved and the right plan for us was available. But now you can send flowers wrapped in sustainable packaging and kept fresh by the power of the sun. For some more pictures from the roof click here.
Please can I send 50 scented narcissi posies?
2nd March 2021
Such large orders are certainly not an everyday occurrence but during February we had a flurry of thoughtful companies wanting to send their remote working and furloughed employees a little something. We haven't consciously looked for corporate customers but thinking about it our posy is rather ideal for the job.
- A delivered gift, beautifully presented with your personal message for just £12.50.
- None of the allergy issues related to food and drink gifts.
- It's not going to add to life's clutter, enjoy in the moment and then compost.
- The flowers are fully biodegradable and because they come wrapped in paper direct from where they are grown there is minimal plastic waste and a low carbon footprint. Perfect for companies with a strong environmental ethos.
- Most people love flowers, especially scented flowers and if someone really doesn't like them at least they won't be around for long!
The company that kicked off our little flurry of corporate orders was the Cornish clothing brand - Finisterre. Their clothes, influenced strongly by their Cornish surfing roots, are brilliantly designed with functionality and sustainability at their core, fast fashion this is not. Why not click over to their website and enjoy some pretty stunning videos whilst you do some virtual clothes browsing - Take me to Finisterre.
How long should my scented narcissi last?
20th February 2021
This is certainly one of our frequently asked questions and the answer isn't that straightforward. We err on the side of caution and say 5-7 days and in a warm house 5 days is about the limit. During those 5 days you will be hit with the flowers' natural perfume because in the heat the oils, that give the scent, are rapidly released from the flower heads and diffused around the room. We recommend that you enjoy your flowers somewhere as cool as possible, a hallway or vestibule is perfect. If you want to enjoy your flowers in a room that you use a little more maybe consider moving them to a cooler place when you are out of the house and at night. The cooler the spot you choose the longer the narcissi with last and the slower the perfume will be released.
We are often surprised by reports we receive from people who have kept their narcissi going far longer than 7 days. We had one such report from Tracy McLachlan who kept her Christmas flowers going until 29th January in a cool conservatory! The secret of her success? Click here to find out
The best cracker joke.....
22nd December 2020
...was hard to choose. Thank you to all of you who entered our competition to win a year's worth of flowers. You really did keep us smiling through a very busy December with your (mostly awful) jokes. They ranged from the traditional - Why was snowman looking through the carrots? To pick his nose! To the topical - Why did the pirate ship have to go into quarantine? The "Arrr" number was too high! And Lorrie's favorite - Where are vegetarian pasties made? Quornwall!
There's a limit and we're getting close
8th December 2020
With so many people wanting to do their shopping online we have received an enormous number of orders for Christmas scented narcissi. Since early November we have been rationing flowers by not selling our biggest boxes. We have done this so as many people as possible can send their Christmas greetings with flowers but we think we will sell out well ahead of the last posting date. We would love to magically have more flowers to sell but there is a finite number that can be grown and definite limit on the number of boxes that can be transported from the Isles of Scilly to the mainland. There isn't really a limit on the number of gift voucher cards we can send so if you think your friends would like to choose when they enjoy their flowers this could be a very good solution.
Christmas brochure 2020
24th November 2020
It is on its way! Quite a few of you have been asking where your winter newsletter is, it took a little longer than planned as we hit the second lockdown and more people were working from home. Hope you enjoy our little snippets of farm news and please do share your favorite cracker- we all could do with a laugh. If we think your joke is particularly groansome you could will a year's subscription of flowers. You can download this year's newsletter here.
20 years in our new shed
28th August 2020
20 years ago this month we completed construction of our new farm buildings. The old small glasshouse and wooden shed that had served as the packing shed and office simply wasn't big enough. A new building was brought in by sea and the whole operation moved across the yard to where we still work from today. You can find out more here...
30th July 2020
We've been super busy during lockdown with so many people sending our lovely flowers as gifts to friends and family. We were expecting things to get a little bit quieter when the shops re-opened but this has been our busiest July ever! Luckily we've had fantastic weather and the pinks have truly flourished. We'd like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported us over the last few months and we hope our flowers have brought a smile or two along the way.
When life gives you lemons make ........ hand sanitizer (and rum!)
26th June 2020
Islanders tend to be a resourceful bunch, you have to be when you can't just call on the skills of someone to fix this or get the right part to instantly to fix that. Thinking up a workable, if not totally elegant, solution becomes second nature. So it's no real surprise that in the middle of a global pandemic with hand sanitiser in short supply the only rum distillery on the Isles of Scilly (and St Martin's) set about making sure we didn't go short. To find out more about our friends at SCDogs, their truly excellent St Martin's distilled rums and vodkas and to watch some beautifully shot footage of Scilly click on over to their website, you won't regret it.
Where have all the flowers gone?
22nd May 2020
With everyone wanting to send their love and thoughts to friends and family they can't visit, we have been inundated with flowers orders. We know a lot of our lovely customers rely on our service and we would like nothing more than to meet this demand but sadly this isn't possible. The Isles of Scilly Steamship Group and the Royal Mail have been doing sterling work to enable us to keep going but these are not normal times and with a lot less transport to and from Scilly there just isn't the capacity to meet demand. So once the 'post flight' is full we can't get any more flowers to the mainland and have to stop taking orders - sorry. Also, so that we can fulfill as many orders as possible, we have been limiting the number of flowers people can send in any one box, hence our full range is not available. Please bear with us, fingers crossed the situation will only improve. Click here to find out more about how we are coping with Covid-19.
Wouldn't it be great if there really had been no news since February?
27th April 2020
It would appear that we have rather neglected our news page for the last couple of months. Wouldn't it be great if there really had been no news since February? Of course like the rest of the world we too have also been caught up in the coronavirus crisis. Despite regularly finding ourselves isolated as a whole community when the weather sets in, being isolated as a household is a very different prospect. We are very fortunate to be able to enjoy wonderful scenery whilst we isolate but with the islands' economy so heavily reliant on seasonal tourism these are very worrying times.
After a very busy time at Mother's day and the run-up to Easter we stopped taking flower orders for about a month as the logistics network needed for us to operate, especially when we are between our own flower crops, was not working. Those issues have now been ironed out and we feel confident that we can conform to government advice for businesses that are allowed to operate, so as of today we are back up and running again and very glad to be sending flowers for you. We have of course made quite a few changes to the way we work to keep everyone safe.
One Island, many hats
10th December 2019
To make life happen on a small island many people wear more than one hat and with no commute and few distractions, others develop their talents into useful side hustles. So that person who dealt with your order or picker your flowers might well have another life. Find out more about the other jobs we do click here...
12th November 2019
This year has gone by in the blink of an eye but looking back, it has been a productive one! As ever, we have been super busy on the farm but some of our team have managed to find time to explore their other talents. We now boast Geoff the writer, Josie the pantrepreneur and Warren the barber! You can read our winter newsletter online and find out just what everyone has been up to click here...
23rd September 2019
September sees the summer on Scilly drawing to a gradual close. The island is becoming quieter as the children return to school, the hedges are ripe with blackberries and the island is scattered with a beautiful display of showy pink belladonna lilies. These gorgeous flowers have a very short season and are only around for 3-4 weeks ever year. We have quite a few customers who are always on standby at the end of August waiting for them to be ready for us to pick and send! The belladonna lily is a type of amaryllis and not to be confused with the more commonly known belladonna, deadly nightshade. They go by several names including the rather unforgettable one of 'naked ladies'. The foliage appears after the flowers have finished so they do look a little bare on their thick burgundy stems! They are native to Cape Province in South Africa but will grow happily planted just below the surface of the soil in a sunny spot in the warmer parts of the UK.
If you would like to order one of our belladonna packs we will have some available for the next week or so:
15 stems £18.00 or 25 stems for £25.00.
Aliens in the flower fields?!
27th August 2019
Every year, at the end of summer we have a slight gap between our crops of scented pinks and scented narcissi. There are various things we can do to bring the narcissi forwards a little but we have also been looking for ways that we can extend the flowering season of the scented pinks. The pinks thrive with the long daylight hours throughout June and then slowly begin to stop creating new buds after the longest day. We’re always keen to experiment with new and exciting ideas and so this summer we are trying out grow lights on a portion of one of our tunnels. This system called ‘night break lighting’ has been used in horticulture for a while but this is the first time we’ve given it a go here on the farm. Night break lighting uses LEDs to provide the plants with directional, specific wavelengths of light for 4 hours each evening which prolong their growing day (or break up the night). This will hopefully stimulate new bud growth long after the pinks would have naturally slowed down. The good thing about using directional LED lighting is that it produces a very low level light that is concentrated down towards the plants rather than shining out and lighting up our beautiful dark night skies. We’ll keep you updated about how the trial is going and hopefully this time next year we’ll have the scented pinks for longer. For anyone wandering past the farm late at night, you now know what the eerie purple glow coming from one of our fields is!
Lifting the scented narcissi bulbs
8th July 2019
This week on the farm our outside team have been busing preparing for our winter crop of scented narcissi. When the narcissi bulbs have been in the ground for four years they are lifted, dried, sorted, cleaned and re-planted ready for the following winter. This is done to ensure that the bulbs remain strong and disease free to guarantee the very best flowers for picking. You can find out more about the whole process of growing and looking after the narcissi crop click here...
Getting ready for Summer
10th May 2019
We’re not quite sure where the last three months have gone but with winter behind us it’s time to get ready for the summer on Scilly. Holiday makers have been gradually reappearing since Easter but it’s the Whitsun week where everything on the islands really gets going. In contrast to most businesses on Scilly, summer is traditionally a quieter time for us. Whilst we are waiting for our scented pinks to be ready for picking later this month, we have been making the most of our down time and have been getting the farm spick and span ready for any passing visitors. The gardens have been weeded, our maintenance man Brad has been tasked with a long list of jobs that we just didn’t have time for over the winter, and we’ve revamped our photo book which is on display at the farm. If you’re staying on Scilly and find yourself passing the farm, we love to meet our customers face to face so feel free to pop in and say hi.
BBC Countryfile come to Scilly
10th February 2019
Tonight at 6pm on BBC1 Countryfile are doing a winter special. For part of the programme they are focussing on Isles of Scilly grown scented narcissi. The relatively mild climate of Scilly lends itself to year-round flower production. All the scented narcissi are grown as they have been for years, outdoors in small sheltered fields. What has changed is the way they are marketed. They used to go on the boat to Penzance, be put on a train and end up in the large wholesale markets such a Covent Garden, where florists and greengrocers would buy them for their shops. Nowadays there are several other routes to market. As well as the wholesale markets some go directly to supermarkets and florists to meet the increasing demand for British grown flowers, others are sent as postal gift boxes direct to any doorstep in the country. At Churchtown Farm we send all the flowers we grow and some from other farms on Scilly as postal gift boxes. This week will be particularly busy as we get ready for Valentine's Day. Scented narcissi are not a traditional Valentine's flower but as more people have become interested in the provenance of their flowers and the environmental impact of the gifts they give, outdoor grown Scilly scented narcissi sent direct from where they are grown and wrapped in nearly plastic-free packaging seem to be becoming increasingly popular. Read more about how we grow our scented narcissi here. If you want to impress your Valentine this year with a particularly thoughtful flower gift you can have an extra bunch for FREE when you use code FF19 before you shop.
23rd December 2018
I always spend the last part of November trying to suppress the feeling of Christmas panic. Will the flower crop be at the right stage to meet the Christmas orders? Will a winter bug lay half our team low at the crucial time? Is our box order on track? Will an Atlantic gale stop the freight boat running? Have we remembered the small but oh so important things like tea bags and loo rolls?
These worries fall into two piles; controllable and uncontrollable. I am by nature a control freak, an acceptance of the uncontrollable does not come easily. This year in an attempt to quell my pre – Christmas tummy turbulence I tried to be more accepting of the inevitability of, ‘spanners in the works’. There would be unforeseen spanners of varying size and I regained a degree of control by acknowledging that after 16 years of running Churchtown Farm I believe we have most of the spanner management skills needed. As a result, I hit December in a more positive frame of mind.
The inevitable Christmas spanners arrived but thankfully this year they were relatively small and soft. With the help of our great team on Scilly, the Isles of Scilly Steamship Co and the Royal Mail thousands of gift boxes of Christmas scented narcissi successful reached doorsteps all over the country.
Goodbye plastic sleeves!
12th November 2018
We have finally done it! We have now stopped using single use plastic sleeves and our boxes of scented flowers are nearly plastic free. Obviously, the flowers and foliage have always been biodegradable but now all our packaging, apart from a few elastic bands and the sachets of flower food, is paper or card. And because our flowers are grown outdoors in the UK without additional heat or light we don’t think there are many other gifts that leave a lighter environmental foot print. Read more...
We're on the telly!
12th September 2018
The result of our filming with Kelly Brook went out on ITV's This Morning. We really enjoyed having Kelly on the farm to help us to pack the flowers and take them to the post boat. There are some stunning shots of St. Martin's too!
St. Martin’s Fete
12th August 2018
You might wonder what our annual island fete has to do with growing flowers. The answer as you would expect is ‘not much’ but almost everyone here at the farm is involved in some way or another. The fete takes months of preparation by our operations manager Neil and the rest of the Island Hall Committee. In the run up to the fete everyone is busy coming up with new and interesting ideas for games and stalls, perfecting recipes, ordering supplies and most importantly testing out the bouncy castle!
On the day the weather was (mostly) kind to us and the frequent showers certainly didn’t dampen any spirits. Neil was in charge of pretty much everything. Ben, Joe, Izzy and Josie were on burgers and the bar. Zoe, Jackie and Jack were running stalls and games. Geoff was in charge of announcements and the rest of the farm team helped with putting up the tents and setting up the tables. We had live music throughout the day including brilliant performances from island youngsters ‘Red Venom’ and the St. Martin’s female choir ‘Enys Keur’.
This year’s fete raised over £7500 for the Island Hall, from which a donation will go towards Cornwall Air Ambulance appeal for a new helicopter, not bad for our little island!
Filming with Kelly Brook
26th July 2018
A very early start this morning to do some filming with Kelly Brook for ITV's This Morning show. Note to self - St Martin's is a magic place on a calm summer's morning if you bother to drag yourself out of bed to enjoy it. I met Kelly and her team on the quay. Kelly is really keen on gardening and came to Scilly to make a film about the Abby Gardens on Tresco and to see how we grow our summer scented pinks. She was blown away by the natural beauty of Scilly and seemed to really love learning about our flowers and how we grow them. Kelly is very proud of her own garden in Kent and with just reason, she showed me some spectacular pictures of all the beautiful things she has been growing. The weather couldn't have been better for filming and I am sure when the show goes out, in a few weeks time, St Martin's, our flowers and Kelly will all look gorgeous !
A Flying Royal Visit
17th July 2018
We were very please to welcome HRH The Duchess of Cornwall to the farm. Both the Duke and Duchess visited St Martin’s but split their time to enable as many visits as possible. We introduced our team and showed HRH how we grow and pack our pinks ready for posting. It was actually her birthday so our field managers son, Jowan, presented her with a birthday posy of scented island flowers.
Ben and I also got to have a chat with the Duke as he passed the farm. We were able to thank him for his hospitality as only days before we enjoyed a lovely tour of the gardens and lunch at Highgrove, held in honour of the Dukes 70th birthday. It was a little surreal to have met HRH on two occasions quite so close together!
The Royal couple left St Martin’s via helicopter from our field, the Duchess waving goodbye with Jowan’s birthday posy.
British Flower Week June 18th - 24th
18th June 2018
This week is British Flower Week. Why not celebrate by sending a lovely gift box of scented pinks direct from where they are grown. British Flower Week celebrates all the things that are great about British flowers and there is plenty to celebrate. Have a look at this BBC news piece with gorgeous pictures from Flowers From The Farm members. I think we were a little bit too far away to get a visit from the photographer!
Why choose British flowers?
• A lot of British growers specialise in scented flowers
• Fewer flower miles = longer vase life.
• Great value for money ~ you’re not paying for all those flower miles, and with our scented pinks and narcissi the flowers are coming direct from the field.
• Flowers that are naturally in season are of the best quality.
A baby Scilly shrew
13th June 2018
Meet Shrewpert, he was a baby Scilly shrew who was found in a lifeless state on the road. We were trying to nurse him back to health with very creamy milk given to him on a paint brush. For 36hrs our nursing efforts were going well and he was positively sprightly. Sadly we think Shrewpert was slightly injured and despite our best efforts he hasn't made it .Scilly shrews are a distinct species of shrew and as the name suggests they are only found on the Isles of Scilly.
Trialling our new packaging can you help?
1st June 2018
Over this summer we are going to be working on reducing the amount of plastic in our packaging. We have a basic idea but we need to make sure everything is just right so that your flowers arrive in tip-top condition, they look lovely when the box is opened and our packers can easily do their job. If you receive a 'sleeveless' box over the summer we love to hear what you think. Read more ....
Our pinks help to win Gold at the Chelsea Flower Show
23rd May 2018
We teamed up with other growers who are members of Flowers From The Farm to take part in the Chelsea Flower Show. Our part in this was rather distant and minimal compared to the hard work put in by the team who designed and created this stunning display, but we are very proud to have played a little part. We think we have spotted our pinks by the driver's bottom! Read more ....
Summer is coming?
27th April 2018
Yesterday we posted the last box of our scented narcissi for this season. They are normally finished much earlier in the month but with April seeming confused about whether it should snow or be sunny we have been able to pick them for much longer this year.
Other than the peculiarities of the Great British weather it has been a fairly uneventful month. We’ve said goodbye to Charlie and Hannah who have left the farm to work at the school and bakery respectively. Neil our operations manager and Geoff from the office have gone off on a month-long holiday (not together!) and the calm of summer (if not the heat) has descended over the farm after a very busy winter.
Now it’s time to concentrate on our scented pinks which are only a few weeks away from being strong and long enough to start sending in our postal boxes.
What a difference a week makes
8th March 2018
This time last week we were watching the snow fall wonder if our flowers and even more importantly our wind break hedges would survive the freezing weather. We tried to enjoy the snow with our children but that was hard to do when we could see the potential disaster looming of very few flowers for Mother's Day, our second busiest time of the year. On Scilly we had a very fast thaw and then we spent the weekend nervously checking the flowers in the field and vase testing some that had been picked, looking for signs of damage. Over the weekend the temperature rocketed, the flowers perked up and we got picking.
Of course, the cold weather had some affect. We didn't have the flower numbers we had planned for and the flowers we did have were a little shorter. To make sure as many Mum's as possible could enjoy some scented narcissi we only sold our smaller boxes and some people took us up on our offer of a gift card with a free extra bunch after Mother's Day. This combined with some warm sunshine and some speedy picking meant disaster was averted. This afternoon, with all the Mother's Day flowers safely on the boat and planes heading to the mainland we are bathed in spring sunshine, what a difference a week makes.
It's been snowing
28th February 2018
We hardly ever get snow , it is normally a little flutter that is gone in a few minutes but today the islands have turned white and it has lasted long enough for a few snowmen to be built. More snow pictures of St Martin's here...
Love on an Island flower farm
5th February 2018
Back in spring last year we were contacted by the author Phillipa Ashley with a research request. Phillipa was writing a new book in her, 'Little Cornish Isles' series and her plan was to set her next book on an Isles of Scilly flower farm. We occasionally get odd requests but this one definitely rated on the intrigue scale. After establishing that Phillipa wasn't after the ins and outs of anyone's love life but just technical information about growing flowers on Scilly we offered to help. Then in late summer Phillipa came to to see us in person, the first time I have given a farm tour tailored to the needs of a romantic novelist.
The book - Spring on the Little Cornish Isles, will be available from February the 19th on Kindle and out in paperback in April and can be pre-ordered now through Amazon.
Phillipa Ashley is the author of the best-selling Cornish Cafe series. Before she became a full-time writer, she studied English at Oxford and worked as a copywriter and journalist. As Pippa Croft, Phillipa also writes as the Oxford Blue series which is published by Penguin Books.
Sustainable Valentine flowers - scented narcissi v roses
24th January 2018
OK I admit I am hardly likely to approach this topic from a point of non-biased objectivity, but I will try to at least be a little bit fair and in that spirit I will allow the roses to go first.
Good things about Valentine Roses
- totally beautiful. You can’t really dispute their aesthetic appeal. Beautifully proportioned, often in rich luxurious shades with a myriad of petals in each head.
- the traditional flower of love and that is what the day is all about.
Happy New Year
2nd January 2018
December seems to have whizzed past at Churchtown Farm in its normal frenetic rush. We start planning for Christmas way back in the summer. It is by far our busiest time of year and has to be planned with military precision to make sure all your Christmas boxes of flowers leave Scilly in good time to make it through the Christmas post. We were very fortunate with the weather this year. When we were sending the largest amounts of flowers we enjoyed calm seas and clear skies. After a few days off over Christmas and New Year we are all back at the farm, the pickers have just come in with armfuls of lovely fresh scented narcissi and there are plenty of boxes leaving this morning with Happy New Year and Christmas thank you messages. Thank you to all our customers for your Christmas flower orders and Happy New Year from all of us at Churchtown Farm.
Ooops it's stopped working
29th November 2017
Although we are talented bunch not all the skills needed to keep Churchtown Farm running can be found on St Martin's or even on Scilly. There are a few crucial jobs that require more expert help. One of these is servicing and major repairs to our tractors and quad bike. For this we call on the services of Colin from Vincent Tractors. Colin normally calls on us in the autumn and stays a night or two whilst he services not just the Churchtown Farm tractors but any other St Martin's tractor that needs attention. On going dinks, niggles and 'oops it has stopped working' issues that happen between Colin visits are normally fixable by Ben and Jon scratching their heads and applying a spanner. Unfortunately last week, there was a rather nasty crunching sound and it soon became clear that we had problem way beyond Ben and Jon's spanner skills. With the busy Christmas period approaching the only answer was to call for Colin. Back he came armed with overalls and tool box for a quick unscheduled St Martin's trip. Tractor is now in full working order and Colin is on boat and plane back home. Thank you to Vincent Tractors, Colin and Colin's wife Mandy ( who has to hold the fort at their farm when Colin is with us.)
It must be winter on St Martin's because .....
24th November 2017
There are only one or two boats left on their moorings and none on the beach.
Shop is closed in the afternoons.
When the pub is open you make sure you go - it certainly isn't any every day occurrence!
If a non St Martin's resident calls in at the Farm they get offered cup of coffee and profusely thanked for making the trip.
No more swimming on Wednesday afternoons, we have swapped to exercise videos in the Island Hall - can anyone recommend an EASY zumba DVD?
AND a real tell-tale sign.... the first Quizz Night poster has just gone up!
'Recycled' turnips = better flowers
16th November 2017
Our small herd of Red Ruby Devon cattle are busy conservation grazing on Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust land out on the more wild, windward side of St Martin's, above Great Bay. In the last month we have had two new calves. It is always an interesting sport trying to find the new, bracken coloured, calf when the cows are grazing extensively over a large area, it can take a while but if you keep an eye on the new mum you can usually tell when you are getting warm. Over the winter the cows will move around to various places on the island including coming back on the Churchtown Farm land. Here they will graze on turnips, planted on land that is having a rest from growing scented narcissi. The 'recycled' turnips in turn improve the soil health = lovely flowers.
P.S. I failed to get the ultimate picture - cute small calf stood on grassy hillock with sea and rainbow in the background. What I ended up with was blurred furry blob whizzing out of shot so placid cow and rainbow will have to do!
New season scented narcissi are here!
16th October 2017
This has to be one of our earliest years for the start of the narcissi season! We are now picking these gorgeous sunny flowers just in time to cheer us all up before the storms!
You can order online or if you prefer to chat you can call our friendly office team on 01720 422 169 who would be more than happy to help.
Our 1,500,000 milestone!
29th August 2017
After spending the weekend number watching we finally reached our 1.5 millionth order!
There was much excitement in the office as to who was going to take this magic order, the honor went to Geoff. Thank you to all our loyal fans and customers who have supported us over the years!
Treasure in the fields
14th August 2017
The outside boys have been making lots of interesting finds in the fields this month. So far they have found some pieces of eight, what we believe to be the handle of a musket, an old coin and a small ceramic pot thingy which we can't quite decide what it is! Feel free to get in touch if you have any ideas! These treasures make a change from the usual clay pipes and limpet shells which were brought into the fields from the sea when farmers used to bring up large quantities of seaweed to enrich the soil.
Our scented pinks are here!
22nd June 2017
It may have taken us a bit longer than we were hoping but we are finally sending gorgeous boxes of our scented pinks. After all the stunning hot weather we have been having recently the pinks are flourishing and our pickers are being kept very busy indeed!
Brand NEW website
22nd May 2017
Drum roll please .............. We are proud to announce the arrival of our new website. It has been quite a lengthy process but we have finally got there. We hope you like it, it is a bit easier on the eye than our last site and it works a lot better on tablets and mobiles so you can order flowers easily whenever you choose.
No doubt there will be a few teething issues so if you find any problems please let us know - 01720 422169 [email protected]
We have nearly started picking scented pinks
14th May 2017
Nearly but not quite! After glorious weather at Easter we thought we would be ahead of the game this year but the wind changed direction and the chilly air has rather slowed down the progress of our summer crop. We hope to be picking enough scented pinks by the 1st week in June - fingers crossed!
2nd September 2016
On Friday 2nd September we were the proud and very excited hosts of some very special guests - William & Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
In the days leading up to our visit, the farm was given a thorough once over by the police and sniffer dogs who even checked our boxes of ribbons for anything suspicious!
On the big day we woke up to thick sea-fog and resigned ourselves to the fact that our VIP visitors wouldn't be able to make it.