Churchtown Farm news
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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 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.
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 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.
To take a sneaky peek at our new photo book click here
Or 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...
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.
Special offer code at the end of the full article - read on!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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!
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.