Cornwall Living 2017

In Full Bloom

Set on the banks of the Fal estuary, Fentongollan has been farmed by the Hosking family since 1883.

The farm itself consists of 2000 acres on and around the stunning Tregothnan Estate. Tenant farmers Jim and Jill Hosking, ably assisted by their sons James and Jeremy, specialise in four main areas – livestock, seedlings, cereal production and of course flowers and bulbs. Some 170 acres of the farm are given over to daffodils, that are grown for cut flowers and dry bulbs. Sold both in this country and exported to Holland, the farm cultivates over 250 varieties of daffodils, many of which are unique to Fentongollan.

From mid-January teams of flower pickers can be seen working down the rows hand-picking and selecting the best varieties to send out each day. The flower-by-post business here at Fentongollan has been running for over 40 years and the flowers are sent in-bud to ensure that they have the longest vase life possible. “We get enormous pleasure from all of the collection of flowering bulbs grown here on the farm,” the Hosking’s explain proudly.

Isles of Scilly legend has it that the first scented narcissi were brought over to the islands as a present to the Govenor’s wife

Away from the mainland, and some 28 miles west of Land’s End, the warm Gulf Stream flowing around the Isles of Scilly creates a sub-tropical climate that makes it possible to grow scented outdoor flowers throughout the year, and has created a flower industry that has been a mainstay of the Scillonian economy for centuries. Isles of Scilly legend has it that the first scented narcissi were brought over to the islands as a present to the Govenor’s wife, who lived at Star Castle, from a Dutch Merchant Captain. Thinking the bulbs were onions, she boiled them, but on tasting them, threw them out the window into the moat as they tasted so horrible. The flowers flourished in the mild climate and so scented narcissi on Scilly were born.

In 1879, William Trevellick of Rocky Hill Farm, took note of these wonderful flowers growing amongst the island, and speculatively sent a box of to Covent Garden. On receiving an unexpected fortune for the flowers, Trevellick along with

Richard Mumford, Hugh Watts, and W M Gluyus, became the first flower farmers on St. Mary’s. The islands continued to send flowers across the UK, and in the 1950s, St Mary’s boasted 90 flower farms. In 2014, however, with the increase of exported flowers, the number of farms on Scilly has fallen but those that do remain are going from strength to strength and the flower industry is the second biggest industry on the islands after tourism.

Scented Narcissi are doing more than their bit to keep this industry growing and are proud to support the remaining flower farmers on the Isles of Scilly, and source all of our flowers from them directly. Every bouquet of flowers they send out includes a ‘Farmer Tag’ so you know exactly which farm your flowers came from, and who farmed them for you. In a world of mass-production you can’t get better provenance than this.

Elsewhere on Scilly, for Andrew and Hilary Julian a move to the islands in 1987 and an investment of their savings into the 27 acre, Churchtown Farm on St Martins, was the start of their own love affair with flowers. They originally farmed them for the wholesale market but after a number of harsh winters and falling wholesale flower prices, they decided to start sending their blooms out by post. In 2002 their son Ben and his wife Zoe took over the running of the farm and the mail order business has gone from strength to strength, now sending out over 90,000 beautiful boxes of flowers throughout the UK every year.

In the winter they grow scented narcissi, the traditional flower crop of the islands, which are sent out to spread their perfume and adorn tables across the UK from October and until April. Many of the varieties of narcissi that they grow are
unique to the Islands, and they are grown outdoors in tiny fields sheltered from the Atlantic by tall hedges that are an integral part of the Scillonian landscape. Their own, relatively small farm, can’t keep up with demand and so they too work closely with other Scillionan flower farmers ensuring that the farmers get a good guaranteed price for the best flowers that they produce. This helps to keep the islands’ traditional flower industry buoyant and so preserve the landscape of Scilly.

So, if you are feeling the woes of winter and want to brighten your table, flood your room with scent and help to keep a Cornish industry thriving, fill a vase with daffodils and we guarantee they will bring a little bit of Cornish sunshine into your life!

A few of our favourite gardens

This month’s features