The flower girls of Cornwall

Meet Catherine and Adele from The Cornish Flower Patch, who recently began to supply the Great Cornish Food Store with their seasonal wrapped posies. You may have noticed the colourful displays we have in store – and we had the pleasure of sitting down with them for a few minutes, a couple of weeks ago, after they’d delivered their latest showstoppers.

Catherine and Adele have been growing beautiful, locally-grown flowers together since 2016. They operate from a small plot of land – less than an acre with two polytunnels – in Penstraze, close to Truro. It’s amazing what they manage to produce, both in terms of variety and quantity.

“We’re very small scale and artisan, but what you see in our polytunnels is nothing like your average Cornish country garden,” laughs Adele, when met with my incredulity. “We sow many varieties of flowers on strict seasonal rotation and, if planned well, you can cram a lot of seeds into tight spaces. We’ve been busier than ever in the last six months, too,” she adds. “Not only has Covid-19 galvanised people to shop locally, we’re finding that many families in Cornwall have been sending flowers to those they’ve not been able to see. It’s been such a weird time for us – we’ve been so busy since lockdown… yes, we’ve had to be creative and think on our feet, but we feel fortunate that we’ve continued to get lots of enquiries.”

Both Adele and Catherine are born and bred Cornish girls and have been friends for around 25 years… their husbands are old school mates. But in business, they came together from very different backgrounds.

“I studied Criminal Justice at university and then trained to become a primary school teacher,” says Catherine. “I’ve always been a big gardener though. Owning a small patch of land just outside Truro, I decided to try my hand at growing commercially.  I spent a lot of time and effort rabbit proofing the plot, and started out growing dahlias and selling wholesale to florists. That went really well, and so I started on new varieties and extended into two commercial tunnels.”

At the same time, Adele was just completing a floristry course at the Duchy College Rosewarne. “My grandmother once owned a florist in Falmouth,” recalls Adele, “and like Catherine, I’ve always loved flowers, in particular styling them – something in the genes, perhaps!”

And so it was, this shared passion for flowers and gardening that brought them together to create the Cornish Flower Patch. “We know each other so well, and knew that we could make it work… Adele with her floristry skills, and me with my plot of land and the wholesale background,” explains Catherine. “We started small, doing weddings and the Redruth and Truro Farmers’ Markets, then we approached a few small outlets local to us, including the Great Cornish Food Store. Since lockdown we’ve been online too, selling flowers and bouquets by post and offering bucket deliveries direct to customers.

“We’re also seeking to extend our season this year, due to demand,” she continues. “We’re growing more and more to keep up, so while our main season is April to October, we’ve got plans to create winter arrangements and Christmas wreaths.”

So if ever they get a breather to enjoy Cornwall and their own families, where do they like to go?  “You can’t beat a lovely coastal walk with the dogs followed by a pub meal, or a glass of wine by the beach at Porthtowan,” says Catherine.  “And I’ll head to Gwithian, or the Helford, to do pretty much the same,” adds Adele, “although that time is getting all the more precious.”

The main Cornish flower season has a few more weeks to run, so bag a posy whilst you can. And we look forward to seeing Christmas bulbs and wreaths in store towards the end of the year.