Scilly Flowers & St Martin’s Patchwork Fields

On our field trip to the Isles of Scilly we sketched the native narcissi and met the family behind Scilly Flowers

Flower-filled St Martin’s is the Isles of Scilly’s most northerly inhabited island. Here we found glittering turquoise seas framing pristine beaches and fragrant narcissi fields.

Golden Dawn, Scilly Valentine and Silver Chime – narcissi have been grown here for generations, thriving in the mild climate and soil enriched by seaweed. They are harvested by hand from a patchwork of little flower fields, bordered by evergreen hedges that act as wind breaks.

Seasalt has always been inspired by the community around us, shining a light on local pioneers. We met Ben, Zoe, Andrew and Hilary from Scilly Flowers, a family run flower farm on St Martin’s growing narcissi and scented pinks to send by post.

Tell us about the history of Scilly Flowers

Zoe: We’ve been going for nearly 30 years. My parents-in-law, Andrew and Hilary, started the business. They moved to Churchtown Farm, running it as a traditional flower farm, and then hit on the idea of sending flowers by post. That’s how it all started – in the kitchen.

Ben: When Zoe and I first came home in 2002 we were employing two, three, four other people, and now there are 18 of us full time, year round and more in peak periods as well. The business has really grown – it’s been quite a success story.

Why do the flowers thrive on this island?

Ben: The Scented Narcissi we’ve got thrive over here in particular because we’ve got a unique climate. They don’t grow the same in Cornwall.

Hilary: And I think we have to remember that another reason that the flowers do thrive is because of our shelter belts. Without them, we’re lost.

Andrew: We call them fences. They’re actually what you’d know as hedges and they’re essential because they stop the winds.

How are the Scilly’s different from the rest of the country?

Ben: We are so remote that even getting the simplest of items here, personal items or for the business, everything has to be thought about long in advance. You do end up slightly removed from the reality that the rest of the UK is probably living in.

Zoe: Scilly doesn’t really get four seasons. Just summer and winter. It’s all lovely and sunny, and all of a sudden there’s a massive storm and that’s it. Then it’s winter.

How do you make sure that the business is sustainable?

Zoe: We live in such a beautiful place and are conscious of the environment. Recently we changed all our packaging. We did away with the plastics sleeves and ribbon.

Ben: Sustainability runs throughout all the farming we do. It’s becoming all about the soil health and we can see that in the quality of flowers that we’re growing. We’re not perfect, but we’re trying to be better.