Student Stories

Grower/Florist – Compton Garden Flowers

Sarah Wilson

Which course did you study at Tallulah Rose and when?
4 week Career Change Course, April 2016

What did you most enjoy about the course?
Apart from working everyday with very talented people, who stretched my imagination and enabled me to achieve things I did not think possible, working everyday with the most gorgeous flowers, making really great new friends, and joining a network of like minded people. The approach to learning is second to none and just worked for me, Rachel supports you to explore and develop your own style – you are not shoehorned into a set method. This way of working gave me the freedom to develop my own style and most important my confidence. I started the course with a rough outline of what I wanted for my business, I left the course inspired, full of confidence and with a very clear direction for my business – and very excited to get started

What was the most important thing that you learnt during your time at school?
There were so many learnings it is hard to pin down one! I guess if I had to narrow down to one it would be to listen and not assume! The whole course of very customer centric, with great discussions around how to consult with customers, how to actively listen, put your feet in their shoes and don’t assume. I have benefited hugely from this learning, several times over the past year I have found myself reflecting on the value of those conversations at school

What was your first big break?
A great friend of mine asked me to provide all the flowers for her daughters wedding. The wedding consultations started a year out which meant I could actually sow seeds specifically to the brides requirements. I was so proud when the day came and the bride was so delighted to see the end result. Having originally thought I would ‘avoid weddings’ I now find myself with several weddings under my belt, more bookings in the diary and really enjoying each one.

What are you doing now?

The flower farm is now coming into its sixth season and we have grown steadily each year – our total growing space is now just over an acre of land. We have a huge range of British flowers available from April – November.  The vast majority of our annual flowers are grown from seed.  One of the things I particularly love is looking for the unusual, quirky and different, so spend hours pawing over seed catalogues to make sure our flowers are of the very greatest quality for cutting.

We are very lucky to have great customers from brides who love the flexibility and bespoke nature of our offer, event florists who love and want to work with British Flowers and of course our lovely regulars who just love seasonal flowers and buying from local independent businesses.

Describe a typical floristry day?

A day in your life – firstly no day is the same and virtually no day pans out how I expect it to at the start of the day!  I have a whiteboard in my workshop which shows me the next two weeks in detail and the key jobs that need doing during those two weeks.  During off season (November – March), it is still incredibly busy as we prepare for the next season.  Outdoor jobs include managing the soil, mulching, clearing, splitting perennials, planting out biennials and hardy annuals and sowing seeds.  Inside jobs involve developing the growing and propagation plans for next year and buying in bulbs, tubers & seeds.

During the season – it’s up early, cutting as early as possible – flowers need to be cut straight into water, when the sun is not up to make sure they are in the very best condition. If it’s very hot, cutting happens in the evening.  Buckets of flowers are cut to order so always fresh and often there is a brief to follow (colour palette/style guide) – I absolutely love curating buckets to a brief, I find it hugely satisfying.  If we are getting supplies plants & sundries we will pay a visit to the wholesalers, getting there by 7am. Next stop preparing flowers for the farm shop, posies, bouquets and seasonal jars of flowers and any other orders on the books. Depending on the day of the week (I try and give myself a schedule as it is so easy to get sidetracked when surrounded by flowers!) it will be one or more of the following deadheading, weeding, watering and feeding. There is also a lot of grass cutting involved, which my brilliant partner and husband Bob takes care of, as well as masses of the heavy lifting.

In any ‘normal’ year wedding weeks would be planned with military precision!  For a Saturday wedding, it’s flower cutting on Wednesday, with Thursday and Friday for creation and final logistics on Saturday.

One of the huge joys of this job is when you are contacted by customers old and new – my aim is always to respond to enquiries as soon as possible, which does mean sometimes planned jobs go out the window for another day – but that’s okay with me!

What’s been your highlight to date?

Learning how to cope in what turned into the most challenging year ever!  Yes I am talking about 2020 and Covid!  Suddenly we were having to deal with very unfamiliar territory.  I started the year thinking it would all be a write-off but soon learned that one of the joys of being an independent business is that you can flex and change your operation to suit the circumstances.  And this we did – setting up contactless collections and deliveries, learning how to deliver on-line workshops, introducing new offers and helping our wedding customers seamlessly re-arrange their special days.  Now looking back I feel very proud that we were up to the challenge and our business survived the onslaught, we are now ready for whatever 2021 throws at us!

What advice would you give to a new student starting out?
Enjoy every moment! Come with an outline of what you want to do after the course and use the course as an opportunity to test and shape your ideas.

Click here to learn more about Compton Garden Flowers