Georgie Newbery is a flower farmer and florist based between Bruton and Wincanton in Somerset.
For ten years she’s been growing flowers to supply two thousand bouquets by post per year, in normal times she does flowers for lots of weddings and events, and she teaches lots of cheery workshops, both at the farm and online. Her background is fashion (American Vogue, John Galliano, Paris) and writing, (see Georgina and Georgie Newbery for books) but she has found her métier in growing flowers commercially and in sharing with others what she does so that we can all save the planet one bee feeding flower at a time.
You started Common Farm Flowers 10 years ago and have become a pioneer of selling “homegrown, not flown” British flowers. What inspired you?
A neighbour sent me a bouquet of flowers in the post, and when I opened the box I had a lightbulb moment – I could do this, I thought.
2020 marks an extraordinary year to celebrate a big anniversary. How have you marked it?
We haven’t marked it at all. We were planning to have open days and a party, but we were in deep lockdown for our tenth anniversary. And we were lucky to be so busy sending out flowers that we wouldn’t have had time to hold the events we had been planning.
How have the government's lockdowns affected your business?
For years, I’ve been saying that we should take our teaching sessions online, and the lockdowns made us make that step. The online workshops and demos have gone down a storm – I think people like our straightforward and honest approach. We will definitely carry on teaching online as well as opening up the farm to people coming here again in the spring.
You are doing more foraged plant displays on the courses you do at your base in Somerset, one being for a beautiful Christmas wreath. What is the initiative behind this and why?
I’ve always loved the foraged element of floristry – and I love to encourage people into their gardens, even during the winter, to look closely at what’s growing, and what they can bring into the house to turn into gorgeous creations. Gardening, foraging, creating, are all very good for mental health, and in a time when we are restricted on what we can do, if we can help people make more of material they have growing on their actual doorstep then that has to be a good thing.
What are your top tips for creating flower decorations and displays?
Allow the material you’re using to dance: don’t try and force flowers or foliage into a preconceived idea you may have – take time to look at what you’re creating, and if you make something quite different from what you’d imagined it will still be lovely – it’ll be you and the flowers working as a team.
Do you have a favourite plant to use as the main substance of a display?
I always start with foliage so that flowers have a base to nestle in or grow out of.
If you were to nominate one flower that you regard as the most rewarding for flower arrangements, what would that be?
I love dahlias… and roses… and ranunculus… and big, fat, double tulips… That’s the hardest question!
You do flowers for events and celebrations. How would you describe your style of decoration?
Our style is certainly wild and informal. If a client calls asking for twenty-four matching table centres for an event I’m likely to suggest I’m not their florist. We like flowers to look as though they’ve just been cut from a good garden, because in our case they have. And we have given up using floral foam, which is so liberating! It means that, working with vases and water, we never have to worry about covering up that vicious, synthetic green of the floral foam. As a result, our work can be less dense – it feels lighter, fresher.
Does living and being based professionally in Somerset have a big influence on you and the types of plants you can grow?
We are lucky to be in the south-west because we get plenty of rainfall, few ruinous frosts, lots of sunshine, a long season… though we live on what was a marsh and the ground is vicious, wet clay… but clay is the most nutritious of soils if you can break it up, so soil management is our favourite topic here.
You are a talented published author. Do you have any plans for another book?
I always have plans for more books. My dream is to write in the mornings and garden for fun in the afternoons… I’d like to write a book about how to make and sustain a lifestyle business, quite different from another kind of start-up which is looking to make millions - so if anyone wants to ring and offer a fat advance for such a project…