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Our Kent County Show Display on The Farmers’ Country Showdown

Over the summer of 2018 we took part in a BBC series ‘The Farmers’ Country Showdown’ which started on Monday 7 January 2019 on BBC One. The series celebrates dedicated farming families all around the UK who showcase their produce and hard work at local markets and in competition at county shows. Some families have been farming for generations. Others, like us, are new to farming, but are just as passionate and committed to their chosen field.

In our episode, which aired on 9 January 2019 (catch up on iplayer too), you’ll see us taking flowers from our Kent garden flower farm, Orchard Oast Flowers, to create a large floral display at the Kent County Show. It also features local sweet pea grower Darren Everest who has been growing sweet peas and dahlias since childhood.






From behind to in front of the camera

Having had careers in London Advertising agencies, we have been more used to being on the other side of the camera in years gone by when directing or producing TV ads or promotional films for our clients way back in the 80s and 90s. It was a whole new experience to be in front of the camera. Thanks to the superb film crew who very quickly put us at ease, we enjoyed the whole experience immensely and hope that anyone who has the chance to watch the programme will appreciate the expertise of the excellent production team behind the whole series. Making programmes about real life is an art form in itself.





Growing our display for the Kent County Show

Even with our forward planning and advance seed growing for the Kent County Show, we were still dependant upon Mother Nature to warm up the earth for our seedlings to grow in time. We work entirely with the seasons on our flower farm.

It was a nail-biting experience behind the scenes. The ‘beast from the east’ in February put growing plans back a good month, with the extended cold running well in to March. April was not warm either. May looked more promising, only to be replaced with a cold, wet start to June. Come mid June, many of the flowers we were planning to be part of our display still looked like green sticks in their beds. Plenty of flower buds on them, but not enough warm sun to coax them into bloom.

Trusting in nature to do her thing, the second half of June fulfilled her promise and flaming June began to shine. Flowers came forth in abundance as temperatures soared to 25C and above. At the Kent County Show we basked in 33C plus!






About our display

The display area at the Kent County Show in the Flower Show marquee had a plot frontage of 6m by 3m deep. So, it is not just a few flowers in a vase to create for a display.

Our idea was intended as a snapshot of our Kent garden flower farm, with vintage bushel crates to represent the past and present day focus of our farming village of Horsmonden and its heritage as prime hop growing territory – now replaced with apples, soft fruits and asparagus crops on local farms – planted up with our annual flowers actually growing in these crates, to act like mini raised beds.

Late June, these looked green and vibrant with a few flowers coming into bloom, but we could have done with more flowers being open come show time. When you work with nature, you follow her timing and not your own, and it felt important to us to not force our flowers for the sake of the show, to take our mini raised beds along exactly as they were growing at the time. Everything in our crates and in the accompanying flower arrangements was grown by us from seed. Overall, our intention was to enter a display which directly reflected a completely seasonal view of what was in flower at Orchard Oast Flowers in early July.

Working with nature and farming our flowers using organic principles means we had perfect imperfections in our display, with some flowers in the bushel crates providing a good meal for the occasional visitor!

Part of our display included a bench of our freshly made garden posies for sale. Orchard Oast Flowers began with selling posies at our main gate for our lovely neighbours and passers-by, and we grew our business from this.

We also had a selection of our English garden flower essences on display produced from the flowers we grow, to share the wisdom, spirit and healing energy of our flowers.

Shelley’s first published book ‘How the fox got her gloves’ came along too, to further spread the word about the healing wisdom of flowers and nature.

And the result…Silver Gilt woohoo!!!







About our display

The display area at the Kent County Show in the Flower Show marquee had a plot frontage of 6m by 3m deep. So, it is not just a few flowers in a vase to create for a display.

Our idea was intended as a snapshot of our Kent garden flower farm, with vintage bushel crates to represent the past and present day focus of our farming village of Horsmonden and its heritage as prime hop growing territory – now replaced with apples, soft fruits and asparagus crops on local farms – planted up with our annual flowers actually growing in these crates, to act like mini raised beds.

Late June, these looked green and vibrant with a few flowers coming into bloom, but we could have done with more flowers being open come show time. When you work with nature, you follow her timing and not your own, and it felt important to us to not force our flowers for the sake of the show, to take our mini raised beds along exactly as they were growing at the time. Everything in our crates and in the accompanying flower arrangements was grown by us from seed. Overall, our intention was to enter a display which directly reflected a completely seasonal view of what was in flower at Orchard Oast Flowers in early July.

Working with nature and farming our flowers using organic principles means we had perfect imperfections in our display, with some flowers in the bushel crates providing a good meal for the occasional visitor!

Part of our display included a bench of our freshly made garden posies for sale. Orchard Oast Flowers began with selling posies at our main gate for our lovely neighbours and passers-by, and we grew our business from this.

We also had a selection of our English garden flower essences on display produced from the flowers we grow, to share the wisdom, spirit and healing energy of our flowers.

Shelley’s first published book ‘How the fox got her gloves’ came along too, to further spread the word about the healing wisdom of flowers and nature.

And the result…Silver Gilt woohoo!!!







Even with our scented sweet pea tower and our ‘mini raised beds’ mainly in bud, it didn’t impact the overall display in the end, which to us, looked simply beautiful. We LOVE our flowers and the result we achieved at the Kent Show was an absolute bonus. For us, being completely new to the experience of showing flowers (apart from a flower medal Shelley won at 8 years old in her village show!), we have never entered our flowers in any competition before, and genuinely had no idea at all how they would be received.

We loved the display idea we created but had no idea if the judge, or any one else would. Turns out they did! Apparently, just a few more flowers in bloom would have made a difference to the award level we achieved. But really, it was just such a joy to be there, and to get any award at all, we were – and still are! - very excited about our Silver Gilt award, and very proud too.








And finally…

We met many wonderful people at the show, both new and experienced exhibitors and members of the public, who all gave us lovely feedback about our display. And we had a thoroughly enjoyable experience in front of the camera too, and hope you enjoy our episode and the whole series of The Farmers’ Country Showdown if you get a chance to watch it – which we really hope you do, on behalf of all farmers in the UK.

We will be entering the Kent County Show again in 2019, and have plans for taking our ideas to other shows too in the coming years. Watch this space!









How it all began

My story with flowers

Kent County Show 2018

The Farmers’ Country Showdown

Back to Flower Farm