Growth spurt – Irish flower farmers on the increase

Cut flowers is big business in Ireland but surprisingly local growers only make up a tiny percentage of the industry.

When I learnt that Ireland spends upwards of 34 million euros each year in Holland for its cut flowers it completely piqued my curiosity..

I mean it’s clear things grow well in Ireland.. I’ve never seen a greener green and there’s literally flowers growing everywhere… So why isn’t there a growing industry here?

According to a top Dublin florist, Ruth Monaghan in the Irish Times (2017), “We have a similar climate to the Netherlands yet flower and plant growing is a tiny industry here.”

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Pic: Ruth Fortune Flowers

She goes on to say “It seems crazy that I have to buy Irish foliage that is produced in Kerry back from the Dutch supplier to whom it has been exported. I can’t understand why the farming world isn’t more concentrated on flowers and plants here.”

But it seems there is change a foot …. With this ever growing appreciation for seasonal and unstructured floral arrangements sweeping over many corners of the world (thanks in part to Instagram! And also check out New York Times article on the subject), there is quite a number of passionate flower farmers popping up and literally sewing seeds and filling fields.

Andy Whelton, a horticulture adviser, said in the Irish Times earlier in the year, that interest in Irish-grown flowers is increasing.

“The market for outdoor cut foliage has expanded in the past 10-15 years and is a viable alternative to tillage crops for some farmers. Growing flowers is a very small niche market, but flower packers for supermarkets in Ireland are keen to sell more flowers grown in Ireland,” he said

“Some Irish farmers grow daffodils or sunflowers on a large scale; Irish-grown roses, dahlias, tulips, sweet william, cosmos, honeysuckle and sweet pea tend to come from small-scale producers.”

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Pic by The Flower Press at Ballymaloe House

So it seems times could be a changing, little by little and its because of passionate growers, farmer florists, who have been swept up in this refreshing ‘movement’, if you like, for seasonal and natural floral arrangements.

Ruby Harte from Bumble Bee Farm in West Cork grows a range of large range of blooms including roses, dahlias, tulips and says she’s noticed there are more local growers over the last few years.

“We are all small flower farms growing mainly for our customer’s weddings. But more and more people are looking for natural flowers.

“It hasn’t quite hit mainstream yet and there is still this perception that we grow just wild flowers. I tried wholesaling with a florist but she kept comparing my organic flowers to mass produced processed flowers,” she said.

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Above is Ruth Fortune who used to be an architect but now grows and arranges in West Cork.

Ruth told the Irish Times in 2017: “We want to raise awareness so people realise that most of the flowers they buy are imported and that there is an alternative.”

Flower Farmers of Ireland is a new group recently been set up to group all the like minded growers and florists together.

They have recently launched a website so you can find growers around the country.

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Image: Ruth Fortune Flowers

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