Gardening is good for you… Until it isn’t.
Published: 21st Oct 2018
Gardening is good for your emotional and physical wellbeing, right? Right. Until it isn't.
Disclaimer - We all have times of enjoyment and times of stress, none of us are unique in that respect. And so the point of these subsequent words is not to pretend my experiences are special or to ask for anything. This is just to share emotions and doubts that we all feel and explain what I'm doing about it and how that links to some changes that will be coming up with The Flower Deli in 2019.
Spoiler alert - I think they're positive changes!
My path and drive to horticulture will be familiar to many, it's not unusual or special because gardening is moreish. When you get a taste, you just want more and the plant and gardening fans among us know this to be true. I have been gardening all my life, one way or another. We're a family of gardeners and have been for generations, so its in my blood but I really 'got into it' about 7 or 8 years ago when I became completely smitten by everything about it. It was my true love and number one happy place. What a gift! At that point I decided I needed to learn more, so I took formal qualifications with a hopeful little thought at the back of my mind that maybe horticulture could become my career. This optimistic musing whispered "Just imagine, it could be amazing!" which was quite emotional for me because, like everyone else, I've always longed to find a vocation I and am good at and is rewarding. It's that perfect, quite elusive sweet spot in life isn't it? And as it is for many people, gardening is a very romantic activity for me, all about surprise, anticipation, joy and love. Time spent with the plants and in the garden helps worries melt away and put my heart at ease. Not to mention the healthy benefits of exercise and nutrition from home grown food.
So I could not be less emotionally prepared for how I suddenly felt about it at the start of this year.
You see, running The Flower Deli business is not my full time job, it's not even my part time job! It's something I do outside of that time. The Flower Deli garden is my home garden. It is not a big garden, it certainly isn't even close to being the size of a field (not even a small five a-side football field). It is an unremarkable suburban garden close to the city that, like all gardens, seems to be capable of remarkable things. Turning my happy place into a business brought trouble I just didn't expect.
Time & worry
Going back a little in time, when I was just starting up The Flower Deli I met some lovely potential future customers and colleagues, took them flower samples and had chats about how we could work together. Often they were fellow small business owners (cake makers mostly) who had taken an activity they previously did just for fun and turned it into a successful enterprise. I asked one of them, "What happens when your hobby becomes your business?" and she wisely said "Find a different hobby, you'll always need that outlet". She was absolutely right. The trouble is, with already working full time (more than regular full time hours usually), running The Flower Deli and all of the other commitments that everyday life brings there was nothing left for a hobby - no time, no energy, no motivation. In fact there was nothing left for anything.
Time became a source of much worry actually. Worrying when seeds would germinate, when plants would grow and when buds would flower. The amazing anticipation, surprise and joy at seeing that first peek of green through the soil had been replaced by mentally willing, with all my might, seedlings to appear and buds to open. I'd become obsessed with when things would happen, and checking over again in case something had changed since half an hour ago. I shrugged these feelings off a little and put it down to new season jitters. I'd had a great previous year without too much pressure but this year all my hard work marketing the business had paid off and I was getting enquiries soon after Christmas asking when flowers could be bought for late winter and very early spring weddings and events. The fact is, my flowers were not ready for that early in the season and nor should they have been. But I continued to worry and tried to reassure myself with the thought that once the season was in full swing, around about mid-May, everything would be easier as there would be an abundance of flowers to choose from and more to come. I was wrong. The worrying and anxiety got worse. At one point as orders came in one after another for blue and white colour schemes, I found myself out in the garden trying to count the white flowers for upcoming orders, just to check and double-check that I could fulfil them and not let anyone down. Sounds a little odd doesn't it? It was odd, it felt wrong and it wasn't enjoyable. Everything that I loved about gardening had gone. I couldn't see the magic and the beauty anymore, only problems.
So here's the thing
OK, I know that worries for a conscientious business owner is completely expected. Stress and anxiety are par for the course to some degree if you run a business, especially in the early years. I have been co-running a separate business (in a different industry) for 14 years. I'm no stranger to managing client expectations and definitely not averse to hard work but you can imagine the complications it brings when you can't dedicate the time you need to because you're already committed elsewhere. And, as anyone who runs a business alone knows, providing the product or service is by far not the only thing you have to do. You are your own administrator, IT department, marketeer, accountant, local delivery driver, courier wrangler, chief cook and bottle washer. The buck stops at you for everything.
So, through May, June and July this year I had a big, tough knot in my stomach that just wouldn't go away. By August I was exhausted and so was my garden and we were both running out of steam. Worst of all, in crept the anxiety, that nasty, bullying emotion that tells you you're not doing enough and you're not good enough but you have to listen to it because it's also telling you that something is wrong and you need to fix it.
Receiving kind messages from clients telling me how pleased they were with their flowers and sending me photos of their beautiful creations made me smile, a lot. I'd had contact from a massive international restaurant chain and a prestigious venue in London who were interested in using me as a supplier and I was blown away. My marketing had obviously been a little off because I was way too small to supply them but boy was that a boost when I was feeling like a failure.
So, here's the thing. Me and my garden have worked hard for The Flower Deli in the past few years. We've crammed every spare centimetre with edible flowers to the exclusion of everything else - other plants, home grown food and sometimes wellbeing and fun. We've loved it but we're burned out and in need of some variety in the botanical and every other sense of the word.
Fellow edible flower farmers I take my hat off to you, especially those of you that also grow flowers seasonally and naturally and using organic principles. You are horticultural warriors. We have to produce pristine looking, food grade, tasty flowers whilst battling every pest and disease determined to destroy them and we have to do that the hard way. No chemicals, no shipping from industrial production in Kenya, just hard graft and dedication in our changeable, unpredicable climate. Big high fives to all of you!
What really matters
I'm not interested in competing with other edible flower farmers or anyone else, I'm interested in being healthy and happy. So I'm making the choice that I can only garden to the beat of my own drum.
What does this mean? Well there are going to be a few changes around here. I will still grow edible flowers in my small Flower Deli Garden next year but it will be amongst my herbs and fruit and veggies and any other plants that I fancy. The edible flowers that bloom will be available to buy. It means there will be less flowers than before but still enough I hope to take part in happy celebrations. For me, that's what its all about, knowing that my flowers have played a teeny part in my customers making happy memories with their loved ones. Plus, this way I can keep my promise to myself to do what I can to be happy and healthy and spend precious time with my loved ones too. I will enjoy it, like I used to.
In fact I've already started making some changes to the garden, planning what else I'm going to grow and making preparations. I'm pleased to report that this small change has done the trick and I'm getting my happy place mojo back!
What will happen
Here's the more descriptive part about what will happen next year - Not a huge amount will be different in the actual set up of The Flower Deli business. You might not notice any changes at all. However, I won't promise set colour schemes of flower punnets. I will take requests for specific colours and I will do my best but they are not guaranteed. The punnets available will be flowers of mixed colours and types, for cakes or cocktails. I won't be providing personal deliveries as unfortuntately it takes too much time that I can't spare but I will continue with deliveries via Royal Mail as using them has been a success. Of course The Flower Deli will still be registered as a food business, inspected by the local authority and working to the set standards.
You might see more diverse posts coming up on my social media about horticulture in general, not just edible flowers. I'll be growing food again and maybe sharing things I've learned or done there. I expect on my blog here and on social media I'll write about things related to horticulture and wellbeing because, for obvious reasons, that's become particularly interesting to me this year. I hope you'll join me.
If you've made it to the end of this post of ramblings well done and thank you. I told you the outcome would be positive! If anyone feels like talking to me about anything I've written here then please feel free to drop me a line or message me through my social media accounts. I'm happy to chat and share experiences and ideas.