Island florist Steph Haggerty also happens to be a good friend and my next-door neighbour. Whilst we chat every day, it tends to be on the harried school run! So, it was lovely to be able to chat with Steph is greater depth about her floristry business, her passion for growing and love of island life.
Plants are at the core of Phoenix & Providence skincare, all the ingredients we use are from high quality, organic plant oils. Embracing skincare as part of a holistic approach to wellbeing is also a value I am always keen to share with our community. Gardening brings so much joy to so many, and for many can enhance their own sense of wellbeing. I am also pleased to share in this conversation Steph’s tips for creating your own cut flower patch, as well as how to foster a love of growing and being outside within children.
Steph you and your (now) husband Jon arrived on the islands is 2008 from Hertfordshire, how did you end up on Scilly? And what has rooted you to make a home here?
I had visited Scilly once before at the age of fifteen, for a two-week holiday with my parents. I'd always had an unexplained love of islands and, on arriving from St.Martins from St.Mary's, I announced that this was a proper island because you are able to see both sides at the same time. In the years following my Mum ordered flowers from Churchtown Farm (a postal flower farm on St. Martin’s) and on one occasion spotted in their newsletter that they were looking for seasonal staff. My then boyfriend, Jon, and I were not in particularly permanent employment at the time so applied together and three weeks later found ourselves on a tiny plane bound for the islands.
Both enjoying our six-month summer contract and independently deciding that we wanted to stay on, we had a tentative conversation about staying for winter, but deep down I think we knew that we were staying for good. In 2013 we married in the little church in Highertown surrounded by our wonderful local community as well as friends and family from the mainland, and in 2014 and 2016 the arrivals of our son and daughter followed.
Life on St.Martins took some patience during this time as we waited to be able to move in to a home of our own, meanwhile raising our small children in a staff accommodation flat. However, our love for the island and the people who inhabit it, kept us going until at the end of 2017 when we were rewarded with the beautiful home we now live in. Our little place on this island felt solidified and work on the garden began immediately.
In 2015 you officially started your own floristry business Island Bride Flowers, catering to the growing number of couples deciding to get married on the Isles of Scilly. Island Bride Flowers has now grown to include creating arrangements and wreaths for other events, and running your own floristry workshops. I know you favour using local flowers, why is this so important to you? And what challenges does this present?
Scilly is abundant with flowers and foliage. Flower growing is an integral part of the islands' heritage and a part of Scilly that we were immediately immersed in on arriving here. The islands are also super seasonal, with stark contrasts between the winter months and summer season. These are all things I like to reflect in my work and generally my clients value the origin of their flowers too.
With such an abundance of flowers at certain times of year I am often spoilt for choice working with local flowers, but there are some typical wedding 'staples' (roses for instance) that are not as prominent on the islands as in other parts of the country. This sometimes comes as a surprise to some people. The shoulder seasons too, particularly September which is a popular month for weddings on the islands, can be tricky as the flowers shift from one season to another, sometimes leaving gaps where sourcing flowers locally can be harder. However, the unpredictability of windy weather is definitely the biggest challenge. High winds are not uncommon on the islands, even in the summer, and can easily spoil a weeks worth of flowers at just the wrong time, so it can be a constant race to stay one step ahead of the weather.
Being your neighbour I can attest first hand to your beautiful cut flower patches! Could you share some tips for someone looking to create a cut flower patch in their garden?
Thank you! There has been a lot of trial and error involved in getting my cutting garden established. Things I have learnt so far include:
- Don't be afraid to try new things, but also don't fight your location. Continually forging ahead with a plant that doesn't like your local conditions will be a losing battle, while recognising varieties that will enjoy the soil and climate of your area can be very rewarding. For example, on Scilly anything that is particularly sensitive to salt and wind damage will struggle but plants that enjoy well drained soil tend to thrive.
- Establish a selection of interesting shrubs early on (I didn't do this soon enough!) as these will take the longest to mature but a good selection of foliage to work with is invaluable.
- Be organised with your non-flowery stuff. Good rain water harvesting and composting set-ups will make your life easier and your garden more efficient.
- Make room for nature. Leaving some areas of your garden wilder, introducing little havens for insects such as log stacks, or leaves left to mulch. Leave flowers that you have finished cutting to be enjoyed by pollinators and go to seed for the birds, this helps the creatures who in turn often aid your plants.
Your children, 8 and 5, love being outside in your garden, have you got any advice on how to involve children in an outdoor space and how to inspire an interest in nature and growing?
Allow them to be interested, involved and explorative as much as you can. Answer their questions (look up the answers if you need to - my son's knowledge of minibeasts often exceeds my own!), let them help with garden jobs if they want to (but don't make it compulsory so that it's a chore) and allow them freedom to dig, look under rocks, pick flowers, make stews, examine insects, build mini ponds... the list goes on!
If, like me, you're a bit precious about the look of your garden, dedicate an area for the children to enjoy (ours is a little patch behind the shed!) where they are free to do as they please. If you don't have a garden or allotment of your own you can plant and creature spot whilst out and about, in parks or nature reserves and even looking at gardens you pass. Planting and growing seeds with kids is also a rewarding activity that can be done in pots or trays on a windowsill. Watering them is always popular but stand them in a sink, bath or shower tray to do so as it can get messy!
Imagine it's a sunny summer Sunday, there are no weddings to dress and you have a day ahead of you with your family! What would be your ideal Scilly day?
I'm so looking forward to summer now. A perfect day would be a gentle start and a dog walk with Ruby our sprocker spaniel. Followed by some time spent on the water kayaking or boating with a picnic lunch, ready for a stop on an uninhabited island, or an afternoon on the beach with friends. Home for a sit on my new bench, up the hill behind our house, with the most wonderful view across Middletown and out to St.Mary's and Tresco, and then maybe even a row in our island gig, The Dolphin.
Lastly, do you have a favourite P & P skincare product?!
Yes, well not just one! My day to day favourite is definitely the Nurture Face Oil - I use it religiously twice a day and wouldn't be without it. But I do also love a Renew Seaweed Mask once in a while to give my skin a treat, it just feels so soft afterwards.
Thank you so much for your time Steph, and for your insights and tips for growing and enjoying the garden. Steph is very modest about the beauty and quality of her work, if you would like to see more you can head to her website. It is also worth keeping a look out as Steph sells her gorgeous dried flower wreaths online, as well as the most beautiful Christmas wreaths in December.