For some, their garden is a place of peace and tranquillity. For others, it’s a haven of productivity and profit. Anna Tyzack spoke to some of the lucky few for whom it’s both and has profiled them for Country Life — starting with Rachel Siegfried.
Rachel Siegfried, floriculturalist, Oxfordshire
Eleven years ago, garden designer Rachel Siegfried rented a market garden in south Oxfordshire, with a view to growing cut flowers. ‘I’d trained under Chris Beardshaw and worked in a walled garden in the Cotswolds and I had a feeling the “slow flower” movement was about to take off,’ she says.
Only white flowers had been permitted in her previous job, so, on her own turf, Miss Siegfried rebelled with a riot of colourful dahlias, sweet peas and peonies, which she began selling to order and in her own shop. ‘I love Icelandic poppies and foxgloves — anything that evokes wild, natural gardens and has a glorious scent,’ she says.
She was right about the ‘slow flower’ movement: such is the demand for Miss Siegfried’s Green and Gorgeous sustainably grown flowers that she now grows hundreds of varieties and also provides flowers for weddings, arranged in a loose, natural style.
Cut flowers bring together all her interests, Miss Siegfried says: art, design and a love of flowers, gardening and the great outdoors. ‘It’s a happy combination and it feels very sustainable,’ she continues. ‘The garden is now a haven for wildlife.’
When Miss Siegfried isn’t working in the flower fields, she’s in her studio creating bouquets or running flower-farming courses, photography and cut-flower workshops with her partner, Ashley Pearson. ‘On my courses, the first thing I discuss is irrigation — people don’t talk about it enough,’ she adds.
Miss Siegfried also opens her gardens for pick-your-own sweet peas and dahlias on Saturdays, as well as selling vegetables, fruit, eggs, seeds, plants and pottery at the farm gate.
Although the business isn’t particularly lucrative, she wouldn’t want any other lifestyle: ‘I’m comfortable and each week brings a different flower to my palette of plants. Flowers are very therapeutic: I see people wandering around here and taking a deep breath and some time out — that’s rewarding to me.’
‘It might not be hugely profitable,’ she adds, ‘but your lifestyle is rich.’