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Scilly Isles' flower growers hoping that seasonal sales bloom

By The Cornishman  |  Posted: December 14, 2013

The Churchtown Farm postal flower business is slipping into top gear for Christmas. To be closer to transport – and extra hands – the   St Martin's-based operation moves to St Mary's at this time of year.

The Churchtown Farm postal flower business is slipping into top gear for Christmas. To be closer to transport – and extra hands – the St Martin's-based operation moves to St Mary's at this time of year.

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SCILLY'S flower growers are keeping their fingers crossed for a busy Christmas.

"The crop's looking good and everything's in place," said St Mary's grower at Seaways Farm Andrew May, a director of island-based Mainland Marketing. "We're reasonably busy and about to get very busy."

The knife-edge timing that determines a good season as opposed to a poor one is hugely influenced by weather conditions: too cold and the crop is set back and there's not enough of it; too mild and it comes in a rush or an unsaleable glut.

"It was an early and quite frenetic start," said Andrew "but the recent cold weather brought a bit of a lull while demand picked up and it is all quite in balance. We're optimistic."

The last thing island growers want is a repeat of last year's conditions. The crop came through quickly but there was snow and ice across the UK and Europe. "That effectively stopped anyone buying flowers," said Mr May.

"The South West had relatively mild weather and quite a lot of outdoor flower production but demand wasn't there.

"It was, hopefully, a 'once in 50 years' thing."

On St Martin's, the growers at the 33-acre Churchtown Farm postal flower business are "keeping our heads down", says Andrew Julian.

"Things have been a little bit behind in getting going but they're all right at the moment and, fingers crossed, on track. It's early days yet and we've still got a few weeks to go."

Three years ago, a pre-Christmas cold snap put the postal operation in the unenviable, and unavoidable, position of not being able to meet its orders. It simply did not have the flowers.

This week, while one group continued work on St Martin's, the operation was undergoing its annual move to St Mary's where, at the height of the "big packs", it expects to have a team of 30 going flat out.

Mike Brown, of the 36-acre Sunnyside Farm on St Mary's, said: "So far, so good."

At the moment, the varieties he is producing are "sols" (the islands' staple soleil do'r), paper whites and Hugh Town.

He said that the situation compared with the same time last year, was "slightly better".

"I've got a few more coming through. But I think, after Christmas and January, there will probably be a glut."

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