Meet Tammy Hall, Wild Bunch sustainable British flowers founder (listed in our directory here)
It was Tammy’s kind invitation for me to join her Spring Flower workshop that first brought me to her sustainable British flower business Wild Bunch. As soon as I started looking through the beautiful images of her flower farm on the Welsh borders I was definitely in. I’ll be sharing my day at the workshop soon, but in the meantime, I wanted to know more about the story behind Wild Bunch and so I asked Tammy to share one or two of her inspirations, seasonal loves and simple pleasures. I hope you enjoy discovering them as much as I did ! X
Please describe what you do and tell us a little bit about your story
I grew up in Australia and spent my childhood outdoors horse riding, camping, walking, skiing in the bush. I always dreamed of being a cowgirl or long distance train driver because I loved being in big landscapes. Instead I ended up studying architecture, and worked as an architect for twelve years. Through this work I focused on visualizing our place in our environment.
City life didn’t feel a long term option so I would spend weekends away camping and paragliding in the Welsh, Shropshire and Herefordshire landscape. This is where I met my partner James, a farmer. I moved to live on his family farm in 2005 and commuted to Birmingham and Shrewsbury to continue working as an architect. But it felt completely wrong living in the most beautiful landscape and spending hours commuting to the city.
Guided by James, I learnt to grow vegetables in the old kitchen garden and then companion flowers in the vegetable garden. I read everything I could about working with garden flowers and started growing in a small patch guided by a book by Sarah Raven. Eventually I took the plunge, resigned from architecture and threw heart, soul, time and money into starting Wild Bunch.
Please describe your work and share a little about your inspiration & ethos
I always think that Wild Bunch flowers is really a state of mind – romantic and full of beauty and in harmony with nature. Our floral arrangements are wild and romantic, designed with a focus on colour, texture and movement. Wild Bunch flowers and foliage form part of the life cycle of the farm and nature itself.
We produce and use only what can be ploughed back into the land. Just as each client and event is unique, so is each Wild Bunch arrangement. I can often be found foraging in fields and hedgerows for the perfect piece of wild foliage!
As well as creating bespoke floral arrangements for weddings, gallery openings, lunch parties or evening events, I also love passing on the knowledge and lore of flowers in my seasonal classes.
At the heart of my philosophy is the idea of provenance. Each season has a different palette of colour, texture and form, and I embrace this individuality in the mood and style of my work. When we listen and respond to our environment and the materials we are working with, we can take design to a new level.
Every season I strike out to explore the surrounding landscape around my farm, looking for hidden treasures to work with. Every season has its own unique personality and is reflected in my floral designs.
Living on our farm where I spend many hours working outside I am guided by nature and love this quote:
“Let us permit nature to have her way; she understands her business better than we do”
– Michel de Montaigne
Please can you talk us through your creative process?
I wouldn’t be working as a floral artist or flower grower if I didn’t have a deep love of the landscape or the need to spend as much of my time outside. In the end, as far as I was concerned this was one the biggest flaws of being an architect – having to be inside for hundreds of hours.
And, without a doubt, my creative process starts with being in the landscape. Being outside and growing my flowers on our farm that is at the crossroads of Hereford and Shropshire. The wild Welsh hills overlook our family farm and this is where I grow over an acre of cut flowers. This is at the heart of my floral creativity.
I grow in a south facing field – where I do most of my picking. I also pick from extensive woodlands on our farm with hedgerows that run all through our fields. Three years ago we planted a 5-acre woodland dedicated to picking. While I might imagine, and build, images in my mind of a piece of work, it is in the garden or on my long walks across the farm that my mind really clears and I start to visualise and feel the design that I am working to make. Clarity does not come until I start to pick.
To avoid being overwhelmed by the scale of of flowers available I focus on finding one element that will be the heart or focus. Or one piece that I love more than every other piece and start there. I will select and pick every other piece from the garden to work with. I always look for a collection of flowers, grasses, foliage, twigs that work together to create a palette to create a feeling of a garden bed.
The essential elements are shape, texture, colour. I struggle with starting a new piece, and have learnt to think of the picking as my point of sketching or note-taking to get to the heart of the feeling of the piece I will be making. When I start in my studio I have primed the canvas so to speak, and now the work must be about movement, creating layers, it must be soft and there must be a line through the piece to pull your eye through.
Composition and creating a feeling is at the heart of any creation for me. I remember these elements clearly when setting our to clear my mind and plan a new architectural project. What I love most about floristry is that we have a whole-hearted license to make things that speak of unashamed beauty. Knowing when a piece is finished is the second most difficult part of my work.
I have learnt that using less is more when creating the feeling and image you have in your mind. And have come to the conclusion that the only way I know that is through a combination of learning to trust yourself, and to work with a clear intention of an image or feeling in mind. I’m a big believer in the 10,000 hour idea, and would say there is nothing better that to practice, practice, practice.
What’s your favourite way to start the day?
During the winter and off peak growing time my very best days are started with an early morning run around 6:30 with our 6 month old wildly happy sprocker spaniel called Rio (named by my football-loving young children). Often I will be bolstered along my run by my endlessly chatty daughter Lucy or my more serious son, Joe.
Running and walking around our farm really helps a fluid and creative thought process. |And if I ever feel overwhelmed by work, this is the best time and place to reset.
In the summer I would be up earlier, around 5am, when I will try to alternate between a morning run or walk. During very busy times, I would be in the garden picking before heading inside to get the children ready for the school. Unless I am working on a special event, I don’t start work until 9:15am, when I am home from the school run, otherwise in the peak of the flower season I like to be in my studio or garden by 6am. I need to be back inside and ready to be with the children by 7:30am, when it’s the family rough and tumble of breakfast, last minute homework, music practice and general collecting bits and pieces of details for the day ahead for the family.
I have to be on high alert, this is where I need to make sure my calendar is up to date to juggle work commitments and timings for the children and their activities.
To go to work, I head down four flights of stairs to the bottom of our rambling large old farmhouse where I have an oasis of peace. This is my studio with its high ceiling it is lovely and airy and stays remarkably cool even during the hottest of times. It’s around 7.5m x 12m, one of the oldest rooms in the house and has a large south facing window.
What keeps you going through the day?
My flowers and working outside keep me going and also the prospect of seeing our noisy children late in the afternoon.
What are your top tips for enabling creativity?
The changing seasons keep me going. I love the seasons and I love planning and growing my flowers.
What do you do when struggling for creativity/inspiration?
Definitely go for a walk through the woods and fields. I’m always looking, searching for a twig, a piece of grass, a beautifully shaped branch, texture, colours, shapes… There is endless inspiration outside. Or if there is a real pressure I can’t make headway through, sometimes just walking, running and allowing yourself space outside to sit. To just be, is the perfect tonic to get through a block. Or sometimes I prefer the quiet found by looking through books about favourite artists. One of my favourites is Vermeer and the Delft School.
Why are you passionate about the Slow Flower movement?
It is frightening to think of the carbon footprint and the general burden the commercial cut flower industry is putting on the world at the moment. I am deeply aware it is not possible for everyone to have access to seasonal locally grown British flowers. The industry is a complex one. However, I am deeply aware there is no comparison between a home grown or garden grown flower when compared to an imported or hot house flower. How can we compare the two products!? I don’t think we can, I feel they are completely different product. But I know a home grown flower is alluring and unique in all aspects of sheer beauty, scent and depth of colour or complexity in texture.
Do you have any tips for supporting this as consumers?
Please look at the Flowers From the Farm website that has a wonderful directory of English flower growers. A lot of flower growers will sell at their local farmers market or will advertise locally – with days like seasonal pick your own days. Or else when we are out of the traditional growing season, try simply picking a branch from a tree or bush in your garden and putting it in your favourite vase inside.
It may not be a picture of colour and soft beauty, but it is interesting how little you need to pick to make a pleasing object with a stem in a vase. Even in the middle of winter you might be lucky enough to find a stem of perennial honeysuckle. The art of this is to challenge yourself to just do it – take some scissors outside and look for something different.
What are the things we should definitely try to avoid ?
I feel it is one thing buying commercially grown British tulips or narcissi, or even Dutch, Italian or Portuguese grown flowers that are all likely to be grown in hothouses. But I feel less positive about buying flowers that are intensively sprayed and grown in hot houses like roses in faraway countries like Kenya and Columbia. I believe the more exotic the flower the more intensively sprayed and grown they are, and so the carbon footprint is larger. It is a difficult subject, but my feeling is we must keep talking about it, and doing the best we can with our individual practice.
How would you sum up the joy of homegrown flowers?
Homegrown flowers seem to have a physical effect on a passer by. They can stop people in their tracks pulling at their senses – colour, scent, texture and movement. They seem to ground people in the moment, and definitely make them visually aware and happy.
What’s your favourite flower (or flowers) from each season?
I’m obsessed with the colours and textures of all my flowers and it’s on the tip of my tongue to say the rose. But whenever I go to answer a question like this an image comes to mind that reminds me it has to White Purity Cosmos (images above and below are by The Future Kept, who sell these seeds in their wonderful online shop. Future Kept is listed in our directory here Click through to get all the info you need). I worked in Kabul for a charity before moving to Shropshire, and will never forget the dedication and love the gardener had for nurturing a huge patch of white cosmos in a tiny oasis of a public garden set in the middle of this ancient sprawling dusty and parched city.
What plants would you suggest for anyone starting a cutting garden?
A small selection of hardy annuals – for example Ami Majus, Nigella and Cosmos.
What are the key benefits to the environment of the Slow Flower Movement?
As with the Slow Food Movement, I think it has to be encouraging an increased thoughtful awareness of the landscape around you. Admittedly, this would be helped hugely by the Slow Flower Movement making its presence more felt in larger cities. So it’s encouraging to hear of small public city gardens starting cut flower gardens.
Tips for styling the seasons with flowers?
Keep things simple, and challenge your eye to pick a few pieces throughout the seasons. Look for the unexpected. For example, in the heart of winter take heart and perhaps look for unusual elements of foliage. And if you are new to flowers, The Almanac, A Seasonal Guide is a small book full of monthly seasonal specialities to inspire you.
What are your favourite containers for flowers and why?
There are so many. This subject can feel a little overwhelming especially given the visual power of the internet. I have a collection of small vintage sea green glass bottles. The colour is so natural and reminds me of the sea. I love to fill them with pretty stems of flowers and grasses and line them along the centre of a table. Simple and perfect and they will make any table setting, from a rough and tumble breakfast to a delicious lunch with friends look special and welcoming.
Any tips for conditioning homegrown cut flowers at home?
This is a minefield – a subject that any grower or florist will have an opinion on. I have found while time is short, I prefer to put it into growing a beautiful and happy flower. I would always pick out of the heat of the day. First thing in the day, or just before sundown. I condition and strip most of the foliage off the stem and place all stripped stems into a clean jar or vase of fresh water. No more than half full. Though I do love to have a vase in my window sill next to our door, as a rule flowers will last longer in an area away from direct sunlight. Your flowers will last longer in a cool and shaded part of your room, and will thank you by lasting longer if you change their water every couple of days.
Why can’t I pick white lilac from my tree without it wilting almost immediately?
Beware of the wilting lilac I was told by the local Church flower ladies when I set out on my flower journey. There are some flowers well known for sulking and wilting once brought inside – lilac and poppies for example. But I have found in general that a happy flower in the garden will be a happy flower in your arrangement. Although I am obsessive about conditioning a flower and will remove as many leaves and bits of foliage as possible. I have friends who stick by the scalding the stem of some flowers in hot boiled water before using. However I am mindful there will always be a few flowers from your harvest that just won’t be worth using, whatever the treatment.
What are your tips for maximising cut flower longevity and minimising waste?
I grow a selection of flowers that I love to dry and save for the winter months. Roses, Helichrysum, Achillea millefolium (commonly known as yarrow), Larkspur and Limonium are easy to grow and perfect to pick and dry. It’s worth experimenting with any flower you love from your garden. If you pick them just before they are in full bloom, or even in full bloom during a dry spell, strip all foliage and then tie them with string and hang them upside down in a dry dark space. They should keep a gentle tone of their natural colour.
Conditioning your flowers well – stripping all greenery from them before using them and regularly changing their water will increase longevity of your cut flowers. I always throw my flowers in our muck heap on the farm and they will be ploughed back into our fields – or you could throw them onto a compost pile.
What are your greatest simple pleasures and why?
My greatest simple pleasures are reading with my children and going on walks and runs in the countryside with all of us. That’s my partner Farmer James, our children and our dog. Our favourite head to area would be the Long Mynd near Bishops Castle.
What is your approach to setting and achieving your goals?
Dreaming, researching, walking and running – where I come up with my best planning and creative ideas. And writing lists before bed every night. When I am struggling with trying to multi task I sing a mantra that my partner Farmer James lives by: there is no time like now.
Share a real hidden gem with us.
Marches Pottery in Ludlow. This is the working studio and shop that sells exquisite and beautifully calm functional ceramics and tableware. Cups and saucers, bowls, plates, pitchers and jugs are all fired in distinctive tenmoku (brown), celadon (pale green) and white traditional glazes.
Best place to watch the world go by?
Well I would love to say it was in some warming local café, but as we live nine miles from the closest café it would be the view from the top of our farm. It looks across to the Welsh border behind the town of Knighton.
How important is seasonal living to you?
Living seasonally sets the rhythm to life with my family on our farm. It is at the heart of everything.
My most visited ‘shops’ are online, as I live 9 miles from the closest shop. And possibly my most favourite one is Chiltern Seeds that has a beautifully illustrated catalogue.
Most treasured possession?
I have an old framed photograph of my grandparents taken in what was then Ceylon. Before they had to leave their tea farm and move to Kenya and the start of a new farming life. It makes me think of providence and how one path magically leads you to another.
Favourite walk and why?
In the middle of winter, I love to walk up Cardingmill Valley, across the top of the Long Mynd and down a valley that leads to Little Stretton and the fabulous pub, The Green Dragon. Arriving in mid afternoon, there will be a roaring fire, a bowl of treats for your dog and a Sunday roast for all the family.
What are you passionate about right now?
Growing lots and lots of vegetable seedlings to keep us in fresh organic vegetables for the summer. I am planning this year to bottle as many fruits and vegetables as possible to keep us going through next winter.
Best local find for lovers of design?
Head to Ludlow, a town of hidden gems – wonderful small local shops. For an array of contemporary local and further afield British designers like Luke Eastop, Black Bough is a really inspirational shop.
I always visit Harp Lane Deli situated on the edge of an old medieval square at the heart of Ludlow town, to take a few moments out and enjoy one of their delicious flat white coffees sitting at their Italian style window bar stools.
Best local place for rummaging vintage finds?
Church Stretton has a wonderful collection of charity shops and an indoor ‘market’ of vintage and antique sellers. I often head to Church Stretton when I need some props for a particular job.
What measures do you take to support plastic-free and zero waste?
This is the dark environmental cloud over floristry and even gardening and I think about this dilemma constantly and always try to avoid working in a negative way.
I grow my flowers using muck from the farm, and I work hard to re-use and minimise all plastic elements like seedling pots until I have squeezed every bit of life from them. I use 80% of my home grown flowers and do, on occasion, buy in flowers from the Dutch markets. The decision to buy from market is always a hard one. However, at the end of the day, I want to achieve the best design for my brides and other client. And so hope I offset any negatives with beautiful work and by living in as balanced a way as possible.
Favourite British design icon?
Vanessa Bell and Bridget Riley – pattern making and story telling I love.
Favourite UK makers/producers and why?
I am influenced by my location and my tie to the farm. And love the OAS collection from TOAST. They are easy to layer and while very utilitarian like my old well worn Blundstone boots from Australia, they are my perfect ‘special’ studio working clothes.
My favourite piece is an apron dress. It has a lovely waist that makes you feel special after days of gardening in jeans and a check shirt. Although I love my gardening and studio ‘uniforms’, my favourite piece to ‘dress up’ in is made from the softest Indian printed cotton by Day Dress.
How important is making in the UK to you and why?
Making in the UK to me is everything I believe in. Living and working from our family farm has given me a strong sense of place and a sense of belonging. Beyond making and working from a traditional working farm, I have learnt this is a natural and useful though small scale diversification within the working life cycle of the farm.
Living and starting a business in a rural community that grows beautiful flowers also gives back to our local community through small scale employment. Growing beautiful produce and inviting people to small events (like pick your own flowers and schemes to order and pick up from the farm as well as open garden days) has shown me that sharing your space with others is hugely rewarding. People love to visit working gardens that are not necessarily picturesque in the traditional sense of a garden.
Best place to unwind/escape to in the British Isles?
I love a good horizon line, and am always drawn to wide-open spaces. Growing up in Australia, I have a love and yearning for the seaside. We are blessed to have the most spectacular Welsh coast line close to us. Our favourite areas are south of Newquay, where there are spectacular coast walks and beaches around Llangrannog and Mwnt. But I also love nothing more than a glorious wild and windy hill walk, and as a family we all love to explore local landscapes, like the Brecon Beacons or the beautiful Long Mynd near Bishops Castle.
Best piece of advice you could share based on your experiences so far?
There is no time like now, embrace the moment and don’t moan about the weather – there is always something you can get on with.
What are you listening to/reading/watching right now?
I’m a convert to the ITV series Endeavour. I’m watching the current series 6 and the box set of series 1-5, side by side. My current book that is “Let the World Spin” by Colum McCann
What is the secret to being happy?
Make the very most of what you have and don’t be side-tracked by what other people have,
What are your tips for creating a capsule wardrobe?
Don’t be side-tracked by all the beautiful pieces that other people have. We don’t need a lot and well made clothes last a long time. Less is more. Have just a few pieces that make you feel special and that will last.
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