The fresh smell of earth surrounding her hands are one of the reasons she turned from garden design to hands-on growing. With her business Far Hill Flowers she is growing british blooms whilst showing her design skills in floral demonstrations all over great Britain one RHS Show at a time.
Besides running a successful business with british blooms she also runs workshops and courses on how to grow in your own home and she is leading the way with her sustainable ideas even for small spaces.
I had the pleasure of asking her a few questions about her ideas and her journey.
Being trained as a Horticulturist and working in Garden Design, what swayed
you towards growing flowers?
When I moved to South Wales I spent time setting up my own garden and realised that I really enjoyed the digging and growing far more than the design element. Design comes into everything but doing it for other people wasn´t satisfying my need to get my hands dirty.
Have you always had a connection with horticulture?
I grew up with a large garden with my brother tended. Half was neat with boarders but the back was wild with long grass, chickens, trees and a pig. I loved this area and played there all the time- Although I wasn´t growing flowers myself I knew I loved being surrounded by nature and losing myself in it.
What is your favourite plant to grow and/or to use in your work?
That is really tricky because I try to grow new plants every year and each year I have a different favourite. If i were to be stranded on an island and could only take one plant with me I would have to go with Sweet Peas. They are so gorgeous and tick all the boxes: pretty, delicate, scented and with wonderful foliage, but they are hard work to maintain especially through a summer like this.
Where would you like to see your business as a grower and florist in the future?
I would like to maintain the number of wedding I currently do but I would love to attract brides who let me run riot and trust me to do their flowers without showing me pictures to copy off Pinterest.
I have my own style and would love more of a free hand.
How has working in Garden Design influenced your style as a florist?
Design means I look at the big picture - it is not just about an individual arrangement but how they all tie in together and giving an immersive floral experience. That sounds very grand but it doesn't have to be. Even if just using jam jars it is about continuing that theme so everything looks right together.
Besides discovering that your flowers had made it to the majesty the queen herself.
What has been a highlight for you in your flower farming career so far?
I was asked by the RHS to decorate a "Floral Cake" for Valerie Singleton from Blue Peter to celebrate 60 years of the children show. Valerie was absolutely lovely and the presenter when I was little so meeting her was a thrill and a privilege. I am always amazed at some of the places flower have taken me.
Besides many I had the pleasure watching a floral demonstration of yours at the RHS Malvern Spring Festival. What do you like most in sharing your ways and ideas?
If I can keep the audience awake I see it as a win. But I really love talking about what is going into an arrangement, tips on growing the ingredients and how to condition. I also love seeing people´s faces when they have learnt something new and their delight when I turn the arrangement around and they see the finished product. The big reveal moment - I learnt off Jonathan Moseley who is a master at it.
The way of growing sustainably and organically is growing rapidly, yet not everybody is seeing the potential even in small spaces. Do you have any advice on how to be more sustainable?
I try to reuse everything I have on my plot. When we bought the farm there was lots of "rubbish" left but I saved much of it and now most of it has found a use. I try to use as little plastic as possible and that which I do have I reuse. Being organic is not hard and it is getting easier as more organic products come onto the market. But best of all you can make all your own fertilizer, bug control, and compost, it is cheaper and you will find that nature helps as well. When not using chemicals the good creatures will move in quickly and feed off the bad. Plus you get a garden full of bird song and buzzing bees. What´s not to like?
What is the biggest lesson you have learned when it comes to farming flowers / and arranging them?
Go with your gut. Like everything in life trust your instinct. I grew flowers I did´t particularly like at first but they were in fashion and others raved about them. I walked past them when picking because I could´t see how they would fit into my arrangements. I now grow what I like and use and still try new things but don´t beat myself up if I don´t like them when they flower. Lesson learnt, moving on.
The same goes for colours... if you don't like yellow.
What advice would you give someone starting out in growing flowers?
Start small, start with "no dig" and don´t spend a fortune on bulbs or expensive items.
Visit other growers and see what foliage plants they have and you like and then take cuttings and start them immediately. I wish I had planted far more foliage when I started as I love to use masses of it.
Do you think it is necessary to be arranging flowers as a grower or vice versa?
Not necessary but useful. I started with the intention of growing just to sell wholesale but local florists were´t very interested so I started arranging myself and found I absolutely loved it.
Now I can´t imaging doing just one or the other. Play with your flowers, you may surprise yourself.
Interestingly the florists are now beating a path to my door because locally grown, british florals are hugely popular with them and their customers.
What was the funniest thing that has happened to you regarding your business so far?
Whilst at the RHS Cardiff show a lady came up to me and said she loved the natural style of my floristry. Her husband regularly bought her flowers but they were always stiff and rigid.
She asked the local flirts if there was a style her husband could ask for so she git the flowers she liked and the florist said "well yes, tell him to as for hobo flowers".
I smiled at her but thought describing my style as "Hobo" was a little harsh. Two hours later when there was a lull in the crowds i thought back to the conversation and realised she had meant "Boho".
Now that is a style I am happy to be associated with but I startled some passers by with my loud snort of laughter.
I love that growing flowers and flower farming is becoming more and more popular - the courses I run fill quickly and there is nothing nicer than being sent picture of a garden full of flowers from delighted attendees.
And whilst Justine is ready to prepare her garden for the colder months to come, she sure is getting her hands dirty with her delightful smile.
And if you would like to learn more about Justine have a look at her website:
Or visit one of her autumn workshops that she is holding:
And if you still can´t get enough, follow her on social media or keep an eye out for her at the upcoming RHS Malvern Autumn Show: