Blooming marvellous! Growing scented flowers on the Isles of Scilly

Blooming marvellous! Growing scented flowers on the Isles of Scilly

Mike Brown, owner of Sunnyside Narcissi Farm

Scented flowers from Scilly have cheered up homes for many generations with their early spring colour and beautiful scents. Our user Mike Brown has a Narcissi farm, Sunnyside, on the Isles of Scilly.  He works over 35 acres and produces over 25 different types of flowers.

Flower farming is the 2nd largest industry on the islands after tourism. Over 100 new varieties were bred in Scilly in the 60s and 70’s. The Isles of Scilly are fantastic for flower growth due to the mild weather which encourages growth and the many hedges which act as windbreaks from Atlantic winds. 

A map of Sunnyside with different usages for the flower varieties grown

Mike specialises in Tazetta Narcissi. These are not just plain daffodils, they have up to 15 flowers on one stem and are highly scented. For these unique breeds to flourish the stems need to be strong and protected due to the extra weight of the flowers. 

Part of what makes them so special is that each stem is picked by hand. “This is no small undertaking, we have a team of pickers and flower graders who handle 1,700,000 stems each season! All scented!”

Harvesting narcissi by hand
Harvesting narcissi by hand on Mike’s farm

Mike has been using fieldmargin to map the varieties in his farm. Each flower is individually named- the varieties give hints of the flowers character:  Avalanche, Cheerfulness, Golden dawn. 

Mark’s farm map with varieties and areas

Flowers are saved in a cold store to keep them fresh and then sent across to the mainland. They are freighted out by a locally owned team twice a week.  The flowers are picked from October to March/April. It is a massive operation which involves planning and tracking the plant’s growth stage.

 “We are in remote area, this can be a challenge but it is the same with a lot of farms. Anything that can help with communication is great”

The biggest farm expense is spraying and tracking product use is important. Mike compares the amount used across varieties and seasons and it is important to be as precise as possible. 

“Using fieldmargin Field Jobs we can work out and record the number of flowers and bulbs in each area. It’s really useful, using the automatic area calculation we can confirm spray and manure usage.”

This season Mike has used fieldmargin to measure areas that need spraying. This allowed him to discover inaccuracies in his existing measurements. Some fields that had previously been treated as 1 ha where in fact it is closer to 0.8 ha when measuring only the working areas excluding headlands. The sprays used for ornamental flowers are very expensive; some cost over £50 a hectare. A 20% saving on product has a significant impact on the farm’s efficiency and bottom line.   

Field Job with Roundup
Mike uses Field Jobs to plan work and record herbicide applications

Mike is now starting to look into fieldmargin’s potential for Audits. To sell bulbs wholesale the grower must prove their quality every season. This involves an assessor cutting through the bulb and checking for any disease. These checks allow the plants to be given a passport. To be granted this farmers need to provide maps with locations of where the bulb has been grown. As well as the field you need to know the exact location of picking within a field. 

Want to using fieldmargin for auditing on your farm? Inputs and reports are part of fieldmargin Pro. See how it could help on your farm with a free 14-day trial of Pro. No credit card required.

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