FLOWER growers in Scotland are on a mission to raise the profile of the domestic industry and reduce the market's dependence on importing flowers from abroad.

Scotland’s climate lends itself to growing flowers – with high-quality soil and fewer pests and less disease – yet 90 per cent of cut flowers sold in Britain are imported, grown mostly in Africa and shipped here via Holland.

In an attempt to raise the collective voice of commercial growing in Scotland, cut flower growers from Aberdeenshire to Ayrshire have come together to form a new group to promote this little-known sector and call on shoppers to support "grown over flown".

“Unless you’re driving up the A90 in April or May and notice the yellow fields, most people in Scotland are not aware that we grow daffodils,” said Mark Clark of farmer co-op Grampian Growers – which unites 12 farms, with 1200 acres of daffodils between them.

Mr Clark is now working with eight other growers from elsewhere in Scotland in a Soil Association Scotland-led Rural Innovation Support Service group, facilitated by Amanda Brown and Helen Glass of Scotland’s Agricultural Organisation Society, working to increase knowledge of the sector amongst policy-makers, including rural affairs minister Mairi Gougeon.

“With Covid and with Brexit it’s all about the short supply chains and bringing people together,” said Mr Clark. “Along with others in the RISS group I am passionate about flowers and bulbs, but as an industry it’s very much unknown – there is no association, no representative body.

“There is little data on the cut flower sector in Scotland, but the big florists say there’s not enough local supply for weddings and events, even during Covid, and they’re desperate to source locally. That supply chain doesn’t really exist yet.”

Microgrower and RISS group member Arianne Knowles, who runs Flourish Ayrshire from her 14-acre smallholding Roadinghead, near Cumnock, agreed: “Through selling at a local farm shop I’ve met a local florist who wants to reduce flower miles and loves the idea of sourcing close by.

“There’s a tale of old that somehow British flowers are wildflowers that wither quickly, but actually they have an excellent vase life."

Another RISS group member Kym McWilliam, of 500-hectare arable farm NJ McWilliam and Co at Laurencekirk, Aberdeenshire, was unable to sell her daffodil crop to Scottish supermarkets this year, because the late Easter meant their cold stores were already full of cheaper, English flowers. “It’s a thorn in my side,” she said, “because fresh flowers are 100 times better. Once they’ve been in a cold store for a month their vase life is much shorter and they look hellish, actually.”

Ms McWilliam is experimenting with commercial peony growing and has given over a field for "Pick your Own", which allows her to experiment further with varieties. “We always admired my grandmother’s peonies growing outside the kitchen window and then I thought, if they can grow in the garden, why not the field? We have beautiful dahlias still in the field now in November here in Aberdeenshire, but we’re importing roses from South Africa.

“Our flowers are grown not flown. You have to think about the carbon footprint. If we can chip away at the imported figure, so that even a quarter of flowers are grown in the UK, that would be something big.”

For in-depth news and views on Scottish agriculture, see this Friday’s issue of The Scottish Farmer or visit www.thescottishfarmer.co.uk