For this week’s interview, I’m thrilled beyond words to have the opportunity to talk with Susanne Hatwood of The Blue Carrot in the UK. I’ve been a big fan of The Blue Carrot for a while now and absolutely adore Susanne’s gorgeous designs, romantic photos and her honest, unpretentious style.
Susanne’s garden and workshop are based in Portscatho, a little fishing village in the southern part of England– the south coast of Cornwall. Susanne grows and designs flowers primarily for weddings and her work has been featured widely in UK-based wedding publications. Susanne and I have quite a few things in common– like the fact that it was a simple row of sweet peas that held us spellbound and propelled our careers as “farmer florists.” It truly is amazing that such a dainty little bloom could have such a profound effect on people. The delicate fragrance of sweet peas gets us every time!
Erin: You’ve had a few careers prior to becoming a farmer florist, is that right? Was photographer one of them? The images you post of your designs are divine! What path did you take to get to where you are today?
Susanne: I’ve been jobbing around quite a bit. From waitressing, shop assisting, sport teaching, DJing to working as a regular extra in a German hospital soapopera. But my last few jobs became more horticultural. I worked in a plant nursery and as a gardener. But I have never worked as a photographer. I usually take millions of pictures in the hope to have a few good ones amongst them.
Erin: The bulk of your design work is for weddings, correct? I find that many of the brides I work with simply don’t know much about flowers and they are usually more concerned about adhering to a specific color palette for their bouquets than individual varieties. Are British brides the same, or more knowledgeable about flower varieties and bloom times? What are some of the wedding floral trends that you’re seeing among the brides you work with?
Susanne: So far my brides are all so very different from each other. Generally I try to explain that I can’t really promise any specific flowers as every growing season is different, but if they give me a rough idea about the colours and the look and trust me with the rest, they get the best out of me. I thrive on trust and it’s so much better not to be tied to very detailed descriptions. I’m getting more assertive in this matter, as experience has taught me, that working for a client that doesn’t trust leads to a very unsatisfying experience for both sides.
Erin: When does your growing season start and end?
Susanne: It usually gets quite in December and January, but I’m using these month to prepare for the next season, as it very rarely gets proper wintery here in Cornwall.
Erin: As I was preparing for this interview, I was reading through some other articles about you and I just adore how you lovingly describe accent flowers as the “sidekicks that make the leading ladies look good” and the “supporting acts that really make an arrangement dance.” I love it! Your description sounds so poetic. What sidekicks are taking center stage in your garden this season?
Susanne: I’m obsessed with anything trailing at the moment. Vines, clematis, nasturtiums, I love them all. Black Ammi is high up there, but I had a rabbit drama in the winter and they’ve eaten all my Ammi seedlings down to the ground. Heartbreaking, but after shedding a few tears, I just got my self together again and re sowed them.
I think that like in cooking, you need some spice with your carbs. Just blowsy pretty can get a bit boring.
Erin: You’ve posted a few peeks of your garden on Instagram. It looked like what I envision the quintessential European cutting garden would look like, with big wide swaths of mixed flowers rather than long, straight rows of single varieties that you typically see here. Is a large part of your garden made up of perennials?
Susanne: That’s how my brain works, it looks chaotic but to me it makes total sense. I’m not really growing in bulk, more to produce the exciting bits for my designs, that I can’t buy anywhere or that are so much better homegrown.
Susanne: I think my roses are taking over at the moment. I love garden-roses so much, it’s a bit out of control. Unusual hydrangeas, Ammi, cosmos, sweet peas, clematis and of course dahlias.
Erin: Any new varieties you’re trying for the first time this year?
Susanne: I’ve planted a rose called ‘Ginger Syllabub’ and I’m dying to see it flower. I saw pictures on Instagram and I’m very excited. And I’ve grown the cup and saucer plant for the first time. And a great new variety of salmon nasturtium ( a great tip from a very nice lady ; ).
Erin: The Second Annual #BritishFlowersWeek recently wrapped up. I think it so great that there is an entire campaign aimed at increasing awareness of local, seasonal British-grown flowers. In your opinion, was the campaign successful? For those of us here, “across the pond” how would you describe the local flower movement that’s taking place in the UK?
Susanne: I think it’s probably very similar to the local flower movement in the states. I think its brilliant that small scale growers get growing support and are getting more confident in growing the unusual stuff, that we all so crave.
Erin: Social media—particularly Instagram—has helped to unite flower farmers and designers from around the world. As you know, I started stalking you online a while back! How have you used social media to promote your business?
Susanne: I was stalking you long before…and it really inspired me to set up my little venture to follow grower and designers like you, Saipua, Studio Choo ( these were my first social media love affairs ). I don’t think my business would work without the internet. And I love the fact, that there is a big shift from competitiveness to a sharing state of mind.
Erin: You attended the spring Little Flower School workshop in London with an all-star cast of UK designers and farmer florists. I SO wish I could have been there with you! Was your mind totally blown? How has the experience influenced your designs?
Susanne: It was all a bit surreal and still seems like it was just a dream I had. I loved every second of it and was completely bowld over by Sarah and Nicolette’s willingness to support and share. The main thing I took home was to be kind to myself, be confident and if need be assertive. And not to cringe anymore when calling myself an artist.
Erin: Well, Susanne, I really, really, truly hope to one day meet you and see your incredible designs in person. Until then, I’ll happily drool all over your photos that come across my Instagram feed! Thank you so very much for speaking with me today and for sharing your time and talents with all of us fellow flower fanatics.