Flower power! Shropshire's confetti fields
Rows upon rows of beautiful delicate flowers gently sway in the summer breeze – it’s a picture perfect sight.
The field resembles a huge patchwork quilt offering a kaleidoscope of colours from candy floss pink delphiniums to bright orange calendulas.
And after soaking up the sunshine these flowers are all destined to become biodegradable petal confetti ready to be thrown over the bride and groom at weddings.
Weekend was invited behind the scenes of Shropshire Petals where harvesting is in full swing and a bumper crop means the busy team will have hand-picked a staggering 850 million petals by the end of the summer.
“It’s the most beautiful time of year but it’s also the busiest. The picking team are out in the field harvesting and we’re also sending out orders as it’s wedding season.
“It can be sad seeing all of the flowers being picked but knowing that they are going to people’s weddings makes it all worthwhile,” says marketing manager Ashley Corrigan.
The petals being picked by the teams out in the field at Lynn South Farm, near Newport, will go on to produce 14,070 handfuls of confetti.
“They are picked by hand because we want the best quality flowers – the human eye is better because it can see things a machine couldn’t.
“The pickers are out from 6am and I’m always jealous – who wouldn’t want to pick flowers in the sunshine in a gorgeous field?,” says the 31-year-old, who has worked at Shropshire Petals for two and a half years.
Around eight types of flower are grown including delphinium, cornflower, hydrangea, roses and marjoram in a vast range of colours offering customers plenty of choice.
The team usually drills their flowers in March and they are carefully tended to and weeded before they are in bloom.
A wet start to the year meant they were later beginning the process this time around but the recent heatwave meant the flowers were actually in bloom slightly earlier this summer.
“Nature has a way of correcting itself. Having lots of sunshine has been really good for us. The only tricky part is the irrigation but we’ve been working around the clock on this to ensure the lack of rain isn’t a problem.
“Last year was very difficult for us because it was so wet. Sunshine really is paramount – it makes such a difference,” says Ashley.
The flower varieties are chosen because they grow well, keep their colour once dried and will not fall to the ground too quickly when thrown – the latter is something important to consider if a couple wants their photographer to capture the highly-anticipated confetti moment.
“Delphiniums are definitely the best. They’re really beautiful, you can grow them in lots of different colours, they dry well and they are slow falling – they flutter to the ground giving the photographer plenty of time,” Ashley tells us.
When it comes to choosing colours pinks are the most popular with brides and grooms-to-be. “Every year, pinks are what people want as well as vintage colours like purples and creams.
“We have to stay on top of current colour trends. When you think of a colour scheme for a wedding, it’s going to filter down to the confetti. There is a lot of demand for greens and reds at the moment.
“We do a lot of trials before we make anything available to the public. We’ve got a green zinnia which we are trialling at the moment and I’m very excited about.
“We have to see how it grows and what the colour is like when it’s dried. We also have to make sure it’s slow falling. We’ve also found a red delphinium so we will be testing that one too,” Ashley explains.
Once the flowers are harvested, they will be air dried before having their petals removed, or vice versa depending on the variety, then they are ready to be confetti.
“They are completely natural petals, we don’t dye anything and we don’t add a scent. People can see where their confetti has come from because it’s just been growing in the field,” says Ashley.
Couples can chose one of the firm’s tried and tested petal mixes or ‘pick and mix’ their own with packaging options such as confetti pops, personalised confetti cones, wicker baskets, boxes and cannons available.
“We worked out that there are 167,000 different combinations and we also have a mix of the month. They are all mixed by hand in our petal shed using measuring jugs and then packaged and sent out.
“We also do sample boxes for couples and there are lots of ways to have them personalised,” Ashley tells us.
There is a core team of seven staff working in the petal shed while during the summer picking season around 60 to 100 students will descend on the farm to work.
Business is booming thanks to the increase in demand for natural petal confetti for celebrating as it’s eco-friendly and biodegradable and the company is pleased to be spreading the county’s name far and wide.
“We’re proud to be in Shropshire. The majority of our customer base is in the UK but we are moving into America, Australia and Canada,” Ashley tells us.
Shropshire Petals even has some celebrity customers including Hollyoaks actress Sarah Jane Dunn who chose their Vintage Daydream petal mix when she married husband Jonathan Smith in May.
While the team also provided the confetti when Dragon’s Den star Duncan Bannatyne tied the knot in August last year and has also supplied confetti for the This Morning live wedding and a Love Island wedding feature on Good Morning Britain.
Shropshire Petals was originally known as JM Bubb and Son, a family business established more than 20 years ago by Michael and Rosemary Bubb – both of whom still play a huge part in the business.
These days Michael’s sons, Jonathan and Jim are at the helm, with John coordinating the arable side of the farm and Jim in charge of the flowers side.
Originally specialists in dried flowers, Shropshire Petals has diversified into growing and producing wheat for arrangements as well as natural petal confetti for weddings. Petals grown at the farm have also made their way into bath products made by soap company Lush and also candles.
For Ashley, there is no place better to work. “The views are absolutely the best. I get in half an hour early every morning to take photos of the fields and fly my drone.
“It’s a family run farm and we all feel like a big family. We work hard but we play hard too. I also love that there is a willingness to try something new,” she tells us.
“We’re always developing something new and looking at what else we can offer people to make their wedding special.”