Jo always wanted to work with people. During her degree in horticulture at the University of Reading, she discovered the new but growing field of social and therapeutic horticulture and realised that this would provide the perfect way to combine her two passions. Jo developed her knowledge in the US in settings including prisons before setting up therapeutic horticulture projects back in the UK, working primarily with people with mental health problems and learning difficulties.
Participants began telling Jo that, though they appreciated the therapeutic benefits, they wanted more – they wanted to work. Then, at a friend’s wedding, Jo realised that the seasonal, country-style wedding flowers could have been grown and supplied by her project. She decided to create an ethical cut flower business in which people with support needs could gain horticulture qualifications whilst learning transferable skills in a real workplace. Organic Blooms was born.
Jo’s experience and standing in both the social and therapeutic horticultural field and in the British flower growing sector have been cemented with the achievement in 2017 of Soil Association certified organic status and winning the 2018 Virgin Unite Impact Award at the Virgin VOOM Awards. Always seeking to improve the ethics and practice of Organic Blooms, Jo is currently studying for a masters degree in organic farming.
Wendy PaulHead Florist & Director
Wendy began her working life as a freelance hairdresser, giving her valuable business experience. In her thirties, looking for a change, Wendy went back to college for two years to train in floristry.
After college Wendy ran a popular local florist shop, Court Farm Flowers, for over five years before Jo – who was supplying Organic Blooms flowers to the shop – invited Wendy to run the floristry business for Organic Blooms. The rest is history!
Several hundred lovely weddings, countless bouquets, many, many floristry and Christmas workshops, an accidental RHS Malvern bronze medal and an RHS Chelsea gold medal later, Wendy is enjoying working with our trainees and leading a floristry team expert in creating gorgeous arrangements with the trademark Organic Blooms natural beauty.
Alex joined us as a trainee. Having developed his skills and learned to manage a range of challenges, Alex has progressed into a part time paid role and leads on propagation for our growing trials and contracts for other organic businesses. Incredibly neat, methodical and detailed in his work, Alex’s propagation skills are second to none.
Andy CoombeHorticulturalist & Supervisor
Andy began gardening at home at a young age and went on to study agriculture at Hartpury College and Harper Adams University. Andy worked on farms for several years before spending three years in Nepal teaching livestock-focused agriculture. Wanting a more people-centred role on his return led Andy, who is RHS-qualified, to a role in therapeutic horticulture at Windmill Hill City Farm in Bristol. He later taught horticulture to adults and young people with support needs at City of Bristol College.
At Organic Blooms Andy supports our trainees with their City & Guilds qualifications and in their practical horticultural work as well as teaching our horticulture skills courses. He combines his work here at Organic Blooms with teaching RHS horticulture qualifications at Bristol Botanic Gardens and private gardening work.
Katy HassardHorticultural Supervisor
Katy wanted to work outside since she was a little girl and trained in agriculture at Hartpury Agricultural College before working on farms for several years. Katy came to Organic Blooms as a trainee in 2012 and honed her horticultural skills as her mental health improved. Katy is now a key member of the Organic Blooms team. She made the transition from trainee to paid work in 2015 and now supervises teams of trainees, supporting their wellbeing, developing their skills and ensuring the quality of our horticultural work. Katy has also acted as mentor to one of our younger trainees and was invited onto the judging panel for Avon & Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust’s 2017 AWP in Bloom gardening competition.
Nicola brings much-needed order to our operations. The friendly voice and face of Organic Blooms if you telephone, email or call in, Nic employs her formidable organisational skills to ensure our course bookings, online shop orders and deliveries run smoothly, as well as looking after our invoicing and improving the overall efficiency of our admin function.
Lisa IrmigerHorticulturalist & Florist
Lisa came to horticulture and floristry via the unusual route of a degree in maths for business, a masters in operational research and a career in IT. After moving from London to Bristol and raising a family, Lisa took RHS horticulture qualifications at Bristol Botanic Gardens and went into business as a gardener. Lisa met Jo and Wendy when she attended a ‘creating a cutting garden’ workshop and was then invited to join the team as a horticulturalist – her flair for working with flowers quickly became evident and she is also part of Wendy’s floristry team.
Gill BaquéHorticulturalist & Florist
Gill is a linguist by background, with a degree in French and Italian and an MBA, and after graduating she lived in Marseille for five years. Gill decided on a change to gardening after a career in legal contracts for the high-tech and aviation industries. Gill joined Organic Blooms as a volunteer after taking part in our ‘creating a cutting garden’ and ‘floristry skills’ workshops and now works with us as a horticulturalist and florist. Gill combines her role at Organic Blooms with private gardening work.
Lou O'BrienHorticulturalist & Florist
Our lovely Lou has always loved colour. Starting out in hairdressing, Lou specialised in colouring and gained a prestigious L’Oreal colour degree, before her passion for colour & texture next took her into a career in interior design. The beautiful floral designs of fellow interior designer Toria Britten – better known to us at Organic Blooms as the expert grower-florist behind Wildly Beautiful Flowers – piqued Lou’s interest British flowers. When the opportunity arose to buy some land next to her house, Lou established her own cutting garden. Her aptitude for applying her colour and design expertise to flowers quickly became evident and Lou joined our team in 2019.
Lucy RobinsonCommunications & Social Impact
Lucy’s marketing and communications experience spans heritage, professional services and mental healthcare. She originally joined Organic Blooms as a volunteer in 2015, combining interests in mental health, ethical business, the environment and all things organic. Lucy provides support with marketing communications & social impact. She has a Permaculture Design Certificate and City & Guilds level 1 diploma in horticulture and likes to get her hands into some good organic soil whenever opportunity presents.
Pat has long experience of working with people, having supported vulnerable young people in the care system and patients at the former Stoke Park Hospital in Bristol, as well as extensive supervisory and people management experience as a business owner. Pat primarily supports our trainees working in our propagation polytunnel and provides a listening ear for some of our younger trainees. She also works with Lucy R to gather feedback from trainees as part of our social impact measurement.
Springer spaniel Benson is the senior member of the Organic Blooms canine team and valued for his therapeutic excellence. He keeps everyone’s energy levels up with his enthusiastic participation and beautiful feathered waggly tail. He enjoys a good rummage in our recycling and monitoring our polytunnels for rodents.
Lovely Lily is the second of the Organic Blooms springer spaniels. Her key strengths are cleaning up lunchtime scraps and plant theft. She likes to fill the boot of Andy’s car with plants and guards them fiercely. We suspect he may be training her to steal them from our propagation tunnel to order…
Maisie has grown a little since this photo and has found her place as chief distraction and time-waster. She makes an energetic impact and is a favourite with the whole team.
The chickensPest control and feathered therapists
Our small mixed flock of hens roam free range in our field and keep us company as we tend the cutting beds. Quick to peck up pests, the gentle clucking and peaceful company of our chooks is therapy in itself. Several are rescue hens; they arrived withdrawn with no feathers on their back ends and pale, limp combs but now they are thriving in their new outdoor life and laying delicious eggs in return. The hens provide an opportunity for trainees to learn about basic poultry husbandry.