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Last weekend I visited this hidden gem in the Dane Valley.  The lavender meadow is at The Swettenham Arms near Congleton. The pub is tucked away in the small village of Swettenham behind a church, the fragrance from the flowers is divine.

The local wildlife seem to appreciate the lavender, it was alive with honey bees and butterflies.  I spotted beautiful peacock butterflies that have eyes on their wings and comma butterflies which are orange with black spots and feathered wings.

The lavender meadow is in bloom throughout July and August, it’s a perfect backdrop for wedding photos.  There also is an arboretum and nature reserve next to the pub as well that visitors can walk round.

The pub itself is a delightful traditional building dating back to the 16th century.  During my visit the window boxes were overflowing with vibrant summer flowers.

If you work up an appetite walking round the meadow and arboretum, the pub serves delicious food and cream teas.  I enjoyed lunch outside the pub, as it was a rare sunny day this summer.

The Swettenham Arms maybe off the beaten track, but it’s worth the effort to find.  The address is Swettenham Village, near Congleton, CW12 2LF.  Put the post code in your sat nav to find it or take a look at their website.

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In the past week I’ve wrote a couple of articles on the Victory Bouquets given to medal winners at the Olympics and how they were grown sustainably.  Today I’m going to tell you more about the lavender that featured in the bouquets.  It was supplied by Long Barn, a Hampshire based farm.

Long Barn have been growing and distilling lavender for over 12 years. As well as growing lavender they also produce a range of lavender based bath and beauty products, and original gifts for the home and garden.

Langard sourced the components for the bouquets, they contacted Long Barn and asked them to supply lavender for the Olympic Victory Bouquets.  They needed 5000 bunches of lavender each containing 60 stems, one bunch of lavender was used per bouquet.


The staff were a little concerned that the wet weather would prevent them meeting their deadline to grow the vast amount of lavender required.  They harvest their lavender by hand, using traditional sickles in the field.  Long barn said ‘it really was an Olympic challenge! However 300,000 lavender sprigs were successfully harvested and assembled to ensure the tight deadline was met.’

All the flowers for the Olympic bouquets were required to be grown chemical free, which was no problem for Long Barn as they already grow all their lavender without the use of pesticides and herbicides.  They live by a green philosophy producing their lavender naturally, their bath and beauty products are also made with entirely natural ingredients.


Lavender is particularly significant in the bouquets, as it has a historic link with London, it was grown commercially in Victorian times around the capital.  Lavender was an essential part of the ‘British scent’ the designers wanted to achieve, mint, rosemary and wheat were also used.

Long Barn also has a plant nursery and newly opened café.  You can find out more about them on their website.


Jane Packer

Long Barn

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The Olympic organisers required the Victory bouquet flowers to be grown as sustainably as possible to reduce environmental impact.  Their brief asked that the flowers and foliage used in the bouquets were all British grown, which is easier said than done.  Sadly the British cut rose industry has virtually disappeared over the years, so roses had to been specially grown for the Olympics.  The challenge was grow 20,000 best quality roses, in specific colours for a tight time scale.  As well as adhering to all the rules regarding sustainability.


The flowers had to be grown without artificial heat, pesticide and fertilizer use were kept to a bare minimum, the flowers were to be transported from growers without energy consuming chilled units and made into bouquets locally.  This is no mean feat with the haphazard British summer we’ve been having.


Paul Chessum Roses grew the roses at their high tech nursery in Chichester. The target for the bouquets was 3 days ‘from plant to athlete’. Other suppliers included Langard UK who provided mint, rosemary and roses, Shropshire Petals provided the wheat, and Longbarn grew the lavender.  The flowers were made into the bouquets by florists from Jane Packer and floristry students.


To complete the sustainability loop, the rose bushes need a home after completing their Olympic job.  If you’d like to own a piece of living sport history, the rose plants are available to buy and will be delivered from September onwards via

I wrote about the bouquet design and the students who made the bouquets yesterday.

Images from top:

Jane Packer

Longbarn Growers & Distillers

Shropshire Petals

Chessum Roses

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The Olympics are in full swing now, if you’ve been watching the TV coverage you’ve probably spotted the Victory Bouquets.  They were designed by Susan Lapworth, creative director at Jane Packer.  The design reflects the vibrancy and energy of the Olympic Games.

As Roses are quintessentially British they were chosen for the main flower, all the materials used in the bouquets are British grown.  The design is split into quadrants of roses, separated by a British food ingredient. The bouquet contains Illios roses (yellow), Marie Claire roses (orange), Wimbledon roses (green) and Aqua roses (pink).  The herbs will provide a wonderful fragrance; they include rosemary, apple mint, and English lavender. British grown wheat also features in the design.


Honoured and excited students from several colleges have been helping to make the required 4,800 bouquets for medal winners.  Students from Writtle College, Bexley Adult Education and Kingston Maurward  have participated in creating the designs.

The photo above shows students working with a make-up guide to help them create the bouquets to the exact specifications.  The bouquets were made to a strict brief, they had to be 20 x 25cm, reflect the energy of London 2012, withstand temperature changes and handling by non-experts.



Top image – Jane Packer

Middle image –

Bottom image – Jane Packer

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I wrote an article earlier in the week about edible flowers and which types are safe to eat.  This article has lots of ideas to make your flowers into tasty creations and how to preserve them for the winter.

Pick your flowers early in the day when they are packed with flavour.  Look for flowers that have just opened and leave any look past their best or dirty.  Only ever eat flowers that you are sure are edible as some are poisonous.  Remove the pollen and stamens from flowers as well as the green parts under the flower.  The white part at the bottom of rose petals is bitter so it should also be cut off.  Anyone with allergies should avoid eating flowers.

One of the easiest things to do with edible flowers is make tea.  Peppermint, lavender or lemon verbena, make a lovely refreshing tea.  Leave one or two sprigs to infuse in a cup of boiling water for about 4 minutes and then remove.  Chamomile tea is known to be calming and may help you sleep better.  Don’t add milk to these drinks, but a touch of honey can be added to sweeten them.


Winter can be an uninspiring time for flowers, but if you plan ahead you can preserve them to use when you wish.  A great way to preserve the flavour and scent of flowers is to put them in oil.  Marjoram, thyme and lavender are great in cooking. Floral oils will keep for up to 6 months.  Ice cubes are another way to preserve flowers, and they look so pretty.  Freeze small flowers or individual petals of larger flowers in ice cube trays.  Roses and scented geraniums work well.  They can be added to drinks for flavour and scent.

Scented sugar is lovely in cakes and meringues.  Mix a couple of cups of rose petals in a food processor with 225g of caster sugar.  Leave the sugar in an airtight container for a week and then sieve the rose petals out.  The sugar can be used to make a subtly flavoured butter cream or added to cakes and meringues.  You could also try making lavender or violet sugar.


Crystallised flowers are lovely decorations for cakes and deserts.  They will last a couple of days if stored in an airtight container.  Use a small brush to paint the flowers with egg white on both sides, and then sprinkle them with caster sugar.  Use small flowers like mini roses or violets, or separate petals from larger flowers.  Spread them out to dry on greaseproof paper, if you have used whole flower heads hang them upside down to dry out. If you’d prefer not use raw egg whites, powdered or pasteurised egg white will work too.

All images are from Kathy Brown her lovely book is available on her website.  It’s full of beautiful photos and scrumptious recipes to make with edible flowers.

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