Welcome to Maura's Cottage Flowers
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Here in our smallholding at Maura's Cottage Flowers located just outside Tralee, we grow all kinds of annuals, biennials and perennials for cutting including oldtime favourites
such as sweet pea, cosmos, roses and cornflowers in our hillside gardens.
I trained in organic horticulture in Dromcollogher Organic College Co.Limerick
We specialise in Vintage and Rustic themed weddings
Natural, unique, eco-friendly bouquets and arrangements
Our garden flowers are:
- Kind to bees, birds and butterflies
- Charming, delicate, distinctive and unusual
- Highly scented, seasonal, sustainable and fresh
- We offer a huge array of diversity in our bouquets, including herbs, grasses, seed heads and wild flowers as well as countless old time favourites
- Personal and Creative Service
- Consultation by appointment
- Overseas brides welcome
- Only a limited number of weddings each year
- All our flowers are grown without the use of chemicals
- We do however buy in flowers direct from Holland on request and during the winter/spring period, our mission is to reduce imported flowers when possible.
Phone Maura 087-0612622
Or Find me on facebook https://www.facebook.com/maurascottageflowers
Or Instagram: https://instagram.com/maurascottageflowers/ .
A recent feature in the Farmers Journal
After 20 years raising her seven children, Maura Sheehy did a horticulture course to reclaim some “me-time”; and her garden. But she didn't expect it to bloom as a business.
You can hardly tell just yet, but on a small-holding in the Ballyroe hills just outside Tralee, something is stirring in the soil.
And, come May, the first of the aquilega – better known as granny’s bonnet – will start to sway in the summer breeze. Delicately perfumed sweet peas will clamber skywards. There’ll be cosmos and cornflowers, sweet William and strawflowers, lark’s spur and love-in-a-mist. Blowsy poppies and oxeye daisies so cheerful they’d almost smile at you.
And tending to them, oh so tenderly, will be Maura Sheehy, the mother of seven turned “accidental” business woman behind Maura’s Cottage Flowers.
She is rooted in the earth here. Her great-grandfather was a market gardener whose orchard was said to boast the juiciest apples in Tralee. Her grandfather had a knack of growing plants from cuttings – penknife out, slit made, straight into the ground. Her childhood memories are scented with star-shaped phlox and the sweet honey of the butterfly bush. Her school essays invariably revolved around getting her hands dirty on the family dairy farm.
So, when it came to her Leaving Cert, her heart was set on horticulture – that is until her career guidance teacher got wind that she suffered from hay fever.
“He warned me that it was ‘the last thing you’re going to go doing’. So, I shelved the idea completely,” she says.
“But, looking at it now, I’m a great believer in things happening for a reason. I think our paths are laid out from day one.”
Maura’s path included marrying Tommy, a manager with SuperValu, and raising Rory (25), Tommy (19), Karl (18), Aoife (17), Danny (14), Orla (12) and Molly (10). Needless to say, family life left little time for her hobby.
“And the front garden was a football pitch,” she says.
After Molly started school, however, Maura decided the time was right to do something for herself and signed up for a FETAC level four course in organic horticulture at Shanakill community garden in Tralee.
“I started stealing back the garden,” she laughs, explaining how her first project at home was a winding path of perennials up from the bohereen.
“I was only trying to get a little piece for myself. But it wasn’t long before it was full.”
As Maura’s garden blossomed, so did her knowledge by completing a certificate in organic horticulture with Dromcollogher Organic College over two years through distance learning, with weekend practical sessions, field trips and farm walks.
She also got invaluable work experience at Liscahane garden centre in Ardfert, and did an intensive weekend course in cut-flower production with Leitrim Flowers, who specialise in growing country-style blooms for weddings, restaurants and farmers’ markets in Carrick-on-Shannon and Sligo.
It was there Maura first saw the viability of turning her passion into a business, especially when the summer of 2014 delivered a bumper crop of country flowers.“It would have felt like a sin not to do something about it,” she says.
However, she admits it took courage to approach her local restaurant, Kate Browne’s in Ardfert, to see if they might take a few bunches. The flowers, however, sold themselves.
“Dorren Browne loved the idea of the flowers straight away and she said she would take some for either end of the bar counter,” says Maura, explaining that the following week the order included flowers for the front bar, the week after for the back bar, and, finally, bud vases for all the tables, with the Brownes then placing orders for their sister properties in Ballyheigue and Killarney.
More local businesses followed suit, and soon queries came in from brides-to-be who fell in love with Maura’s natural wildflower arrangements. While apprehensive as she had no formal training in floristry, she enrolled in a night class in flower arranging, with extra private classes to upskill.
“I’d consider myself a flower farmer rather than a florist,” she says, explaining that it took her a while to accept her own creativity.
“They considered there was a particular kind of energy around the way the flowers were put together, so I’ve accepted praise for that. I found that kind of difficult enough at the start.”
Indeed, summonsing self-confidence as a business woman has probably been Maura’s biggest challenge, but she has benefitted greatly from the Kerry Businesswomen’s Network as well as a “start your own business” course, followed by the “grow your business” programme.
With the backing of Tralee Credit Union, Maura has doubled her outdoor and protected cropping areas and also invested in three polytunnels. Passionate about the environment and promoting local over imported flowers, she follows organic principals, growing from mid May right into November.
This summer, she hopes to complement her cut-flower offering with edible petals for the restaurant market, and sees huge potential that she hopes will inspire her own brood of seven.
“One of the nicest surprises out of the business really is that the lads can see that you can make a living from such a small parcel of land,” she says, “and if you get something into your head, you can believe and put the hard work into it.”
And what about that small matter of the hay fever?
“I just pop my tablet in the morning,” laughs Maura. “And have plenty of eye drops at hand.”