Mags Riordan is the founder of Bumblebee Flower Farm.
A flower farmer dedicated to protecting wildlife and promoting safe practices, soil regeneration and biodiversity, she’s also passionate about protecting our struggling pollinators, especially bumblebees. Protecting nature is central to everything that she does. Mags is qualified in horticulture, is a professional florist and floral designer and is the leading expert on edible flowers in Ireland.
She truly believes you can cultivate beauty that celebrates the seasons and has a supportive and positive effect on our environment. Bumblebee Flower Farm’s promise is that their flowers will ‘Always be Grown and Never Flown’
Mags is in fact a city girl born & bred, never had a garden and didn’t know the difference between an annual or perennial, but she had always loved nature. She was always rescuing animals, injured birds etc. It wasn’t until she moved to West Cork in the early 1990s that she got her first garden and her passion was realised. Once she started planting, she couldn’t stop. It's here she really got to understand the cycle of life and how we are all connected, every action has a reaction.
She soon outgrew her little postage stamp garden, which led her to Castledonovan, near Drimoleague, where Bumblebee Farm was born.
While she started life in fashion it wasn’t her true calling.
Mags by now had trained as a professional florist and had her own flower shop. On developing a rash on her hands, she undertook some research and was saddened to learn of the number of herbicides, pesticides and insecticides being used in commercial flower production, all of which were not only affecting her skin, but poisoning our soil and water all in the name of beauty.
Bumblebee Flower Farm started as a refuge for wildlife, by putting in living corridors to allow safe passage for small birds, this inturn created habitats and ecosystems which benefited the ever growing flora and fauna that was taking up residence on the farm. In 2010 Mags took a leap of faith and started growing her own flowers commercially, she had always gardened organically so continuing these practices was the obvious choice. The colour & vibrancy of these naturally grown flowers vs processed flowers fascinated her.
Mags is passionate about ecology and protecting our delicate and diverse ecosystems, working with nature not against her and embracing seasonality. This led her to take another leap of faith in 2013 when she stopped supplementing her winter offerings with imported flowers altogether. Not only were these damaging the environment in terms of air miles, foliage that couldn’t be composted without contaminating the soil with the residues of chemicals used in the commercial growing process – it was fighting Mother Nature.
Mags was ahead of her time – the concept of having flowers available only when in season had yet to take hold in the mainstream. It wasn’t easy, turning away work when she badly needed the income, but she was adamant that it was the right thing to do – “We have a social and moral obligation to protect our flora and fauna and provide a safe future for our children and grandchildren’’. We’ve become almost desensitized to buzz words like ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming’. She was ‘walking the walk’ to save our horticultural heritage from extinction. Her growing practices are centered on regeneration which creates a living soil and by protecting soil health and inergerity it also sequesters carbon which reverses climate change by taking excess carbon out of the atmosphere returning it to the soil where it is at its most valuable.
Having struggled to produce enough volumes of flowers consistently, Mags invested in herself. She enrolled in Florets inaugural Floret online training on small-scale, highly intensity organic flower farming.
While she is the only flower farmer to consistently produce bouquets 52 weeks of the year she hopes that other flower farmers will take the leap and value the beauty and integrity of local, seasonal flowers across the whole year.
Also in 2013, a bride-to-be approached Mags about creating a posy for her 2-year-old flower girl who was prone to putting everything in her mouth! And so, after some initial research the edible bouquet was born.
Two years later she embraced edible flowers as a commercial crop, working with some of Ireland’s best chefs and cake designers. Today she hosts workshops on protecting our ecological integrity by celebrating seasonality and collaborates with Award winning Chef Eddie Attwell and festivals such as A Taste of West Cork food festival.
Wanting to expand her knowledge and gain a better understanding of added value food processes she completed her Diploma in Speciality Food Production in UCC and graduated in 2018.
In 2019 Mags received the Euro-Toques ‘Land’ Award for her edible flowers ‘grown with respect for Biodiversity’
Mags also completed The Ignite Entrepreneurial program in UCC in 2019 where her closing Presentation was centered around being ‘part of the solution’ to our Climate and Biodiversity crisis.
Mags tested the waters with her Christmas wreaths in 2019 with a view to supplying customers directly from the farm rather than relying on retail outlets
Prompted by a comment on social media bemoaning the lack of Irish grown flowers for Valentines she tweeted a photograph of her bouquet offerings, the outpouring of support resulted in Ireland's first online nationwide delivery service of organically produced 100% Irish flowers.
In March 2020 like so many other businesses, Covid closed her existing business overnight. Her pivot saw her take a largely edible crop destined for foodservice and adapt it into online bouquet sales. During this time the world went quiet and people started to listen, question and value producers that have our planet’s wellbeing at the forefront of all they do.
The temporary closure of trade didn’t impact her ability to continue an uninterrupted supply of her organically produced bouquets nationwide because she was the only flower farmer self-sufficient with her produce.
Her ability to adapt and innovate her sales channels earned her a Network West Cork Solo Business Woman of the Year Award and Highly Commended at the network Ireland National awards.
This innovation continued and her ‘Wreath in a box’ a Christmas wreath kit to make in the comfort of your own home accompanied by a full online tutorial was featured on The Late Late Business Special in November 2020.
2021 has seen exponential growth in her business, development of virtual workshops, new bouquet offerings and as a means of giving back Her Cut flower pollinator planting plan called ‘Ollies Garden’ inspired by her grandson Ollie who drives her passion to provide a future not only for him but his children and grandchildren.
Mags puts her unique talents and eye for colour down to dyslexia, which she describes as a gift, allowing her to see colours many of us can’t – indeed more akin to the colours a bee can see!
She’s known to dream in flowers (!) and is happiest when outside surrounded by the birds and bees, especially bumblebees, the superheroes our food security is so reliant upon.