Forgive the lateness of this missive. We held a wonderful Flower Farming Intensive Workshop last week after a steady stream of weddings and events, and I simply couldn’t force myself to sit down and put pen to paper for a day or two there. Now, however, I have a new printer (as of today,) so I’m feeling very nine to fiveish, and am giving the whole office, as well as my to do list, a big sort out. So here I am.
We survived the storm last weekend - for those of you who grow flowers and want to know how we avoided having the whole plot smashed flat by those astonishing winds, do come on a...
So how are we doing? Well the season is about to go into turbo charged mode! I am breathing slowly, sitting as much as I can, preparing for the marathon we start to run shortly. Here come seventy hour weeks, thousands and thousands of stems weeks, wonderful wedding schemes, carefully planned logistics, and under, what will hopefully look like a serene sail by by a swan trailing flaars (moi!?!?!?!?!) the paddling won’t be frantic but will be constant, fast, efficiently planned, strategically scheduled and a 7am alarm will constitute a lie-in.
We’ve had almost no rain though - an occasional heavy downpour helps, but I noticed even well established shrubs just stalled when usually at this time of year they’re bursting out all over. So I’ve given them all a good water, and noted, for future reference, a mid may water for 2020, 2021, 2022… When we moved to Somerset fifteen years ago we planted a twenty foot wide band of willow around the edge of our field to help with the drainage, and would only half jokingly refer to our patch as ‘the swamp.’ We now...
Well the season is upon us truly now, isn’t it? I’ve been taking my crop in my hands and planting out like crazy (crazy being the operative word - we’ve had frosts here as late as 28th May before!) But I have my horticultural fleece to hand in case of emergency, and I’m not taking any serious risks (no cosmos planted out yet!)
It’s an exciting time of year for gardeners - especially those coming to our annual village plant sale! People have been dropping off plants (whole footfalls from Elaine Miller Design!) and we must thank Jane and Sue who’ve been splitting and potting on to make a fantastic array of plants for sale.
After the plant sale we certainly do not collapse in a heap - instead we plant out the rest of this summer’s crop (possibly including a few plant sale specials - I’ve got my eye on some of that pheasant grass you donated Elaine!) and rev up for a few more early summer workshops.
Well March is almost over, and it’s felt sort of topsy turvy to me because Mothering Sunday is so late and the Country Living Fair is so early, so I’m having to get April jobs done in advance, which will make me happy in the long run, but, to this creature of strict habit, throws me slightly.
For example, there will be no sowing of seeds outside direct into the ground as there usually is at the end of March this year, because we’ll be doing Mothering Sunday flowers and then rushing up to Alexandra Palace to do the Country Living Fair on 30th and 31st March. On the other hand, we’re potting up the dahlias today (20th March!) because there won’t be time what with the school holidays approaching and so on. Seed sowing direct in the soil will happen on 1st and 3rd A...
Will March be upon us like a lamb or a lion?
Though it feels as though it’s April already out there now with the sun we’ve had beaming down on us, and the seeds germinating a gogo in the tunnels and the greenhouses. I love the way the larkspur sulks in the ground all winter and then suddenly, ping! they’re popping up all over the place, lovely strong seedlings, crying ‘Only joking!’ to their apparent non-germination.
We’ve had the busiest February ever thanks very much to On Your Farm on Radio 4 (listen here) which featured us just before Valentine’s Day. Who knew that so many people were awake at 6.35 on a Sunday morning, let alone ordering flowers at that time of the day! Thank you for ALL your Valentine’s orders, and remember, Mothering Sunday is coming up soon so do get your orders in quickly for that weekend because we do sell out….
Here at Common Farm Flowers we rely for our every day business on social media. For us, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are three slightly different shops, visited by an ever-growing group of friends.
It was not long after we started farming flowers on our seven acre plot in Somerset (nine years in April!) that somebody said, 'You should start telling people what you're doing on social media.'
And so we did. At first I was a bit scattergun with my tweeting - but that was only because it was so much fun! As a person starting a small business on my own in rural Somerset, I sometimes felt quite isolated - but Twitter provided me with an instant cohort of fun friends who cheered on my efforts, advised, supported, and, most important of all, soon began to order our flowers. I'm now much more strategic with my social media posting - well, the business grew, and there's a limit to how much time one can spend on line when one has a business to run!
When I teach people how to use social media I tell them that I still love Twitter best. So long as you ignor...
A candle lit wedding in deep winter - what could be more romantic? The bride wears satin, and a velvet cloak with a huge, fur-edged hood. And she carries a bouquet of white tulips, hellebores, a handful of snowdrops, ranunculus and scented Cornish narcissi.
All thiese British flowers are grown in the UK at this time of year, namely mid February, and are readily available from us for people who like to carry flowers which haven't been flown thousands of miles for their pleasure.
These bouquets are so delicate, light, and full of the promise of spring. We tied them with cream satin ribbon and a rich, navy blue velvet to go with the bridesmaid's dress. For my first bride's bouquet of the year it was a lovely thing to make, even if my hands were a little tired after Valentine's. All the white and cream was so gentle in the soft, winter light. If I were to get married I might opt for this too.
The wedding took place at Pennard House in Somerset - a gorgeous venue for a country wedding and only about twenty five minutes away from Common Farm Flowers b...
Today is the first Saturday after Valentine's day, and in many a flower farmer's callendar, this day is known as Seed Sowing Saturday.
At last we have ten hours of daylight and so seeds sown now will grow straighter and greener than their etiolated, yellowish cousins sown by the impatient grower in January.
However this is still no time to be sowing seed outside.
Today we sowed a selection of seeds which like a little bottom warmth to encourage germination, and a longish season to get going. So we sowed Orlaya, some scabious, a few different rudbekias (give me a rudbekia over a sunflower any day of the week!)
We don't sow very many seeds at a time - perhaps half a tray, rarely a whole tray of seeds, perhaps fifteen or twenty, rarely thirty or fourty seeds of any variety at any one time. We have a strict schedule of successional sowing through the season. We would rather have a few plants flowering their heads off at any one time, with a fresh crop coming on to flower in a month or six weeks' time, than a huge bed of any one cut flower va...
It's early February and so naturally my mind turns to sowing sweet peas.
We keep the system simple here at Common Farm Flowers.
We sow three crops of sweet peas per year, 96 seeds per crop, always in root trainers.
We sow them indoors and keep them indoors until they're well germinated so that the marauding mouse (of which there are plenty in the polytunnels and greenhouses,) don't eat them...
When they're well germinated, up to having two sets of true leaves, we pinch them back to those two sets of true leaves so that they send out side shoots - I like to have lots of sweet pea shoots for my floristry as well as the flowers.
We don't soak the seed (I used to - but discovered that if I didn't soak the seed they simply take two more days to germinate, and since I'm not in that much of a rush...) or split them open with a paring knife as my mother does while sitting in front of the television in the evening. We simply pop them into good quality, peat free compost (the compost used here is Sylvagrow,) and water the compost from underneath s...