It's lovely to have been given a chance to big up British flowers for Valentine's in Homes and Antiques magazine this month. We import up to two hundred million roses into the UK each year for Valentine's flowers which is crazy when we have growing in this country huge quantities of the best quality tulips, scented narcissi, gorgeous ranunculus, anemones and more. Try asking your florist for British grown flowers for your Valentine this year, or, even better, order direct from us.
This flower farmer is going on quite a tour this year. With over fifty dates for talks, demos, workshops, garden tours, here at the flower farm, and at lots of WIs and Horticultural and Flower groups around the country, it's going to be busy. Keep an eye on the blog and social media and I'll always mention where I'm going next, and you can always book a workshop or a tour here by going to our workshop calendar on our website.
I'm starting the year at Charlton Musgrove Village hall on Friday 2nd Feb giving a Growing Cut Flower for Pleasure and Profit talk in aid of the Raise the Roof Appeal for our village church. St Stephen's has thirteenth century origins, and is a building which has served this community for eight hundred years, and it's in need of a bit of tlc (it has a hole in the roof, and while we're at it we might add a lavatory to the facilities, and perhaps a place where we can boil a kettle or wash up a wine glass...)
There'll be cheese (...
Today is a great deal about ordering cut flower seeds and I thought I'd share a few seed tips I've learned along the way.
As you can see from the photograph, I always over order. This is the seed collection laid out at the end of the season, when ideally I'd have used most of the see up.
Lesson #1: order a little seed and try and use it up. Fresh seed, direct from the suppliers, should give you about 95% germination rate, so you'll do better with small quantities of fresh seed, than forever playing catch up with yourself using up old.
Lesson #2: seed is relatively inexpensive, and none of us has an enormous amont of time, so if you get better results from fresh seed, then I would spend the money and order fresh, rather than try and get good germination from seed which might have lain around for several years.
Lesson #3: order direct from the suppliers. All good seed merchants have online shops. Order from them and the seed will be fresh, and will have been kept in better conditions than the hot, over-lit, seed department in a giant greenhous...
At this time of year it often seems as though there's nothing much in the garden to bring in to the house. But I beg to differ. Take your scissors out and cut yourself a bit of foliage and a few stems and you can make a twiggery pokery arrangement like this which is very effective, without being especially flowery.
To make it you'll need three or five stems each of about five or six different foliages or twigs. I've used pittosporum, brachyglottis, eucalyptus, box, red stems of willow and a little curly willow.
I've used fat stems of box to make a nest to hold the rest of the foliage up, and have just popped each stem in lightly, letting the stems crossing in the water make a sort of scaffolding to hold everything in place.
I've then popped a couple of bunches of English grown narcissi erlicheer in the mix. They're in tight bud in this picture, but will soon come out and make splashes of velvety balls of scent throughout the arrangement for the next week or so.
The urn is a vintage find giv...
Tips for cut flower growing.
Choose carefully the flowers you want to grow. Aim to have a third 'accent' flowers (big showy heads,) a third filler and a third foliage and greenery at any time.
Pinterest is a brilliant tool for curating what you're going to grow. Post pictures of what you've already got flowering in the garden during the spring, summer and autumn, then plan to grow maybe five or six varieties to go with those established plants in your cut flower bunches.
Order fresh seed direct from good suppliers like Higgledy Garden, Chiltern Seeds, and Plants of Distinction.
Don't sow all your seed at once: successionally sowing small amounts of seed will give you a selection of good flowering plants to take you through the summer. When I hear people have sown two hundred sweet peas at once my heart sinks: they'll never have time to harvest them all!
Treat your cut flower patch like a vegetable patch: you'd never sow five hundred lettuces at once - you might sow ten...
What are we doing in the garden this January?
Well, it’s time to plant those roses we’ve ordered, and order a few (ahem!) shrubs and perennials to fill gaps in our shrubs and perennials patch. We won’t sow any flower seed until February the fifteenth (ten hours of daylight,) unless I give in to temptation (as I nearly always do) and sow a sweet pea crop on the 31st Jan.
If you can bear it wait to sow cut flower seed: seed sown in February (under cover) or March will very likely catch up with seed sown in January, and make stronger, straighter plants which will do better for you in the long run.
For more on our cut flower patch management do come on one of our workshops. It’s so easy to over do it on the seed sowing front: I’ll stop you overwhelming yourself with seedlings and help you make a plan for a really successful
Hoorah for a new year! I love a new year. Even though it’s dark and damp and cold and wet we’re on the way out from the gloom.
I feel the sap rising as a physical force giving energy to my back, strength to my elbows, determination to my ambitions. I like the idea of a new year resolution: I might forget all about it in a month or so, but the thought process that goes into deciding what I’d like out of a year is useful, I think. It’s so easy to pootle along from year to year, reacting to what happens rather than deciding what the project is, that the exercise of looking at what one year brought, and what the next year could bring if I focused a little on what I’d like out of it, I think is enormously helpful. I do, though, have a rule, that resolutions are always positive: I will learn something, create something, be stronger for something as a result of my promises to myself.
Our workshops are perfect for people making positive new year’s resolutions. Whether it’s time to take your kitchen table business to the next level,...
Successfully creating a perennial wildflower meadow was one of the ambitions we had when we took on Common Farm thirteen years ago. The land here is thick Somerset clay, and, at the time, our acres were cut about with fencing (no hedges,) there were no trees, and the only plant which grew here was a tough rye grass which had been sown to fatten cattle.
Fourteen years later and Fabrizio's dream of establishing patches of perennial wildflower meadows here are very much come to fruition. He has developed a strict regime of mowing, sowing, and planting out plug plants which have increased our wildflower collection to over and over again.
For him the skill is to mow so tightly in August that he almost scalps the ground, all mowings are removed right away from the wild areas to places lower than the wild, so that no goodness can run off from the cut grass heaps and increase the fertility of the meadows. He sows seed and grows them on as plug plants in the same way that we do with our other cut flower crops. And when he plants out he co...
It's the Hauser and Wirth Somerset Christmas Fair tomorrow in the cosy courtyard where the Roth Bar and Grill will keep us all supplied with warm wine and mince pies I've no doubt.
We'll be there with flowers to buy and to order for Christmas delivery, as well as all sorts of flowery usefulness like scissors and buckets and vases and wreath bases and Alpacca poo fertiliser and gardening gloves and post cards and books and our very first specially made aprons (perfect for flower farmer and florists everywhere - I count myself a bit of an apron aficianado you know.)
So bring great wads of hard cash (as we can't take cards when we're not at Common Farm) and solve a great swathe of your Christmas shopping list at our stall.
See you tomorrow!
And if you can't make it to Bruton in Somerset tomorrow, then do order all your Christmas goodies from us via our website. We have plenty to choose from.
And thank you....
Willow wreaths at Common Farm Flowers are made with whips we cut fresh from our farm. When we arrived here, thirteen years ago, we struck willow stakes which were given us by a neighbour, into a band all round two sides of the farm. The land was very boggy, and our plan was that the willow would help drain the land. It did, and it grew tall and lanky, and eventually we started pollarding the trees we now had.
Willow plays a vital part in the survival of almost as many different species as does oak, as it was one of the first trees to recolonise the British Isles after the retreat of the last Ice Age. Most noticeable for us are the clumps of black aphids which overwinter in the crowns of our pollard willow, making a fabulous feast for the charms of goldfinches which skit about the farm in the winter months. A charm of goldfinches in flight is called a 'volery,' meaning a flight (from the French.) Of course it could also mean a thievery (voler is to steal in French) which I think would suit them just as well as they're noisy ga...