Pic on this post by Dave Watts.
Here at Common Farm Flowers between Bruton and Wincanton in Somerset it is wedding flowers planning season.
Whissh! In come the enquiries: pastel shades for a registry office mid-week wedding in June, bright cactus dahlias for a garden reception in September, rich, moody colours for a spring wedding in April.
And whisssh! Go my replies. Yes, we can work to any budget. Yes we supply only the very best, seasonally-grown, freshly-cut, English country wedding flowers. Yes we grow most of the flowers we use in our floristry ourselves, and when we buy in extra we only buy from other British flowers growers. Yes, the English country garden look is exactly what we do. And yes, we absolutely agree that the way forward is flower-foam free floristry.
It's a fun time of year when the board across the office from my desk fills up with dates booked for weddings and events. The diary has to be carefully managed so that there's sti...
January is a time for planning and getting organised, for seed and plant ordering and for considering the year ahead. But we've also got jobs to do in the garden, whilst resisting planting any seeds (that starts mid February.)
One of our big jobs this month is planting bare rooted roses - which come the summer will literally be blooming gorgeous.
And we’re cleaning and sharpening our tools, Fabrizio, Sharon and I feeding wooden handles with linseed oil, and sharpening edges to transform the speed and efficiency with which we dig, hoe, edge… A blunt, sticking, pair of secateurs does nothing but bruise plants and leave you with worn hands: a sharp, oiled pair of secateurs is a blissful tool to use, and will hurt neither your plants nor your hands.
What are you doing in the garden this month?...
HAPPY NEW YEAR everybody. So what do we get up to in January? Well, along with many of you, January for us is a time for planning, especially flowers for weddings and events in the summer. So I thought I’d focus this update on top tips for you if you’re planning flowers for any kind of event throughout 2019.
If you’re planning on having flowers for your event, whether you’re growing them yourself or buying in (we do buckets of mixed flowers cut fresh from our gardens to order throughout the season by the way,) the first thing I suggest you do is make up an example of what you plan to have on your table, or to carry. It doesn’t matter whether you have exactly the kinds of flowers you plan to have at your event to hand (if you like only British grown flowers in your arrangements, then you certainly won’t!) Using flowers with the same kind of weight as you’d like at your do, will give you an idea very quickly of both how ma...
So what are we doing in the garden this month - in between cutting willow and making Christmas wreaths?
Well, mulching continues… 750 running metres of metre wide beds are mulched a barrow load at a time until the whole garden’s covered. And while we mulch we rearrange, defragging the garden so that it’s more organised, and each self-sown cerinthe (for example,) is corralled with its siblings, so that we spend less on seed next season, and walk less distance, and can generally be more efficient.
We have space still for a few more plants, and so I may have a little (ahem!) list of shrubs to order too to go with the new dahlias and roses. Next season we’ll make a few new beds (seriously, here I do mean just a few) to make more use of the space we have. The gardens at Common Farm Flowers are maturing now (we’ve been here for fourteen years - when we arrived the seven acres were an empty field with a low hedge round the edge, and a house in the middle.)
We’ve made what’s ...
Your flowers for your Christmas tables will last beautifully if you take them out of their boxes, give them fresh water, snip their stems and put them somewhere cool until you’d like them for your table on Christmas day. We've already started sending out wreaths and today is our first Christmas Decoration workshop of the year. Our fresh cut willow wreaths are dressed with gorgeous greenery and seed heads and crab apples woven into a garland. If hung on a door or a wall outside the garland will hold up beautifully through the cool winter days - if...
They're the most beautiful kind of wreath, absolutely top of the door dressing fashion this year, and we not only know how to make them, but can teach you too how to make yours.
The Common Farm Flowers willow wreath is made with freshly cut willow, which is then easier to use than other willow which will have had to have been soaked for days but might still be brittle. Ours too has this incredible colour because the willow is so very fresh (we cut each wreath to order, including the ones you make on your workshop.) We have green, yellow, firey orange, and dark aubergine coloured willow, which when carefully twisted into a perfect circle and bound makes a circle of magic for you to hang on your wall all year round.
We then teach you to make a garland, a skill which you can translate into making more goodies for your Christmas house. The garland is the Christmas decoration. We have stopped using wire in our garlanding so the whole is absolutely biodegradable. We carefully attach the garland to the willow circle, add ribbon, and voila! your stunning door...
One might think that November is a quietish month in the garden. Well, I beg to differ! After you've planted all your bulbs it's time to prune your roses.
We prune our roses hard in November because:
We aren't especially cold here in south west UK, and so, while the roses may get a little frost nipped, they're hardy enough to withstand our winter pruned - if you lived in a colder place, with harder winters, like Vermont, for example, or Northumberland, you might just give your roses a tidy up at this time of year to prevent the wind ripping them about during the winter, and then a proper prune once they're seriously dormant in, say, early February. But global warming means we're not getting the really hard winters we once did, so I take a risk and we prune our roses hard back in November.
Pruning hard in November means we get a slightly earlier crop - valuable to us as flower farmers with lots of early summer brides wanting highly scented, freshly cut, real garden roses, for their bouquets and posies.
How do we prune?
Well, they say th...
So your tulip bulbs have arrived and you're looking at them a little askance, wondering how you can get them into the ground quickly, efficiently, and without completely shattering your back.
Here are our top tips.
1 Plant tulip bulbs in November. They like a good cold spell in the ground before they start to shoot, which will help kill off any disease they come with.The more complicated your tulip (double/parrot) the more naturally diseased it is (the disease makes for the glorous doubleness, the frilled edges of the parrot etc,) so the more a cold spell will kill off the disease and give you an astonishing display.
2 If you're planting tulips to naturalise (i.e. settle in and hopefully come back year after year,) you'll need to plant them about eight inches deep and give them a bit of space so that they can increase in number.
3 If you're planting tulips to be cut flowers, or just as an annual because you like the colour this year, then you can be MUCH LESS exacting in your planting.
- In a sunny, well-drained part of the gard...
Sometimes people say to me that there are no British grown flowers in November. Well, let me put those people right. Our gardens here at Common Farm have a rest from production from November till about early April, but fortunately for us all we have wonderful growers all over the UK, and especially in Cornwall, who keep us supplied with fantastic, top quality, beautiful, seasonal British flowers all through the winter.
This bouquet, for example, is going out today and has in it: glorious glads, paperwhite narcissi, nerine lilies, beautiful big white lilies, gorgeous pink sweet William and chrysanthemums, Canterbury bells, and one of my absolute faves, blue ageratum, all framed with gorgeous red spindle foliage.
We have a system when we're ordering in from our Cornish colleagues, that we have our weekly order delivered and we send our flowers out straight away so that they're fresh as a daisy when they arrive on kitchen tables and drawing room sideboards and hall coffers around the land. So from now till April do order your flowers for us to send on a Thur...
Today I made my first Somerset willow Christmas wreath to send someone for the purposes of a little light publicity. I'd forgotten how very calming the wreath making process is.
- First cut your willow - ours comes from the band of willow we planted round two whole sides of Common Farm. Willow recolonised the British Isles at the recession of the last ice age, and it supports almost as much wildlife as oak. Here, during the winter, the pollard crowns of the willow are stuffed with clumps of fat, black aphids which the song birds feast on through the cold months. We're careful, when cutting the willow, not to cut into these clumps of high-protein aphids, and make sure to leave them for the birds. We cut to order so that the willow for the wreaths is fresh and easily malleable for our wreathing. We use about nine nine foot lengths of willow per wreath, and about three four toot lengths for binding. Come on a Christmas wreath workshop here and we'll show you the willow woods, and you might see those naughty goldfinches darting about eating the aphids whil...