Now we've had a more serious frost the dahlias look properly sad and it's time to put them to bed for the winter. Since we turned the barn into our flower studio and office space, we no longer have anywhere to store the dahlia tubers in the winter, so we don't lift them. Instead we leave them in the ground and mulch them hard.
- First we cut back all the above ground growth, then have a little hoe around the surface, just to get rid of any cheeky weeds.
- Then we dig round the edges of the beds to make a shallow gutter where any surplus water can sit during the winter months.
- Then we add a good heap of compost onto the whole bed (we use municipay green waste,) a depth of at least three inches.
- THEN we chop up the phacelia we've had growing between the dahlia plants and lay it on the surface of the compost where it'll rot in slowly over the winter.
- I'm about to treat us to a huge load of Dalefoot compost which we'll use sparingly as a final mulch over all and which will, over the winter, work its way down through the soil w...
I always tell people that in order to be a flower farmer you need good reserves of energy, a mind like a spreadsheet, and a determination to learn from your experience.
It helps if you're already a keen gardener, but you do not have to be up to the hilt in RHS qualifications. It helps if you know a bit about running a small business, but that too can be learned. What you really need is energy, and a mind like a spreadsheet. And to those tools you can add a little marketing and maths and you're away. You don't even need vast areas of land, or much in the way of complicated infrastructure. Obviously, if you have a desire to grow nine million gladioli in a year then yes, a few acres might help. But for the kind of flower farmers we are, you can scale down your operation to an area as small as a good sized allotment. So you don't need masses of land. You just need energy, and a mind that works like a spreadsheet.
We had a student here yesterday who has done other workshops teaching flower farming and she said ours is incomparably better because:...
The last of our big weddings for this year over, we're making our little recipe for the file which we make after each event we do. This means we've got a good record of what went well, what we liked, what we felt could have been improved upon. We do this for all the events we work with and it's really helpful in informing how we plan for the following season, and especially in advising our clients going forward.
There are lots of things you, as the giver of the wedding reception or party, might not think to ask a venue. And I think sometimes venues don't think to tell you a lot of what you need to know unless you ask.
These questions may feel very unromantic when all you want to do is imagine how lovely you can make the place look while you swish about in your beautiful silks, but a little hard nosed organisation can make all the difference to the smooth running of your special day.
What time can you get into the venue, and by what time do you have to have left?
This is a more complicated question than you might assume. You need writ...
You may have been planning your wedding since you were five years old, or you may be totally surprised to find you're getting married at all. Either way, there are masses of people out there whose business it is to help you create your perfect day. Your job is to define what you'd like on the day, be careful to choose a budget you can afford. And find the people who can best translate your dreams for you according to that budget.
Of course, you may decide to do the whole thing DIY - friends bringing lasagnes and salads, holding the reception at home, dress from a vintage shop, and a play list booming out of a laptop somewhere.
But if you're not going to do that you're going to need a:
You'll need a venue both for ceremony and reception. They might be the same place in the end, but both incurr costs which you need to include in your budget. In this part of south east Somerset we have lots of great venues nearby: from North Cadbury Court and East Pennard House, both of which have churches associated with the houses, through Sparkford Ha...
The new term starts and of course we have workshop here at Common Farm Flowers. We've been so flat out with weddings though, that I've failed to really blog about them. So this week we have Grow Your Own Cut Flower Patch tomorrow (tuesday,) and our lovely Hnd-tied bouquet workshop on Wednesday. The two days go very well together if you fancy doing both.
On our Grow Your Own Cut Flower Patch workshop you come and have a good look round our flower fields here at Common Farm, and we show you how you can translate some of the things we do here to make your domestic garden enormously productive: from creating raised beds, to mulching and feeding, we look first at creating beds where your cut flower patch can thrive. Then we think about successional sowing, how much you might so, how much you need, and then we sow you a whole garden to take home with you. Because of the time of year we'll very likely take some cuttings to overwinter too tomorrow, as well as maybe prick out some of our spare biennials for visitors to take home. It's a great fun day with masses to lear...
September's a great time to take cuttings from your tender perennials just in case they get killed off by a cold snap in the winter. I call it hedging your bets. Plus, if they're loverly plants you'd like more of then this is a great way to make new plants for free.
All you need is some good quality, free draining, peat free compost, a few clean pots, and a label or two.
We especially take cuttings of what's beginning to be quite a nice salvia collection - I don't want to lose these! But you could also take pelargonium cuttings, penstemon cuttings, phlox and lots more.
What you do is this:
- Pick a stem where there is a side shoot (or perhaps two!) coming out from between the leaf and the stem.
- At a sharp angle, cut the stem just below the next join below this side shoot (where there are more leaves coming off.)
- Strip the bottom leaves and pop the stem straight into the pot you've filled with well-drained compost. Cuttings root best when the stems are popped into the pot right against the side of the pot, so ...
Top tips if you're planning a really big wedding:
Really big weddings cost a fortune. If you're determined to have 250+ people to your do it's going to cost a great deal of money. This is fine if you acknowledge the fact early on and give yourself a good, fat budget. If you want to throw a huge party on a tight budget you'll end up in a foul temper having found you had to spend the money anyway.
It's very hard to create an 'intimate' feel at a huge wedding. To seat 250+ people down for dinner you're going to need a marquee approaching the size of an aircraft hanger. If you love pictures of a single table for eight nestled under trees in an orchard, dressed with masses of flowers, in a very Midsummer Night's Dream sort of way, then maybe go for a more intimate day where you can recreate such a look. if you're looking for what I call the full Fragonard look in an aircraft hangar sized marquee, then you're going to need a budget to match a full Fragonard itself.
To make things go smoothly on the day make somebody in charge of running the day and ke...
Yes, we are local florists too.
From our local towns and villages of Wincanton, Bruton, Castle Cary and Mere, as well as our own Charlton Musgrove, customers can order flowers to suit their budgets, and either come and pick them up, or pay a little bit more to have them delivered.
So for thankyou flowers, or birthday flowers, or congratulations flowers, or commiserations flowers, do ring us if you're local and we'll make something for you to collect. Our telephone number is 01963 32883.
And for really special occasions, we are happy to create bespoke schemes - we supply flowers for somewhere between fifty and sixty weddings and events a year from our cut flower farm between Wincanton and Bruton here in sunny Somerset. You can order buckets of flowers to create your own arrangements, or we can do all the floristry for you, or, a lot of people like a mixture of the two. Perhaps we do the bouquets and buttonholes and any focal arrangements, and you have some mixed buckets of flowers and create your own table centres with th...
Planning ahead for the next season is an activity which occupies a great deal of my time. While I'm always happy to see our garden in full flower, it is what's coming next which is what really interests me. And at this time of year (late August,) my thoughts begin to turn to spring, and what we can get ahead with to make sure we have a good early crop of flowers for our customers next season.
First I look at our leftover seed from this year. We buy seed fresh every year, and successionally sow it in batches. Our September sowing will hopefully use up all our leftovers so that we then order fresh for sowing next year.
I'll be looking for varieties like ammi majus, clary sage, orlaya grandiflora, nigella, calendula, dill, larkspur, Californian poppy, cornflowers, lavatera, ammi visnaga, cerinthe, and sweet peas: hardy hardy annuals which will happily germinate now, even though light levels are diminishing, and then will spend the winter growing nice deep root systems, and then flower in late spring next year.
We'll sow our seed in seed tr...
We took a day off flower farming on Saturday, and spent a very happy day making plum and ginger jam. Because jamming is good for the soul, and leaving that many plums on the tree for the wasps to eat is too generous to the wasps, and not kind to my half empty store cupboard (I failed to make marmalade this year!)
So I invited my lovely friend, neighbour, and consumate cook, Silvana de Soissons over for a day's traditional chat and jamming, filled two large baskets with not quite ripe (because I like a tart jam,) plums, and we made thirty five pounds of plum and ginger jam.
To make a change from all our beautiful British flowers I thought you might like our jam recipe. Of course, since we're flower farmers I went to the patron saint of florists for my inspiration recipe, so out came my Grandmother's copy of Constance Spry's classic cook book.
When I say 'inspiration,' of course I'm terrible at doing exactly what a recipe tells me, but it's good to start somewhere. So this is what we did...
To make four pounds of jam you will need: