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...
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...