In my book, The Flower Farmer's Year, I advocate a 'bold' bulb budget for anybody growing flowers for cutting. For me, most of that budget is spent annually on tulip bulbs.
Unless you're growing tulips as flowers which you'd like to naturalise about the place, I say grow tulips as annuals. The bulbs are inexpensive (currently - increasingly warm winters may put paid to that eventually!) and for a smallish investment you can completely reinvent your cutting garden's look each spring. Besides, I won't necessarily love the lemon coloured tulips I had this year in the same way next, or I might find a colour which really sang for me this, comparitively dull next. Fashions change, tastes change, and the desire for a particularly coloured/shaped tulip changes from year to year too.
So what are my top tips?
- Order in August from a reputable supplier. All good bulb suppliers have excellent websites, often showing pleasing combinaitons of bulbs together, so pour yourself a cup of something pleasurable, give yourself an hour or two's leisure, and sit d...
We sadly wave goodbye to our lovely volunteer Suzy. She's been coming here once a week for a day since March, and has been a keen and enthusiastic member of the team, ready to turn her hand to any job of the day, from clearing poly tunnels, planting out seedlings, sorting the dahlias, planting gladioli bulbs, to washing buckets, harvesting flowers, and learning how to make the classic Common Farm Flowers hand tied bouquets and posies for sending by courier.
I hope she's learned a lot and is off on her next adventure filled with confidence and useful experience. She's taken a job at the Bishop's Palace Garden in Wells, an RHS affiliated garden with twelve acres of beauty needing taking care of. I know she'll be a hugely positive addition to their team and wish her all good things going forward.
But her leaving has left us with a gap. And I often get people asking if we take volunteers, so here I am saying we're ready to take on another.
Why volunteer on a flower farm? Well people come to us for all sorts of reasons: a love of gardening and being ...
Lots of good reasons. Here's a little list.
- Fresh petal confetti is totally biodegradable and will soon disappear from grounds/church paths/any outside areas where it's thrown.
- Fresh petal confetti has weight to it, or at least more weight than dried. This means that when it's thrown it actually falls in the general area where it's thrown, rather than being blown away out of the photograph.
- The weight of it means that if you give little pages and bridesmaids baskets of fresh confetti then it'll stay in the basket until it's time to throw it.
- It's a brilliant way to make more of your table centres etc. A circle of fresh confetti, or a sprinkling of it down a trestle table is very pretty and only takes a minute to arrange.
- You can ask your florist to provide fresh petal confetti by all means. But if you have a garden, and time, then this is where the fresh confetti idea really comes into its own. A wedding day is a blurr of activity and rushing about and answering questions and being ready on time and ...
You can tell we're half way through the summer holidays because suddenly people are beginning to book in on our autumn workshop series.
Which cheers us up no end, because it's always fun to welcome people to Common Farm and teach them about what we do here. From sowing next year's cut flower patch, to making bouquets and posies at our garden floristry workshop, to flower farming for people looking to change their career, to growing your own or arranging your own wedding flowers (or both!) we have all sorts of cheerful days to give you something to look forward to during the autumn.
Our flower farm is conveniently placed between Bruton and Wincanton, just off the A303 at the Tinker's Hill Interchange, and only about six miles from nearby Castle Cary and Gillingham in Dorset train stations.
And our workshop days begin at 10am with tea and coffee and delicious cakes. I hate the idea of people going home feeling as though they were abandoned and ignored at the back of a big class. I really prefer to teach a small group so that I can make sure t...
Choosing bold colours for your wedding flowers can feel counter intuitive. It's true that most of the wedding flowers we do are based on a pale colour palette, and most of the year this works well, especially when we're installing flowers in a church which can be very dark, and where the flowers then glow.
But if you're being married in high summer then do think about colour. And not just any colour! Look at these! I call this a sherbet feel, really zingy, gingery colours which seem to be lit from the inside and glow with their own light.
In high summer the sunlight can be incredibly harsh: a flat, white heat draining colour from everything it touches. Except from these flowers. White, or pale flowers on a boiling summer's day, will just fade into the background. If we'd had white flowers in the garland over the church porch at this wedding, you'd have barely been able to see them against the bleached stone of the church.
These zinging colours, for a country wedding in a Somerset church and afterwards at a garden reception however, really ...
So tomorrow we're creating garlanding to arch over a church porch, wiillow circles of flowers and foliage, more garlanding for the lych gate, three big pedestals, pew ends, bride's bouquet, bridesmaids' flowers, fresh petal confetti, buttonholes, a fresh flower wreath for the reception front door, and the clever bride, her mama and her sisters are going to be making the table centres for the reception out of buckets of fresh cut flowers they're collecting from us in the morning.
It's a classic Somerset country wedding, with a church service in the afternoon, and a marquee in the garden of the bride's home for the reception afterwards. It's a beautiful marquee lined with block printed fabric by Apex marquees. There'll be food by the inimitable Victoria Blashford Snell, and all British flowers created by us.
So we'll all be up to our ears in flowers tomorrow. And I'm looking forward to it. Though the forecast is damned hot! And I flake in the heat. You should see me now after a long day when it's been sweltering! To put it mildly, I need a bath!...
Sometimes we just have a really fun day, for the fun of it. And today was just one such.
Some weeks ago a chap called Charlie from Escape to the Country called to say they wanted to film the flower farm for inspiration for a lovely couple moving from Essex to Somerset, and could we show them our wild flower meadows? Well, we love nothing more than to show people our meadows, and hopefully inspire them to grow a bit of meadow for themselves. And so this morning a cheery team appeared and we filmed all over the garden and the meadow, collecting seed, sniffing the sweet peas, looking at the wild orchids, talking about wilding projects near and far, and how a wildflower meadow helps feed all the food chain, us included, because, as Fabrizio always says, if you look after the invertebrates the rest of the food chain will look after itself.
It was great to see Common Farm Flowers a little bit through other peoples' eyes - and what these people saw and comented on were the bees and the butterflies. Suddenly I saw them afresh too. I know I get nose blind to...
There is a great fashion for putting fresh flowers on cakes. And what an attractive fashion it is!
However, there are a few things to think about before arranging flowers directly on cakes which you're going to eat.
- Make sure the flowers are edible. If I see one more picture of larkspur or delphiniums with their stems pushed into cakes I'll have a fit! Sooner or later someone's going to be really ill from eating something seriously inedible. Off the top of my head I can list larkspur, delphinium, sweet peas and monks hood, daffodils, buttercup, hyacinth and foxglove as flowers never to have any where near a cake. This list is but the tip of the poisonous flower compost heap. So if you want to dress your cake with flowers please make sure the flowers are edible first.
- If you're growing flowers you've checked are edible yourself for your cake, then you can be sure they haven't been sprayed with anything which might not suit your digestion. Flowers bought from florists, supermarkets, flower markets, and so on, are not food grade...
Goodness the heat! Throughout early July there was I, sagely nodding my head, and forecasting downpours from the 14th July (St Swithun’s Day,) flooding us out until next March. Well St Swithun’s came and went and here I am still wiping sweat from my brow in a relatively cool office and avoiding the garden unless it’s between 5 and 10am in the morning.
The flowers are holding up amazingly well. We successionally sow flowers so that we have new crops coming in to flower every six weeks or so, which means we don’t have to water old crops trying to keep them going, but can focus on the new, helping them get their roots down by not watering too often, but watering well when we do, and watering at cool times of day, ideally morning so that excess water has time to evaporate during the day helping us avoid mildew and other damp causing issues. Of course right now this minute it’s 6pm and I’m watering the new crop of sweet peas just beginning to flower, so please do what I say, not what I do!
I also say do be careful if you have seedlings hanging in there for a...