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:
Inspired by our minister for the environment, Therese Coffey, tweeting a picture of a big bottle of Roundup, which she was about to spray about her garden, I thought I'd write a little blog post about ways you can garden more greenly and look after your environment while enjoying your eco flaars.
The awful truth about proprietory weedkillers like Roundup is that, though in the short term if feels as though you're achieving a great deal, killing off whatever weed it is that bothers you, you then do have to sit back and watch while, over a period of days, those weeds slowly die, looking awfully sad in the process. And then after they're dead you still have to clear them away, only now you have to wear protective clothing and a mask so that you don't get glyphosate all over your clothes or breathe it in. Is it not just easier to clear weeds you don't want in the first place, rather than kill them and then have to clear them anyway?
I say keep some of your garden weeds because then you'll have wildlife. You know Fabrizio's old adage, 'Look after the invertebrates a...
How do we deliver our flowers UK wide?
Very simply: aquapacked and in sturdy boxes, hand-delivered, next day delivery, by courier.
- Here at Common Farm Flowers, our flower farm based between Bruton and Wincanton in Somerset, we cut our flowers to order. So first thing in the morning Sharon and I pop into the office and print off any orders which have come in during the night, and put them with that day's orders from the file.
- We then make a stem count of what we'll need to cut, and then we fill our trolleys with clean buckets filled with fresh water. Sharon takes one pair of scissors, I take another, and we head off in different directions with a stem count to cut each in mind. At this time of year she'll usually start in the dahlias and I with the annuals and we meet up the top in the field known as the Ladysmock to cut foliage and various bits of extra to give our bouquets a little more zing.
- We then haul our full trolleys back to the studio (we may have gone in and out with several trolley loads by now) and pop all the flowers in ...
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!...