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...
Growing sweet peas successfully is not rocket science. Here are our top tips:
Use fresh seed for better germination rates. Sow seed a knuckle deep in trays or pots and keep out of the way of the marauding mouse who loves to eat a germinating sweet pea seed more than anything.
Successionally sow two or three crops of sweet peas, and sow fewer than you think you'll need. It's better to keep cutting ALL the flowers on ten or fifteen plants, than being overwhelmed by the flowers on thirty or fourty plants and finding your sweet peas go over quickly. I would sow your first crop in autumn, say, first October, and your second, outside in March.
Sow sweet pea seed in deep pots or root trainers - this way they have space to get their roots down which they like to do.
Pinch out the sweet pea seedlings by cutting off the shooting stem so that you leave only two sets of true leaves. This will encourage the plant to branch out, so giving you lots more flowers.
Plant sweet peas out, protected from frost, from mid-March onwards, into very houmus-...
So many good reasons to order British flowers. Here are just a few:
- Buy British flowers because flower growers feed the bees. As Fabrizio always says, 'Look after the invertebrates and the rest of the food chain will look after itself.' So buying British flowers means you're contributing to an economy which supports our beleaguered bees.
- Buy British flowers and you will find you can have on your kitchen table a full cottage garden herbaceous border of delight which wouldn't be available from big importers, who only supply flowers which will travel out of water, and will last longer, because of the delay between cutting and the flowers arriving at your door. British flowers need fewer chemicals to last because they're fresher when you buy them. British flowers can be delicate varieties which need to travel in water because they have less distance to travel, and the growers will put their precious little people in buckets of water and deliver like that.
- Buy British flowers because they'll not only be fresher by days than imported flowers,...
The greatest compliment we as florists can be given is to be asked to do funeral flowers. The flowers chosen to celebrate a life are there for many reasons, and when people ask us to do them, it's often because the person whose funeral it is was a gardener, or a walker, a person who loved the outdoors, countryside, real, fresh, growing things on which they'd delight to see a bee or a bird.
This may look like a huge arrangement in a vase, but in fact it's a funeral sheaf having a drink. We make it as three bouquets tied together into a huge, flat backed, hand-tie, which can then lie comfortably on the coffin. It has width to fill the space, but height too. And it's really important that the view when it's lying on the coffin, flower heads towards the congregation, is full of life and interest.
In this case, we made the sheaf the evening before the funeral, and it had all night in deep water so that the flowers would be not at all thirsty when lying on the coffin. This huge vase holds almost a gallon of water, and I filled it right up before ...
Ok, so it's not funny any more. These endless boiling hot days of relentless sun are getting me down. I really really really would like some rain. And I bet you would too.
So I thought I'd give you some hot tips (ha ha! you should see the perspiration gently glowing off my nose!) for keeping your garden going during a drought.
The cut flower patches at this flower farm between Bruton and Wincanton in Somerset are holding up surprisingly well considering the boiling hard sun. So here are a few of the tricks we employ to keep our garden flowering.
- In the winter mulch your garden beds with a good couple of inches of compost - this will not only feed the soil and your plants, but also help prevent water evaporating from the old surface should the hot weather come.
- We have lots of seeds germinating (our last annual crop for the small tunnel) and seedlings fattening up for when we have room to plant them out (biennials like foxgloves and sweet rocket.) If I left these in the green house or even just outside in the cold fram...
In the same way that there's no point in trying to make a small room look larger by paining it a light colour, there's no point in trying to compete with a massive empty space by stuffing it with flowers. A massive empty space is a massive empty space. However, an intimate ceremony happening inside a massive empty space can be framed carefully with flowers - though I still say don't fight with the space, don't compete with it. Make lovely flowers to frame the ceremony and let the space be what it is.
And so it is with the Radic Pavillion in the Piet Oudolf garden at Hauser and Wirth just outside Bruton in somerset. The Radic Pavillion is like a giant, empty dinosoar egg at the top of the garden, a huge, hollowed out space with nothing in it but rows of chairs for your wedding ceremony, and maybe a table if you ask for one. The view faces through trees and over hedges towards the little Somerset town of Bruton, and the sun sets in the view, as wedding ceremonies always happen there towards the end of the day (the garden being open to the public until 4pm.)