Learn something new - workshops
Here at Common Farm Flowers we rely for our every day business on social media. For us, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are three slightly different shops, visited by an ever-growing group of friends.
It was not long after we started farming flowers on our seven acre plot in Somerset (nine years in April!) that somebody said, 'You should start telling people what you're doing on social media.'
And so we did. At first I was a bit scattergun with my tweeting - but that was only because it was so much fun! As a person starting a small business on my own in rural Somerset, I sometimes felt quite isolated - but Twitter provided me with an instant cohort of fun friends who cheered on my efforts, advised, supported, and, most important of all, soon began to order our flowers. I'm now much more strategic with my social media posting - well, the business grew, and there's a limit to how much time one can spend on line when one has a business to run!
When I teach people how to use social media I tell them that I still love Twitter best. So long as you ignor...
They're the most beautiful kind of wreath, absolutely top of the door dressing fashion this year, and we not only know how to make them, but can teach you too how to make yours.
The Common Farm Flowers willow wreath is made with freshly cut willow, which is then easier to use than other willow which will have had to have been soaked for days but might still be brittle. Ours too has this incredible colour because the willow is so very fresh (we cut each wreath to order, including the ones you make on your workshop.) We have green, yellow, firey orange, and dark aubergine coloured willow, which when carefully twisted into a perfect circle and bound makes a circle of magic for you to hang on your wall all year round.
We then teach you to make a garland, a skill which you can translate into making more goodies for your Christmas house. The garland is the Christmas decoration. We have stopped using wire in our garlanding so the whole is absolutely biodegradable. We carefully attach the garland to the willow circle, add ribbon, and voila! your stunning door...
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 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...
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...
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...
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 ...
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...
Top tip when cutting garden flowers: take a bucket of water to the plant and cut straight into water so that the flower doesn't even have a chance to realise its been cut before it's being given a lovely long drink. Never allow a flower stem to dry out when you cut it - that's what'll make it flop when you do eventually put it in water. For many more top tips... come along to our posy tying and garden floristry workshop next week!
People often say to me that they struggle with flowers they cut from their garden: they find that their flowers flop quickly, that they are difficult to arrange, they daren't cut their garden flowers for fear their gardens will look shorn afterwards.
Spend a day with us next Tuesday and I'll show you how to cut flowers successfully, how to stop them flopping before you've had a chance to arrange them, and how to make lovely garden arrangements for your own house or as presents for your friends.
We spend the morning tootling round all our acres of cut flowers with a trolley filled with buckets of water and you can cu...
Sometimes we just give in and do things for fun. And this weekend planned for the end of July this year is one of those times.
Really arranged so that our great friend artist Katie James can spend the weekend painting pictures of the flower farm along with Fabrizio Bocca (my other half,) and various other friends, we've invited NEAC (New English Art Club) member Alex Fowler to come and lead a weekend's painting pictures of, in and around our flower farm between Bruton and Wincanton, Somerset.
If the weather's glorious then painters can set up their easels all over the farm, to paint the flowers, but also the wildflower meadow, the orchards, the strong shapes made by the avenues of trees and sweeps of hedge... and if the weather's terrible then we'll just cut all the flowers in the garden and bring them into the studio where people can paint them.
It's been a dream of ours for years to open the garden to ...