Living the dream in Somerset

  • Plum and Ginger Jam Recipe

    Plum and Ginger Jam Recipe

    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:

  • Village Charity Plant Sale

    Village Charity Plant Sale

    Our village plant sale is coming up on 12th May this year.  And to that end we're sowing lots of extra seed for sale on the day.  And today we chop up a load of dahlia tubers to pot up for the sale.  Our lovely new volunteer starts today, and her first job is going to be to help cut up the tubers which have over-wintered in our neighbour Sally's barn.  These will be potted up and hopefully cheerfully sprouting by the time we have our plant sale on 12th May.

    We're raising money to mend a hole in the roof of our eight hundred year old village church, St Stephen's, and we're hoping to beat last year's total of £1,300.

    We sell all plants at £1 a pot, and hope that lots of you will bring your spare seedlings and cuttings to donate to the cause.  There will, of course, be lots of tea and cake too, as well as an amazing raffle.  

    So while you create your own garden this year, do remember our plant sale, and put aside your spare seedlings for us.  We love interesting perennial cuttings, split plants, trays of spare tomato plants, cosmos seedlings.  We al...

  • Volunteer at the flower farm

    Volunteer at the flower farm

    We are in the market for a new volunteer here at Common Farm Flowers.  We're based between Bruton and Wincanton in Somerset, so someone relatively local would be great. 

    We love our volunteers and generally have one person at a time coming one day a week for as long as it suits them.  In the past we've had Ann, who was the queen of hand weeding, we've had Penny who was a wonderful propagator, and now lovely Denise, a natural florist, is moving on because she's off to live in Nuremberg (how cosmopolitan!)  There's the dream team too, Andrew and Lorraine, who help out with busy wedding prep, so there's quite a team here, and we always try to make it fun and insteresting for anyone here on a voluntary basis.

    So if you fancy a day a week on our little flower farm we'd love to hear from you.

    We need you to be able to be left to get on with a job (self-motivated!)

    We need you to commit to the time you agree to be here, as we'll save jobs for you to do, and if you don't come we'll get behind.

    And in return we'll share all sorts of gardening kno...

  • Style your house

    Style your house

    More fun than a picnic is how I'd describe having our house styled for a photo shoot by the glorious stylist Amanda Russell and her friend and photographer Nick Carter.  I was worried that our house was too messy and generally full of unstylish corners, but it turns out that it's only the square framed by the shot which needs to look amazing - outside that square roller skates and bicycle helmets, nerf gun collections, and ugly toasters, can be heaped, but because you look at the picture within the frame, you don't imagine piles of rubbish, but more of what the contents of the photograph describes.  So, for example, the picture I've used to illustrate this post, is of a corner of a shelf in our sitting room (this corner styled by Amanda this week.)  On the right is the window, through which, in real life, is Fabrizio's delivery van van, our wheelie bin, a pile of buckets belonging to Common Farm Flowers, a child...

  • Autumn colour at this Somerset flower farm

    Autumn colour at this Somerset flower farm

    This autumn's colour here in our cosy corner of south east Somerset is, I think, as good as any you'll see anywhere.  There must have been a perfect combination of temperature and rainfall over the past months for the leaves to all turn together into such an amazing mass of fiery colour.  I never have time to get to Stourhead at this time of year (about five miles East of here,) but a walk around our garden is enough to cheer even the most winter-hating flower farmer (me.)

    The colour here is much contributed to by our collection of willows - stems of burning orange, bright yellow, spring green, aubergine purple, are slowly revealed as the dried old leaves are blown off.  And then I think, it's time to go counting.  And Sharon and Fabrizio and I walk the willow bounds we planted by striking three foot lengths of our neighbour's pollard willow collection fourteen years ago, the trees from which in some cases are forty feet high now, and we count the new stems from this year.  

    We pollard a good deal of our willow in January.  And th...

  • A plea re General Election 2017

    A plea re General Election 2017

    I think we should just all remember that we're so fortunate to live in a democracy which gives us a choice of candidates and parties for whom we can vote.  Let's not be angry with one another for making choices we might not agree with.  The whole point of a democracy is that choice.  Let us vote, and celebrate the fact that we can.  Whoever we vote for, very few of us are stupid, thoughtless, or vote because we wish to be wantonly cruel.  In the same way that, dig, or no-dig, we're all gardeners, whichever party we vote for, we are all partakers in a wonderful democratic system.  Thank God we have a choice!  Thank God we have a vote!  And now it's time to put the kettle on: tea or coffee? 

    ...
  • Take part in the RHS Chelsea Fringe

    Take part in the RHS Chelsea Fringe

    Take part in the RHS Chelsea Fringe.

    My gardening friend and colleague Michelle Chapman (@malvernmeet on twitter,) has had a brilliant idea.  She's accredited the hashtag #mygardenrightnow as an official RHS Chelsea Fringe event.  

    She wants all of us ordinary gardeners to celebrate our precious patches by taking and posting lots of photographs of our gardens during RHS Chelsea Flower Show week.

    After all, while the Chelsea Flower Show show gardens are works of perfection rivalled only in ephemeral beauty by the salt mandalas of Nepalese monks made painstakingly over a period of weeks only to be blown away to remind those monks that the beauty they can make is just transitory, so those show gardens also are works of ephemera, created at enormous cost, to be admired by us all over just a few days, and then, pouff! Gone - as though they were just fictions of our imaginations.

    Our own gardens though are real works: our backs know that we've made them, our hands know that we've sown the seed, potted on, planted out, frost-proofed and wind-prot...

  • Big thank you for plant sale support

    Big thank you for plant sale support

    Dear friends and neighbours,

    I just want to (better late than never!) thank all who came and supported our plant sale on 6th May in aid of mending the hole in the 13th century roof of St Stephen's church, Charlton Musgrove.  With our simple formula of all plants being £1 a pot, no matter how impressive or how dinky, we managed to raise £1,400+ in plant sales, cake sales, raffle ticket sales and extra kind donations.  

    It feels as though Charlton Musgrove is having a real living-the-dream moment.  We currently have a farm shop, a vicar, a fab village hall, and a really great new pub open - we're a proper-central casting village! Long may it last I say, with so many kind neighbours and friends about the whole place is buzzing with neighbourliness.

    So please note this date for your diary for next year, Sat 12th May, Charlton Musgrove Village Hall, for more plant sale action.  We're grateful for donated plants, cakes, and really fab raffle prizes, and hope to do it all again.

    This year we opened at 9.30 and about two thir...

  • The future of our ancient church of St Stephen

    The future of our ancient church of St Stephen

    The future of our ancient church of St Stephen

    We are fortunate in this little village of Charlton Musgrove in Somerset.  We have an ancient church in which to worship.  It is tiny: eighty people make a squash inside.  But it is also exquisite in its simplicity and its sense of deep calm.  

    I don't know about you, but I'm always in a mad rush, I am a bustler; busying about the place, trying to arrive on time, but not early, to pack in as much as I can in a minute for fear of waste.  But I arrive at St Stephen's, and I step into its cool, calm interior, and it's as though there's something there to stop me at the door: an invisible force, like a secret security guard whose job it is to make me take a breath, stop me bustling, calm me down, slow my step.  By the time I've taken my place my heart rate's slowed, my blood pressure's lowered, I look at the dust motes dancing a graceful minuet in the light streaming through the windows, I raise my head and take in the painted beams in the vaulted ceiling, I notice the posy of wild fr...

  • There's no such thing as a quiet week at this flower farm.

    There's no such thing as a quiet week at this flower farm.

    I haven't been able to blog for months while our new website has been settling in. But today I'm giving it a go for the first time in ages. While the blog's been out of action we certainly haven't, and this week at Common Farm Flowers has been pretty typical! Starting last Saturday morning we had a pop up shop at the Roth Bar and Grill at the amazing Hauser and Wirth gallery just this side of Bruton where we sold flowers and books and postcards and gardening gloves surrounded by the current exhibition of Elisabeth Frink sculpture. The Hauser and Wirth exhibitions never fail to amaze, and this one was almost comforting too: do you know that feeling when you come face to face with real art which you know well through books and posters, art you've seen all your life, but never SEEN? The Frinks at Hauser and Wirth are gorgeous, tactile, less massive somehow than I thought they'd be... I LONGED to touch them. The awful truth is that without popping up at the Roth Bar I might have missed this show altogether, so I'm grateful for having been invited, and I don't mind a bit that we had to...

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