Planning the cut flower patch
It may seem odd to you that we should be deep in planning the cut flower patch in July. Surely the cut flower patch is in full flower and for once we have an opportunity to stand back and admire it, sit nearby, even, drink wine and watch while the butterflies dance about it? Well, yes. But we're also always planning what we're doing next and where we're going to put it.
For example, last week I was pricking out biennials. Now I have a ninety foot long bed available for these seedlings when they're big enough to plant out in September. How do I know I have the right number of plants for the space? Well, if a bed is 90 foot long, and three feet wide, and I plant at roughly five plants across each three feet width (a little tight in spacing, but there will be some loss during the winter,) then I have room for 450 plants. Now I pricked out biennials until I'd frankly had enough, and I found I had 240 seedlings. So they will take 48 rows. Which leaves me 42 rows to fill. Happy days. So what will I put there? Well, I happen to have ordered a little (ahem!) delphinium seed. So I think I'll direct sow that delphinium seed in the space that's left. I could sow the delphinium seed and prick it out and plant out plants in the spring. But the price of the seed is little, and the cost in time and compost to prick out and pot on and in greenhouse space for sheltering them over winter is high. So I've decided I'll direct sow that seed in September and I won't expect to see much until the spring, but a nice cold winter, dormant in the ground, should vernalise the seed so that it germinates nicely in the spring, and hopefully we'll get a nice new delphinium crop. Well, it's worth the experiment.
When teaching people to grow a cut flower patch, or how to be a flower farmer, one of the points I really like to hammer home, is that people should be careful not to grow more than they need. It's all very well having a garden that's lovely to look at, but the point of the exercise is to make the most of the space available. I could have pricked out more and more and more and more biennials (I had sown very little, but still had too many seedlings germinated,) just because I had them. But I won't need them. I won't cut them. They'll look lovely in the garden, but I'm not growing a lovely garden, I'm growing bouquets. So I need 240 biennial plants and that's plenty! And the rest of the row can be delphiniums, and hopefully they'll work for me.
So you see the flower farmer's year is one full of excitement and derring do. I ordered my tulips today - just 3,000 of them. All already counted into bouquets. Another quiet day in the life of the flower farmer, eh?
The picture above is of a bouquet we sent today. Sweet peas from crop #2 which we're now cutting into hard, using tendrils and leaves in order to give the flowers longer stems, dahlias from our patch which is flowering nicely, but could do with a feed, roses from the rows up the top in the lady's smock - they're slowing down a little and could do with a feed too. Ay me. The list is never ending.
Still, at least the kids are on holiday so we're not having to do that horrible rush to get them to school in the morning so I actually get a cup of tea in bed most mornings from now until the end of August. Oh the little things that make me happy.