May 2022 News
Well hello the house. Apologies for a late newsletter, but it’s been busy here!
First a lovely full-on, quite-like-old-times wedding last weekend took a lot of prep and planning, but thanks to help from Tessa Farrington (excellent florist) and Lorraine Pullen (excellent friend and pretty good florist too!) it all came off a treat, though the remains are still littering the yard and must be cleared up before it turns into a compost heap. Thank you to Floral Fabrications for the hire of the arch – quite the game changer in terms of time-for-creating and need for rusty nails long-ago-hammered into much-listed church arches I can say. To see what we got up to do ping over to the youtube clip I made as we cut, prepped, created and installed the flowers for this gorgeous do. And to learn how to do similar work yourself, whether you’re a florist looking to learn more about using fresh-from-the-field flowers like the ones we grow, or an arranger looking to learn more for your own work, do see our floristry workshops scheduled through the summer, both here at the farm, and online.
Extra fun on Wednesday had me getting up extra early so that I could get my harvesting done well in advance so that I’d be rested and not breathless when talking to Emma Barnett live on Woman’s Hour. She started strong with a declaration that she hates being given cut flowers and can’t bear the bother of them, so I had a chance to demonstrate some floral fisticuffs live on Radio 4. You can listen here if you missed it - I am around 39 minutes in.
Talking of press, I’m very excited to have earned a pass to Press Day at RHS Chelsea. This is a great gift for somebody who loves to get up early (I can be there at 7am when it’s quiet quiet,) and is only five feet two inches in her stockinged feet so can’t see much through a crowd. I’m very much looking forward to reporting on flowers for cutting, any working gardens, and seeing all the horticultural friends I’ve made over the years there.
And what are we doing in the garden? Well, the tulips are going over clump by clump so any we haven’t used in our floristry are being lifted and distributed to friends and neighbours for replanting in their gardens. This doesn’t guarantee a great display for them, but tulips lifted with bulbs and leaves, and with heads nipped off so that the flower doesn’t spend energy creating seed, but saves energy back to the bulb may come back well next year. My friend Katie James (great artist!) has naturalised Queen of Night tulip bulbs left over from my harvesting in her wild lawn in leafy Barnes very successfully. Click here for a #georgiestoptip when harvesting your tulips! If you’d like to know more about how we grow tulips do book a place on The Tulip Workshop.
And as the tulips go over we’re pricking out seedlings to plant in their place. I only just tray-sowed my last sowing of tender annuals for this year on Sunday last, and I will be direct-sowing quick growers like cosmos and amaranth and zinnias where there are gaps right up until the end of June, so don’t despair if you’ve not sown seed to flower this year, and I know my friend Benjamin at Higgledy Garden will send you some seed in time for this year’s cut flower patch if you order from him.
While you order seed for flowering this year from old Higgers, don’t forget to order biennial seed for flowering next year. We have a sowing biennial’s online demo coming up soon, so if you fancy learning more about growing foxgloves, sweet rocket, wallflowers, honesty and more from seed for a great early show next year, and as a way to feel as though you’ve stolen a march on next year’s cut flower patch jobs, then join me there.
I’ve been checking the roses too. We’ve had such a dry April that I think I’ll give them a good water this weekend. They are budding up already which is very early here and my climbers against the house already have flowers. This is good for next week’s event at Huntsham Court in Devon, but the earliest we’ve ever had roses here at Common Farm. The Rose Workshop is available to book too. (Places on this one already proving very popular.)
But what about the dahlias? I hear you cry. Never fear! The cuttings I took have taken nicely and so I’m going to pot them on this weekend. It’s unusually warm, so I’m going to take the split dahlias out of the polytunnel this weekend too and start hardening them off for planting out. We may yet get a nasty end-of-May frost so I won’t plant them out yet until I’m more sure of the weather. Fabrizio has been prepping the beds for them and I need to mulch them well with Dalefoot Compost a week or so before I plant them out so that the blackbirds don’t come and dig them up while going through the compost for worms. Yes, we do have Dahlia workshops, both here at the farm and online so do book a place there if you fancy.
And while all the fiddly gardening stuff goes on, the amazing explosion of colour which the meadow will soon become is growing visibly day by day. The first orchid is in flower, a hybrid between an early marsh orchid and possibly a common spotted orchid – of course even the most brilliant orchid specialist would never be a hundred per cent sure about which hybridisation has taken place, as Fabrizio has made sure I point out. His perennial wildflower meadow workshops are scheduled for a time when hopefully the orchids will be in full flower, along with the corky fruited water dropwort, and a great deal more.
So happy gardening friends and neighbours. I’m off now to order next year’s tulip bulbs quick before they sell out! My favourite new (to me) variety this year has been Brown Sugar, for which recommendation I thank my friend Andrew from Pitcombe who’s grown it for years. We order our tulips from Peter Nyssen because the customer service from the lovely Karen is second to none, and because the packaging is 100% biodegradable, and most importantly because the bulbs aren’t dipped in neonicotinoids. And since the ethos of Common Farm Flowers is that we should look after the invertebrates so that the rest of the food chain can look after itself, an active avoidance of neonicotinoids matters very much to us.