May is a beautiful season at the Flower Farm as plants grow away at great speed. After recent rain, sunshine (& a bit of hail) I swear the plants visibly grow overnight! Fat new growth on the peonies, early perennials shooting skywards & blossom on the fruit trees – fills my heart with optimism as I look forward to all the flowers on their way now.
It’s a bit like ‘musical chairs’ though as I juggle plants in the covered space available. The Hardy Annual plugs (including Sweet Peas) sown early in the year are being planted out now. Tulips have finished & been replaced, but Ranunculus & Anemones are going strong, too good to pull out yet. I need their space for planting more plugs!
And in the greenhouse & polytunnel, trays are endlessly being moved. These seeds need the heat mat… those seedlings need a dip in water before they dry out... dahlias still too tender to go out & take so much space… Aagh! I’ve more protected area than even last year but it’s a challenge this month.
Nights can still be cold here so I’m cautious with tender plants such as Cosmos & Dahlias. Soon I’ll begin toughening them up by bringing them outside for the day & taking them back in at night. They’ll be planted out at the very end of May, if the weather is kind.
This is a good month for sowing seeds as they'll germinate quickly. These later plants keep colour coming here until late in the season. This past few days I’ve started off yet more Sweet Peas – they’re always popular & I like a few for late Summer weddings & parties. I’m growing even more grasses, seed heads & other flowers for drying this year too as this is a strong textural trend. They’re popular in bouquets, wreaths & even weddings at the moment.
Some of the best flowers for cutting (& often leave big gaps if cut from a home garden flower bed) are the traditional British Perennials. Over the last couple of years I’ve increased my stock, growing many from seed or propagating from a few plants. These provide good long stems including Geum, Alliums, Campanula, Scabious & Astrantia this month, next month it’ll be the Delphiniums, Lupins & Achillea taking the starring role. Most appreciate staking to keep them standing tall in wet & windy weather. A little time on this now saves much time later, avoiding the loss of beautiful blooms just as they’re about to flower because of a sudden summer storm.
As well as practical growing tasks, I’m preparing for June weddings, traditionally the busiest wedding month of the year. Some of the less glamourous tasks such as washing all the vases so they shine, cutting ribbons & more are jobs to do ahead of time.
Over Winter we applied for the UNESCO Biosphere Certification Mark - & proud to announce we’re one of the first awarded it! It was a rigorous, thought provoking review of our environmental policies. This is a special, sensitive place for flora & fauna so we take great care to look after the wildlife we share our home with. Admittedly though, we’ve not been terribly good at telling everybody else about what we do. So this process is the start of communicating our story better. In a nutshell…
Planning is gathering pace for our 'Big Flower Weekend' event on 15th – 18thAugust. Over 100 UK growers (all members of the ‘Flowers From The Farm’group) will be opening their gates for flower farm tours, flowery themed workshops & more! We'll be hosting a 'Flower Farm Tour' & a 'Tour plus Posy Making Session'. Still trying to sort out the practicalities so details of how to book your places will be in this newsletter next month.
Your Flowery Inspiration;
Here's a couple of links for beautiful new ways to use dried flowers.
Enjoy the lengthening days, hopefully plenty of sunshine & perhaps planting up your own Cutting Patch if you can!
Until next time,
This Spring, I've been trialling varieties of mini Narcissi & this one has become a stand out favourite. Called 'Moonlight Sensation' each stem holds a cluster of blooms, starting a pretty pale lemon & fading to white. Very useful for little posies & bud vases etc. Definitely planting more of these this Autumn.
It's March, birds are singing & the flower season is kicking off! Spring is springinghere & every morning I’m delighted by something new popping up outside to greet the world. The tiniest bulb, shoots on a perennial or the new leaves on some of the shrubs, it’s good to know they’ve made it through another winter. The March gardenis an exciting place to be!
The fabulous weather of the last few weeks was probably a ‘false spring’, as it couldn’t be more to different to last year. When I sat down to write last March, we were in the grip of the ‘beast from the east’. Deep snow blanketed the ground & I feared we would lose plants. It did damage some hedges but a year on, they’re mostly bouncing back. I estimate we’re running 3-4 weeks ahead of last year as Daffodils, Primroses & Forsythia are blooming already.
This month we had the tree surgeons in to take out a row of tall Leylandii treesalong the bottom field. Put in 30 years ago, the trees were an effective wind break(& I’ll miss that) but shading a large area. I knew too that growing at a metre a year, if we didn’t deal with them now, it would become worse. I hate taking out healthy trees as they’ve taken so long to grow. At the moment the area is a bit of a mess with logs & wood chip to move but already the light is making a huge difference in the large polytunnel.
This change gives us a whole new growing area – space to put in another polytunnel, erect the three small greenhouses we’ve been given & more foliage shrubs. I want space to grow more vegetables again as I’ve cut back on this while we’ve been getting the flower farm up & running. Ken’s been planting new, (more manageable) trees along the field boundary so in a few years, the environment will be richer than before.
Much is going on indoors this month. Dahlias are sprouting, hardy annuals sown & first flowers cut. While most of our March bouquets are filled with beautiful Tulips, Narcissi & Ranunculus from growers in the south, we’re adding our own Anemones, double Daffodils & Hyacinths now. Soon I’ll be cutting Hellebores & Fritillaries too & aim to have our ‘Galloway grown’ bouquets later in the month. Just a reminder – Mother’s Day is Sunday March 31st! We’ll be delivering a limited number of pre-ordered bouquets on Saturday 30th.
Outside, it’s time for rose pruning – anyone who looks closely at my hands will think I have a small tiger as a pet! Some jobs are just easier without gardening gloves, even though I end up being snagged on the thorns.
We’re going to be at the new Producers Market in Castle Douglas this year & return to Kirkcudbright Farmers Market too. The CD date is Sunday 17th March, Kirkcudbright on Sunday 24th March.
Another diary date for you is 15th – 18th August. On this weekend, members of the ‘Flowers From The Farm’ group of flower growers will be hosting the ‘Big Flower Weekend’. Over 100 UK growers (including us) will be opening their doors for flower farm tours, flowery themed workshops & more! I’m not sure what we’ll be doing yet but it’ll be ‘something’. Details of our events will be in this newsletter soon.
I’m sure they’ll be cold weather yet but Spring really is just around the corner. Soon we’ll all be filling our vases with gorgeous British grown blooms…
Jobs for your Cutting Garden in March
This morning's funeral tribute was a vibrant mix of bright Spring flowers & deliciously scented. Made without floral foam (it isn't biodegradeable under normal conditions & a source of harmful microplastics in the sea) or plastics such as cellophane. The flowers were 100% British grown & it also had a rich mix of Pussy Willow, Rosemary, Camellia & other garden foliages grown here.
The new year of growing cut flowers has begun for us, slowly to start with but underneath the snow, there's a lot going on. Gently pull back the snow & dead leaves, the Tulips & Narcissi are growing well. We've planted over a thousand new Narcissi this winter so it's going to be quite a show!
Most of our work was indoors while it's been snowy but the plants are quietly growing away out there. The days are beginning to noticeably stretch now so in February we begin preparing the outside growing areas too.
The stars at the moment are the winter flowering shrubs - these are some of my 'desert island' plants I wouldn't want to be without. A large Winter Honeysuckle (Lonicera Fragrantissima) grows near my back door. A rather plain green shrub for most of the year but In the past few weeks, is really earning it's place. This often delights me with a powerful waft of scent on the late night breeze when I take the dogs out for their final stroll in the dark. Just a few stems are a treat to enjoy in a bud vase on my desk & I often pop them in a bouquet too.
The Hellebores are full of buds now & a fabulous cut flower. They have a bad reputation for flopping though & many florists are wary of using them. The trick is to let them mature before cutting - so enjoy them in your garden now & then later this month, enjoy them in your vase too. Most of my Hellebores were grown from seed given to me in a tiny envelope over 25 years ago by the Great Aunt of a friend from my primary school days. Over time, I've picked out & increased the better colours - they're still called 'Auntie May's Hellebores' though! So many of my favourite plants remind me of people - somehow those names are easier to remember, aren't they? So we have 'Terry's Fuschia', 'Mrs Jefferies Geranium', 'Peter Roberts' Blackcurrant' to name just a few...
A large box of new Dahlia tubers arrived on Friday - I'll start a few of them (new varieties) off this week so I can increase the number of plants quickly & cheaply from cuttings. But most ( & last years saved stock) will wait until the end of the month. It's too cold here to plant them out until late May & they take up so much space.
All the seed has arrived now - & my fingers are itching to get sowing! A few of the toughies can be started in trays this week - more Sweet Peas, Larkspur, Foxgloves for late summer, fancy Primroses for next year & Antirrhinums. Unless you have somewhere warm & light to grow tiny plants on, hold back with the tender seeds such as Cosmos. It's better to sow small batches, often, over time to keep the continuity of flowers coming.
And if you're in need of a flowery treat, I'm bringing in deliciously scented Narcissi from the Scilly Isles by courier each week now. So if you would like to order some for yourself or a friend, let me know by noon on Monday each week. They can be collected from the Flower Farm on Fridays & Saturdays. Email Rosie
The diary is beginning to fill with bookings for wedding flowers so if you know a couple looking for locally grown flowers for their special day, do suggest they get in touch soon. We’ll be offering full service wedding flowers (romantic bouquets, buttonholes, venue flowers & more) again, as well as ‘Bloom Buckets’ of flowers for arranging by family & friends. I only take on a few weddings each week, & the busiest weeks book early.
We begin our calendar of events around the region on Saturday March 2nd when we take part in the 'Big Brew' event at Dunscore during Fairtrade fortnight. There'll be an opportunity to see Fairtrade products from around the world & meet local producers from Dumfries & Galloway. Do come along & say 'hello' if you're coming along.
If the weather is kind, there are many gardens open in the next few weeks for the'Snowdrop Festival' & they're definitely worth visiting. Be inspired by the sight of the first Spring flowers, the sun on your face & sound of birds beginning to mark out their territories with song!
Jobs for the Cutting Garden in February;
The first proper snow fall of the winter this past week - can't complain about that. Very picturesque of course but slowed me down on the planned tasks (shrub planting). Never mind it was a good opportunity to work in the greenhouse, tidying up, sweeping away cobwebs & getting ready for seed sowing to commene.
It’s been a kind, mild start to the New Year hasn’t it? On recent days I could almost imagine Spring is just around the corner – buds on Hyacinths & Hellebores, a few Snowdrops already blooming in sheltered spots & the Daffs shooting up fast. There are surprise flowers blooming outside & the Chrysanthemums, Garden Pinks & Anemones are still giving a few flowers each week in the tunnel. Too few for a bouquet, of course, but enough for cheery little bud vases around the house.
But don’t be fooled, it’s still too soon to reach for the seed packets & start sowing much. The days are slightly longer yet the memory of the ‘Beast from the East’ last March is making me extra cautious. Seed sown too early produces thin, light starved plants & never come to much. There’s plenty of other tasks for dry days to get your Cuttting Patch ready for 2019. What better way to get fresh air & exercise after the lazy, long festive break?
So what might 2019 hold?
Well, this is my time for planning – most of the seeds, new Dahlia tubers (not THAT many, honestly) & plants are ordered. The easy bit.
Now I need to plan the ‘where’ each plant will go to make the most of the space. This is a frustrating process rather like working out the plot for a game of ‘Cluedo’. Just as I think I’ve come up with the perfect solution, snags appear. You know the sort of thing - Professor Plum (or 2 metres of Cosmos ‘Psyche’ perhaps) in the Conservatory (third bed of the nursery plot) from June to early September – but no! I’ve got my second batch of Godetia behind it at that time. They’ll not get enough light! Aagh – back to the plan…
The plan always changes but it’s still a great help when we begin sowing so I don’t overdo it (is it possible to have too many Sweet Pea plants? Yes!) I aim for at least 2 & ideally 3 crops from every bed over a year & space is always at a premium. I must keep the blooms coming – it's no good having more than I can cut & sell one month, then nothing late in the season.
And of course, they’ll be new tempting varieties to try. Last years Chrysanthemum trial brought winners & some losers. We’ll take cuttings from the best & I’ve ordered some different ones to add in the mix for very late flowers. Also I’m trying more of the huge ‘dinnerplate’ dahlias – last year a huge white one was a big seller (especially to decorate wedding cakes). But the stems were short so not great for bouquets & vases. This year I’m trialling (just a ‘few’ tubers of each) ‘dinnerplates’ in other colours & several smaller white ones in my search for the perfect, weatherproof white dahlia.
There’s a trend for drying flowers at the moment so I’m growing many more varieties specifically for this too. Interesting seed pods & grasses have been popular recently both as fresh accents in arrangements & drying for winter use.
The planning is helped by bookings for wedding flowers coming in now, as it helps me predict the favourite flowers for our couples. We’ll be offering full service wedding flowers (romantic bouquets, buttonholes, venue flowers & more) again, as well as ‘Bloom Buckets’ of flowers for arranging by family & friends. I only take on a few weddings each week, so if you know anyone looking for seasonal, natural & locally grown wedding flowers this year, please do give them a nudge to get in touch soon.
Now this is usually where I give suggestions for jobs in your Cutting Patch for the month – but no, this is probably the shortest list of the year! Instead enjoy any dry, bright weather when you can, admire the beauty of frost on the garden & snuggle up in the warm, dreaming, planning the beautiful flowers to come…
Jobs for the Cutting Garden in January;
I found some leftover Mistletoe in the workshop while tidying up after the Christmas mayhem. Rather than just toss it, I thought I would try to 'seed' it on our apple trees. Until recently I didn't think it would grow this far north. But then neighbours told me some grows in their orchard, so thought it worth a try.
The seeds are in the berries - the vile, sticky balls have to be squashed on the branches. Utterly disgusting stuff, gloves are essential!
Now I must wait & hope - it's slow to germinate, very fickle but maybe, just maybe, we'll have our own Galloway grown mistletoe, in about 5 years time.
Rosie Gray of Galloway Flowers. Artisan Florist & Cut Flower Farmer near Castle Douglas, in South West Scotland. Using 100% British Flowers all year round.