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.
The pre-ordered Christmas Wreaths are being made from the freshest ingredients this week & being delivered to decorate doors across Dumfries & Galloway. This one is made from mixed foliage, rosehips & cones grown here at the flower farm in Galloway. We didn't grow the cinnamon sticks though!
You can still order a wreath for your door or as a surprise gift to be delivered before December 19th. But don't leave it too late to order, once they're gone, they're gone...
Order wreaths online here
I love making wreaths – every one unique, richly textured, using the natural materials we’re blessed with here. We grow almost all the foliage at the Flower Farm & add a few natural extras such as Cones, Mistletoe & Rosehips from other British growers to give a splash of colour to the designs. Now the Festive season has arrived, our pre-ordered wreaths start being delivered to front doors across the region from this week. Wreaths can be ordered for delivery up to Wednesday 19th December.
The ‘Make Your Own Wreath’ Workshops begin next week too & I admit this is one of the most enjoyable activities of my year. Many of us believe we aren’t creative but it simply isn’t so – everybody can enjoy crafting their own natural wreath. There are a few places left on each as of today - don’t leave it too late if you’re planning to come along. The dates are;
In between making wreaths, we make the most of the limited daylight & any dry days to work outside. I would love to report that every Tulip & Narcissi bulb is snugly tucked up in the soil by now, the leaves have all been raked up & everything looks immaculately tidy – but I would be lying!
Every year it seems I’m caught out by these short days & massively overestimate what can be achieved. It’s not a disaster, bulbs have an amazing ability to catch up but still, I want to move on to the detailed planning for 2019. I’ll be planting out the first few Sweet Pea seedlings in the polytunnel this week for an early wedding. The thought I’m holding on to like a countdown is; only another 20 days & the days start to get longer…
While wedding season may seem far off, we’ve already 5 couples booked in for 2019. Such early bookings are a great help to us with planning our flower choices. This year we noticed a trend for pale pink & burgundy colour schemes, requests for blue flowers (a favourite of mine) & it seems for next year, yellow is becoming a popular choice too. Now that’s a colour I haven’t been growing much of for the early Summer season so I’m having fun with the seed catalogues looking for new favourites.
And while there’s much to do preparing wreaths, table decorations & more for our clients this month, I look forward to those long dark evenings in front of the wood burner with the seed catalogues. The ‘wish list’ is still far too long…
The last words for this month have to be; 'A heartfelt Thank You for helping us spread the word about beautiful, natural, seasonal British flowers. And of course, Very warm wishes to you & yours for the Festive season & a spectacular cutting patch in 2019.’
Jobs for the Cutting Garden in December;
I went away for a week in late October in what felt like early Autumn, hundreds of Dahlias blooming… & returned to what felt like another season. The frosts last weekend were hard, blackening all those blooms overnight. So now we’re on to the end of season tasks – clearing, composting & covering the beds with a thick layer of compost. Just digging up & storing 600 dahlia plants is going to take a while!
But of course the end of one season is the beginning of another – so we’re busy planting out too. Most of the Narcissi, Ranunculus & Anemones, so lovely in bouquets from mid-March onwards, are now planted. This month we start planting Tulips. By choosing varieties & planting in different places we can usually cut these for at least 2 months. We leave it until November or even early December to plant Tulips as they’re less likely to develop a nasty disease called ‘Tulip Fire’ if planted later.
It’s dark just after 5pm now, so we’re having to organise differently. It never fails to astonish me how quickly the light fades away. Dogs have to be walked earlier or I miss out on valuable ‘thinking time’. The evenings are filled with preparing for the Christmas season – mossing up wreaths, wiring cones & ribbon so these are ready to assemble next month.
The closing of the flower season means the end of our local bouquet deliveryservice for a while. There are still some flowers of course (especially the garden pinks, chrysanthemums & berries) so I can still make up our regular orders & funeral flowers when required. And by mid-December I’ll have flowers from British growers further south so bouquets will be available to order for Christmas.
The ‘Make Your Own Christmas Wreath’ Workshop at the CatStrand Arts Centre, New Galloway on 11th December is filling so book your place soon if you’re planning to come. This is always a fun afternoon with heaps of lovely foliage & festive trimmings to make every wreath unique. And of course a natural wreath is made without floral foam. This workshop always starts my Christmas season off! Book here
And Wreaths are going to keep me busy in the coming weeks – I’ll be at the CatStrand Christmas Fair, New Galloway on Saturday November 24th & Kirkcudbright Farmers Market on Sunday 25th November. Wreaths & Christmas flowers can be ordered & I'll bring lots of cards & Narcissi from the Scilly Isles too.
Take the chances of bright weather to enjoy the fresh air, kick up a few leaves & forage for your own natural decorations such as a gorgeous leaf, berries & cones. I cannot resist - my kitchen window sill is beginning to look like the school 'nature table' at the moment!
Jobs for the Cutting Garden in November;
Such a beautiful afternoon yesterday for clearing away the fading plants to make room for the new ones to go in.
Sometimes it's tempting to keep them going when past their best, for those last few stems. But if I can get the new plants in while the soil is warm, they'll have a head start next Spring.
And this wheel barrow load of old Cosmos will make great compost!
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Rosie Gray of Galloway Flowers. Artisan Florist & Cut Flower Farmer near Castle Douglas, in South West Scotland. Using 100% British Flowers all year round.