Happy May Day!
The Cuckoo is calling so it's officially 'Spring Time' in my book. I might not be skipping around the maypole wearing a flower crown but am celebrating the welcome return of our flowers. The speed we move from no colour in the cutting beds (just plenty of weeds) to cutting blooms is a miracle. The Narcissi have been so abundant, undamaged by rain, they've lasted exceptionally well. Every year we've added a thousand more bulbs & now there are plenty uncut to enjoy in the garden too. What a luxury!
The Tulips are now coming on strong. Every year I vow to stop growing them as they're an extravagance (admittedly, 1200 bulbs probably is). Then they bloom & I'm smitten all over again. They're so popular in Friday Flower bouquets & for Spring weddings, I cannot resist them. The one above is a great example - starting as an egg shaped bud a week ago, now opening wide with a satin sheen. A jugful in the kitchen looks like a flock of Flamingo's flying against the white paintwork. Does any other flower fade so gracefully? I know it won't be long before a carpet of petals lands on the floor but I'll enjoy them till the last elegantly drooping petal...
For the very best cut Tulip flowers with long, strong stems I grow them close together in beds, & pull up with the whole bulb. The bulb is discarded, replaced with new stock for next Spring. It's expensive. I know many will repeat flower (some bulblets are always left behind in the bed) so this year, I'm planting many of the discarded bulbs in long grass under fruit trees. Not all will make it & any flowers in future years will be smaller, shorter (& prone to tulip fire disease). But still beautiful. From experience, the Parrot & Lily-flowered Tulips (for example 'Ballerina', 'Ballade', 'Merlot') are particularly good at returning healthily for many years.
Space is at a premium undercover just now, with seedlings growing on until it's warm enough to plant out. Dahlias fill the little green polytunnel & the main tunnels are beginning to bloom with early flowers destined for May weddings. Any day now, it'll be a snowstorm in there! The first row of Sweet Peas is planted, & now we've had welcome rain, more will go out this week. It's been cold at night still & I'm cautious - none of the tender plants will be outside until later this month. One frost & so much work can be lost.
Earlier this year I moved most of the Peonies to new beds & the first buds are appearing. It'll hurt me to do it but these buds must be removed. This encourages them to put all their energy into re-establishing roots, able to produce many more flowers long term. Peonies are long-lived & if cared for, could easily outlive me. Deferred gratification & all that...
Ken will be delighted to take part in 'No Mow May' again this year as mowing is one of his least favourite jobs! We've left large areas uncut now for 7 years & the return of wild flowers (Cowslips, Orchids, Harebells etc.) has been dramatic. Numbers of pollinators has increased too so it's a worthwhile initiative.
This month, we'll be absent from the Kirkcudbright Farmers Market - a market date change has caused a clash with a long scheduled wedding. I'll be back in June & until then, flowers can be ordered for collection or delivery on Fridays,
A few more events have been added to the Workshop calendar - the next 'Cut Flowers From Your Garden' workshop will be on Sunday July 10th. Short Sunday afternoon sessions to arrange flowers have been added too. While I was at the Farmers Market in March, Ken knocked down the dividing wall in my little workshop - woohoo! This project, delayed 2 years, has doubled the space & so welcome. Yet to be painted but hey, Rome wasn't built in a day either you know... Paint charts are being studied.
It's Bluebell season in Galloway, the woods carpeted with gorgeous blue flowers. Hopefully, there'll be sunshine & gentle rain (overnight please) to bring on the fresh growth in all our gardens as we race towards the abundance of early Summer. My favourite time of year, full of promise & the arrival of flowers unseen in such a long time. Take time to enjoy it all!
Until next time,
'A flowerless room is a souless room, to my way of thinking; but even a solitary little vase of a living flower may redeem it.' Vita Sackville-West 'Some Flowers'
Jobs for the Cutting Garden in May;
Most of the plants grown here at the Flower Farm are grown by ourselves either from seed or cuttings. It keeps our costs low & often is the only way to obtain the best varieties for cut flowers.
Perhaps we want specific colours or tall, strong stems, or extra long vase life. Some varieties are better than others for these traits.
This little Delphinium seedling may not look much here when pricked out in mid-March. But soon it'll be producing plenty of tall, frilly flower spikes.
Growing from seed is exciting as I never know exactly the colour each plant will be. Every one is an original. I'll select the best & grown on for more stock in years to come.
Will 80 be enough?
And we're off! The 2022 Seed Sowing & Growing Marathon has begun here. Greenhouse shelves are full of Sweet Peas, other Hardy Annuals are popping up in the propagator & on the heatmat. Undercover space is at a premium already.
I'm sowing Hardy Annuals (such as Cornflowers, Nigella, Phlox, Ammi, Delphinium, Molucella, Rudbeckia) this week.These are tough enough to be put outside when a little bigger, before the last frost. I'll sow another batch of the same next month to keep the flowers coming all Summer. It's so tempting to tip the whole seed packet on compost at once but taking this disciplined approach means flowers keep coming longer.
It's often said you know when to sow direct into the ground when weed seeds start popping up. Well, the weeds are doing up in numbers now so I'llit's time to start a few toughies in an outside bed too. Poppies dislike being moved so this is the easiest way to grow them. Lots for the bees & pretty seed pods for me!
Hold steady on sowing the less Hardy seeds (such as Cosmos & Sunflowers) until the end of the month though. Our last frost here is usually the end of May so I protect many of the baby seedlings until then. It takes a lot of space but otherwise, one late frost could kill the lot.
I'm often asked; 'Seed left over from last year - can I still use it?' Of course you can! How successful it is depends on the type & how well it has been stored. If stored somewhere cool, dark, dry (like a plastic box in the garage) it's got a good chance. In an opened packet on the kitchen windowsill, above the hot radiator - maybe not.
But seed is expensive, so what's the worst that'll happen? Maybe the number of seeds germinating is a bit lower, maybe you'll waste a bit of compost. Give it a try now & if nothing has popped up in 4 weeks, there's still time for a fresh packet of seed. Tomato & Lettuce seed lasts years, Parsnips are legendary for being weak - you need fresh seed every season or nothing grows. I've sown seed from opened packets already & have Sweet Peas, Calendula, Nigella from them. Experiment!
Defence against Mice has been stepped up. After losing so many Anemone & Ranunculus corms, the next batch planted are defended with great care. Sweet Peas are on the high shelves, Seed trays on the heat mat are covered in wire mesh or plastic propogator lids. Seeds liking darkness to germinate are wrapped in old compost bags or covered by upturned greenhouse trays. Two feral cats on the payroll & I would like to know what they're doing... Enjoying a daily plate of Tesco's best cat food & sitting in the sun mostly, I think. Somewhere I got their training wrong...
I'm hoping for a run of dry days so I can divide many of the perennial plants. It's a big job, overdue because last Spring I couldn't do it because of my broken arm. It'll delay flowering this year but rejuvenate plants for the next few years. More plants too!
I've been quiet on social media in recent weeks. In part when world news is so overwhelming, my wittering about seed sowing & flowers seems frivolous. I wonder whether to grow Sweet Peas or Beans? No right answer, of course. So believing beauty makes the world a better place, I just keep on keeping on.
But also because we've been busy, trying to get ahead & those February Storms slowed us down. Storm Franklin was by far the worst as we lost power for some time. Lightning struck the telephone exchange, knocking out the phone lines to many locally. Each morning after a storm, I walked down the garden with dread expecting to see the tunnels shredded & our greenhouse glass blown out. No major damage, thank goodness - we were lucky.
Mothers Day is later this month & we'll be delivering flowers on Friday 25th March only - over half the slots are booked already. On Sunday 27th, Mothers Day, we'll be at Kirkcudbright Farmers Market with plenty of small Posies. Bouquets can be pre-ordered for collection.
Again looking ahead - the 'Cut Flowers From Your Garden' workshop on Sunday April 3rd has just 2 places remaining. BOOK HERE
And a date for your diary - the 'Flower Farmers Big Weekend' is on Saturday 6th & Sunday 7th August. We plan to open for Garden Tours again & details will follow nearer the time.
Spring is springing even if the cold wind doesn't feel like it. The birds are pairing up & there is Toad spawn in the pond. Our first weddings of the year have been delivered (picture above was of a Flower Crown made for our Bride yesterday). The Flower year is now underway & the first of our flowers are going out in bouquets again.
I hope the fresh shoots of new growth are appearing in your garden too - it's an exciting time of year as it changes fast!
Until next time,
Jobs for the Cutting Garden in March;
The days are finally getting longer at both ends & after a quiet January, I feel ready to begin another year of flowers (our 7th) here. Early bulbs are pushing up through the soil & many of the Perennials are appearing too. By late March we'll again be cutting our own grown flowers for bouquets & events. Bring it on!
The highlights in the garden just now are the Scented Shrubs - Daphne, Winter Honeysuckle (Lonicera X Purpusii) & Sarcococca. Most of the year these are plain, unassuming shrubs but their scent just now is delicious. It wafts about on gentle breezes. I cut a stem or two to bring into the house or to tuck into bouquets. It's just enough to keep people guessing what it is - any more & it can be overpowering. If you have space for one of these lovely plants in your garden, I recommend them highly.
The Hellebores are forming nice fat buds & will be ready to cut soon. They're a fabulous cut flower but require a little care to ensure they don't flop pathetically in the vase. The trick is to leave them until at least one flower on the stem has been pollinated by the bees & a seed pod is beginning to form. I sear them in boiling water too just to give them extra strength - with care they last well. Most of my Hellebores were grown from seed given to me in a tiny envelope nearly 30 years ago by the Great Aunt of a Primary school friend. Over time, I've picked out & increased the better colours - they're still called 'Auntie May's Hellebores' though!
The new seasons seeds have arrived & I'm itching to begin sowing! But I know it's too soon & must step away from the seed packets... Seed will germinate given warmth but unless additional lighting is available the seedlings will grow weak, & skinny. Wait a few weeks & seed sown later with better natural light soon overtakes the early starts. If you want to sow something now, Sweet Peas, Antirrhinums & Broad Beans will appreciate the early start.
I'll cut the first of our Anemones this week, early as they're last years corms brought into the Greenhouse. My expensive Ranunculus planted in October have been a complete disaster - all eaten by a mouse! Fortunately I only planted half the corms so still time to plant the rest for late May/June flowers.
The wedding calendar is filling up nicely in recent weeks - if you know a couple hoping to use our locally grown flowers this year, please suggest they get in touch soon. I take on only a few weddings each week & the popular weeks fill quickly.
And today I've made a few events for this year available to book on the website - the first in a very long time. We're looking forward to welcoming visitors again soon.
The last two years have turned so many of our plans upside down (like everybody else, of course). We worked hard to keep this little business afloat & when I look back to 2020, it seems plans for that year are mostly still on the list! Probably not completely true (we did get the second polytunnel up & running) but my workshop hasn't been knocked through & the Old Nursery area remains a complete mess after the Leylandii hedge was removed. It is what it is.Hopefuly these projects will be completed this year & we can get back to what we do best - growing lots of beautiful flowers!.
Today was miserably wet & didn't encourage me out for long. It's a good opportunity to snuggle by the fire, read seed & plant catalogues & plan for this years flowers. But I could see the Catkins dancing in the wind, a reminder that Spring is on the way... We look forward to sharing our flowers & Flower Farm life with you in the season ahead,
Until next time,
Jobs for the Cutting Garden in February;
I'm asked often how I choose the flowers to grow each year at the Flower Farm. After all, there are so many options & I admit, it can be difficult...
I select the flowers for many reasons - they must be beautiful colours my Customers want to buy, tough enough to produce lots of stems in our growing conditions & with organic practices, & last well in a vase.
Plus whenever possible, be deliciously scented too.
We've become used to the imported flowers offered for sale in the UK (i.e. most of them) having no scent. Many have been bred for this quality or treated chemically as they'll last longer on their journey from where they're grown, thousands of miles away. The treatment destroys scent.
So it can be a revelation to discover REAL British-grown cut flowers & their exquisite perfumes. Many children at the Farmers Markets have been astonished (& delighted) to smell my Roses & Sweet peas, for example. They've never smelt them before!
Another flower I grow with a fabulous perfume is the Garden Pink - here's a bucketful cut last July. Like little Spray Carnations but with a knock out perfume. Just perfect to add a few to a bouquet, or a bud vase by your bed.
Best of all, starring in wedding buttonholes with personality!
Available usually from me from late May through July.
I use many in my floristry but you can usually order a bunch to collect in season.
So get ready to inhale deeply - the flower season is coming...
As I walk around the Cutting beds, the flowers bring back memories of people who gave me those seeds, that cutting, recommended it, perhaps that day out when we bought a plant.
Like old friends really.
There's Mrs Jefferies Geraniums, Terry's Fuschia, Auntie May's Hellebores. And so many more.
But if I had to choose one flower with special memories, it would be the Aquilegia because I adore them & frankly IMHO, deserve more notice!
Grannies Bonnets, Pixie Hats, call them what you will - I came across them first as a cut flower rather accidentally.
There used to be WI stall on Salisbury Market (maybe still is) & I would get up early on Saturdays so I had the pick of the wonderful bunches of cottage garden flowers. In May there would be Aquilegias aplenty. The perfect Cottage Garden flower & I wanted them in the country garden I was making!
I tried to save seeds as the flowers faded (I know now it wouldn't ever work) & eventually built a collection of plants. Many found their way here to Scotland with me.
They're promiscuous seeders, happily hybridising & if allowed, quickly become a weed.
But a high quality weed if ever there was.
Well, I appreciate how they sparked my interest in cut flower growing.
And I often sneak a few stems into early Summer bouquets...
The flower we grow in greatest numbers is the Dahlia.
I adore their diversity & sheer flower power for months on end.
Within one family of flowers there are so many shapes, so many colours & they just keep on giving masses of stems for cutting.
Last year our total Dahlia plants topped 600. It was a pretty disastrous year for me as I broke my arm & 'only' about 400 were planted out in the field. But all the others were potted up & fed so the tubers kept on growing, ready for their moment this year.
The Dahlias are sold in our Bouquets, bunches & even by the bucket (preordering essential). The arrangement above was made for a September Funeral. Dahlias are dried & used in dried bouquets & wreath during the winter months.
I eastimate we might just top the 800 plants - buckets & buckets of beautiful blooms to look forward to!
To order Dahlias to arrange yourself, send an email. The Dahlia season is from mid-July to September (depending as always on the weather!)
We grow Cottage Garden Flowers in many, many varieties.
I love their soft colours, their scents & the way each has it's season.
From late March to October, each week brings something new into bloom.
So with such a choice, no two weddings using my flowers are identical, every bouquet is unique.
It takes a special type of couple to tell me what you love (no need to know the names), your preferred colours & style.
Then to trust me to choose the best flowers in bloom on your wedding day.
But I do grow a LOT of Sweet Peas (all selected for their delicious scent) & as you may know, I do have a bit of a thing about Dahlias...
Rosie Gray of Galloway Flowers. Artisan Florist & Cut Flower Farmer near Castle Douglas, in South West Scotland. Using 100% Flowers & Foliage grown in British Isles, all year round.