At last snowdrops are opening their delicate blooms here in the cutting garden, in the woods, even by the side of the roads - such a welcome sight! There’s nothing quite like these bright little flowers (except perhaps the first Crocus) with petals flung wide to welcome the sun – it really cheers me up on a cold day. A tantalising glimpse of the flowers to come in the months ahead.
As the days become longer, it finally seems possible better weather is on the way.
And I’m ready for it – the freezing conditions since early December really set us back on our plans to improve paths, add new cutting beds & generally tidy up around the main nursery & entrance areas. I seem to have got more done in the last 3 dry days than in the previous two months! Probably an exaggeration I know, but I’m not good at being indoors when there’s so much to do.
At the moment, it seems the Snowdrops are blooming at about the same date as last year despite the cold (& two weeks ahead of Spring 2016). Whether that trend continues with other flowers, we’ll have to wait & see.
The birds certainly seem to be aware of the calendar – if the old tale that they choose their mates on Valentine’s day is true, they’re singing their hearts out establishing territories. I’ve noticed a pair of woodpeckers who seem already very ‘attached’ here this past few days.
As for flowers, February heralds the delivery of the new Dahlia tubers & they’ll be started off in the polytunnel in pots & crates. They must be protected from the frosts as they grow so we’ve bought an additional light weight polytunnel just for them. I’ll begin sowing seeds in earnest from the middle of the month indoors but there’s no rush. Unless there’s space for them to grow on in the greenhouse or tunnel, they’ll get leggy with only the low light levels available on windowsills.
I’m delighted to be working on our first wedding of the year this week – an elopement to Gretna Green! Can’t say more as, well – it’s a secret. Our lovely Bride will have Lincolnshire Tulips & deliciously scented Narcissi from the Scilly Isles plus Heather & lots of foliage from the cutting garden in her bouquet.
And we begin our calendar of events around the region on March 3rd 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 & to meet local producers from Dumfries & Galloway. Do come along & say ‘Hello’ if you’re attending the event.
It may still be cold outside but at last there’s a feeling plants are beginning to grow & better weather is on the way. A ‘Blooming good time’ is coming!
Jobs for the Cutting Garden in February;
With Twelfth Night past, my house & door look bare without the wreath, candles & cards so it's time to add New Year flowery inspiration! And whatever might be happening out there in the world, there’s plenty to look forward to in the cutting garden this year.
It’s already getting that little bit lighter in the evenings, isn’t it? While there’s probably still cold & wet weather to come, I notice changes daily in the garden now. The beds look lifeless – but pull back a few wet leaves & you’ll find stirrings beneath. Here Daffodil & Snowdrops grew several inches this week, the first tiny Cyclamen flowers have opened & Hellebore buds are showing colour already.
At this time, I particularly appreciate the scented shrubs & vow to plant a couple more this year. The flowers are often tiny such as Sweet Box (Sarcococca Confusa) or Winter Honeysuckle(Lonicera Fragrantissima) but waft delicious heady perfume around on a gentle breeze. They don’t last long indoors but it’s lovely to pick a few stems just for a bud vase or two. That way you’ll enjoy the fragrance as the buds open, whatever the weather.
These are the leanest weeks for British cut flowers, making every interesting stem more precious. I bring in boxes of deliciously scented Narcissi from the Scilly Isles each week & love mixing them with evergreens & interesting stems such as coloured Cornus, Twisted Hazel & Willow in the bouquets.
This month has already brought new bookings from couples planning weddings in 2018, so I’m building a picture of the popular colours this year. I’m wondering about the ‘other’ big wedding too - What flowers will Meghan Markel & Prince Harry choose? It would be lovely if they were to choose British Flowers & show more people what’s available on the doorstep, so to speak. If you know anyone planning a wedding in Dumfries & Galloway, more about our wedding flowers can be found on this page.
Last year our ‘Bloom Buckets’ of mixed flowers & foliage were popular with couples preparing their own wedding flowers, & we’ll be offering them again. They reduce the stress for DIY weddings - I had a few last minute calls from Mothers/Friends of the Bride seeking flowers as the home grown ones weren’t ready for the big day! We had plenty to cut of course & hopefully saved a few sleepless nights.
If you would like to grow more cut flowers yourself this year, perhaps for a wedding, family party or simply for yourself, I’ll be sharing how we do this at a practical workshop here at the Flower Farm. It doesn’t need to take much space if you choose the best, most floriferous varieties. Still working on the logistics, so look out for details next month.
Usually I end with a list of jobs for the coming month - this time, ithere are several don't do's instead! Make the most of the bright days when you can, wrap up warm & enjoy the beautiful frosted garden.
Jobs for the Cutting Garden in January;
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas (as they sing) in my workshop as I'm making fresh Door wreaths to deliver locally from Monday 4th December. It smells wonderful too with that lovely fresh piney smell. 100% of the foliage used in our wreaths grew here. We're lucky to have a large range of conifer, juniper & spruce here, so the wreaths have a lush, botanical look. Wreaths can be ordered online now for local delivery.
And we've just one last wedding before Christmas, bringing our 2017 total to 13. It's been a delight & privelege to work with all our Brides on such a special day. 2018 dates are going into the calendar now & we're looking forward to working with couples choosing natural, local & seasonal flowers next year.
The cold snap has started early this year & slowed down some of my planting plans. I received 35 new Peony plants in mid-November (seemed such a good idea when I ordered them back in May!) For now they're tucked up in compost in the polytunnel waiting for the ground to soften.
The cold weather does help some plants to flower better though - many such as Sweet William, Apples & Strawberries perform much better after a cold winter.
This is a a quieter month in the Flower Farm so I'll take advantage of the short days by coming in early & snuggling up by the wood burner. Perfectly content to study the seed catalogues trying to reduce that shortlist further. If only I had a crystal ball to tell me exactly which will be the 'must have' colours for weddings in 2018....
And following our successful 'Make Your Own Christmas Wreath' workshop last week, I'm planning a few more practical, 'hands on' sessions in 2018. Bothgrowing cut flowers & floristry skills - let me know if there's something you would love to try. More news in 2018 of dates etc.
And so the final word from me has to be 'I wish you & yours a very special, enjoyable Christmas break & spectacular display in your cutting patch in 2018'. Here are a few pointers of tasks for the month ahead....
Jobs for the Cutting Garden in December;
Brrr... the last week finally brought a different feel to the season didn't it? Wild winds & now our first hard frost wiped out the late colour in the cutting beds here. Perhaps it's more remarkable how much did last this Autumn - I was still cutting dahlias, cosmos, antirrhinum, roses & more until the last few days.
So now we've begun the 'big clean up' - pulling out annuals (after collecting plenty of seed from the Nigella, Calendula & more), cutting back dead leaves & stems, piling all on the compost heaps. I don't think we'll ever have too much home-made compost as it really is the magic ingredient to improve soil structure & fertility. Fallen leaves, the last grass mowings & shredded paper are all great additions to the mix.
We're not over tidy though, as birds enjoy the seeds on plants such as Helenium, Teasels & Cosmos. I've noticed the Chaffinches particularly love the tall plumes of Pampas grass so it gets to stay a little longer even though it looks rather tatty. Ken has been making new 'bug hotels' for Lacewings & Ladybirds, Hedgehog homes & hideaways for the Toads, Frogs & Newts as winter approaches. Our wildlife helpers tackle the army of aphids, slugs & snails during the growing season so now it's time to take care of them.
But while it feels like the end of the growing season, 'putting the garden to bed', it's really the beginning. It's a good time to plant bulbs, bare root roses, shrubs & trees as the roots grow until the soil gets really cold. By doing these tasks now, it keeps my spirits up, even on the dreariest days. There's so much to look forward to in the coming months.
It's a great time for planning too. There's plenty of flowers to cut in Summer but keeping quality blooms coming into Autumn & early Winter requires thought. So I've been researching late blooming varieties to add.
With this in mind, earlier in the year I invested in 32 varieties of late flowering Chrysanthemums (just a few plants of each, honestly). Out of fashion for years & unknown to me, most of these varieties are unseen except at specialist shows. But I'm beginning to appreciate the range of shapes & colours, how long they last in a vase & potential for late flowers into December. They're beginning to bloom now in the polytunnel & already I have a few favourites to increase stock from next Spring.
For the next few dark months though, we'll be using our evergreen & conifer foliage, mixed with flowers grown in the south for bouquets & arrangements. Still 100% British Grown for as few 'Flower Miles' as possible. To make sure I have plenty of fresh flowers for your orders, I'll need a little more notice fthan usual. Information about winter deliveries is on the 'Special Occasions' page at the website..
As it's now dark soon after 5pm, I'm using the evenings to prepare for the Christmas season. Mossing up wreath rings, wiring cones, even preparing ribbon bows, can all be done this month. Ex Hurricane Ophelia & Storm Brian brought down beautiful cones & lichen to add to my natural wreaths this year. After every dog walk I return with a full basket at the moment!
And if making your own natural door wreath this year appeals, why not join me for a practical & fun 'Make Your Own Wreath' workshop at the lovely Cat Strand Arts Centre in New Galloway? There are still a few places for Friday 1st December. It'll be a creative afternoon making your own unique wreath - places can be booked online here.
At the end of the month, I'll be bringing Christmas wreaths & decorations along to the Christmas Shoppng Day at the CatStrand in New Galloway on Saturday 25th November & Kirkcudbright Christmas Farmers Market on Sunday 26th November. Christmas wreaths & flowers can be ordered for delivery from 2nd December.
So while it's tempting to stay in by the fire this month, do take the opportunity on rare, bright days to prepare your cutting patch for a spectacular display in 2018. Here are a few pointers of tasks for the month ahead.
Jobs for the Cutting Garden in November;
Well, I'm still waiting for my 'Indian Summer' to arrive... But not complaining, as we still haven't had a frost here. It's been close & several nights I've thrown a fleece cover across tender plants - still it's pretty good for the beginning of October, isn't it?
The result is a rather 'bollywood' display of colour in the cutting beds. Neon pink Nerines, next to purple Asters & fiery Heleniums plus a firework display of colour in the Dahlia & Cosmos beds. Certainly not short of dramatic bouquet combinations this week. Not everybody's taste, of course - but it keeps my spirits high on a dull day! Nonetheless, the sound of geese flying south overhead reminds me to be watchful - the frosts will be soon.
The first boxes of bulbs arrived from the wholesaler in the middle of last month so we've begun the big task of getting them planted. First to go in are the Hyacinths, Ranunculus & Anemones as I've set myself the challenge to coax a few into bloom for Mother's Day. I've invested too in many new varieties of Narcissi - different heights, shades & many chosen because the catalogues promise scent too. Time will tell if that's true... This lot need to be planted fast, before the tulip bulbs arrive in mid-November or we'll be overwhelmed by boxes.
The soil is still warm so it's a good time to divide perennial plants into smaller clumps. It can seem brutal but it'll rejuvenate the plants. Replant them to give you more flowers next year or perhaps pot them up as a gift for a friend. I'm targetting my Astrantia to split & move to a whole bed of their own - this has been one of my most useful plants for bouquets & need more of it for next year. As I replant the small divisions, I'll pop some of those Narcissi bulbs in between so the space gives me a double crop.
Last month I told you we've begun tidying the workshop so I can offer short 'hands on' courses in floristry & growing skills. Well, reality check time for me - It's just not going to be ready before December. It's two years last week since we arrived here & we've achieved much. This blog post gives you an idea of what we found but this project is going to have to wait a little longer.
So instead, I've arranged to run some practical & fun 'Make Your Own Wreath' workshops at the lovely Cat Strand Arts Centre in New Galloway. The dates areFriday 1st December & Tuesday 5th December. Just a few website glitches to iron out & bookings will open in the next couple of days. (Who knew when I decided to be an Artisan Flower Grower just how much time I would spend late at night designing websites?) Watch for an extra message from me this week as I announce dates & how to reserve your place.
As our flower production slows with the shortening days & cooler temperatures, we'll have fewer for bouquets, funeral flowers etc. For special orders I'll bring in flowers from growers in England (mainly Cornwall, Hampshire & the Scilly Isles). If you would like flowers, let me know & I'll do my best to supply but I do need notice. All the flowers included in our bouquets & arrangements are 100% British grown.
I hope your garden is bursting with late blooms this month & you've been able to cut plenty of gorgeous blooms to bring inside. Below are a few pointers of tasks for your Cutting Garden in the month ahead;
Jobs for the Cutting Garden in October;
Autumn seems to have arrived early doesn't it? August brought colder nights & so much rain. No wonder the swallows are lining up on the phone lines, getting ready for that morning when suddenly they vanish off to warmer climes.
But fortunately there'll be many mornings yet when I'm reminded of the beautiful John Keats poem 'To Autumn' (one of the few everyone seems to remember). While admiring dewy cobwebs on meadow grasses yesterday, backlit by the rising sun, his description of the 'Season of mellow fruitfulness...' was perfect. Here's hoping for a late 'Indian' summer bringing warmth & an opportunity to get on with autumn tasks.
The colour of the Cutting beds, & so of course all our bouquets & funeral flowers, are reflecting the changing season.Last month's abundance of Sweet Peas (we even sent stems to London to be presented to Princes William & Henry - a rather long story for another time) has reduced because of the cold nights. The bright pinks, purples & golds are coming to the fore with a dazzling firework display of colour.
And it's a busy time for growing; often we think of Autumn as the end of the gardening year - clearing up untidy stems of spent flowers & leaves to the compost heap, harvesting the bounty of apples, brambles & berries (many of which are finding their way into my arrangements just now...)
But it's the beginning of the gardening year too - a great time for sowing seed & planting bulbs, switching around planting combinations which didn't quite work & of course planning for glorious flowers next year.
We've begun tidying the workshop so I can offer short 'hands on' courses in floristry & growing skills. Our first will be in early December when we'll be making Christmas door wreaths & table flowers. Join me & you could be enjoying the most gorgeously decorated door for miles! Watch for an extra message from me in the next couple of weeks as I announce the dates & how to reserve your place.
As well as delivering bouquets, wedding & funeral flowers, I'll be bringing a selection of flowers to the Kirkcudbright Farmers Market on Sunday 24th September - do come & say 'hello' if you're visiting.
I hope your garden is bursting with bloom this month & you've been able to cut plenty of gorgeous blooms to bring inside. Below are a few pointers of tasks for your Cutting Garden in the month ahead;
Jobs for the Cutting Garden in September;
Rosie Gray of Galloway Flowers. Artisan Cut Flower Farmer & Florist near Castle Douglas, in South West Scotland