A question I'm often asked is 'Do you have any Specialities?'
And I have to answer like a true Gemini; 'yes, definitely, lots of them!'
In truth, I specialise in growing Cottage Garden flowers for cutting. Each has it's very own flowering season, sometimes lasting a few short weeks. Take Lily of the Valley, for example, - a weeks holiday & I could miss it for a year!
Each season, there are flowers I grow in larger quantities - Tulips & 'Fancy Daff's, followed by Sweet Peas, followed by Dahlias.
Every bouquet, wedding or funeral arrangement I make, every bucket of flowers filled is a carefully prepared & curated selection of flowers at their very best, that week, that season.
Looking at this wedding bouquet, it could only have been created for a late May wedding. It includes the last stems of Springtime Solomon's Seal & the first of the Summer's bright blue Cornflowers. I included 3 stems of scented white Stocks from Lincolnshire - I grow Stocks but mine weren't quite ready to cut that week. Everything else, grown here in Galloway.
This is what 'Seasonal Flowers' really means - it's what's in season in this place, in South West Scotland, in the UK, grounded in reality, now. It doesn't mean 'in season somewhere in the world' like Supermarket Strawberries at Christmas or red Roses on Valentine's Day.
So I grow a wide variety to be sure of a choice from mid-March to October, Many are delicate, unsuited for transporting long distances across the world (like the Aquilegia in this bouquet) but very worthwhile growing as a cut flower. Many of my flowers are deliciously scented, adding an extra special 'something'. For example, I select particular varieties of Sweet Peas for scent.
But as for specialities, I mentioned the larger quantities of some flowers grown each season - more about that another day!
I came to Flower Farming as a life-long home Gardener. I loved discovering new flowers, learning how to grow them. My particular interest was always traditional Cottage Garden flowers, many of which are great for cutting.
And I grew a LOT of flowers - how luxurious to cut generous bunches to fill my home & gift to friends…
Over the years, I’ve realised gardening for pleasure & flower farming as a business are very different. Of course, charging the right price to cover costs & make an essential profit to pay bills, like any other job, is the first crucial lesson.
But the hardest lesson for me might sound obvious; plant in the best available space, where there is a space. Even if the flower/leaf colour screams next to it's neighbours!
Yes, colours must work in an arrangement, but when growing, it’s not important. The idea of a Cutting Patch is to CUT flowers!
In my planting plans for the year ahead, my love of harmonious sweeps of colour still creeps in… It makes sense where a lot of similar flowers are together (such as my hundreds of Dahlias or Sweet Peas) - cutting is quicker.
Otherwise, it's not the best use of space.
Probably my unique, weird little lesson about creating a productive cutting patch. At least I know I'm doing it now! Just part of my transition in mindset from home garden to business.
January is a quiet month at the Flower Farm - after the hectic pace of Christmas, it's a treat to be slow, snuggled up indoors with the log burner going. That sounds rather lazy but I've learned to value the break, nobody can go full tilt forever. 'Burnout' is very real, whatever your work & the past 3 years have been unprecedented here. The long days of Summer will be back soon enough & we want to be ready.
There's plenty to do, of course - the unseen behind-the-scenes work essential for any business. The accounts deadline looms, time with excited wedding couples, & planning what to grow, when & where all season long.
I'm not a big goal-setting, 'new year, new you' kind of person but will spend time looking back over the past year. It's helpful to spot trends, to plan next steps in that context. To recognise what worked, where tweaks & additions are necessary & just as important, what to 'stop doing'.
As new plant & seed catalogues arrive, it's easy to keep adding 'more' to my growing list - the trouble with being a plantaholic! So many tempting varieties, new colours... But to allow more space for the very good, or to try something new, something must drop off the list too. There simply isn't space or time to do it all. So I've been ruthlessly reviewing flowers I don't use much.
Just because 'everybody else grows it' doesn't mean I should. Not everything thrives here. If I don't much like a flower, I rarely include it in bouquets/arrangements.
Astrantia for example - I use every single stem produced of the pink, ruby & silvery-white varieties. But there's another white patch, hugely prolific but the flowers always looks grubby, so I never cut it. It's going! Something else can go in the precious sunny metre or so it takes up in a cutting bed.
And there are others in my sights too...Cleome are off the list (smelly & spiky), a couple of Roses (can't cope with heavy rain & horribly prone to blackspot). I love Godetia but it produced too little last year, a couple of Dahlia varieties in less favoured colours, a red Achillea that grows faster than any other & I just don't need that much! Some will be moved to the garden for the Bees (I'm not that good at ruthless). Others I'll simply not sow or propagate again.
And on those precious dry, even sunny days, the 'to do' list is as long as my arm.The polytunnels & greenhouse await a good wash & tidy to let maximum light in. Seed trays & pots need cleaning & organising ready to use, the compost heaps turning.
It's already getting a teeny bit lighter each day, isn't it? So it's tempting to start sowing seeds (social media is full of it) but I recommend caution. Sown this early, seeds struggle for light, becoming thin & stretchy. Seeds sown in early March quickly catch up, even overtake, the early starts. This month, I'll start a few Sweet Peas (most sown in February), Larkspur & Antirrhinum. Everything else can wait.
For my vases, it's thin pickings this month, making every stem extra precious. The Hazel Catkins & coloured Cornus stems are lovely - I've a bunch in the kitchen this week. The scented shrubs such as Lonicera Fragrantissima (Winter Honeysuckle) & Daphne fill the garden with heady scents on gentle breeze days. If you planted Narcissi or Hyacinths in bowls, you'll be pleased as you bring them indoors now.
But in just a few weeks, the Snowdrops will be carpeting the grass again... The cutting beds look lifeless today but gently pull back the leaves & mulch, there are stirrings beneath!
This is a busy month for wedding bookings & if you know a couple planning to tie the knot this year, the wedding pages can be found by following the links from this page. As well as bespoke wedding flowers for couples planning 'the whole shebang', we'll again be supplying 'Bloom Buckets' of mixed flowers for family & friends to arrange themselves. The most popular Summer dates book quickly & I can only take on a few weddings each week.
I’ve begun putting together an Events calendar for 2023 & booking is open for the first dates. So far;
Doubtless there'll be more cold weather to come, so enjoy any dry, bright weather if you can, admire the beauty of frosts & snuggle up when it's cold. Dream & plan for the beautiful flowers that will come!
Until next time,
Jobs for January;
'What good is the warmth of Summer, without the cold of Winter to give it sweetness' John Steinbeck (American Writer)
As any Flower Farmer will tell you, there's no such thing as a typical day. It depends on the season, the day of the week & especially the weather!
Sometimes I know EXACTLY what I should be doing but it's too wet, too frozen, too hot, too dry... And yet somehow there's a rhythm to the year.
Winter; relishing the quieter weeks after Christmas busyness. Unseen by Customers, the work goes on behind the scenes. Planning what to grow, where, when to start it so I have plenty of blooms throughout the season. Prepping beds, turning compost, pruning roses. Sowing 1st seeds. Talking to wedding couples & getting plans underway.
In Spring, activity goes up a notch. Seed sowing, growing on, planting out. Starting Dahlias. Weeding. Cutting & arranging begins for Farmers Markets, flower sales & the first weddings of the year.
Summer; LOTS of cutting, early mornings & late evenings. The days are LONG. Plus, sowing seed, taking cuttings, planting out to keep the colour coming. Weddings are an important part of our work so tend to drive the weekly plan, as we cut, arrange & deliver flowers for our couples. Drying flowers for the winter season. Workshops & garden tours.
Autumn; cutting continues if the weather is kind, planting bulbs, sowing seeds, planting out, lifting Dahlias for storage... Dried flower wreaths & Christmas prep.
Somehow like any business, there's time to talk with Customers & do admin - accounts, invoicing, website, taking photos, social media. Usually after dark before I ever get to this though.
So, no two days are the same - & that's just how I like it
Instagram Challenge #FlowerFarmerama
Hello & Happy New Year to you!
I'm again following the prompts in the Instagram challenge, #Flowerfarmerama challenge, organised this year by FlowersFromTheFarm.
So here goes with the Day 1 Challenge... Who am I?
I'm Rosie Gray, Flower Farmer & Florist at my business, Galloway Flowers. Based near Castle Douglas in Dumfries & Galloway, South West Scotland, I’m just starting the 8th year growing cut flowers here. I've always been a gardener & growing flowers long before then though.
As a child, I was happiest getting grubby in my little patch, sowing seeds, picking flowers for ‘my bouquets’, soaking rose petals in water to make ‘perfume’…
Well, the perfume was never a great success but otherwise, I’ve just scaled up a bit over time!
Every year we grow thousands of stems, in a dizzying range of varieties. Our main season is from mid-March to October & there’s always something lovely blooming at that time.
I look forward to sharing our flowers with you in future days of the challenge.
And a photo from last Spring as a reminder the Tulip bulbs are out there in the soil, steadily putting out roots, getting ready for their moment of glory…
And because a splash of colour is very welcome on a day with yet another Weather Warning for heavy rain!
Rosie Gray of Galloway Flowers. Cut Flower Grower & Florist near Castle Douglas, in South West Scotland. Using 100% Flowers & Foliage grown in British Isles, all year round.