Monday 25 November 2019

Gardening can be dangerous!

I love wandering in gardens and always come away thinking how beautiful they are compared to ours.  How tidy they are, where are all the weeds, bet they have a team of garden helpers.  So when we were approached by our local coordinator for the Scotland's Garden Scheme to open our garden of course the answer was no!  However, my husband and I decided after many discussions that it would be a great idea.  It would make us get on with all the unfinished jobs around the garden, tidy up the compost bins and let people see a working cut flower business.

All seemed to be going well for our opening in July and then I broke my knee, a gardening accident that could have been avoided if I had not filled my wheelbarrow so full and had been wearing my knee pads.  Sadly I was being vain and decided to take them off while trundling my top heavy barrow across the village green from the polytunnel.  I tripped on a bamboo cane and landed on my knees on the gravel.  A visit to A&E confirmed a broken knee, luckily no surgery just lots of resting.  Easier said than done with the SGS day looming.   It was then all hands to the pump, children and husband digging and weeding, building, shredding, edging, building obelisks, the works.  Finally, we were ready and after an amazing article in the Scotland on Sunday magazine the day dawned.  It was pouring with rain and cold, typical!  However with 10 minutes to spare the sun appeared and we had the most amazing day of warm sunshine and over 150 people came to wander around the garden and have a most delicious homemade tea in our lovely village hall. We were exhausted and spent Sunday evening saying never again!  So in 2020, yes you guessed it, we are opening our garden again, Sunday 19th July 2pm-5pm.  Teas in the village hall and proceeds to the Village Hall Committee and the SGS Charities.

Scotland's Garden Scheme

The feedback was wonderful and it was so lovely talking to everyone and getting some top tips from keen gardeners, every day is a school day.  My husband was particularly pleased as his vegetable patch was looking at its best.

Looking forward to next year in the cutting garden I have already planted the tulip bulbs, hardy annuals and biennials in the polytunnel for early flowers in the spring.  The ranunculus are growing in the polytunnel and anemones are starting to sprout.

This year for the first time I am holding two wreath making workshops.  It's a really fun way to kick Christmas off and get together with some friends and learn to make your own unique wreath with all natural ingredients.  The foliage is sourced locally, with landowners permission, that is very important.  The wreaths can be composted and bits and bobs saved for next year, no plastic and no floral foam.

Both classes are fully booked already so I think that next year I will have to add more dates so more people can join in and learn a new skill.

Whilst the weather has been cold and wet recently there is still lots happening in the garden.  Spare a thought for the birds and insects in your garden and don't tidy too much.  Leave the woody stems of plants and shrubs for birds who can help themselves to the seeds, a pile of leaves will act as both a mulch for more tender plants and hide a few slugs which we find irritating but hedgehogs and birds find delicious.  Spring will be here before we know it and then the job of tidying can start.  For now take time off from the garden, pour over the seed and bulb catalogues and plan for 2020, that's what we are doing.

Wednesday 15 May 2019

Springing into summer

It's hard to believe that it is almost 5 years since the seed (excuse the pun) of an idea started to form, growing flowers as a business, well what a very busy 5 years and what a very steep learning curve into the world of cut flower growing.  I had always picked a few flowers from the garden to "plonk" into a vase but there is gaping void between that and producing enough flowers for variety, vase life, colour and scent to sell.

Looking at the trays and trays that need to find a home I think I definitely will have enough, I know the varieties that work and I know that most of them will be scented!  I grow a huge variety of annuals both hardy and half hardy, perennials and biennials.  When people ask me what I grow I only reel off a few names and then think, wait a minute that is a fraction of it!

The sun has finally warmed everything up and the flowers in the polytunnel are starting to flower and before long the outside cutting beds will be bursting with colour.

All of this needs to find a home and now that hopefully (!) we have seen our last frost I am taking the plunge and planting everything out.

The cutting beds will soon be bursting with colour ready for the summer. 

We have been digging new beds and extending others in the main garden and generally giving everything a good tidy.  Not only do we have to concentrate on the business side of things but our own garden has to get some attention and this year has been no exception.  We are opening the garden on Sunday 28th July 2019 as part of the Scotland's Gardens Scheme.  Come and have a wander around the garden and see the cutting beds for Schoolhouse Flowers, our new wildlife pond and recently planted orchard with bee hives.  We can't do enough for the bees and other pollinators that visit our garden. 

Here is a link and we look forward to seeing you in July.

Trays and trays in the cloches

...and there's more

Full greenhouse

Dahlias getting acclimatised

Tuesday 16 October 2018

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

Well, autumn did not start for us as poetically as John Keats wrote in To Autumn! 

We had to contend with Storm Ali which battered the UK in September.  Whilst there was little major damage, for which we are very grateful, our wonderful old apple tree was no match for those strong winds. We knew it was only a matter of time but it was still sad to see it so battered.  

As gardeners know it is just such events which have to be looked on as a new opportunity.  A time to replace that tree with something just as lovely, one with beautiful blossom or dramatic leaf colour through the changing seasons.  We have so many ideas it is hard to narrow them down.  

Gardening is very much about looking forward.  So what if those seeds you sowed didn't germinate, start again!  So what if that shrub you planted last season didn't survive the first frost, move on, learn by your mistakes and try again.  Gardening and growing cut flowers as a business is a huge learning curve and I am still learning every day.  

In 2017 for example I purchased, at great expense, about 100 anemones.  I nurtured them, spent far too much time looking at them to persuade them to grow and they did, all 5 of them!  The reason, I watered them too much and the corms rotted.  It is of course infuriating but a lesson nonetheless.  So I now have them all nestled happily in vermiculite waiting for them to put on some growth before planting into their final position.  Here is a photo of them looking rather ugly and slightly scary with their tentacle like roots.  They are just starting to green up which is very exciting.  I shall be pampering them again but not so much this time around and hopefully in a few months I will have the most gorgeous early spring blooms.

The ranunculus are potted up and chitting well.  Last year I didn't follow this simple step and just planted them straight into the polytunnel and the mice had a field day.  I'm hoping that if I let them put on some growth they will be less delectable for the rodent population and save my back planting corms that are never going to germinate.

My tulip bulbs have arrived.  The last conversation I had with myself was to reduce the order from previous years.  Great intentions and all that!  I now have 500 bulbs waiting to go in, the same as last year and the year before that!  They are very easy to plant, dig trench, plant bulbs close together, cover up, wait until April/May and enjoy.  These are not like the tulips in supermarkets, small heads, short stems and only available in red, dirty pink and yellow.  These are very long stemmed, some are scented and all have large heads in a range of stunning colours.  

Seed sowing of hardy annuals to be planted out in the polytunnel for early spring flowers has started.  The biennials are planted out and the first sowing of sweet peas are in their root trainers and have already started to peek through.  Once they have germinated they will go outside under cover until its time for them to be planted out.  They are are very hardy and don't like to be too warm.These will go undercover in the spring and will hopefully flower towards the middle/end of May.  I can't wait!

As know at this time of year there is so much tidying up to get on with, collecting leaves, clearing beds and preparing for sowing again in the spring.  It's non stop but its good to make time to look back at previous seasons and remember what grew well and what didn't and its a good chance to have a rethink.  

The 2018 growing season as been short.  It didn't get off to a good start with polytunnel grown tulips not starting to flower until the end of March/mid April and the garden closing at the beginning of October as the dahlias were frosted and the rest of the flowers going over so quickly.  However, I will keep on sowing, planting, clearing and enjoying the "season of mists and mellow fruitfulness" and I hope you do too.

Friday 20 July 2018

"I must have flowers, always, and always"

Since my last blog we have had the Beast from the East swiftly followed by the warmest of summers. There is some rain today, a soft gentle rain, probably not enough for the garden but better than nothing.  It was a long 5 weeks without rain here which is very unusual and resulted in lots of journeys up and down the garden with watering cans.
“I must have flowers, always, and always."  This is a much used quote by Claude Monet and it is very apt for a flower grower.

I now have the flowers, lots of them, which is just as well as there has been a run of parties and weddings all needing beautiful British grown flowers.

When I first started growing flowers I thought that would be it, simply growing and selling to florists.  I had no idea that wedding floristry would become such a large part of my world.  I have no formal floristry training, I'm self taught and a student of workshops and online training.  

My first wedding was very nerve racking and I was delighted to hear from the bride after the wedding who had taken the time to write a lovely note thanking me for her flowers. Since then there have been lots of brides and thankfully, lots of lovely notes and kind words!  It is still a nervous time for me, making sure I have understood the wishes of the Bride and Groom, ensuring all the flowers are looking at their very best on the day and putting together the flowers for their special day.  

It seems strange to be tending to small seedlings when the garden is flowering its socks off but that is what is happening at the moment.  The biennials for next year have been sown and will be planted out in September when I can find some space in the polytunnel and cutting garden.  Foxgloves, honesty, wallflowers, sweet william, sweet rocket and campanula are all sitting patiently waiting.  Hopefully there will be early flowers in the spring of 2019.

So whilst the rain is falling and I am inside, its high time I chased my children out of bed, in time for lunch!

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy the photographs of bouquets, large arrangements, buttonholes and jam jars.

If you like what you see and are planning your wedding, please do get in touch, I love talking flowers.

Monday 2 April 2018

Spring is not really springing

Well wrapped up against the cold
The start of 2018 has been cold, wet and snowy.  The garden has been covered under a thick blanket of snow for so long and finally it disappeared and now as I sit by the fire keeping warm it is snowing again!  

My first wedding of the year is this weekend.  The bride to be and her mother came to the house at this time last year to have a wander around the garden to choose the flowers for the wedding.  There was lots flowering.  Tulips, daffodils, hellebores, snowflakes and fritillaria.  This year there is nothing!  Luckily I can still source flowers from the UK from wholesalers in the south west of England so we will be ok which is a huge relief.

The seed sowing has continued and at last they seem to be growing.  This weekend was spent planting out the first batch of sweet peas in the polytunnel.  These were sown in January as the October sown seeds were killed off by the cold.  

Roots looking healthy

They look a bit lost but will soon start to climb 
Generally I sow sweet peas in root trainers, they love to stretch their legs

A new addition in the polytunnel is a rose bed.  They have been transplanted from the garden and hopefully it will mean bigger and better blooms in the summer.  Getting battered by wind and rain and a lack of sunshine took its toll last year and the blooms I had were very inferior so fingers crossed.

So whilst there is a very slow start to spring I am heartened that finally the annuals already planted out in the polytunnel will soon start flowering and we will have flowers like these ones.