In years gone by January has not been my favourite month. Its dark, damp and cold a lot of the time. Its past the excitement of Christmas and seeing lots of family and friends and spring time seems a long way away. January is a completely different month now I have found my passion in life growing cut flowers. By the end of December I am shattered from the physical work involved in growing them, the pressures of running a business and looking after my family. It is time for a break. Just as well Christmas holidays come along when they do and this year I really did try my best to have 2 weeks off.
Now January comes round and I am a woman on a mission. My head is bursting with ideas for the flower patch, what varieties to grow, who I am going to sell my flowers to and I can’t wait to get going. My post Christmas body plays catch up as I start moving wheelbarrows full of weeds and compost around the garden. It does feel good to be outside doing something physical again and not sitting on the sofa watching Christmas TV with chocolate and whisky! Read on to find out what is happening in the flower patch at the moment and my plans for 2018.
Changes in the Flower Patch
No more grass paths
The first thing that is going this year are my grass paths in the top flower patch. I knew from reading about flower growing over the last few years that they were not ideal but I just couldn’t afford to change them. They have a huge upkeep with strimming, mowing and edging. The grass invades the beds and therefore the flowers, and looking after the paths was taking up so much precious time I could be devoting to growing. I have just invested in ground cover membrane and will cover the paths in these. You could mulch over the top of this with something like bark but that would be costly and could also be a good hiding place for those slugs that like to eat my dahlias. So my plan is to also use carpet. Having an old house that is an ongoing project means we have some carpet lifted that we kept hold of and more to replace over the next few years. I will use that over the top of the ground cover where needed. It might not be pretty but it will do the job and as a flower grower that is all I need.
No Dig Beds
The second thing I have got going with is the creation of some new flower beds to extend those in the front garden. In October I went to a Flowers from the Farm conference where Charles Dowding gave a talk all about the benefits of ‘No Dig’. He was inspiring and what he said made so much sense to me. The idea is that soil develops its own structure, flowers grow more easily, theres better drainage and less weeds as the soil does not need to recover after digging. I have been really keen to give the no dig beds a go and see whether my flowers grow more successfully in them. They do require a good amount of compost so I had 7 tonne bags arrive last week. We have marked the new beds out and I have started to lay the cardboard down and mulch over the top with a good several inches of compost. Then the snow came so I have unfortunately lost a week of working on this.
Compost on the beds makes all the difference when you are growing flowers. Now that I have so many beds I need a lot of compost. It is very expensive to buy in in the quantities I need so our own production really needs to increase. We have some really good compost bays at the bottom of the garden which we need to make the most of. Unfortunately they are as far away from the top flower patch as you can get and it is hard work going with the wheel barrow between them. It does help keep me fit though! We also collect leaves in the autumn to make leaf mould which is brilliant stuff. I know I also need to make sure I chop up some of the larger material I am putting on the heap and shred the woody stuff to make a better mix, which will decompose to good compost faster.
Thinking of flowers in January
Its the time of year again where I bury my self in enticing seed catalogues and place my orders for them, ready to start sowing in early spring. This will be my 4th season coming up and I now have a good idea of what I can grow successfully in the garden. I will be ordering lots of cornflowers, sweet peas, nigella, corncockle, ammi, calendula, larkspur, anttirinhum, and phacelia. I also want to retry growing stocks and zinnia this year which have had mixed success the last couple of seasons and I really want to try again.
January is much too early to plant seeds as there are not enough hours of daylight and it is not warm enough even with a heat propagating mat in the conservatory. Every year I do get very itchy feet to start sowing seeds but this year I am trying really hard not to before February at least! The one exception is with sweet peas. They need a little warmth to germinate but can then be grown on in cooler conditions. the cool weather stops the plants getting too leggy and you will end up with healthier bushier plants as a result. This week I have planted my first sweet pea seeds. This will be more 4th season growing them. the 1st year they were excellent, the 2nd year very poor and the 3rd year I had moderate flowers. It will be interesting to see how well they do this time as I really do love them, not least for their gorgeous scent!
I can’t sow many seeds at this time of year but the ones I sowed in August were getting too big for their trays so I have been potting them on this week. There are a few types of hardy annual that I can sow at the end of the summer and if I can get them to survive the winter they will produce bushier, healthier plants which flower earlier than spring sown seeds. Each year so far I have had some overwinter well outside producing fantastic flowers. However with this years cold winter it does not look like as many have survived in the garden. Inside so far they are doing well and if I can just get them through the next 2 months and then planted out successfully I should have some lovely flowers. Seedlings I am trying to overwinter include cornflowers, corncockle, larkspur, rudbeckia, scabious and hesperis.
What else is new for 2018?
The Garden Gate Stall
This year I am going to have the garden gate stall at the end of our driveway open 7 days a week from 9am until it gets dark in the evening. This will be all year round with bulb baskets in January and February and flowers from March onwards.
In previous years I have had flowers on the stall mostly at weekends with a few extra days here and there if I had lots of flowers blooming. Since Erin my youngest daughter is now in school I have more hours in the day to work and I can look after the stall every day.
When I first started cloudberry Flowers I used to fill the stall with as many flower jars as I could. I then realised when they didn’t all sell, the flowers were cut and would be wasted. This year I plan to put fewer jars out at one time but as soon as one sells freshly cut and arrange another to replace it. That way there will always be the freshest of flowers on the stall and less wastage.
Flowers for florists
Last year I really wanted to supply local florists with homegrown flowers for their business. There are so many beautiful country garden flowers that you cannot get easily through wholesalers and I also wanted to provide a different option to florists. I wanted them to be able to buy 1 stem of a particular flower if thats what they needed rather than having to buy flowers in wraps of 25+ and not be able to use all of them. But I got more wedding bookings than I had anticipated and didn’t have the capacity to grow both for my wedding bookings, stall, bouquets and for my local florists. This year with increasing the size of the flower patches again I would love to revisit this.
This is the bit of running a business that I like the least. I love to grow my flowers and I love for people to buy them and enjoy them, either in their own homes or to give as a gift. You can’t grow flowers and not market yourself as then you are left with a beautiful garden but no customers. Being tucked away in a quiet part of town you are unlikely to stumble across cloudberry Flowers so I need to reach out to you some other way. To begin with I always thought the best way was through Facebook. As time has gone on Facebook has changed its algorithms so that business posts are not displayed as much in peoples news feeds. You might like Cloudberry Flowers but that doesn’t mean Facebook will show you all of the posts from that page. Unfortunately that has meant to me over time that less people know about my flowers. With changes afoot again announced by Facebook this January it is time for a change in the way I let you know about my flowers.
I am hoping my email newsletter will replace my Facebook posts eventually and being just a once a month message will not fill your inboxes too much. If you are interested in keeping in touch with me and my flowers throughout the year please just drop me an email to
I would be delighted to start sending you your monthly updates with news, gardening tips, special offers and what flowers are blooming that month.
Bouquets full of seasonal garden flowers will be available to order again from April right though to October/November. They come in small, medium and large sizes and can be aqua packed if you would like, so you don’t have to worry about them being out of water too long.
Wedding bookings are coming in for 2018 and I am excited to start growing some wonderful flowers for my couples. If you are interested in having homegrown flowers for your wedding please do get in touch as early as you can. At this stage in the year I am just about to start sowing many of the annual seeds and if you have any particular flowers or colours you would like this is a good time to chat things through before all the plants are grown for the season.
Spring flowers to look forward to
Here are a few pictures of flowers from last spring. I am looking forward to seeing them again soon and making some lovely arrangements for your jars and bouquets. They should be ready from March for jar arrangements and April for bouquets. My favourites were the fringed tulips I grew last year.
Cloudberry Flowers Bulb Baskets
The garden gate stall is open daily from 9am-until dark throughout January and February for bulb baskets. I planted these up back in September and kept them in a cool dark place to grow. They are now ready to bring in to the warmth and light for some colourful flowers in winter. Once they have flowered you can plant them in your own garden for flowers in future years.
The snow has been beautiful, especially if you have been lucky enough not to need to drive in it. The girls have had a lot of fun with their snow days off school and the garden was made for children and mums and dads to have fun in! Sledging, igloo and snowman building has been the main activity of the day all week. It has meant that I have been very unproductive in the garden and set back a good bit on my schedule for getting some jobs done. As soon as that snow melts it will be time to get my wellies back on and get my wheelbarrow out but for now its snowing agin, its beautiful and I am off out for a bit more sledging time with the girls! I am glad we can say we had a proper winter this year!