Weddings: Looking back at my favourite flowers from 2017

Growing and arranging wedding flowers really is the best job in the world. I grow flowers to bring a smile to someones face, to make someone happy and bring the colour, textures and scent of the garden into your life and special day. Last year I had the honour of growing flowers for some very special couples and here is a look back at my best bits from their weddings.

My job is to grow some amazing flowers for local customers, florists and weddings. The flowers I grow for weddings can then be taken away in buckets for you to arrange yourself or I offer an arrangement service too.

Buying buckets of flowers has become more popular as people like to gather the day before the wedding and get creative with their friends and family. It can be therapeutic, relaxing, fun, and as long as you leave yourself plenty time stress free. My couples have talked about what a special experience this has been. To gather together your friends and family the day before the wedding, spend some quality time together and have fun arranging flowers, with a glass or too of something fizzy is a happy special time. The great thing is you can do as much or as little as you like. You might want to do everything yourself and order a large quantity of buckets for this. Or you might want to order some buckets to arrange the table flowers yourself and ask me to arrange your bouquets and buttonholes.

The flowers in the buckets change as the season and months move on and each wedding will have a unique combination of flowers. The flowers in the buckets above were from mid summer last year.

If you prefer to have your flowers arranged I can do this too and last year I had a lot of fun creating some unique and special brides bouquets.

My style of wedding bouquets are loose, natural, textured, scented and with a feel to them as if you have walked through the garden and gathered a bunch of your favourite flowers. Last year I loved growing grasses to include in my bouquets to add texture. One of my favourite flowers to use in the bouquets was larkspur as it provided spikes and trailing elements with beautiful delicate flowers.

I am being asked more and more to make flower crowns for weddings both for brides and flower girls. Flower crowns can vary so much in their appearance from delicate, right through to statement pieces with larger flowers. I enjoyed developing ‘my style’ of crowns last year and after using a variety of flowers I have built up a good idea of what I think is the perfect combination. I like to use herbs, grasses, heathers and foliage I have grown, as well as my flowers. Flower crowns have to withstand a day and evening out of water, they have to survive the weather and the Scottish wind and need to made on the day of the wedding, as close to the time of delivery as possible. Flower crowns are always the last thing I make after the bouquets and buttonholes are all done and I just love them.

Flower crowns are not for everyone and many of my brides and bridesmaids have enjoyed having individual flowers I have grown styled into their hair or had a hair comb made up. The hair comb below was for a wedding in Oban and needed to travel there two days before the wedding. Normally I would make any hair pieces on the day of the wedding as they need to withstand being out of water. I trialled a lot of the flowers I grew and settled on a combination of cornflowers, heather and statice. It lasted brilliantly throughout its journey and the wedding. Below you can see a photograph of the hair comb just before delivery on the Thursday and then a photograph on the day of the wedding on Saturday, still looking amazing.

Photo credit for photograph of hair comb, above right, Sansom Photography

A wedding wouldn’t be a wedding without some beautiful biodegradable real petal confetti from the garden. Last year I was constantly making new batches as all my brides wanted to use some on their big day. Some of my couples liked to have it for their guests to throw and others like it for decorating their tables. I hope to keep making as much as I can this year as I just love it, for its colour, sense of fun, beauty, eco friendliness and compatibility with venues wanting you to use biodegradable products.

Photo credit for photograph of confetti, above left, Sansom Photography

I love making jar table arrangements for weddings as I can use the best mixture of flowers growing in the garden at the time. I try to give them different textures, colours, heights and scent so they can provide a talking point as people spot the flowers they grow in their own gardens or spot new ones they like. My jar arrangements are a nice gift for a couple to give away to guests to take home and enjoy at the end of the night. Many have said how long they have lasted after the wedding.

Weddings have challenges and the biggest one for me is to fulfil a brief for a particular colour scheme. Growing flowers and not importing them means I have to work with what my flower patch provides for me. I can have an idea of what will be likely to flower in a particular month, but you cannot guarantee a specific colour or variety of flower to a couple. My most challenging wedding flowers last year were for my October weddings. The brief for both that month was pale pastel colours at a time of year when bright colourful in flowers such as dahlias, rudbeckia and helichrysum were more likely to be abundant. On top of this the weather was a lot worse than the year before and the flowers were slowing down much faster. The flower patch did not let me down and I was so happy to create the bouquets below for my brides full of cosmos, scabious, achillea, astrantia, nigella, larkspur, eucalyptus, herbs, grasses and pale helichrysum.

Another wedding that provided a different challenge was Emma and Gavin’s at Hartree Estate near Biggar. Emma wanted me to see if I could decorate lace armbands with flowers for herself and her bridesmaids. I was unsure how well the flowers would attach to the lace but found a hot glue gun and using robust flowers that were unlikely to wilt worked well. The result was beautiful and unique.

img_0913

One wedding that was great fun to do was Samantha and Andrew’s in St Andrews. The large majority of my brides ask for pastel, pale colours but Samantha’s brief was bright and colourful. I was able to grow and arrange flowers I had not been able to before. She also wanted extra buckets of bright flowers to decorate parts of her venue and asked for sunflowers if possible. As with all my weddings I had to say that I couldn’t promise particular flowers as you just don’t know what will bloom that particular week, but I was determined to give it my best shot. I think Samantha was destined to have sunflowers at her wedding as despite the lack of sun and poor weather my sunflowers bloomed for her. They were amazing and my only regret is I completely forgot to take photographs of those buckets of flowers. Samantha’s bouquet lasted so long she has managed to dry it and keep it at home!

Every year I like to learn new skills and different ways of displaying my homegrown flowers for weddings. This year my flowers were used to decorate wedding cakes and I also taught myself how to make wrist corsages.

I love making pinned buttonholes and corsages. I can use some of the lovely shorter stemmed flowers I grow and combine them with seedpods, herbs, grasses and foliage to bring them to life, full of texture and scent. As well as fulfilling large orders I really enjoy making them one or two at a time for local customers attending a wedding. Please get in touch anytime you would like me to make you one. You might spot the kraft tags in some of the pictures. These have magnets attached to them so that a lady can attach the corsage to her bag or outfit without having to put a pin through it.

Here are some of my favourite bridesmaid bouquets this year. How are they different to the brides bouquet? I make them slightly smaller with similar themed flowers but I do always reserve a few extra special ones to put in a brides bouquet. Its important to make it that bit different and the star of the show with the bridesmaids bouquets to complement it.

I cannot do my weddings without the fantastic support of my family. Peak wedding season is also right across the school summer holidays and my girls are so good at being my helpers when I need them. Whether its holding a bouquet so I can see it from a different angle to add or remove a flower, trying on new hair flowers I am practicing, delivering flowers on a wedding day or knowing that mum just has to work those long hours on the day before a wedding but we will do something nice together in the days after. Robert and my mum and dad are so good at helping out with childcare or driving if I need an extra pair of hands at a city centre delivery without much parking. So this is a chance to say a big thank you to them for all their help and patience last year.

img_0888

A big thank you as well to all my wonderful couples from 2017 and their friends and families. You were fantastic to work with and I loved the opportunity to grow some amazing flowers for you.

Looking forwards I am expanding the flower patch again and getting itchy feet to start growing my 2018 flowers. I am growing old favourites such as larkspur, cornflowers, ammi, phacelia and sweet peas and trying some new varieties this year too. I am excited about the future and my flowers.

And just to finish off are you getting married or know someone that is? Are you a person like me that loves nature, flowers, the great outdoors and beautiful gardens? Do words such as beautiful, wild, natural, locally grown and scented pop into your head when you think of what you would like your wedding flowers to be like? If this sounds like you and you have a flexible approach to colour and varieties of flower then I would love to give you more information on what I can grow and arrange for you and your special day.

Catherine x

Advertisements

January at Cloudberry flowers

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.

img_3156-1

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.

 

 

Making compost

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.

img_2573

Thinking of flowers in January

Seeds

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.

img_0791

Sweet Peas

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!

img_0784

Potting on

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

img_0508

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

img_0749

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.

Advertising

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

cloudberryflowers@gmail.com

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

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.

img_8925-1

Weddings

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.

img_0494

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.

 

Snow

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Stormy Night

I tossed and turned a lot last night. I could hear the wind howling around the house. Surprisingly I had fallen asleep really quickly despite the storm outside and I was sure when I woke up it must be 4 or 5 in the morning. To my great disappointment it was only 2am. It was going to be a long night. Sleep was not for coming back to me hearing what was happening outside! There is nothing you can do in the middle of the night. It is pitch black and I had no way of knowing if the flower patch was flattened. I would just have to lie there and wait it out! I wonder if my fellow flower growers loose sleep on nights we have gales like I do? I manage to sleep fine even if it is raining or snowing, which can be just as damaging to flowers, but hearing the wind gets me every time!

My sensible head says to me it is mid October, the natural end to a flower season. We could have had a frost at the beginning of October and it would all have been over then. Does it matter if the wind comes in and flattens the flower patch tonight? My heart though (which does tend to rule!) says I just want a few more weeks of beautiful flowers, they looked so lovely this morning. Last year there were flowers in November, can it not be the same this year, or is that a bit greedy?! It seems cruel to have the whole flower patch flattened in one fell swoop. I think I would prefer a gradual cooling of temperatures and shorter days, with a few occasional frosts and a slower end to the flowers.

I love my job but by this time of year I am getting tired. Flower farming is physically and mentally tiring and by the end of the season with so many jobs still to do, planting bulbs, digging, mulching, pruning, dividing and clearing up for winter I could use the extra time without the flowers. And yet although it is inevitable and I know its coming I am not ready for the flowers to end. They are so extraordinary, beautiful and bring such pleasure to people. The end of the flowers also means the start of the winter!

I finally must have fallen asleep again. I hear the alarm and then Kirsten coming in to say daddy needs your help outside, I think its the stall! With a sinking heart I grab jacket and wellies and go to see what needs to be done. Walking through the garden I can see garden furniture scattered and the barbecue fallen over. And then yes there is the roof of the stall not where it is supposed to be! The whole thing had toppled in the wind. Fortunately it does look like it can be fixed fairly easily, but there will be no flowers on it today!

So what of the flower patch? I decided it was worth a quick look in my pyjamas. To begin with all you can see is the devastation after a storm. The broken stakes pulled out of the ground, the flattened flowers and the ripped tunnel sheeting. It does look like this might be it for this year. I hope my fellow growers and friends have come through the storm with polytunnels still where they are supposed to be and flowers still standing!

On closer inspection after dropping the girls at school it would appear all is not quite lost! Yes there is definitely a lost bed of rudbeckia and snapdragons and half my cosmos bed is ripped out. The dahlias have had a good bashing and I have lost quite a few. But the scabious and helichrysum are still hanging on in there with some asters, thistles and astrantia. There are roses still in bud. These Scottish flowers are resilient and I know I can be too!

 

 

Can we just press pause….

May was the last time I sat down to write on my blog. Now already we are approaching the school October holidays. This year at Cloudberry Flowers has been the fastest season yet. I am becoming more and more conscious of time passing too quickly and I would love to press pause and keep my girls just as they are. Kirsten and Anna are growing so fast and next year will see more change with Kirsten starting high school. She has not got far to go before she will be taller than me and if she keeps eating us out of house and home I think that time will come sooner rather than later! The biggest change has been Erin starting primary school. My little girl has grown up so much in just a few months and loves her days full of school and activities.

I thought having the longer days without my wee chatterbox around would be long and quiet but amazingly the days go so quickly. I still don’t seem to have enough hours in them to truly do justice to our house, garden and Cloudberry Flowers. As wedding season is still in full swing it has kept me run off my feet and I have not had time for a quiet moment. Lunchtimes are when it hits me most that there is no small person there to share their stories with you. As a consequence I am not very good at stopping for lunch and eat on the run! I will need to work on that as I find physically working in the garden all day you do need a proper break in the day.

Cloudberry Flowers continues to grow. I love that every day is different. I am always learning, whether it’s looking up a gardening book on best methods for planting or teaching myself a new skill such as making a wrist corsage or hair comb of flowers.

img_9400

img_9047-1

I love to learn and it is amazing how you never stop in the garden and I don’t think I ever will. The flowers vary so much from season to season affected by so many variables. This year one bed of sweet peas was brilliant but at the opposite end of the patch a bed of them was really poor. My white cosmos are brilliant but my pink nearly non existent. The rudbeckia, chrysanthemums and dahlias just don’t want to flower this year but the cornflowers and scabious are proliferous.

I am enjoying growing the confetti and cards side to my business as well as my flowers. Last year I always had a good stock of confetti. This year it has sold so much I am constantly making new batches.

img_9038-1

img_2435

I have also loved my summer of weddings. They have challenged me, they have all been different and I have loved how natural seasonal flowers have looked so beautiful and been such a special part of many of my couples big days. I have 2 more weddings this season, which prove to be a big challenge at this time of year as you keep your fingers crossed jack frost stays away and the flowers survive what the weather throws at them, gale force winds tonight! All I can do is take as many precautions as I can staking flowers and covering them where I can to withstand the weather. Despite the stresses the weather brings weddings are such a special part of my job and arranging the flowers I have grown in my own style is one of the most fulfilling bits. Look out for a blog coming up soon where you can read all about this summers weddings. Here’s one of my bridal bouquets from this season and some table flowers.

img_9416-1

img_9072-1

Weddings are also a challenge from a work life balance perspective. Peak wedding season falls right over the school summer holidays and each wedding takes along time to do. First foliage is cut and conditioned, then flowers need to be cut and conditioned. Table arrangements need to be made and then there is the brides bouquets, bridesmaids, flower girls, buttonholes, corsages, flower crowns and confetti. Sometimes there are accommodation and thank you flowers too. This summer I have learned a lot about organising myself and working weddings around the children. The girls are fantastic and are really good for me on the busy days that lead up to a wedding. They have loved coming with me to deliver wedding flowers when their dad is away working too.

img_1367-1

At the beginning of this year I had hoped I would be able to supply local florists with my homegrown flowers as well as have enough for my stall and weddings. Unfortunately as the season had gone on this has not been possible this year, partly due to the weather and also wedding bookings that have come in after the flowers have been planted so it is not possible to increase the numbers I am growing. I hope in future years to be able to build on my planning and flower growing so that I will always have flowers available if a local florist needs a particular variety they cannot source elsewhere.

The new beds at the front of the garden have been a great success and given me the extra flowers that I have needed. As they have a different type of soil and different aspect, flowers have grown differently here. As autumn approaches I am hoping to improve the soil quality with compost and plan how I can use the beds more effectively next year. In the top flower patch my beds are deliberately narrow so I can cut flowers from all sides which works brilliantly. The beds at the front are much larger and it has been a challenge with horizontal netting in place to reach those central flowers in the beds.

img_8466-1

This year I have found once again that the strongest performing flowers were those that I plant from seed in August and overwinter ready to produce big healthy plants in the spring. The seeds I sow in the spring are useful to fill gaps but are not neatly as robust as my autumn sown hardy annuals. My cornflowers planted last autumn started to flower in a June and are still flowering now. Not all seeds can be sown in the autumn as they would not survive the winter outside so half hardy annuals and tender annuals do have to be sown in spring. Here are some of the seeds in early September that I had sown in August.

img_9077

Daily life at Cloudberry Flowers is always busy with digging, sowing, planting, staking, deheading, weeding, cutting, conditioning, arranging, pruning, dividing and transplanting going on. I go out in all weathers but some time in the week is spent inside card and confetti making, creating new ideas, research, liaising with brides, learning and squeezing in the odd bit of admin too! A morning last week was spent washing buckets from weddings ready for the next one and weeding the flower patch. The wheelbarrow loads then have to be taken from the top flower patch to the bottom compost heaps at the bottom of the front garden, which helps keep me fit!

The weather this year really has been awful for flower farming. We have just had so little sun and lots of damp, rainy cloudy days. Flowers do need sun and warmth to perform at their best. I am so pleased to have come through such a challenging season and still been able to produce all the flowers I have for weddings and customers. I could not have done this in previous years as I would not have been growing enough. The extra beds and flowers I now grow has really helped. Also growing enough different varieties of flower has helped as some flowers have not done at all well with the lack of sun but others have come through. I planted a lot of cherry brandy rudbeckia this year with the sole purpose of using it in a September wedding I had. Not one has flowered due to the lack of sun but I had lots of red scabious, cosmos, dahlias and larkspur I used instead which looked beautiful. This is why it is important to me to never promise a bride a particular flower in her bouquet and you do need to be adaptable if having flowers at your wedding that are seasonal and locally grown. I can promise you some absolutely beautiful flowers but I can’t promise you exactly what they will be!

One flower that in the last three seasons since Cloudberry Flowers began that I have never been able to grow is freesias. This year I had some left over bulbs and I thought I would just pop them in a bed and a few pots, plant over them and never expected to see anything come, just like previous years. In the last week I have had freesia flowers in bloom and they just keep popping up! I do like surprises and this has been a good late season one!

img_2966-1

Helichrysums have been a new flower for me this year too and I love them. They look fabulous in bouquets where bright strong colours are needed. They dry really well. They are strong flowers on strong stems and they mix really well with other late season flowers like dahlias and scabious.

img_9403-1

It is also nice to gain inspiration and for the first time we went on a family holiday abroad this summer to the Italian lakes. I loved seeing the flowers they could grow there with a bit more heat and sunshine. Their agapanthus were the first thing that struck me, so many and such strong stems and flower heads! The photograph below shows a favourite place we found. Isn’t it beautiful with just my kind of flowers, a meadow full of wild flowers in the garden of an Italian villa.

img_2230-1

I love my new garden gate stall that Robert built me after the last one had seen better days. Ever since Erin went to school and I have more time for Cloudberry Flowers I have been cutting and arranging flowers for the stall everyday. Robert would often be cutting grass in the evening over the summer and see people coming to the stall but as it was not a weekend there were no flowers on it. So now you can pop to the stall 7 days a week for your flowers. I like to keep the stall open in the evenings until it gets dark as it gives you a chance to pop by if you are walking the dog or after work.

img_8382-1

For most of us it is far too early to be thinking of Christmas and for me it normally would be as well! However the garage is now full of baskets I have been planting bulbs in which will hopefully have been done early enough they will flower around or just after Christmas, making a lovely present. Last year was the first year I had planted bulbs for forcing. I love the idea, I think the look and smell beautiful but I wasn’t happy with the height of the narcissi and hyacinths as a gift for a loved one. They were too tall and floppy! Staking with pea sticks or branches just wasn’t enough. So this year I have been planting more dwarf varieties of bulbs including iris and narcissi and I hope they will look lovely. I am still growing my tall narcissi but I will use these for Christmas jam jar posies instead.

At this time of year the question is how long will the season last? In November last year I was still making up bouquets for customers. I will have to wait and see how long it takes Jack Frost to put in an appearance this year! In the meantime I am going to keep bringing you lovely autumn flowers, clear beds for next year, plant new seeds and get on to the mammoth task of the annual bulb planting. This year I was going to be so good and not buy too many new bulbs, but then the catalogues pop through the letterbox and those tulips just look divine. The temptation was just too much and you do have to plant enough for any spring brides that would like some flowers! The result of my large bulb order will be some gorgeous spring flowers for you to enjoy in your bouquets and jam jar posies in the spring!

OCTOBER/NOVEMBER AT CLOUDBERRY FLOWERS

Bouquets and Jam Jar Posies will be available to order daily until we have a run of frosts and the flowers stop blooming in the garden. The garden gate stall will also be open every day until this time too. Fingers crossed its November like last year!

 

 

May at Cloudberry Flowers

Wow what a busy month it has been, the days are just passing at break neck speed! The weather has been gorgeous although it has been so nice the garden was getting bone dry! I have been spending 1-2 hours a night getting the flower patches all watered so I was glad to see a little rain at long last in the last couple of days. I never thought I would be saying that in May! 

With such nice weather and warmer overnight temperatures I have been able to start the mammoth task of hardening off and planting out. I can finally move in the conservatory without the risk of standing on a seedling tray! Below is some of my newly planted out cerinthe.

I have just taken the rather big risk of planting out my dahlias. I never do this before the 1st of June but I couldn’t see any sign of a frost in the next two weeks on the forecast and they were just taking over in the house. You can see them below getting really big and ready for the garden outside. I am keeping all my fingers crossed I made the right decision!


I enjoyed a morning with Kelly and Jesse from Team Flower in North Carolina in the USA this month. They came to visit the flower patch and see how I grow my flowers here and will be writing a blog piece about their visit. I hope they enjoyed their time here and could see that flowers can be grown on a small town plot in Scotland! The rhododendrons were just coming into flower when they came and this week they are looking stunning in the garden.


The wedding bookings keep on coming in which is great and I am going to be busy growing and arranging lots of beautiful flowers over the next few months. Every wedding is completely different with flowers varying according to the time of year the wedding is. For the first time I have had to turn some bookings down as I am already fully booked for those weekends and with dates already in the diary for 2018 it is definitely worth booking early. 

I really enjoyed going along to talk to the Peebles Pensioners this month about my flower growing journey. They were all so interested and I met some lovely ladies and gentlemen. I hope they enjoyed hearing about my flower journey.

I have planted a hedge of different holly varities, both male and female to ensure good berrying. Although small just now I am hoping they will grow well in the next few years and provide some good foliage and berries for Christmas arrangements.


I have planted out my perennial seedlings this year. I am hoping they develop a good root system this season so they can come back as a true plant next year and start to flower. I am loving seeing the astrantia and aquilegia I grew from seed a couple of years ago coming back, this year with flowers.


Aphids/greenfly are my current problem in the garden. They seem so much worse this year for some reason. Maybe the dry weather? It’s not just on the roses either but some of the perennial plants too. How do you get rid of your greenfly? Squishing them and spraying with dilute soapy water are the two things I have tried!

The sweet peas 2 years ago were fabulous, the sweet peas last year were terrible. This year so far things are looking good. I love my sweet peas so really really hope this year is a good one. 


The tulips have just finished flowering. Whilst I lost a lot to tulip fire the ones I did have were amazing. Many people really enjoyed the parrot varieties this year. I have lifted them after flowering as I have now learned that fresh stock is especially important each year to prevent tulip fire. It also frees up bed space which I badly need at the moment.


At this time of year there is a small lull in the garden as the tulips, narcissi, hyacinths, muscari and other spring bulbs are over but the summer annuals are not quite flowering yet. What is just starting to come in the garden just now are alliums, aquilegia, geums, astrantia, hesperis, honesty and there are buds on the overwintered cornflowers. The Hesperis smells lovely.



I have been helping the girls with their garden. Anna and Erin have gone for the throw and grow approach and Kirsten has been carefully planting out individual seeds. It will be interesting to see what happens in their wee patch! Their aptly named playhouse bluebell both is surrounded by bluebells at the moment and their wee garden is just at the bottom of the playhouse fenced in this year so they can have some success growing despite the rabbits!



Staking and horizontal netting is really important to prevent damage to flowers from the wind so I have been putting this over my hardy annuals, such as my cornflowers now they are growing tall.


I was thinking I was doing rather well with few slug attacks in the dry weather but after the recent rain they have just been biding their time and I have found some whoppers! I am determined they are not going to win this year and chomp my seedlings and dahlias! I am making my own nematode solution at the moment with any slugs I find in the garden. 

When we moved to our house the borders were over run with yellow sedum which I removed as it was just too overwhelming. I am really enjoying watching the borders come to life this year with different plants and colours. 


Recently I have been asked to make some floral tributes for funerals which is something new I have not done before. It is such a special thing to be asked to do and homegrown garden flowers can make a tribute so personal and fitting for someone who loved their garden. I like to keep my flowers as natural as possible and the wreaths I make have been mossed based from the garden with foliage and flowers I have grown. 



It will soon be time to really get going on making new confetti again. I have been so pleased to have used all of last seasons stock. It has been really popular with couples for their weddings and as well as being able to order it from me and buy individual boxes on my stall you can also now buy it at Carol’s Creations shop in Peebles and Stems shop in Innerleithen. So if you need some confetti for a wedding or event pop on by.

Next week is my first wedding of the year. This time of year is so rewarding as I start to see the fruits of my labours. From the tiny seeds I grew, seedlings I potted on, nurtured, hardened off and planted out I am just starting to see the first flowers. There is nothing more exciting than filling a bucket of blooms for a bride or handing her her bridal bouquet knowing that all those flowers in it started as tiny seeds I grew. Bring on wedding season, it’s going to be flower filled, gorgeously scented and wonderfully unique.


Enjoy the beautiful sunny weather! I am away off to water now that the sun has gone down. See you again in June for another catch up with Cloudberry Flowers.

Catherine x

 

In Flower Farming There Are Good Days And Bad Days…..

Today would go down as one of those not so good days in flower farming. I have found from the start that it is a rollercoaster of a ride where one minute every thing is great, happy flowers and therefore happy me. The next day some weather or gardening disaster can have occurred and my stress levels go through the roof! Things have been going pretty well this season so far, my spring flowers have been beautiful and smelled amazing. Today I was planning to do more potting on of my seedlings while Erin was at nursery but I thought first I would have a look at my tulips. For a couple of days now I have been in a bit of denial but this morning on closer inspection I could ignore no longer that I too had the dreaded tulip fire in some of my beds.

Tulip Fire is a tulip disease where a fungus called Botrytis tulipae attacks the growing tulips leaves. The leaves look withered and have brown spots on them, the flowers don’t open properly and may have spots on them too. They can get covered in fungus although I haven’t seen this as the weather has been so dry. Here are some pictures of some of my affected tulips.

The only solution is to dig out all the tulips in those beds and the soil surrounding the roots and give the bed a really good digging over. You then cannot plant tulips back in the same place for the next three years as the fungus can linger that long.  It was hard work digging over the beds this morning and just when you think you have all the tulip bulbs up you dig again and find another one! It makes you realise just how many you planted. I did have some friendly garden birds sitting beside me who were very happy I was digging up fresh worms for them to eat!

I have lost 3 beds to tulip fire this year but I do have my largest remaining bed in a different part of the garden with some beautiful tulips flowering now so all is not lost! These beauties will be on the stall this weekend.

So what can you do to prevent tulip fire? It is recommended planting your tulips as late as possible as the fungus spreads less in cold soil. Frustratingly I have made sure each year I did this by not planting tulips until late November or December. The problem is our winters are getting milder and we are not getting the cold spells needed for our tulips. Also you must check the quality of each bulb before planting, they should be nice and firm with no signs of fungus.

It is very disheartening to have to dig up whole beds of tulips you have invested in and it does leave me with the question are tulips worth growing? The advantages are they are beautiful, they provide me with early season flowers and they look lovely in bouquets and bridal flowers. I also really like them and as a flower farmer you should love what you grow! On the other hand they are a massive cost each year and if you cannot sell the flowers it is a big loss to your business. I will have to go away and have a think over the summer about tulips and whether an early, beautiful but risky flower is worth another shot?! What do you think?

Catherine x

 

 

A good beginning to spring

We are definitely not home and dry yet as there are still many early spring days left and plenty time for a good storm. But so far this April the weather has been kind. It has not been warm enough to plant anything out yet, but it has been dry during the day so that I can get the beds prepared and ready to go. We have enjoyed some lovely walks, runs and bike rides in the beautiful countryside round about. If only it was this sunny all the time!

fullsizerender-1.jpg

During term time I feel like I am on a rollercoaster travelling at high speed with no time to stop and think. We go from one activity to the next and Cloudberry Flowers gets fitted in around a hectic family life. Last week was different the girls have gone to their grannies for a couple of days and I just gardened not stop! To have that solid uninteruupted time was really precious and I got so much done! The beds are weeded in the flower patch ready for planting, the sweet pea supports are in, hardy plants are planted, the much neglected rockery is weeded, the last dahlias are potted up, seedlings watered, seed sowing is more up to date and I have found time to write my blog!

At this time of year there are just so many daily jobs to do that it feels nice to be on top of things, if even for a sort while! So what else has been happening these last few weeks at Cloudberry Flowers?

Erin helped me with the potting up of the dahlia ‘sausages’ and I was amazed she stuck at it until the compost ran out and we had 46 done! I think she was amazed that such strange looking things could produce flowers! I got the rest potted up this week once the compost supply got replenished. They are amazing as a couple of days was all it took for new shoots to be sprouting.

img_0783

The daffodils have been in full bloom and my new favourites this year are the double whites, just gorgeous! Something has been nibbling the narcissus though and I think it might be pigeons. I wish I could have got a picture of our latest garden rabbit who has been sitting on the other side of the fence from the daffodils just staring in on a couple of different mornings. Thank goodness for fencing, even if it is just temporary netting and a few canes.

I have started sowing the half hardy annuals now with cosmos germinating quickly on the heated propagator bed. The conservatory is stuffed to the gunnels with seedlings and I am looking forward to the weather warming up at night so I can harden them off and get them planted outside.

I have planted lots of new roses and created a new bed for them in an unused bit of ground in the flower patch. I can’t wait to see these new varieties flower and mature over the next couple of years.

img_0854

Its time to start hardening off some plants for going to their permanent homes outside in the next few weeks, such as ammi majus and sweet peas. Last year the weather wasn’t good and the sweet peas sulked for a good while and never recovered. I know they are supposed to tolerate colder weather but I am just holding off that wee bit longer this year to see if it makes a difference. In the meantime I have got the sweet pea supports in place and I will bring up some barrow loads of compost in the next day or two to add to their planting site.

img_0905

I was excited for Carol from Carols Creations when her pop up shop opened on the Northgate recently. She is stocking some of my pressed flower cards and petal confetti alongside lots of other fantastic products made by local people and her own range of fantastic candles and flowers. Pop in and have a look if you are passing.

img_6268-2

This week I am putting my sempervivum plants on the stall for the first time. I found some tiny ones hiding in our rockery and wondered what they were. Since then I have found a new passion in the garden and started growing these over the winter. They are really easy to care for plants with amazing texture and leaves that have the ability to change their colour in the sunshine. The parent plant produces offsets which you can separate and grow on as individual new plants.

img_1015

I have been making more pressed flower cards using the flowers in the garden that are coming into bloom. These are for sale on Etsy, on the stall and in Carol’s shop. I love experimenting with the new flowers and seeing which press well and which don’t.

I have enjoyed being in touch with my brides for this coming year and making plans for the flowers for their weddings. It is always an exciting time thinking of what special flowers to grow for them and what combinations would look good with each other and fit in with their colour schemes.

img_3495-1

The stall is back up and running every Friday to Sunday and I can now take orders for bouquets too. It has been lovely after a long winter to see the flowerings blooming and get creative again. I am enjoying the perk too of any unsold flowers in the house which smell amazing!

fullsizerender

This weekend I tried out my strimmer on the flower patch paths for the first time. I think I need lessons! It’s quite difficult to strim only thre grass and not the flowers! After decapitating some alliums I thought I had better stop before I cut all the flowers! I will try again when I have less of an audience as Anna thought it was great fun watching mum wielding a strimmer.

Kirsten was also excited this weekend as it was the first time her legs had been long enough to work the pedals on the sit on lawn mower on her own. You should have seen her motoring round the garden with a big grin on her face paying no attention to Robert who is jumping up and down at the sidelines hoping for the best and trying to get her to go in a straight line and slow down enough to make the corners!

img_1087-1
Now that I have got on top of the garden I need to be patient and not plant out too soon. It is still far too cold in the mornings and I think they would get too much of a shock if I did. I am going to keep myself occupied with more seed sowing and watering, some family Easter time and I am looking forward to the Flowers from the Farm Scottish Growers meet up in a couple of weeks time. I’ll leave you with some pictures of the lovely Easter flowers there will be on the stall which have just come into bloom in the garden.


Happy Easter and enjoy the nice dry weather for getting in your own gardens.

Catherine x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March at Cloudberry Flowers

March means waiting…. It is a time of year for me when I go through a right mixture of emotions. I can be frustrated, disheartened and lacking in patience one day and feel happy, excited and hopeful the next.

Today was a great day. It was sunny and I got so much done. I dug another bed for my perennials I use for cutting. I did think I was done cutting beds but you can never have too many, so just one more for now! I got it planted up  and then divided a lot of perennials and transplanted them. I finished off the afternoon helping Kirsten sow some seeds for her garden.

Not every day is so productive and February and the beginning of March can feel like the hardest months as I just want to get going and I can’t. If I sow my seeds too early they will be too leggy trying to reach the little light there is or get bitten by a frost. Unexpected snow or really rainy days hamper what I can do outside when there is so much to be done. It all feels rather frustrating!

Its not all doom and gloom at this time of year though! There have been glimpses of sun now and again. I have been able to grab my spade put on my oldest clothes and take advantage of these nice spells. Digging, weeding and transplanting plants for all its worth. I tend to completely overdo it on these brief nice days and often end up eating a lot of chocolate and having hot baths at night to ease those aching muscles. Who needs the gym when you can garden! I love these times with the sun on your back digging and a robin just perched watching you nearby. Often I might see a frog or a mouse jumping out from nowhere and the birds are starting to sing in the trees. Its peaceful and my happy place.

Flower growing is a lot of hard graft and sometimes you just have one of those days. I raced out to the garden last weekend when the weather was dry and the girls had thought it would be fun to soak themselves as much as they could washing our cars. I managed to mend some arches, tie in roses, transplant plants and was feeling rather chuffed with the amount I had done! This was followed by a swinging branch in my eye and skidding on the slippy stones and ending up flat on my back. Feeling more than a little bit sore I suddenly realised I had gardened for far longer than I thought and I would have some very hungry children if I didn’t get on to tea fast. Learning to slow down just a touch might help sometimes as I raced to cook tea and rubbed chilli in my remaining good eye! That night sitting down at tea I was exhausted and sore but feeling otherwise great. I had got so much done. My kids had been happy all afternoon playing in water and I finally had some beds that had more plants than weeds. I had new homes for plants that had just been in the wrong place before and I had noticed so much new spring growth in the garden.

I might find March frustrating at times due to the weather but when we got some unexpected snow a few weeks ago it was undoubtedly beautiful and gave everyone the chance to have some fun.

Once the snow had melted a week later I was delighted to walk around our garden and see some of my favourite flowering perennials showing their first signs of new growth. The photo below shows some of these including my peonies, geum and astrantia.

The bulbs are definitely coming along nicely now too, although I think we are maybe a week or two behind last year. I am looking forward to all the tulips blooming for bouquets and the  muscari, fritillary and hyacinths for my jam jar posies.

I do like to grow perennials from seed and there is nothing more exciting and rewarding than seeing a plant a couple of years on coming back up through the ground after the winter. This is especially because some perennials are just so difficult to grow from seed, like astrantia. The photo below shows some polemonium, feverfew and aquilegia I had previously grown from seed just putting on their new seasons growth now.

Seed sowing is a magical exciting time for me. After all that waiting and trying to be patient I can finally get going. This year I held off as long as I could, which I think was longer than last year! The dining room table is covered in every kind of seed you can imagine and so far I am managing to stick to my resolution of filling in my planting planner and labelling. Let’s see in April if I am still managing to keep that one up! Hardy annuals is all I am sowing just now. They are the plants that will survive a little frost. The more tender annuals I will start off later, closer to the time of planting out. From the last few years I have worked out that I don’t want to plant out anything tender before the 1st of June unless I have it in a tunnel.

img_0558

I have resisted putting up most of my low tunnels this year. Last year when I did storms in March ripped them apart, I was gutted and I don’t want the same devastation again. I may just lay fleece over my plants and put up the tunnels in late April when I think the worst of the winter weather is past. More than ever I have to watch the weather forecasts carefully at this time of year, watching for high winds and frosts. Being caught unaware from these I could lose all the flowers I have worked so hard to grow. The photo below shows my one concession to the tunnels so far but it is more of a rabbit deterrent than frost protection. The rabbits got in the fenced off area again and sheared off the tops of a bed of plants one night. You can just see some of the nibbled stalks in the bottom right hand corner! I think it was early enough in the year that they will recover and catch up by putting new growth on now as the weather warms. It is strange but our neighbours don’t have the same problem with rabbits that we do. They put it down to having a cat. That would be an easy solution if Robert wasn’t so allergic to them! Now when I remember I am trying to shut our front gates at night to help keep them out. It is at this time they all run down the hill from the high school playing fields to find their favourite garden! Even with the gates shut they still find a way in so all we can do is keep fencing them out my flowers. It’s not very aesthetically pleasing but it’s the best hope we have for my flowers.

img_0572-1

Also this month with the help of Robert we moved the stall. I have been meaning to do this for ages. Last year I had it on the gravel on the left as you come in the driveway. It was a good spot for it but it was in direct sunlight. I am really proud of my flowers being the freshest you can buy as I cut them straight from the garden where they are growing. But I need to keep them like this once they are arranged and that means keeping them out of the sun. Putting the stall facing the opposite way on the other side of the drive keeps the flowers away from the heat. Robert probably feels the stall is like our piano which has shifted rooms many times since we moved in! I am hoping that its new spot on the opposite side of the driveway will be its final home and no more heavy lifting will be required! It just needs a lick of paint when the weather warms up a bit and it will be good to go for the new season.

The photo below shows the stall in its new position on the right hand side as you go in the driveway . Today was the first day we had some real sun and I was really pleased to see my flowers on the stall nicely shaded whilst the old spot the stall was in had the sun coming right down on it. It was worth the heavy lifting to move it.

img_0609-1

Another important job to be done in March was to plant a bed of raspberries with the girls. We had enjoyed growing these in our old house and it was something the girls particularly missed. We have just planted 26 canes of Glen Ample and I had lots of help from my able assistants. We are looking forward to enjoying some family fruit in the coming years. The next stage here will be to build a fruit cage to protect our crop.

img_0566

For the rest of this month I will keep my seed sowing going. As soon as one tray germinates on the heated bed, off it comes and new seeds go on. Some seeds are amazing and germinate in 48 hours, others could take up to a month. Its like Christmas going in each morning to see which seedlings have popped up overnight! The photo below shows the heated sand bed I germinate many of my seeds on. It is usually covered in clear plastic lids or bubble wrap to keep it humid and moist. Some seeds are also in the airing cupboard in the dark, the fridge and the freezer. They all like different things and you have to cater to their needs if you are going to be successful!

img_0557

For the first time since I started growing flowers Mothers Day is quite late this year and I am hoping to have some baskets of flowering bulbs on the stall to bring a little bit of seasonal spring colour to our local hardworking mums. I will also have pressed flower cards, jam jar posies and bunches of daffodils available . These jam jar posies below were for this weeks stall. It was so nice to see a bit of colour coming into the garden and enough freshly cut homegrown flowers to work with again. The stall is hidden away in a quiet street so please do let your friends and family know where to find it so they can enjoy really fresh flowers and homegrown handmade products too.

img_0613

I have been excited to be working on my newsletter this week which I am hoping I will have ready in the next few days. It will be for anyone to subscribe to with their email and I will give you monthly updates on whats happening at Cloudberry Flowers, flowers that have come into bloom that will be for sale, news of any special offers or events and my top tips of the month for flowers and gardening.

By my next blog in April we will be back in the full swing of it, longer days, pretty flowers blooming and hopefully a little sunshine! These last few months of winter can feel long but life has a habit of moving along and before you know it the new season is off and its full speed ahead.

My journey into the wonderful world of wedding flowers

Providing natural seasonal homegrown and freshly cut flowers for weddings is the best and most fulfilling part of my job as a flower grower. I have been lucky to go on a journey that has taken me from growing just a few flowers for myself, to making jam jar posies for friends, all the way to growing and arranging flowers for weddings. Here is my story….

The photographs above are some of my highlights from my weddings in 2016. What a journey it has been for me and my flowers!

Photography credit (bottom left, bottom right, top right photographs) Story of Love Wedding Photography by Natalie Martin

I will always remember seeing my wedding flowers for the first time. They were delivered early in the morning, before the champagne had been opened and before putting my dress on. Lifting the lid on the box in the garage where they had been put to keep cool, they took my breath away and brought tears to my eyes. My mum and dads love of their gardens and my mums roses had been passed on to me. My dad had always been very good at giving my mum flower bouquets too, just because…  and I grew up loving the flowers in our house and garden. On my wedding day they felt like a special gift I had been given. They were very typical of the time and structured formally as a shower bouquet, a world away from the options for flowers you can have now and what I grow for my brides! At that moment of peeking at my flowers for the first time I could never have imagined the changes to my life that were going to happen, bringing me back to the flowers that I loved and the chance to create magical wedding bouquets of my very own.


My enjoyment of gardening was put on hold in my twenties as I pursued a fulfilling career as a dietitian  in hospitals in Gloucestershire, living in flats with no garden. Our first home had a tiny garden and with the arrival of my first baby girl there wasn’t much time to dedicate to gardening!  It wasn’t until an unexpected relocation to Peebles and later finding our forever home that I the chance to rekindle my passion for gardening. What followed was a lot of reading, trial and error growing and learning on the job. Sometimes the challenges of the weather, slugs, earwigs and rabbits just about had me giving in to them. I was determined they wouldn’t beat me and with a lot of blood, sweat and tears by 2015 I had started to grow enough flowers that the possibility of providing them for weddings was a reality.

I had an idea in my mind of the kind of bridal bouquets I wanted to provide, full of scented garden flowers with a just picked natural look to them. A bouquet that would remind brides of flowers they may have had memories of growing up, perhaps from a holiday they had been on or their mums or grannies gardens. A buttonhole that was full of scent and a bit of rosemary for remberance. Tables of jam jar posies full of natural scented beautiful flowers to provide a talking point but not be overwhelming. A miniature posy for a flower girl or a basket of confetti full of petals, naturally dried from the garden.

In September 2015 my dreams of wedding flowers became reality with my first booking at the beautiful Hartree Estate. I was unbelievably nervous before hand, strangely not so much about the arranging which has been largely self taught and should have been more nerve wracking, but about the weather! I am a girl that likes to be organised and in control and the weather I can’t control at all! On that occasion I need not have worried, the weather behaved and once I had got those flowers safely cut I could relax a bit. I was so proud of the flowers all grown by me from tiny seeds into amazingly beautiful bridal flowers. Months of hard work in all weathers and at all times of the day had been worth it and it made me so happy that other people loved my flowers as much as I did.

img_3495

2016 was my first full season for providing wedding flowers. I have loved every minute of it, the challenges, the uniqueness of every wedding, the amount I have learned. Being able to provide beautiful flowers I have grown from a tiny seed and seeing how happy they make people is just magical.

Couples who have chosen natural homegrown flowers from me for their wedding have often had their ceremonies in some pretty spectacular locations, from a windswept scottish beach, to a tipi covered in fairy lights with log fires and lanterns at the Hartree Estate or the top of a Scottish hill with amazing views. I love how weddings have evolved and now there is not just the option of a church or registry office ceremony followed by a reception in a local hotel. Now a wedding can be a reflection of a couples personality and as a girl who loves the outdoors and anything natural, vintage and rustic it is amazing to be able to be a part of these special days.

Photography credit (photograph on the right) Story of Love Wedding Photography by Natalie Martin

What have I learned about providing flowers for weddings?

The thing about growing flowers is they never do what they are supposed to do! You can’t predict them and you definitely can’t guarantee that a particular flower will definitely be in bloom on a persons wedding day, especially when you are growing flowers in Scotland. There will always be flowers and they will be beautiful but not necessarily the ones you imagine would be out at the time. The first thing I needed to do was grow enough to ensure that there would always be a plentiful supply for the weddings I do. By the end of 2015 the part of the field that was left as the girls play area had been turned into more beds for flowers and this year I have some new beds in the front garden too for even more flowers.

The weather is my biggest challenge as a flower grower for weddings in Scotland. My flowers can be growing really well only to be blasted by unforeseen snow, gale force winds or driving rain. I can control a lot of things with my growing but I can’t alter nature and the weather so I do need a back up to ensure no bride will be without flowers on her big day. I tell all my couples that whilst I will do everything in my power to provide all the flowers from my garden, in the event of adverse weather I may need to source some from other growers or wholesalers.

I only do weddings within the growing season when there will be flowers in bloom, April to September. October and March are possibilities but the chances of having to rely on flowers from wholesalers as well as my own becomes greater as well as more limited options for varieties of flowers. Sometimes even in my growing season there can be challenges. Last May I did a wedding for a lovely couple who were looking forward to their ceremony on the beach. I was well into my season with my tulips, narcissi, muscari and other spring flowers coming along beautifully and everything was looking good for my couples big day. The week before the snow came unexpectedly!

img_6394

Sitting at the tea table with the girls they suddenly heard their mum shrieking ‘it’s snowing!’ I disappeared out the back door at top speed to do battle with tunnels to put over the flowers and save them from impending disaster! That was a tough week battling with the weather, being constantly vigelent and making sure the tunnels didn’t collapse under the weight of the snow. The flowers were protected well and the following week I was so happy to be able to use these tough homegrown scottish flowers to make some beautiful spring wedding flowers, including hellebores, tulips and narcissi. Amazingly my couple had their beach wedding and you would never have known it snowed the week before!

14045986_10154599278278189_1246325243144546947_n

I have also learned a lot about flower girls and flowers. One of the things I was lucky enough to be able to do was provide flowers for a family wedding this year. As my children were flower girls and I was a guest at the ceremony and reception I could watch how much the flowers were dropped, thrown, picked out the bouquet and generally bashed about all day as the flower girls spent time running around enjoying themselves. I did learn for the future that tight binding and use of my most robust flowers in bloom at the time would be essential! A basket of Cloudberry Flowers confetti petals for a flower girl may well be a good option too!

Couples can choose to order buckets of DIY flowers from me to arrange themselves. One of the times this works well is if you would like homegrown flowers but you are not having your wedding locally. You can pick the flowers up a couple of days before the wedding and they keep fresh in their buckets of water until you want to arrange them. Some couples like to arrange all their wedding flowers themselves and DIY buckets are perfect for them. For others they might want to do a bit themselves. I have provided flowers in buckets for a couple to arrange on their tables which can be done a day or two before the wedding and then I have arranged the bridal flowers and buttonholes. Last year one family came to pick up the flowers and then decided they wanted more buckets and could I cut some right then?  A year before I would have had to say no as there would not have been enough flowers left. It was a real turning point for me as I was able to say no problem at all. Even though I had cut their buckets of wedding flowers I still had plenty more in the flower patch.

At Cloudberry Flowers I am probably best known locally for my jam jar posies as that is where I started and I am delighted to make these for the table arrangements at a wedding. They add a bit of country garden style to your tables and the great thing about them is they are at a low level. I have been to weddings before with a great tall arrangement in the centre of the table, beautiful but it completely blocks you from seeing someone opposite you and talking to them! These table arrangements in the photograph below are all just freshly cut and arranged from the garden and ready to be delivered to a wedding.

I can provide jam jar arrangements for weddings on their own or as part of a complete package with other bridal flowers. I can also fill special vases of your own with beautiful homegrown flowers. Last year I had a bride who had her bridal flowers done by the very talented Emma from Stems and I filled vases that the bride had collected with beautiful homegrown flowers for her tables. Here is a picture from my first wedding at Hartree where the bride provided some special vases of her own for me to fill with flowers.

img_3502

Natural petal confetti is romantic, beautiful, biodegradable, eco friendly and fun to have at your wedding. I have so enjoyed making my very own Cloudberry Flowers Confetti made from homegrown and handpicked petals that I naturally dry. I have experimented with different flowers I have grown from seed and different types of roses to see which dries best and now have my favourites to put together. Without the conservatory and airing cupboard at home I would never have managed to make the confetti successfully. There is a fair bit of grumbling from the girls that I have taken over the one warm room in the house with my petals. I can understand their complaints! Living in a cold old house it is nice to go in the conservatory in the summer but homegrown confetti is so beautiful I think it’s worth a bit of taking over! If I have an order far enough in advance I have also been able to adjust the petal mix to a brides chosen colours. You can collect it as much as a month or two before your wedding as it stores well if kept in a dry place out of sunlight. I have planted more roses this winter that I hope will make some great confetti and for the foreseeable future the airing cupboard won’t have any towels in it!

I couldn’t choose a favourite wedding from last season. They were all so unique, beautiful and special in their own way. I loved being able to work with different combinations and varieties of flowers with each wedding. That is what is so unique about using homegrown flowers, a wedding one week will have completely different flowers to the next as the season moves on. I had so many milestones from travelling with wedding flowers to a different part of Scotland, making my first flower crown, using different decorations from twine such as silk ribbon in my bouquets, learning how to transport buttonholes in water, using my homegrown roses in bouquets, making large volumes of confetti for weddings. Next year I know there will be new challenges too and I am looking forward to learning new things and working on the skills I have already learned.

Here are some of my favourite homegrown seasonal bridal bouquets from 2016.

Travelling and storing flowers in summer overnight was a new challenge for me. Just to be completely on the safe side I had the car as cold as possible for the couple of hours journey north. We were frozen through by the time we got there but the flowers were just fine! Initially I had planned to use a garage to store them in as it would be safe, secure and I thought cold as my one was at home. I had not thought at all that my garage works at home for me as it is made of old stone and is very cold, a new build homes garage connected to the house is warm! I was able to speak to the hotel and use their cold cellar in the end, but it did make me think for next time. I loved the combinations of flowers in this wedding bouquets with feverfew, cornflower, lavender, sweet peas and nigella all bound with different shades of lilac plant dyed natural ribbon or twine. The flower girl posies were bright and cheerful to go with their dresses and the sweet william, cornflowers and hare’s tail grass worked really well in the buttonholes, which had survived well in a little water overnight.

Flowers in your hair as a bride can be stunning. My challenge has been finding homegrown ones that are robust enough to last out of water and stay in place during the day. I can provide individually wired flowers for a brides hair and the hairdresser can add these in as she does your hair.

My biggest achievement from a floristry point of view was making my first flower crown. I had to teach myself how to make these and did many a trial run before working out which garden flowers were robust enough to last out of water and cope with a windswept hill where the ceremony was going to be. I knew I wanted the crown to be beautiful, scented and also minimalistic. You can make flower crowns with large flowers but I wanted my crowns to look subtle and delicate. I was able to use some beautiful smaller flowers and herbs to make it and the best bit for me was my bride later telling me she had still been wearing it dancing at night! It lasted all that time and proved that homegrown flowers can be robust as well as delicate.

Photography credit (top photographs and bottom left) Story of Love Wedding Photography by Natalie Martin

As well as providing the bridal flowers for weddings I can also provide confetti and natural rustic buttonholes or ladies pinned corsages for guests going to a wedding. Please just get in touch anytime to order these all year round. Today I have just been putting together some buttonholes for a winter wedding.

img_0400

Here are a selection of buttonholes I have made and at the bottom of the photographs is one of my ladies corsages with homegrown roses and my individual boxes of confetti.

So what next for Cloudberry Flowers and my seasonal homegrown flowers for weddings?

My diary is starting to fill up with bookings for 2017 and 2018 but I still have availability if you would like to get in touch. I am happy to take bookings for DIY buckets, jam jar table arrangements and confetti as well as fuller bespoke packages for you.

Each of the weddings I have to look forward to are all unique, some with just requests for confetti or buckets of flowers and others for a full wedding service from growing the flowers right through to arranging them. I am excited to be providing the flowers for weddings at the Hartree Estate, located close to the town of Biggar. It is a stunning location for a wedding with exceptional hospitality, food and entertainment and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Here at Cloudberry Flowers I can help you with your wedding and you will be choosing flowers that have been grown with a whole lot of love, dedication and passion. From a tiny seed you could have flowers like this…..

28767188484_979bc6d54c_o

For more information about Cloudberry Flowers Weddings please take a look at my Wedding page on this WordPress site. You can also get in touch via email for a copy of this years wedding guide and more information about what I can provide for you.

Email: Catherine at cloudberryflowers@gmail.com or call 07813700786

If you would like to find out more about weddings at The Hartree Estate, their website is http://www.hartree-estates.co.uk

You can find out more about Natalie Martin’s Wedding Photography at her website http://www.storyoflove.co.uk

 

Looking back and looking forward

My blog is a bit like a diary to me and not a very well kept up one at that! It is two months since I last wrote anything so I know this piece is in danger of being very long. I have a tendency to write everything I am thinking down as if I was catching up with an old friend I hadn’t seen for a long time! Read on for a round up of Cloudberry Flowers past, present and future.

Here we are post Christmas. I have eaten far too many naughty but nice things, exercised far less than usual and spent more time indoors playing lots of new board games with the girls. I now have very itchy feet to be outside and getting going in the garden.

image

December was amazing. I was so pleased people liked the Christmas homegrown items I had been making. Everyones favourites were jam jar posies with narcissus and foliage I had grown, wreaths made with garden moss and foliage, Christmas potpourri, hyacinth bulb baskets I had forced and the alliums I had grown, dried and sprayed. I have always loved Christmas and this year I was able to indulge myself in a whole month of being creative. I was so caught up in Cloudberry Flowers at Christmas it was the first time ever that I have not readjusted the decorations on the Christmas tree after the girls had gone to bed. I think I liked it better with several decorations to one branch anyway! By the end of the month I was happy but pretty tired!

image

After a very hectic December I did want to have a proper rest over the Christmas holidays and it was time to put Cloudberry Flowers away for just a wee while. This I seem to find completely impossible to do. It is a part of me I can’t put down and quite often when I am least expecting it a new idea will pop into my head and I want to write it down before I forget. Or I see something in someone’s garden and I think I would like to grow that and have to go off and identify it! This year the schools went back much later than last year and once we were into January I definitely had given in completely to no more Cloudberry Flowers over the holidays. I was lured by the temptation of the seed catalogues and I even managed to persuade the girls it would be fun to be out in the flower patch with mum and collect seeds for a while. The novelty of wielding a pair of sharp garden scissors and seeing if you could collect a larger box of seeds than your sister held out for a wee while whilst I tackled a badly neglected patch overrun with weeds, with never ending roots. It felt so good to be outdoors digging!

I am very fortunate to live in a town full of inspirational woman and friends. These women manage to juggle family life with careers but also have a dedication to getting out in the great outdoors on their mountain bikes or running. I am in awe of this commitment to their sport no matter what the weather. It is fair to say that I do not have the same dedication to these popular sports in Peebles and instead I would best describe me as dabbling in them now and again!

image

The one thing I need no motivation for though is my flower patch. No matter whether it is snowing, blowing a gale or pouring with rain I am happy to be out there gardening and I feel lucky to have found something that I love in life. When a job advert came out for a dietitian last year it made me question should I return to this for the job security, regular income and the pension it would provide? My feelings were I would take the uncertainty of my world in Cloudberry Flowers any day, just to keep doing a job I love in the great outdoors surrounded by the flowers I love to grow.

image

New Year is a time to make a fresh start, make some resolutions and plans for the coming year. Once I get the decorations packed away and family and friends have gone home it really does feel like a fresh start for me with the start of a new growing season. I feel full of anticipation and excitement and the garden is full of new possibilities.

Just now I am spending time looking back over the last year for Cloudberry Flowers and what worked and what didn’t. I have started sowing sweet pea seeds and next week I will start getting the beds in the flower patch ready for when I plant seedlings out in the spring. Although the stall is not open at this time of year and there are no flowers to buy it is a busy time behind the scenes as there is so much digging, weeding, mulching, pruning, cleaning and sowing seeds to be done.

What an amazing year I have just had though. I cannot believe how far my wee business has come and I am so proud of Cloudberry Flowers.  The photo below shows the field back in 2014 before the beginning of cloudberry Flowers and now you can see the cutting garden it has become, where all your flowers are grown. So what is next for this coming year?

The garden gate stall will be back in March with my jam jar posies and small bunches. The most popular days that people buy flowers were Fridays and Saturdays last year, so I am going to keep the opening times for this Fridays-Sundays, March-November.

image

I would love to do more garden bouquets to order and offer delivery in the local area. I loved making these last year as everyone I made was different depending on what was in bloom and they were a really lovely gift for a special occasion. Made to order bouquets and jam jar posies will be available 7 days a week.

My petal confetti sold really well for weddings and events last year particularly in the larger bags. I would like to continue making as much confetti as I can, even if I do take over the house with it! If you would like some for your wedding please just get in touch.

I was most proud of the flowers I grew and arranged for weddings last year. Every wedding was different and it was such a privilege to provide the flowers for a couples special day. This year I have more weddings booked and again these vary from providing DIY buckets of flowers to growing and arranging all the wedding flowers. If you or someone you know is getting married and would be interested in natural homegrown flowers please just get in touch as there are still some dates free this year. Look out for my blog in February which will be about all the amazing weddings I provided flowers for last season.

img_4463

I was so pleased that other people have liked my pressed flower cards as much as I have enjoyed making them. I still need to work on how to sell these, as the stall isn’t always practical if the weather is bad. They are available all year round even when the stall is shut so ideally I need to look into somewhere to sell them from. My Etsy shop was my way of being able to sell my cards to people that follow Cloudberry flowers, but who do not live locally. To begin with I was disappointed and thought it just wasn’t go to work. There were no sales and not many views. I thought there was just too much competition and my products were not being seen. I was on the verge of closing that outlet for my cards and confetti when I got my first sale and since then I have had a few more. I am hoping it will start getting easier for my products to be seen and I felt so proud that my cards were being ordered and sent throughout the UK and the USA.

img_8174_srgb

I have had two full flower seasons now and I am beginning to get a good idea of the flowers that are consistently good for me that I grow, the ones that are more of a challenge and the ones that I just can’t grow at all!

This year I am going to grow more of what I am good at, cornflowers, phacelia, ammi, cosmos, corncockle, eryngium, snapdragons and nigella.

I am going to stop growing some flowers all together such as stocks, they just don’t work for me!  Some flowers such as sweet peas, larkspur and dahlias I love but they were somewhat of a challenge last year.

In my first season my sweet peas were amazing and last year they were a disaster. I couldn’t work out why as I wasn’t doing anything differently. I could only put it down to the poor weather we had over the summer. I am not going to let them beat me as I love them too much and have just planted the first batch of 120 seeds today. Fingers crossed!

IMG_2021

Larkspur is one of my favourite flowers for bouquets and making my confetti but I just cannot seem to grow it in any volume. It really frustrates me and is one of my main challenges for this coming season.

image

I have fallen in love with dahlias but not with the slugs and earwigs that plagued them last year. I would say half my flowers were badly eaten which I was so disappointed by. Like the sweet peas in my first season of growing them this had not been a problem. I am going to try again this year and use every trick in the book I know to keep them at bay!

I love my homegrown flowers and I would love it if they were more accessible to people and less reliance was put on foreign imports. As I start to increase the volume of flowers I grow over the next few years I have wondered if local florists would be interested in buying my homegrown flowers when they are available, as well as those from their wholesalers. I have had some interest from one local florist who does some amazing creations so this could be an exciting new opportunity.

A date for your diary for next year is the 6th of August. I will be opening my garden for charity as part of Scotland Gardens. It will be for one afternoon and my garden along with three others in Peebles will be open. It is a chance to see where I grow my flowers and also an opportunity to see some other hidden gems in Peebles, all beautifully kept by their owners and offering something different to see. There will be tea, cake, flowers and plants for sale too and more information will be available nearer the time.

image

It is going to be an exciting and life changing year for me. Cloudberry Flowers I am hoping will continue to grow and my youngest daughter Erin will be off to school in August. It will be the first time in 11 years that I will not have had any of the girls at home with me during the day. I think you will know where to fine me though!

All my best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year.

Catherine xx