June at Cloudberry Flowers

I can’t believe that it’s the first of July tomorrow and that the school holidays have started already. This past month has been a whirlwind of activities for the girls from sporting events to our local Beltane festival fun. The month has been busy in the flower patch too with lots of new plants flowering for the first time.

June started with Gardening Scotland in Edinburgh. I had a lovely day taking my flowers along to this and helping to put together our Flowers from the Farm Stand. Flowers from the Farm is a network of British flower growers who work together and have been an invaluable support to me since I started Cloudberry Flowers. I hope you enjoyed Gardening Scotland if you went along at the beginning of June.

Flowers from the Cloudberry flower garden off to Gardening Scotland

Our Flowers from the Farm stand under construction with lots of lovely flowers grown all over Scotland.

This month I have loved watching all the new flowers blooming. Here are some of my favourites that I have grown for the first time this year.

Aster snowball                                             Astrantia

    

Allium graceful                                              Feverfew

      

Sweet william                         Eryngium

     

Allium schubertii                                                       Campanula

      

Peony ‘Monsieur Jules Elie’         Allium

    

Purple cornflowers                                           Orlaya

       

Omphalodes linifolia                                       Jacobs ladder

         

Centaurea                                                            Peony ‘Mothers Choice’

          

Milk thistle                                                                           Antirrhinum

        

June meant a welcome return to the first gorgeous sweet peas of the year. They are still just coming in a couple at a time, but give them a few weeks and they will be flowering in abundance just in time for the summer weddings.

Outside on the flower patch June is a time for weeding a lot! It is also time to make sure all the stakes and netting are in as the flowers get taller and need support from the wind and rain battering them. I can see how much the patch has grown over the last year as I just had to put in a new order for more stakes and netting.

I have also planted my dahlias out now the frost risk has passed. Much to my surprise I have actually had a few blooming already. Like last year they are being nibbled so I am trying nematodes for the slugs and upturned pots with dried grass to catch the earwigs.

         

I have had a lot of black flies on my achillea this year which I have tried spraying with dilute washing up liquid and even just the hose to get them off. I think it might have worked as I haven’t seen nearly as many this week.

Inside I am concentrating on next years flowers by sewing biennials. These grow into seedlings that put down roots and leaves this year, hopefully overwinter well and flower next May. I can never have enough of these as they help fill the May gap between the end of the spring bulbs and the summer annuals starting.

Biennial seedlings just germinated.

       

This month I have started to receive more orders for bouquets, buttonholes and large jam jar posies which I have really enjoyed doing. Here are some of my favourites.

                                      

It was also British Flowers Week in June which is a celebration of flowers grown across Britain. I celebrated by leaving some lonely bouquets to find around different places in Peebles. Lonely bouquets are flowers that are left for people to find and if you do you can take them home and enjoy them. I had a wee helper to find some hiding places with me!

   

Also this month I have been making more real petal confetti. I make this using rose petals, lavender, cornflowers and any other petals that I think will work well. The conservatory is a good place to dry the petals as it is the one room in the house that gets nice and warm. I then transfer them to the airing cupboard to finish drying them. The towels have to come out of it at this time of year! Last year I started by making boxes of confetti which are great if you want to take one to a wedding to throw over the bride and groom. Sometimes you need confetti in larger volumes too, for example to fill a flower girl basket or decorate tables so I have started to make up 1 litre bags to sell too.

 

Next month is an exciting one with wedding flowers each week of July. Each wedding is different and I am really looking forward to doing the flowers for them . One of them I am especially looking forward to, as I get to be a guest! My cousin is getting married and my three daughters are very excited to be flower girls. It should be a great day with lots of Ceilidh dancing to finish with!

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Magical May

Its been a very busy month and I realised the other day it had been a long time since my last blog post. I think I was a bit ambitious in January thinking I would manage every week when I spend every available moment in the garden now!  Looking back to the beginning of the month so much has changed in the garden since then and most importantly the weather has too!

By the end of April I had had quite enough of the weather. There were more high winds and it had snowed again, causing several sleepless nights. It was one week until my first wedding of the year and what was the weather doing?! I knew the snow was forecast this time and lay in bed just waiting for it to start. 1 am, 2am, 3am I kept peeping out the window and no snow. Eventually I drifted off and woke up early in the morning to a garden covered in it. It was another of those crazy mornings of me rushing out to the garden in my pyjamas and wellies to clear snow off the tunnels before the weight of it collapsed them, crushing the flowers underneath. I got there in time and all was good, my flowers were intact. I spent the morning clearing what felt like never ending snow and was absolutely determined no weather was going to affect my flowers.

Then May came along and I breathed a very big sigh of relief. Despite the wind, rain, hail, snow and cold temperatures of April I had grown some beautiful flowers and could now cut and arrange them for the wedding. Its a privilege to be part of a couples wedding and I do my best to make the flowers as special as I can. Being creative and putting together flowers in a beautiful but natural way is a lovely part of being a flower grower. This was my first year of growing many new varieties of tulip and I just loved them. The Angelique, Rosalie and Gabriella tulips were gorgeous to work with for the bride and bridesmaids bouquets, not to mention the hellebores, honesty and narcissus.

Real petal confetti from the garden filled a basket for the flower girl and buckets of flowers from the garden were used to decorate the tables. I used rosemary, hellebores, small tulips, bluebells, muscari, hebe, heather, ivy  and forget me nots for the buttonholes.

With my time taken up at the beginning of the month preparing for the wedding I had some major catching up to do in the garden. The weather had been too cold to plant out any of the seedlings in the conservatory before. The cold frames and conservatory were bulging at the seams. I couldn’t get in the door for plants and it was starting to get impossible to walk across it without standing on them.  The last couple of weeks I have non stop weeded, planted out, sewed more annuals directly in the soil outside, watered due to our unexpected and welcome week of sunshine! and sewed more seeds indoors.

I managed to get these seedlings all planted out and I can now get in the conservatory without squeezing in the door and jumping over plants!

At this time of year the work in the garden is so busy that it is hard to think of next year, it seems a bit crazy to be planting seeds for then when I need flowers for this summer. However now is the time to be planting biennial seeds which will grow, put on leaves this year and flower next spring. Hopefully the wallflowers will then be a lot better than they have been this year! Last year I wasn’t the quickest at doing this so I have started now in the hope I will get sturdier plants. I have also realised that I need to plant a lot more hesperis and honesty in the garden as I use it so much as early flowering fillers.

Greenfly have started to be a real problem to me in the conservatory. I don’t remember haven’t the same trouble last year so I wonder what has changed? They seem to particularly like my indoor anenomes and ranunculus. Any tips for eradicating them will be gratefully received!!

Robert has been hard at work in the front garden creating new beds. Some are to be for family fruit and vegetables as we have all been missing out raspberries since moving house. Some of them though are for me. When I started Cloudberry Flowers I had 2 small beds cut in the top field. I never in a million years thought I would need to venture into the front garden! Once the beds are suitably rabbit proofed they will be invaluable next year. All the beds in the flower patch were made from many hours of Robert and I digging by hand. This time we hired a turf cutter and they were cut by lunchtime! I think we may need to hire a rotovator next.

I have fenced off the shrub border near the house from the rabbits and now felt safe to plant out my perennial penestemons, lupins, delphiniums, camassia, campanula and verbena knowing that they were protected for now from being nibbled. The slugs however are another matter…..

This month I was also asked to provide the bouquets for the winners of the Love Cross, a cycling race with a twist that is part of the local Tweedlove festival. It was nice to be able to use some of the last tulips for the season in these and I felt proud to see all the winners holding them and think how far Cloudberry Flowers has come in a year.

Photograph by Ian Linton courtesy of Tweedlove

The garden at the end of May is really coming to life. The tulips and daffodils are past now and the seasons move on. This week I have come across the first alliums and cornflowers flowering. Here are some pictures of what is flowering in the cutting patch just now. I wonder what is looking beautiful in your gardens just now?

The very last of these beautiful tulips are still flowering in the garden

Beautiful aquilegia just starting to bloom now.

These beautiful miniature white flowers are gorgeous but can anyone identify them?!

Gorgeous astrantia. My first year growing it and I love it!

Another first for growing in the garden are these geums.

Ravenswing

Alliums just coming into bloom

The first cornflowers of the year

May for me has been a month of very hard work in the garden, possibly the busiest in the year with all the planting, weeding, watering, arranging and seed sewing that has needed to be done. May also has been the most magical month of the year so far too. To make flowers for my second wedding that I loved and was proud of, to make the bouquets for a local event and simply to see the garden transform itself from its winter sleep into the beginnings of a field full of flowers. That is magic to me.

I’ll leave you with some pictures of flowers that have been my favourites on the stall this month.

Catherine x

Surely not more snow! A chilly April in the cutting patch

It might not have been the warmest April with unexpected snow at times but the spring flowers have been beautiful. One jam jar posy containing a hyacinth is enough to fill a room with exquisite scent. I have loved the daffodils/narcissus I planted in the autumn and for me it has been the double varieties that are fast becoming my favourites.

Double narcissus.

The tulips are just starting to bloom now. They have been battered by the wind and the snow but have come back fighting. It’s amazing how resilient plants can be. I am hoping there will be some beautiful varieties in bloom for a May wedding. Many growers treat tulips as an annual crop and get rid of the bulbs after one season. I have always wondered why? It seems such an expense to buy new bulbs each year. However having both this year I can see the new tulips are stronger and have taller stems than those planted in 2014. This winter was wet rather than bitterly cold so the stem length on some tulips is very short. Others have been fine. I love the shorter stemmed ones for arranging in jam jar posies.

Tulips just starting to come into bud on the flower patch.

Ollioule tulips flowering in the garden.

The annuals are coming on well, outside for the ones I have grown last autumn and still inside for the ones sewn in the last few months. In the next couple of weeks I will start to harden these off (get them used to being outside a little at a time) ready for planting out when it’s warmer and it stops snowing!

Cornflowers I planted in the autumn.

During April I have been keeping the seed sewing up so I have a constant supply of flowers through to October. As soon as one set of seeds germinate in the heated propagated bed I take them out and put new seeds in. The germinated seeds grow on in cooler conditions inside until I start to harden them off.

Seeds are started on the heated propagated bench and then transferred to the unheated bench.

Seedlings are transferred into larger pots and grow on the conservatory shelves before being planted outside.

We laid the soaker hose (leaky hose) in April and were excited to see that when the different sections were all connected up it worked. This will hopefully make a big difference to watering over the summer.

Laying the soaker hose in the flower patch.

I have taken a bit of a risk and planted the sweet peas out. They were starting to get too big to stay indoors and I know they will be happier with the room to grow in the beds. The temperatures are still low, especially at night, so to provide a bit of extra protection for a few days I have popped some fleece over them. You might be able to spot the clothes pegs if you look closely. I seem to have a rapidly diminishing supply to hang up washing as they are coming in very handy to clip fleece onto tunnels and canes!

Fleece tents for the sweet peas.

The weather in Scotland is as challenging as ever. For me it is the wind I lose sleep over. It can be so destructive. There may have been one or two tears shed over broken tunnels and flattened tulips and ranunculus. Everytime there is some bad weather I do learn from it and the resilience of the garden always puts a smile on my face a few days later! What has been difficult with the snow and wind recently in Peebles is that is has not always shown up on the weather forecast. This had made it difficult to take precautionary measures outside.

Unforecast April snow on the flower patch!

I love being out in the garden in spring with all the wildlife. The friendly robins that come and perch beside me when I am weeding, the two ducks that have been visiting our garden again and sleeping on the front lawn, not to mention the girls tadpoles! We had visiting ducks 2 years ago whom the girls named Lily and George. They came every day for a few months, coming up to the doorstep to visit the girls and were really tame. Last year there was no sign of them but you can imagine the excitement of the girls when 2 ducks arrived again this April, who of course must be Lily and George!

Our visiting ducks Lily and George!

When we moved to our house we built 5 raised beds to grow the family vegetables. The idea was the girls would help us do this and get stuck in in the garden. Over the last 2 years I have steadily taken over these raised beds for my flowers but the girls are still very keen to grow their own things. This weekend we all helped build a new raised bed outside their playhouse with a section for each of them. We had lots of fun building it, got very dirty and now they are going to have the fun of deciding what to grow in a space that mum promises not to take over!

The girls busy at their raised beds.

The garden gate stall has been open through out April. If you have visited it this month you may have thought there was a little less on display than last year. My aim has always been to bring you the freshest flowers I possibly can. Flowers cut straight out the garden for you to enjoy at home, which gives them an amazing vase life. Last year in my enthusiasm I tended to cut everything that was in bloom and make them all into jars and bunches. This meant there was a high wastage of flowers and when they are cut unfortunately they are cut! This year I am putting a few flowers out, enough of everything that I offer and as soon as I sell anything I am replenishing the stall with a brand new freshly cut jar or bunch. This way you get the freshest of flowers and there is hopefully less waste from unsold jars.

So what will May bring? Well hopefully no snow!! Much as I love it in winter the time has definitely past for enjoying it now! A few sunny warm days would be nice and warmer temperatures at night so I can plant out all these seedlings that are taking over our house! May too will bring the first wedding of the year, which I am so excited to be providing and arranging flowers for. There are some beautiful flowers you can grow for a spring wedding such as tulips, hellebores, narcissus, ranunculus and muscari.

To finish this months blog here are some of my favourite flowers from this spring on the stall. I have really enjoyed being able to get creative putting arrangements together after a few months of no flowers over the winter. I hope you have enjoyed the first flowers of the year again too!

Jam jar posy with hyacinth, hellebores, muscari, narcissus, wallflowers.
Jam jar posy with tulips, hyacinth, hellebores, hesperis, honesty, muscari, narcissus

Jam jar posy with tulip purissima and narcissus.
Jam jar posy with hyacinth, narcissus, wallflower, muscari.

Jam jar posies with viburnum, anenome, hyacinth, muscari, narcissus, wallflower.

Jam jar posy with fritillaria, narcissus, hesperis, hyacinth, muscari.

Jam jar posy with fritillaria, narcissus, tulips, hyacinth, muscari.

Spring bouquet of hellebores, narcissus and purissima tulips.img_4561

 

Devastation in the flower patch

One nights wind was all it took to wreak havoc in the flower patch. I thought I had hardened myself to the knocks the weather can bring to flower farming but I was devastated when I went out this morning to this:

  
  
  
 The damage overnight was a flattened bed of tulips and the loss of 2 tunnels. A few other plants and hyacinths were crushed too. After months of hard work it is very hard to see your tulips end up like this:

  

Just sometimes like the last couple of weeks with beds of plants ruined by rabbits, slugs and wind I do question what I am doing. Should I go back to being a dietitian a couple of days a week or should I pick myself up and battle on? I love what I do, growing flowers is hugely rewarding and I love to see the happiness homegrown flowers brings to others. I can do nothing about what nature throws at us but I can work hard and I can be resilient. I choose flower farming and know as I build on what I have started more and more the small losses due to nature will be easier to take. Gardens can be surprisingly resilient too and it will be nice to watch it bounce back in the coming days.

  

Now after an hour zooming around the plot it is put back together. I tell myself I did not lose all my spring flowers and I have some beautiful jars and daffodils to go out on the stall today. It is still my dream job….

  

February/March in the flower patch

Its March, the garden is coming back to life and I have so much for you to see! Here is a whistle stop tour to show you around what has been happening at Cloudberry Flowers.

I can tell spring is just around the corner as the girls have changed from playing with ice and snow in the garden to mud and copious amounts of water, resulting in an increase in daily clothes changes but lots of fun! They are out in the garden after school in the light and the days are stretching. This time of year fills me with excitement as it is the start of a new season. I can start sewing my seeds, weed the beds, watch the bulbs come up and know that in just a few weeks time I will have some beautiful flowers again.

The weather this month has been cold and I didn’t get off to the best start sewing my perennial and hardy annual seeds. I have a heated propagator bed made with heated cables in sand, which worked really well last year. However this year it just would not heat up. I think the temperatures were just so cold in the conservatory that even though the cables were warm any heat was lost to the cold air. What fixed the problem was laying bubble wrap over the seeds trays on the propagator bed. This still allowed light to the seeds to germinate but kept them insulated underneath. The sand heated up and the seeds started to appear. I still get that feeling of excitement in the morning when I look in the conservatory and suddenly overnight the trays have gone from bare soil to showing little specks of green. It is like being a child and peaking round the door to see if santa has been!

Once the seeds have germinated I then have to keep them alive which is proving easier now that the days are lighter and there is some sun warming the conservatory through the day. Damping off problems have slowed down and I think next year I will hold off longer before starting my seed sewing to avoid this problem. There is no point in me sewing seeds in early February just for them to keel over a few days later. I will have to learn some patience in the winter!

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Another part of gardening that I find really exciting is when I weed and clear the leaves in the spring and underneath I find new growth from perennials coming through. I was really chuffed this week to unearth eight aquilegias which I had grown from seed last year and now they are coming up with healthy new growth.

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March is the time of year that our house steadily starts to get taken over by seeds. So far the dining room has soaker hose, garden tunnels and potted up dahlias all over it, the sitting room has seeds trays in it, the kitchen radiators also have seed  trays on them and the conservatory is full to bursting with my seedlings and overwintered plants. Its a wonder I don’t drive my family mad with gardening things everywhere!

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My overwintered hesperis and perennials such as aquilegia have done really well and will be ready to plant out soon when they have been hardened off.

Hesperis                                                                  Aquilegia

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The sweet peas are growing well. Last year I had them flowering by July, this year I am hoping for earlier in the season.

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Inside my ranunculus are really coming on and outside I was pleased to see the first signs of the ones I have been growing under a tunnel. No signs yet outside or inside of the anemone corns I planted. I am not sure what has happened there but hopefully I have not lost them all in the saturated winter soils.

Inside Ranunculus                                                Outdoors Ranunculus in the tunnel

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The stall is in for repair work. It took a fair battering over last season and some bits of wood had come clean off in the wind. Robert has been busy fixing this at weekends and it will be a lot stronger now.

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When there has been no frost or snow I have been out weeding the flower patch beds. After a winter as you can see they get in a bit of a mess! After I have weeded them I have been putting down cardboard boxes opened out that I have collected. This helps suppress the weeds and warm the soil ready for planting in a few weeks.

Before                                      After

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Outside some of my overwintered hardy annuals have survived and will flower earlier than spring sown plants.

Nigella                          Cornflowers                    Corncockle                    Godetia

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The bulbs are coming up and should put on a wonderful show this year.

Tulips                                  Alliums                              Daffodils

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The snowdrops were beautiful this year and despite the weather they did not get confused and flowered when they should.

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My new flower beds are now completed and ready for planting up. I am going to fill these with perennial plants that are good for cutting. The beds are in a sunny spot in the garden and full of homemade garden compost which should get the plants off to a good start. My only concern is rabbits. They have largely been kept out of the flower patch due to fencing but the new beds won’t be fenced as they are next to the washing line. I might have to put a temporary barrier across at night.

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I have also been digging up perennials and moving them in the borders near the house. Last year I made a stab at getting this bit of the garden established but I wasn’t happy with it as some rather large shrubs had outgrown their place at the front of the border. They are now moved to the back and look a lot better, leaving space for my new perennials at the front. All this digging to move plants resulted in quite an exhausted mummy after so I did laugh at my 4 year old Erin on Monday. After we had been swimming she said “mummy why do you spend all your time planting and not doing exercise”! I hadn’t realised gardening didn’t count!

This year I decided to invest in some soaker hose. Last year I spent hours watering the cut flower patch with the hose trying to avoid getting the water on the flowers and just to the roots. It took time away from spending with my family and I thought there must be a better way. Last year was also not a hot summer so I know I could be spending a lot more time watering! I have bought enough soaker hose to cover 6 beds. It is not enough to cover everything but it is a good start. This will run along the beds and be connected to the water supply in the garage. A timer will mean I can program the water to go on and off when I need it to. I am hoping it works and can free me up to water the pots and perennial beds whilst the annual beds are taken care of.

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My dahlia tubers arrived in the post and I have been potting these up. They go into 3 litre pots filled with compost. Last years stalk does not need to be covered though, as long as the tubers are. They are watered a little and left to grow on in a frost free place, currently the dining room! This year I have been far more selective about the varieties I have chosen so they will sit well in bouquets and are a little more subtle. No bright yellow dinner plate sized ones this year!

Dahlia Tuber                  Tuber in 3 litre pot      Tuber covered in compost but stalk left out

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In the last couple of weeks I have also had a few more wedding enquires. I am really looking forward to growing more flowers this year for weddings. They are spread out at different times over the growing season. This means I can use many different flowers for my brides depending on what is in bloom at the time and each wedding will be unique. I also got a lovely reminder of my first wedding back in September when the bride sent me some photographs last week.

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Next month should see the start of the season and the flower stall back up and running. I am really looking forward to another year where I can bring you some beautiful flowers, with lots of favourites from last year alongside lots of new varieties I am growing. If you visited Cloudberry Flowers last year I wonder what your favourite flower was?

 

 

 

 

Herbs in the flower patch

Herbs really bring a dish to life when you are cooking. I feel the same way about adding herbs to my jam jar posies or bouquets. The texture and scent they add to a bunch of flowers really lifts them.

I thought of writing something about herbs this week after picking up a little book to read called ‘How to grow herbs’ by Ian Thomas. It was a fascinating read not only about how to grow herbs but also on their many uses through time.

Mint and lemon balm

Two of my favourite herbs I used last year in jam jar posies were apple mint and lemon balm.

Lemon balm is often used in salads and stuffings. I have read historically that it has been used to make a tea to help depression and anxiety or used to help indigestion. It has also been said to aid a good nights sleep and been used in essential oils. It has antibacterial and antioxidant properties and is thought to symbolise ‘good cheer’.

Mint is also widely used in cooking and is thought to aid digestion and nausea. It is thought to symbolise ‘warmth of feeling’.

I love the scent of mint and lemon balm. I do find they need conditioning well if they are going to last in arrangements. This involves cutting them when it is cool and then giving them a long drink overnight. These herbs can spread rapidly so I have contained them by growing them in pots. I was constantly snipping them for my jam jars so I never did end up getting the stem length for bouquets!

          
Rosemary

Best known to us for adding flavour to roast lamb, rosemary has a long history of varied uses. It was worn as a bridal wreath dipped in scented water in the Middle Ages at weddings and became a symbol of ‘love’. It was also well known as a symbol of ‘remembrance’ and was once thought to strengthen memory. It was even said to be burnt to purify the air at the time of the plague to help ward off infection.

Last year I planted a couple of ‘Miss Jessops Upright’ rosemary bushes and inherited a good sized mature plant in a pot. I found it to be fairly slow growing but I am hoping it will become more established in the garden this year. It likes a sheltered spot and in windy Scotland the protection of a wall can be helpful.

I like to use rosemary in buttonholes for weddings. It provides scent, texture and a strong background for more delicate flowers at the front. Most importantly to me rosemary is a symbol of ‘remberance’ and there is often someone special on your wedding day you would like to remember.

       
Marjoram

The marjoram I grow in the garden comes into flower towards the end of our summer. I use it in bouquets and jam jars as it has a good stem length. It is thought to symbolise ‘wedded bliss’ and like rosemary was worn as a wreath by brides in the Middle Ages.

Lavender

Lavender has many well known uses in products such as soaps, essential oils, cooking and as an aid to sleep. I use it for scent and texture in bouquets, jam jars and buttonholes and I also dry it to add to my real petal confetti. Again it is good for weddings as it is said to be a sign of ‘luck and devotion’.

Last year I planted some new lavender with mixed success. The plants I put in the flower patch thrived. However I lost some in the border where there is wet clay soil. Lavender does not like its roots sitting in water and in hindsight I should never have planted it there!

This year I am going to add to my lavender collection with some new varieties such as ‘Arctic Snow’ and I will find areas of the garden with well drained soil to plant them in.

Achillea

I grow achillea or yarrow in the flower patch to use in jam jars and bouquets. It is thought to symbolise ‘everlasting love’. Legend says it was used by Achilles to treat the wounds of his soldiers and that is why it got its name. It does like to spread quickly and sends out roots which can start to take over if you are not careful. I am going to give mine another growing season and then lift and divide it next spring to rejuvenate it and control the spread!

Dill

Dill is a herb we use to season fish but it also produces lovely yellow/green flowers later on in summer to use in bouquets. I have grown taller varieties which I have found need good staking to protect them from our winds. The Greeks saw dill as a symbol of ‘wealth’ and the Romans thought it brought ‘good fortune’. It is also widely used medicinally.

Bronze fennel

Bronze fennel is said to symbolise ‘flattery’ and being ‘worthy of praise’. It is widely used in cooking in many countries. After sewing it from seed last year I now have a good established clump in the garden. It is used in cooking and in medicine but I use the flowers at the end of the summer in my arrangements. They have yellow flowers with a distinctive aniseed scent. The foliage is also lovely in jam jar posies but needs conditioning well and I am not sure it would stand up to being out of water in a bouquet.

Myrtle

I planted this fragrant evergreen shrub in the garden last year and hope to use it in my buttonholes. It is thought to symbolise ‘everlasting love, fertility and fidelity’.

Nepta

Nepta catmint is a shrub I came across last year which has beautiful purple flowers. It is also a plant very much loved by cats who will role around in it. Luckily we don’t own a cat but I will need to keep an eye out for any neighbourhood visitors! I planted a couple of plants in the garden last summer. Some started to establish themselves and I used them in the last few bouquets of the season. Others did not do so well. Determined to have lots more in the flower patch I have been growing new plants from seed. Some I am overwintering just now which I sewed in the autumn and others are just starting to germinate. I will grow them on and plant them out in milder weather.

Borage

I love the bright blue flowers of borage which I used in bouquets last year. It is known to self seed so I am hoping I will find lots of it popping up across the garden. It can be used in cooking, herbal medicine and symbolises ‘courage’.

Bay

Bay symbolises ‘glory’, however there is not much glory in my wee bay tree plants. I planted them last spring and although they are still alive after over wintering, over the twelve months they just do not seem to have grown. I will watch them this year in the hope they get a little taller and I can use them with my flowers. If not they will be good for cooking with!

Basil and Thyme

These are two herbs very common in cooking which I would like to grow this year to arrange with my flowers. Thyme is meant to symbolise ‘strength and courage’ whilst basil symbolises ‘good wishes’.

Feverfew

I grew feverfew from seed last year and got lots of healthy plants but none of the daisy like flowers. They have survived the winter well so I am hoping I will get some flowers this season. Feverfew has been used in the past to help headaches and arthritis. It is said to symbolise ‘healing and protection’.

I hope you have enjoyed finding out about the herbs I use to arrange with my flowers. This has definitely not been an exhaustive list and there are many others you can try. Have you ever used them in arrangements? If you have which ones do you like?

As a self confessed plantaholic I cannot resist adding to my stock in the garden and trying new varieties. One place I must visit in the spring is the Secret Herb Garden at Damhead near Edinburgh. I have heard they are an excellent place to source herbs and make very good cakes too!

 

Squelchy mud, strange weather, surveys and signs of spring

The last couple of weeks have been somewhat muddy in the garden. The arrival of the gas men to dig up the back garden and drive, alongside storm Gertrude has been a muddy combination. I did not envy them the task of digging in the wild weather we have had but I do wonder wether our garden will ever look the same again?! I have found it somewhat frustrating being cut off from the flower patch in the day whilst the work goes on. I did sneak over the gas fencing late afternoon on a couple occasions to do a bit of planting and weeding. It made me realise it is no longer dark at 4pm anymore. You can work in the garden until 5, Spring must be just around the corner!

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There are other signs of Spring in the garden. The hellebores and snowdrops have really come on over the last couple of weeks.

  

Here are the first tulips emerging too, much earlier than last year.

As it has been so mild it may be that the stall opens in March rather than April this year. It is looking in a bad way with the sides breaking down and some panels fallen off. Robert has brought it round to the garage for repair and thinks he can keep it going for me to do another season.

Robert works hard behind the scenes of Cloudberry Flowers. He loves practical jobs and getting outside when he gets the chance. At the moment he has been working out a way of getting water up to the flower patch for me and then we will start to put in some kind of irrigation with leaky hose. This will be a godsend in the summer and help reduce the hours I have to spend watering the flowers. No more carrying heavy watering cans and buckets up the steps or dragging hose up to the patch as there will be a tap up there. He has also been building new flower beds and has found decking makes a good affordable edge to a new bed.

The hose is now in the flower patch connected back down to the garage. Next step installing a tap.

The new flower bed with its decking edging. Just need to top it up with homemade compost.

As last week I could not get out to the garden it gave me a good chance to do some badly needed admin for Cloudberry Flowers. It’s always easy for me to put off paperwork and spend time in the garden instead. Now I feel much more organised to start the new season. I have also had the chance to look at the results from the survey I put on my Facebook page a couple of weeks ago. A good number of customers completed it, which gave me a picture of what people liked at Cloudberry Flowers or wanted to see more of.

What did the survey tell me?

I was reassured to find the stall was more easily found than I had thought it would be. Our location up a quiet street away from the centre of town and up a steep hill I had thought might be off putting and make it difficult to find.

The majority of my customers use Facebook as a means of finding out about my flowers. I have found Facebook a very useful tool for advertising a business but somewhat unreliable! From experience the only way to guarantee someone will continue to receive notifications about my flowers is for them to like, comment or share any posts from Cloudberry Flowers they see. Facebook then allows them to see future posts. So for me it is a very useful way to let customers know when the stall is open and what flowers are available, but I cannot rely on it completely.

The survey showed that the jam jar posies on the stall are really popular. I love them as they are such a beautiful natural way to display flowers in your home and can be used in so many ways from one simple arrangement on a bedside table to a more impressive statement with a row of them decorating your dinner table. Jam jars of flowers use stems that are short and it is also nice to be able to buy long stemmed flowers you can fill your own vase at home with. The results of the survey did show that customers would like to see mixed or single flower bunches on the stall. This year as soon as the longer stemmed flowers start to bloom I will include some bunches alongside the jam jar posies and this will give my customers more choice.

The days I open the stall in the week is something I have thought a lot about since October. I had thought about changing the opening times from Thursday to Saturday as I felt sales were poor on a Sunday and I was wasting a lot of flowers. It was not a surprise that the great majority of people surveyed would visit the stall on a Friday or Saturday. However Thursday and surprisingly Sunday were popular too. From this feedback I have decided to open the stall on Thursday – Sunday this season. Flowers will be available every day of the week made to order too.

It was really encouraging to see that my customers thought the flowers were good value for money as deciding on the price of my flowers was something I found difficult last year. Running a business for the first time did mean I made mistakes with my costs. I underestimated my time and labour growing and arranging them grossly, concentrating more on the cost of the flowers and sundries. This winter I have been looking at my pricing a lot to make sure I get it right so Cloudberry Flowers can continue. It does mean there will be changes to some prices, which I hope my customers understand and I hope to keep further changes in the future to a minimum.

One of the ideas suggested which I found really interesting was providing plants to sell on the stall. This is something I would like to give some thought to in the future when Erin has started school and I have more time to devote to Cloudberry Flowers.

All in all the survey was really worthwhile and it was so valuable to have feedback from my customers. A big thank you to everyone who completed it for me.

It felt like Christmas again this week as I received another package through the post full of hedging plants. I do love a box arriving full of things for the garden! When I started the idea of cutting up the field for a cut flower patch we collected all the sods and placed them upside down along our back fence in piles and left them to break down. Now they have turned into a lovely bed of soil between the wooden fence and the rabbit fence but I hadn’t done anything with it. Today the snow had thawed, the girls were playing nicely in the front garden and I grabbed the chance to plant the bare root hedging plants and shrubs which had arrived. I chose each one to provide some interest from flowers and scent to hips. They will also be a haven for birds and other wildlife. The planting has included hawthorn, crab apple, willow, daisy bush, osmanthus burkwoodii, euonymus japonicus, viburnum tinus, prunus avium, rosa rugosa, June berry and dog rose. I hope I will be able to use them in time in my bouquets and jam jars too to continue the natural feel I like to have in my arrangements. I will so enjoy watching this area grow over the coming years.

  

And finally this week I don’t know about you but when I spend hours digging in the mud it just seems to get ingrained in my hands even though I have been wearing gloves! This year for Christmas I got some Crabtree and Evelyn gardeners hand scrub with pumice. What great stuff. I think it’s the only thing I have found so far that really gets the mud off my fingers. I think I will be using a lot of that this year along with an awful lot of handcream!! Has anyone come across any great hand creams for gardeners?

The week ahead will be another few days of the gas men in the garden working on the pipes, so it will be indoor time for me to spend sorting out my new seedlings and potting on. There is nothing like seeing seeds emerging as wee plants to nurture and know given the right care they will eventually turn into beautiful flowers.

Oops didn’t quite make the once a week blog resolution!

It has been a crazy few weeks here. So much so that my good intention to write something on the blog each week has already gone out the window! I would like to say it has been so busy because of all the things I have been doing for Cloudberry Flowers but family life has taken over! We had Erin’s 4th birthday and party last week, a poorly Kirsten off school for a few days at the same time and this week we have been looking after our friends little girls and dog while they had a gorgeous new baby. We did manage to finish painting our bedroom too. A very longstanding project that has always been put off. Next week the new carpet will come. I am so excited as we have a mixture of 3 different ones in the room at the moment!

The old carpet is going!!

Not much gardening was getting done last week when we had an important frozen cake to bake! Baking is my other love next to gardening.

Aside from all this busy family time I have managed to plant a few seeds. Mainly sweet peas as everyone loved them last year and they do smell gorgeous! I am excited to be planting all sorts of new varieties, Oban Bay, Molly Rilestone, Winter Sunshine Varities, Charlie’s Angel and Eclipse to name a few. I have been soaking the seeds overnight before sewing and if some have not noticeably swollen up I have been nicking their seed coat to allow them to absorb water. I am keeping my fingers crossed for some good germination rates. Oban Bay I am particularly interested in trying as it is meant to be good to grow in cooler climates such as Scotland.

Although it is very early in the year I have sown some other seeds. I just get too carried away with wanting to get the season going. I have limited it to Knautia Macedonica ‘Melton Pastels’ as they need some cold to germinate and some antirrhinum more commonly known as snapdragons. These are new seeds I am trying this year and I am hoping they will make good cut flowers.

In the greenhouse the ranunculus I started off in December are doing well. I really loved these flowers last year but did not plant many. I am hoping we will get some more beautiful blooms now I have so many more corms planted. They are delicate flowers a little like roses but can flower earlier in the year.

Ranunculus in the conservatory now

Ranunculus flowering in the cutting patch last July


Outside in the garden:

The first snowdrop is just emerging.

The buds on the hellebores are showing too. These make really lovely cut flowers in spring so I hope you will enjoy a few from the stall when the flowers have matured enough to last well in a vase.

We have also had some snow and clear sky’s over the last couple of weeks which has been such a welcome relief to all that rain! The garden looked beautiful in the snow. If has all melted again now with exception of a slightly lopsided snowman on the front lawn. The rain didn’t stay away long either with it pelting down outside now! The snow was lovely while it lasted though.

The cut flower patch in the snow

A snowy garden

We still have a touch of spring in the house with the girls narcissus ‘bridal crown’ they planted back in September. They truly are gorgeous and amazing that 1 single stem can produce so many flowers. They each have 4 flowers per stem now. Definitely one for the stall in future years. I planted a few of these in with the bulbs I planted outside so they may find their way into some mixed daffodil bunches in the spring.

Painting our bedroom has been a good distraction for me away from the seed and nursery plant catalogues over the last 2 weeks. I am very much turning into a seed and plantaholic! I start with a basic list before Christmas of the ones I have ran out of and new varieties I want to try. With more time after the holidays to have a good look through the catalogues my list starts to grow with the temptation of trying new flowers! I have so far ordered half my seeds from Seedaholic. I really like the information sheets they give with each seed you buy, they are good value and have a reasonable number of seeds per packet. The other half of my list is still growing and I will order them from Chiltern Seeds for the first time this year. My aim is to have ordered all my seeds by the end of January and then keep myself away from the catalogues!

Over the last couple of weeks I have also been talking to a bride about flowers for a spring wedding. This is an exciting time of year with so many lovely spring bulbs to choose from. It is also an unpredictable time as the weather can be so variable. Therefore you cannot promise particular flowers as they may not be in bloom yet or they may be past if the weather was particularly warm for that time of year. What you can promise is a mixture of beautiful homegrown spring flowers in a variety of colours that will be unique to your wedding. In years to come you may choose to grow those same bulbs in your garden and always have a reminder of your special day when you see them.

Also this week I posted a survey on my Facebook page to get some feedback about Cloudberry Flowers last season. I was unsure whether it was a good idea to do a survey as I know people are short of time and I hoped it wasn’t going to feel like getting junk mail through your letterbox and then put people off the Cloudberry Flowers Facebook page. In the end I decided to go for it as even if I only got a few responses it would help me greatly knowing which direction to take my small business next year.

As the stall is a self service one with an honesty box I unfortunately don’t get the chance to meet all my customers. I had always worried whether they could find it ok when it was tucked away in a quiet side street? I also felt I could not get across information about the stall and available flowers to my customers on Facebook easily. Facebook seems to only  show you notifications sporadically once you have liked a page. It seems that you have to like and share individual posts on the page continuously to keep getting updates. I wanted to ask people were they being kept up to date regularly? I also wanted to know what flowers customers wanted on the stall so I can provide what they would like next year. The survey is still ongoing until Sunday but so far there has been a good response, so a big thank you to everyone who took the time to complete it. I now have some valuable feedback to work with. I am hoping I will be able to look through the responses and make it the topic for next weeks blog, or the week after if we run out of time again!

Time to get back to gardening

Christmas and New Year were a lovely couple of weeks holiday full of family, friends, Christmas magic with the kids, a bit of over indulgence and a lot of rain!! Now the kids are back at school, the house is very bare with the decorations down and it is time to get back into the garden.

This time of year excites me. Running a flower business where you are growing largely annuals from seed and bulbs means that each year you start over again from scratch. I am full of optimism for the season ahead and excited about growing new flowers I haven’t tried before. I know there will be many challenges to come particularly with the weather! But just now is a time to dream of beautiful flowers and pour over the seed catalogues, getting very carried away as I put in my orders!

Back in the garden it is difficult to know where to start. Everywhere is just so saturated with water and it just keeps raining! For the time being until things dry up a little the flower patch will have to fend for itself.

  

The conservatory housing the seedlings and plants I am overwintering was a dryer place to start this week. Unfortunately quite a few seedlings were suffering from botrytis a fungus that attacks the plants. I don’t remember this being a problem last year and wonder if the milder conditions have been a cause. I removed all the affected seedlings. To help prevent further attacks I will make sure I ventilate the conservatory where possible, space plants out and water the seedlings from underneath rather than on top of the foliage. I will watch and see what happens over the next few weeks to see if there are any further attacks.

It was also time to pot on a few seedlings this week. When roots are starting to show at the base of the pot it’s time to get them into a larger one. Some stocks and nepta seedlings I had grown from seed particularly benefited from this as their roots were really showing.

I am as usual at this time of year getting itchy feet to sew some seeds and get the years planting underway. I know I will have to hold off a another month before I get really stuck into this but I thought I would start off with just a few sweet peas. Here they are soaking in water for 24 hours before sewing to aid germination.

Outside this week I have spotted the first signs of snowdrops and buds on the hellebores which I might expect to see at this time. However the garden is also somewhat confused by this unseasonably mild winter we have had so far. I am sure I can count the number of frosts we have had on one hand. As a result my bulbs I planted in the autumn are popping up everywhere. I am worried that bulbs that are already showing buds will not flower in the spring this year. I am hoping that the ones just showing leaves will be ok. Do you have any experience of bulbs coming up early in a mild winter and did yours flower in the spring?

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With the constant heavy rain that we have had and the very saturated ground outside I am also concerned about my tulips. Last year I did not plant many as it was my first year and I was unsure whether customers would like them. They were a success and people liked being able to buy more unusual varieties you would not see elsewhere. So in the autumn I planted a lot more in terms of both numbers and variety. Could all this rain I wonder affect their flowering in the spring? Especially in one particular area where the flower beds are getting waterlogged due to poorer drainage.

The thing with being a flower farmer is you cannot do anything about the weather and you have to work with it. Last year I spent a lot of time getting quite stressed about the cold not bringing on the plants, the strong winds knocking over my flowers despite staking, the rain damaging the more delicate blooms, late frosts and snow damaging seedlings I had planted out. This year I am going to try not to worry too much about these things. I will prepare as best as I can and if there are tulips and daffodils to sell in the spring brilliant and if not I will try again next year!

This week has felt good to get back to all my gardening jobs and get back on top of things. Gardening is a continual process and not one you can leave too long, as I have found out with the loss of some seedlings. What I have found invaluable just now is being able to look back at my blog from last year. It has been able to tell me what the weather conditions were like, and when I started sewing sweet peas and other hardy annuals. When I started the blog last year it was to share with other interested people what I was doing in my garden and now I am seeing there is a benefit to myself as well! Starting the blog last year I would write a little each week. As time went on and I got busier with the flowers, house and children I found I had less and less time. My blog by then had decreased to just once a month. Now seeing how valuable it can be to myself and others I am going to make a New Years resolution and try and get back in the habit of writing something every week!

After all this rain we have had I woke up today to a garden covered in frost and it looked beautiful! what a difference to see a clear sky, feel the cold on your face as you walk the girls to school and not need a full clothes change by the time you get back as you are soaked through-the new waterproof trousers are on order! I hope this lovely frosty weather lasts to let the rivers go back down to their normal levels and reduce the risk of flooding and to let the garden experience a proper winter at last! I hope you are not having so much rain where you are and are getting a chance to get back in the garden after the holidays.

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Triumphs and tears – the best bits of 2015

With another storm raging outside it feels like a good time to stay in with a cup of tea and look back on the last twelve months, and wow what a year. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would have the journey I have had in 2015.

I have gone through every emotion possible! The excitement of a new venture. The high after finishing my first wedding flowers. The warm happy feeling that someone loves their flowers. The sense of pride knowing you have created something special, when you stand in the flower patch that was once a field. The sense of peace and calm after a chaotic day with my children that my garden gives me. The delight of a robin sitting next to me whilst I weed or seeing butterflies and bees landing on my flowers.

And yes there have been plenty of other emotions as well! Tears in the garden after plants have been eaten by slugs or battered by the wind. Crying when you have tripped over the garden rake and thrown yourself and all your newly cut flowers in the mud! The panic wondering if there would be enough flowers blooming at the right time for an order because you never knew what the weather or the plants were going to do. Most especially when that order was someone’s wedding! The exhaustion of early mornings cutting flowers before the girls have woken and late nights arranging them after they had gone to bed. Not to mention aches and pains from digging, lifting and other manual work. Those harder times have also surprised me about myself . I learnt despite loving my sleep and not being good in the mornings I could get up and go and cut flowers before everyone else wakes up. The odd tears were not a bad way of appreciating when to slow down, take a rest, ask for some help and realise that a few muddy flowers were not the end of the world, there will always be more to cut!

My aim was to grow some flowers in my garden and sell them on my stall at the garden gate. All I really wanted was for people to come to love homegrown flowers as much as I did. I look back over the last 12 months and think did that really happen? My first wedding, Gardening Scotland, running a charity stall, attending courses, running a weekly garden gate stall, networking and making friends with other flower growers. Cloudberry Flowers would not have been possible without every one of my lovely customers. So a big thank you to each and every one of you for helping turn my dream into a reality.

With so much happening in one year it has been difficult to choose the highlights and so it has turned into a rather lengthy blog! Here are my best bits ….

January 2015

A bit of snow and the very start of Cloudberry Flowers year with empty beds ready and some new propagating tables.


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February 2015

The first seeds sewn. An exciting time where I just couldn’t wait to get going but had to hold back a wee bit as it was still the middle of our Scottish winter!

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March 2015

The stall was ready and the first hellebores were blooming. Could they be used as a cut flower? Yes I found if conditioned well and cut at a particular point in maturity they could. They were beautiful.

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April 2015

A very exciting month as there were enough flowers to fill my garden gate stall and my home too. The table looked lovely with homegrown flowers down it for a dinner party. As the first flowers were blooming there were lots of photographs taken in April!




May 2015

A busy month with the flowers starting to bloom more and ending in a great trip to Gardening Scotland to be part of the Flowers from the Farm stand.

June 2015

British Flowers Week was a highlight where I spent some happy times with my girls hiding lonely bouquets for people to find and enjoy around town. It was also the month where we cracked on with digging up the rest of the field and creating new beds. The scented shrub border was also starting to become more established. Although still a slow start to the year there were now enough flowers to make some bouquets as well as jam jar posies.

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July 2015

The start of the month brought the end of the school year and with it lots of orders for jam jar posies and bouquets for teachers. The flowers were still behind by a few weeks but by the end of July they were really coming on. The roses were blooming, there were sweet peas and the annuals were now flowering. I also started my new venture making dried petal confetti using the flowers from the garden. The airing cupboard no longer had towels in it and was just full of petals!



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August 2015

This month the garden was full of flowers. The more you cut the more they came and I was able to provide buckets of flowers as well as jam jar posies and bouquets.

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September 2015

Maybe the most exhilarating, inspiring, nerve wracking and wonderful month of the year. Attending the British Flower Workshop Scotland course, a stall at Hartree for Macmillan Cancer Support and a beautiful wedding to do the flowers for.

  

October 2015

At the beginning of October there were still plenty beautiful flowers in the garden but as the month went on these slowed down in production or were battered by the winds. There were no longer enough to sell to customers but enough for me to have in the house and to practice making bouquets with. Here are some pictures of the last flowers from 2015.


November 2015

It was a month to take stock and plant lots of bulbs for spring next year. I was even surprised to find a few flowers still blooming and I even found some anemones in December in flower! November was also a good time to meet up with fellow Flowers from the Farm members where we looked back over the last year and made some plans for 2016.

December 2015

What a mixed month December has been. We have had gas works closing our road for the last six weeks. This severely limited the footfall past the stall and meant that it was not worth putting any wreaths out there to sell. Due to a mystery on where old pipes lay and new ones could be placed various parts of the garden have been dug up and will need to be in January. This has left me extremely nervous with all the bulbs and shrubs I have planted under threat from the digging. However only one small section of border has been dug up so far and we will just have to wait until the new year to see what will happen next.

December was also a magical month with the children full of snow at just the right times, baking, crafting, family and of course santa. I loved making wreaths using the best of what the garden had to offer at this time of year to make a cheery welcome on someones door.

It really has been an amazing year and thank you to everyone who reads my blog and visits my stall for your encouragement, advice and support. It has been wonderful to meet so many people that share my love of homegrown flowers and I am looking forward to an exciting 2016 growing lots of favourites and many new varieties too. Here’s to a flowery 2016!

Happy New Year x