Catching up with Cloudberry Flowers

Time has ran away with me again and it is a long time since I last wrote on my blog. This has been my 4th growing season and it has been the strangest yet for weather conditions. It has taught me that each year will never be predictable and I will never stop changing what I do and adapting to the weather as it comes.

This spring was very slow in coming with the tulips all blooming in May rather than successionally from late March onwards. I had planted a lot of hyacinths to flower over a few weeks but they all came out in a day. It did mean a lot of wastage as I couldn’t use them all at once in arrangements but they did look beautiful in the flower patch.

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Then we had the arrival of some very good weather which brought all the annuals on quickly. The lack of rain meant many an hour watering outside morning and late evenings. Due to the lack of water some annuals that usually would last months flowering were going over very quickly, with just a single flush of blooms. The sweet peas were the best they had been since I started growing them. They were glorious for a few weeks but then due to the weather the stems got very short and were fine in mini jam jars but couldn’t be used in wedding work.

Summer was beautiful and the flowers were amazing. I spent time on Prince Edward Island in Nova Scotia and came away inspired by the beautiful wild flowers there. The friendly people and magic of the island put it firmly at the top of places I would like to return to. The beauty of its coastlines, fertile farmland and wild flower meadows left me feeling happy, revived and ready to crack on in the garden when I came home.

As soon as the schools went back there was a definite change in the air. Autumn feels it has come very early with much colder mornings and damp dark days. Many of the annuals are slowing down now and it has been a good time to start collecting seeds. I like to make up mixed jars of seeds which make great presents and are available to order now as well as being in my christmas shop.

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The annuals might be slowing down but the autumn flowers are just hitting their stride with chrysanthemums, dahlias, scabious, amaranthus, cosmos and soon to be asters stealing the show.

So what has worked well this season in the unexpected weather? My proudest achievement this year has been my dahlias. The last 4 years I have fallen in love with a frustrating flower I have not been able to grow. I have had minimal flowers for the amount of effort and plants I had been growing.  Any I did have tended to be nibbled by earwigs, slugs and thrips. If I had 1 or 2 perfect flowers I was lucky. This year they have been glorious. That is not to say all of them are perfect, there are still a fair few nibbled ones out there, but I have had many stems of strong beautiful blooms. I couldn’t pinpoint the exact reason for this as I have changed a few things at the same time. Many but not all of my dahlias are growing in the new front garden flower patch so perhaps the light levels here suit them. Having said that the ones in the initial flower patch have also been good. I have been working on soil improvement a lot with the addition of compost to the beds in the winter. This was the first year I divided my dahlias before potting them up in the spring. I have also been using bloom bags to protect the buds of my wedding flowers from thrips. All of these things may have helped and next year I am full of enthusiasm for expanding these beautiful flowers.

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The sweet peas were the best they have been in the last 4 years and the only reasons I can think of for this are the good weather and the fact that they were planted in the new front garden ‘no dig’ flower beds. I planted some at the back flower patch this year too which were very disappointing in comparison to the ones at the front.

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The ‘no dig’ flower beds have been an amazing success. To think that that part of the garden was just lawn this time last year and now look at what it  has become! I am so happy with the success of these that I want to make some on the right hand side of the garden at the front so we have flowers down both sides. We can’t work out what to do here though as this is where I grow my bulbs and marking out new beds around these is difficult. Maybe a project for the winter.

My garden gate stall has always been just surviving for the last few years. It has had days to weeks of being very quiet with nothing selling and other days where I would sell a few flowers. The bonus for us on the quiet days was getting to enjoy the flowers that did not sell in our home. I have always dreamed of a busy stall with people dropping in to treat themselves, pick up a jar of flowers for a friend or nip in on the way home from work to get some flowers for your partner as a surprise. This year the stall has become busier and I have enjoyed meeting new people popping in. Growing a business takes time and patience and I am so grateful to everyone who has come to support my flowers. So a very big thank you to you if you are a regular customer or have told a friend or relative about it. It means an awful lot!

Another success of the stall as well as being gradually busier is having it open every day. I started this when Erin went to school and it has worked really well. I now know that you like to be able to pick up flowers on weekdays as well as weekends.

This year on the stall as well as liking your jars of mixed flowers you have enjoyed buying dahlias and sweet peas by the stem or as a wee bunch. I would love to know if there are any other varieties of flower you would like me to grow that I could offer by the stem for you to arrange at home or as a wee bunch?

I am hoping there will be a good few weeks of flowers left throughout October and if I am lucky into November. From the 29th September the stall will be moving across the driveway back under the tree to allow builders access where the stall is now. There will still be flowers everyday so please just pop in and you will find it in its new spot.

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As well as the successes there are always some failures in the garden and this year it has been the narcissi and the zinnias. The winter weather went for the daffodils and narcissi and they came through in much smaller numbers and later than usual this year. The zinnias were a flower I grew in my first season. I had a few flowers but they were not very productive and I decided not to grow them in seasons 2 and 3. However I am a bit stubborn and don’t like to be defeated. This year I decided to try again. I thought as Zinnias like sunny weather they would work. Again they have produced very small numbers of flowers on weak stems. I think it is time to let growers in Southern England grow the zinnias and concentrate on the flowers I know grow well here.

The other failure of the year is the grass. You may have noticed it looks more like a field than a lawn! We have had 4 lawnmower break downs this summer including the end of the life of the sit on mower. Some lawnmower incidents definitely come back to the girls and their imaginary games. A metal bar buried from some game in the middle of the grass put paid to the mower at one point. Other problems with the mowers were just unfixable and now we need to find a new sit on mower for the start of the spring next year. In the meantime it has been suggested to us we should get some sheep!

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If you have visited the stall in the last few months you may be be wondering why we have pulled apart the round bed on the opposite side with the oval hedge surrounding it. The bed here contained a number of shrubs which had outgrown their space and the soil was poor for anything to grow in. We have replanted the large shrubs at the bottom of the garden and will flatten this area using the soil elsewhere. Eventually my dream would be to have a greenhouse there with lots of pots of flowers outside that I could take into the greenhouse to overwinter there.

I have enjoyed making gift bouquets this year. The flowers are always special as they are handpicked from the garden to mark an important occasion. You have ordered flowers for birthdays, anniversary’s, moving into a new house, the arrival of a new baby and starting a new job. Sometimes I have arranged flowers as somebody just wants to say thank you or get well soon. I like my bouquets to be as fresh as can be so offer them in water. In the past I have aqua packed them in cellophane but I wanted to reduce my use of this. Now I offer bouquets in jars of water within a kraft living vase.

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I have enjoyed my wedding work this year. Every wedding is different with couples having their own ideas to incorporate flowers into their big day. I have supplied many buckets of flowers this season as more and more couples like to arrange their own flowers with friends and family. Dates are getting booked up for 2019/2020 now so if you are interested in locally grown flowers for your wedding please get in touch.

At this time of year Christmas seems very far away but already I have started to think about it. It has been the perfect time to spray the alliums that I have been drying whilst the weather is good outside. I hope you will enjoy them as part of your Christmas decorations this year.

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On rainy days I am making as many pressed flower cards as I can so I have a good stock over the winter. I am also making up gift boxes of cards which make great birthday or Christmas presents.

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Over the summer I make as much biodegradable confetti as I can. This year I have grown much more larkspur, one of my favourite flowers and it makes an excellent addition to the confetti mix. I store my confetti in airtight kilner jars in the airing cupboard. This provides the perfect dry dark atmosphere for storing it. If you would like any confetti for a wedding or event please just get in touch to order.

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As autumn approaches the flower patch gradually winds down. It is a busy time outside with bulb planting to do, pulling apart beds, composting, mulching and arranging the autumn flowers. There is always the tax return and accounts to do and this winter I will be working on my new website. As the days grow shorter I start to plan for the coming year and one of my hopes is to start running workshops. I would love to share my garden, flowers and what I have learned with you. I also have a love of baking and really like the idea of running workshops along a particular theme with the flowers and including refreshments with homemade cake. At the moment I would love your ideas. Would you be interested in workshops? Would you like 1 to 1 workshops or groups ones with 6-8 people? Would weekends, weekdays or evenings work best? Would you like to spend a whole day in the garden with a light lunch or a couple of hours with cake and tea/coffee? I would love to know your thoughts. My initial plan was to start my first ones in March but I think it is likely building work on our house may still be going on then. It will all depend on that winter weather but I am excited to start sharing what I love with you.

2019 will be Cloudberry flowers 5th birthday. I have so enjoyed the last few years, learning about gardening, flowers and finding myself and my creative side again after having the girls. There are so many things that I am still hoping to do and I am looking forward to sharing my flowers and new projects with you over the coming years.

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At Long Last The Garden Awakens

It has been a very long winter and the growing season is off to a very late start. But at long last there are signs of life in the garden and I can start to catch up on the many jobs that need done outside. It is so nice being back out there working, even in the rain!

Growing flowers indoors has been a saviour this year for having early spring flowers and being able to fulfil my orders. I have also been able to buy in flowers that have been grown by colleagues in the South of England to use alongside my own for larger orders. Being able to provide flowers that have been grown in Britain is important to me and it is lovely to be able to buy from fellow growers if I need to. Next year I have some early weddings and we have no idea what kind of a winter we are going to get. Luckily my brides have booked over a year in advance and this means that I can plan the planting for them specifically. I will grow flowers both indoors and outdoors for their weddings to cover all weather conditions we might have thrown at us then. Booking so far in advance also means I can grow the colours of flowers they would like too.

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The flowers outside are a month behind so far which is the latest they have ever been since I started growing for you. Just a tiny bit of sunshine this week has been enough though, to get some hyacinths, narcissi and iris flowering. The daffodils are finally getting buds. I wonder if they will end up just flowering all at once rather than staggering themselves like they normally do? At long last the tulips are getting larger and the perennials are putting on new growth too. I always find this time so exciting to see my plants remerge after a cold winter and my seedlings come on indoors. Nothing can beat planting seeds and coming down in the morning to see a whole tray germinated overnight. Or going round the garden and seeing some aquilegia and astrantia leaves peeping out from the ground.

Inside we are bursting at the seams with plants everywhere. In the last couple of weeks I have started hardening off a lot of my autumn sown hardy annual and perennials. This involves taken them all out in the daytime and then putting them all back at night as the temperature dips. With so many trays going in and out it can take a good half hour at the beginning and end of the day to do this. After a couple of weeks of doing this they are ready to plant out. We are not out of the woods yet with threats of ‘beast from the east 3’ looming! so any I am planting out are getting covered in heavy duty fleece to protect them.

Today was the first day of planting out which felt such a satisfying thing to do after being stuck in limbo for so long, waiting for the snow to go. Below is a picture of some feverfew  that I grew from seeds in August and now are ready to grow on outside.

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I have been trying out my new bulb auger I got as a present for Mother’s Day and boy does that make planting bulbs easier on areas of tough ground! I am looking forward to putting it to better use in the autumn. Here I am just transplanting some snowdrops from one area of the garden to another.

I have been planting lots of new hellebores. Every year like my roses I like to add a few new ones. These ones are all a white variety to be used in spring bridal work next year. Many people think that hellebores do not make a good cut flower as they wilt, but if cut at the correct time and conditioned properly they are magnificent.

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I have been making new pressed flower cards with the flowers I have in bloom and these will be ready to go on the stall over the Easter weekend along with some jars of my first outdoor flowers, sempervivums, the last bulb baskets for this year and my seed jars. If you fancy having a go at growing some mixed cut flowers using seeds from the Cloudberry Flowers garden these little jars contain a good mixture of some of my favourite annual flowers. The stall is already open 7 days a week and as new flowers start coming into bloom more arrangements will be added daily so please pop along anytime for a treat for yourself or a gift for someone.

Its time to get the dahlias out of storage. In late autumn after the first frosts I lifted these up and prepared them for storage. I tried a new technique of wrapping them in clingfilm I had been reading about and I was impressed to see they have all come through the winter with no shrivelling or rot. In the last few years I have just repotted my dahlias in the spring, brought them on inside and then planted them out after the last frosts. This year I have been dividing the tubers for the first time to give me more plants. To do this you must cut a tuber away from the old plant making sure that you have a few eyes on them. A tuber without eyes will not grow into a new plant. They look like little raised bumps close to the top of the tuber. Below you can see the original plant on the left and the 4 new tubers I have cut from it.

Crows, pheasants and pigeons are a bit of a problem in our garden as well as the rabbits! They like to nibble on the narcissi so I have invested in some bird netting to put over the top of the growing flowers to keep them off.

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I have been laying more ground cover over the grass paths. This week I have been doing the ones surrounding the beds built in the front garden last year as I had some left over from doing the top flower patch. This will help cut down mowing time for Robert and keep the weeds and grass from getting into the beds. I have also been putting black polythene over particularly weedy areas over the winter, mulching the beds and laying fleece over the perennial bed to give them a head start getting established again.

Inside I am still sowing seeds constantly. Up until now I have been sowing hardy annuals and perennials. This week I have started off the more tender annuals such as cosmos and statice. These will be brought on indoors until the risk of frost has past in late May, early June. Seed sowing starts in January each year with my first sweet peas, but did you know I will be sowing different types of seeds every week up until September. This is what allows me to bring you flowers right through from spring until late autumn.

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This blog has been all about the garden and me in waiting, on the brink of getting those first outdoor flowers. Next time I write my blog I am hoping to have lots of beautiful pictures to show you of them all blooming away and ready to find good homes. I am so looking forward to providing you with beautiful locally grown seasonal flowers again this year and if you would like to find out more about how you can buy them to enjoy please just get in touch anytime.

Catherine x

Email: cloudberryflowers@gmail.com

Tel: 07813700786

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The perils of being a flower farmer

I have got used to being covered in bruises, cuts and scrapes since becoming a flower grower. It is not often that a day goes by where I am not scraped by a tree branch or I have slipped in the mud. This Autumn I have added to my list of gardening related injuries by a slightly more unusual mishap! As quite often happens when I am digging in the garden I recently felt some mud fly up and hit my eye. I rubbed it away and didn’t think anymore about it that morning. When I got inside I looked in the mirror to check there wasn’t anything there and my eye looked fine. Robert came home from biking at ten o’clock that night and thought I didn’t look quite right. He couldn’t pinpoint why and never said anything. A few hours after falling asleep I woke up with a sore face and went to peer in the bathroom mirror to find I only had one eye! Poor Robert was rudely awoken from his sleep to the lights blazing and his ever so slightly stressed wife demanding to know why her eye had disappeared! That was the end of any sleep for me and probably Robert that night as my eye continued to swell up. The next day I got some very odd looks on the school run and wondered how long my eye was to go on looking like this. To cut a long story short my eye had disappeared due to a sting on my eyelid which I discovered when the swelling went down and over the next few days my eye gradually reappeared!

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One of the reasons I grow flowers is it does help to increase the population of bees and butterflies in our garden, but that is the second time this summer I have been stung in the flower patch by a bee. Maybe we need to add it to the hazard section of the job description for flower farming!

My disappearing eye definitely caused the most excitement this month in the garden for my children, with Erin just telling me to ‘open your eye mummy’ but other things have been happening too. It is the time of year where the flowers start to slow down but the preparation for next year starts to get going.

We have  been digging up the front lawn again to lay more bulbs for next spring. It does look pretty bad at the moment and it has even been commented on that we been digging a graveyard and burying dead bodies in the garden! However it is amazing how quickly the ground repairs itself and in the spring there will be a good show of beautiful colour there.

I have transplanted honesty, hesperis, sweet william, ammi and cornflower seedlings into their outdoor beds. Last years mild winter meant that these plants survived and I got earlier flowers as a result. Hopefully these ones will overwinter well too. I have kept some insurance seedlings back to stay in the conservatory over the winter just in case the weather is particularly bad. Below you can see some of the transplanted seedlings in the new beds.

       

I have started to dig up and divide established perennials and will soon be mulching those shrubs that are more tender in the garden. Those plants that are particularly susceptible to frost I will dig up and overwinter in the conservatory. Below are some divided achillea that I have planted this week.

The weather was very kind during September and as a result the flowers were just beautiful. Here are a few of my Autumn favourites. I just don’t think there is anything better than the freshest of flowers that have been cut straight from the garden. They are just so vibrant, delicate, scented, colourful and last so long in a vase.

       

Even now half way into October there are still flowers coming out daily in the garden.

   

My thoughts have also turned to Christmas too. It is a while away yet and I am definitely not someone that likes to see the Christmas displays in August in the shops. Far too early! However I have discovered it comes around quickly when you have a lot of flowery things to prepare! I always enjoy making my Christmas wreaths but this year I have been coming up with a few new seasonal flower ventures to try too.

I have been busy creating more pressed flower cards and thinking of new ideas for these. I am really excited by my new project and I really hope that they will take off enough to become a part of Cloudberry Flowers permanently.

The next few weeks will see the last of the flowers for this year. Whilst this is always sad it is such a busy time putting the garden to bed for the winter that I hardly have time to stop and think about it. The last flowers start to become eclipsed by the new seeds pushing through the soil. The very beginnings of a new seasons exciting offerings and I can’t wait.

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!

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.

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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

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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