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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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!

 

 

May at Cloudberry Flowers

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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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


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

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


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


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



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



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


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

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


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



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

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


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

Catherine x

 

My journey into the wonderful world of wedding flowers

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

What have I learned about providing flowers for weddings?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Looking back and looking forward

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

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

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer at Cloudberry Flowers

Summer isn’t a word I would use to describe the last few months! Dull wet and far too cold to get the paddling pool and shorts and t-shirts out, is more like it. It was a summer holidays full of waterproofs and hot chocolates, but great fun was had by all and as usual it went by in a flash. Now we are back to school runs and activities for the girls. I have my few hours back while Erin is at nursery to get some much needed gardening done and look back over this past season and make plans for next year.

The summer for me was all about the amazing opportunity to grow and arrange the flowers for some lovely weddings. Each one was so different, with varying colour schemes. Some brides wanted the chance to do it themselves and bought buckets of flowers to take away and other brides wanted the whole wedding arranged from table arrangements to bridal bouquets and buttonholes. What I loved most is the amazing locations some of my couples this year have got married in, from country houses, to the beach or on top of a local hill with amazing views. My homegrown flowers have been able to fit in with stunning natural locations. As weddings were such a big part of my summer I am going to leave any more chat about it for another blog where I hopefully may have some lovely photos to show you.

One of my favourite things to develop this year has been my natural petal confetti and this summer I have been delighted it has been off to so many weddings, to be thrown, used to decorate the aisle for the bride to walk down or as a table decoration. I have taken over the whole conservatory as well as the airing cupboard now as my drying space. The garden has produced beautiful petals in abundance such as roses, larkspur, cornflowers and lavender.

The garden in many ways has surprised me this summer. The weather really was not conducive towards flowers blooming. They like sunshine and warmth not consistent rainy, dull, cold days. However they have flowered and well enough to provide me with all I have needed this summer. Increasing my flower patch size and therefore my flower production has given me plenty blooms to work with and allowed for the one or two disasters I have had!

Sweet peas this year have been my one big disappointment. Last year I had masses of beautiful blooms. This year I started off hopeful with over 60 healthy plants grown from seed. They transplanted successfully earlier in the year but since then they have been terrible. Half of one bed just simply died. The sweet peas that have flowered have been on very weak short stems and have dropped their petals extremely quickly. I am not sure what it is that they have not liked. They have been watered and fed when needed, tied in and supported from the wind and short of talking to them, well pampered! Other gardeners in Peebles have also reported problems with their sweet peas this summer so maybe it has just been our poor weather. A failure like this just makes me more determined next years will work as they smell too gorgeous not to grow!

Without a doubt the hardy annuals such as cornflowers are a winner for me. They just keep on giving month after month. My over wintered plants that started flowering back in June are still flowering now. These I think will always be the backbone of my flower patch.

I always like to try new seeds to grow and my new favourites this year have been consolida blue cloud and achillea the pearl.

At long last I have had success in my perennial cutting border. Fencing has worked and kept the rabbits out, allowing my plants the chance to grow for the first time.


I never thought I would ever cut up the whole of our field at the back for flowers, but I did. I was sure then that I would definitely not need any more space for flowers. But my husband started to do a couple of beds for family fruit and vegetables down the front of our garden and 2 turned into 5! Here I am shovelling topsoil for the beds, a much faster job done as family team work. I filled the barrows and Robert took them down to the new beds. Erin just liked standing on the top of them to supervise!

I now have have 3 new beds for next year, fenced off from the rabbits and ready to go. I am so excited about these and have already been busy sewing biennials and thistle seeds in here for next year.

Dahlias are gorgeous flowers that come in so many shapes, textures and colours. They are a beautiful addition to the cutting garden at this time of year. However they are not quite so beautiful when ravaged by earwigs and slugs which is what is happening at the moment to my dahlias!

This beautiful dahlias is what I would love all of mine to look like! So it has been a call to action. Nightly patrols with the torch to eliminate the slugs and earwigs I can spot and then emptying out all the upturned pots daily where the earwigs like to sleep in the day. You can see the pots filled with dried grass on the stakes in the photo below.


After the frustration of nightly slug and earwig attacks on my dahlias, it has been very satisfying making a start on growing next years hardy annuals. I have grown some directly outside which are yet to appear. The ones inside are already germinating and I will prick these out and pot them on in a few weeks time.

The other job I have been doing since the girls went back to school is ordering my bulbs for next spring. Not easy for a floweraholic like myself. Narrowing down my list gets harder every season!

Below I wanted to leave you with some of my favourite pictures from the flower patch this summer. It might not have been the hot sunny few months I was hoping for but my flowers have been as resilient as ever.


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