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

 

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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

 

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

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

Double narcissus.

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

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

Ollioule tulips flowering in the garden.

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

Cornflowers I planted in the autumn.

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

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

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

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

Laying the soaker hose in the flower patch.

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

Fleece tents for the sweet peas.

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

Unforecast April snow on the flower patch!

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

Our visiting ducks Lily and George!

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

The girls busy at their raised beds.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spring bouquet of hellebores, narcissus and purissima tulips.img_4561