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!

 

 

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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

 

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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