A Stormy Night

I tossed and turned a lot last night. I could hear the wind howling around the house. Surprisingly I had fallen asleep really quickly despite the storm outside and I was sure when I woke up it must be 4 or 5 in the morning. To my great disappointment it was only 2am. It was going to be a long night. Sleep was not for coming back to me hearing what was happening outside! There is nothing you can do in the middle of the night. It is pitch black and I had no way of knowing if the flower patch was flattened. I would just have to lie there and wait it out! I wonder if my fellow flower growers loose sleep on nights we have gales like I do? I manage to sleep fine even if it is raining or snowing, which can be just as damaging to flowers, but hearing the wind gets me every time!

My sensible head says to me it is mid October, the natural end to a flower season. We could have had a frost at the beginning of October and it would all have been over then. Does it matter if the wind comes in and flattens the flower patch tonight? My heart though (which does tend to rule!) says I just want a few more weeks of beautiful flowers, they looked so lovely this morning. Last year there were flowers in November, can it not be the same this year, or is that a bit greedy?! It seems cruel to have the whole flower patch flattened in one fell swoop. I think I would prefer a gradual cooling of temperatures and shorter days, with a few occasional frosts and a slower end to the flowers.

I love my job but by this time of year I am getting tired. Flower farming is physically and mentally tiring and by the end of the season with so many jobs still to do, planting bulbs, digging, mulching, pruning, dividing and clearing up for winter I could use the extra time without the flowers. And yet although it is inevitable and I know its coming I am not ready for the flowers to end. They are so extraordinary, beautiful and bring such pleasure to people. The end of the flowers also means the start of the winter!

I finally must have fallen asleep again. I hear the alarm and then Kirsten coming in to say daddy needs your help outside, I think its the stall! With a sinking heart I grab jacket and wellies and go to see what needs to be done. Walking through the garden I can see garden furniture scattered and the barbecue fallen over. And then yes there is the roof of the stall not where it is supposed to be! The whole thing had toppled in the wind. Fortunately it does look like it can be fixed fairly easily, but there will be no flowers on it today!

So what of the flower patch? I decided it was worth a quick look in my pyjamas. To begin with all you can see is the devastation after a storm. The broken stakes pulled out of the ground, the flattened flowers and the ripped tunnel sheeting. It does look like this might be it for this year. I hope my fellow growers and friends have come through the storm with polytunnels still where they are supposed to be and flowers still standing!

On closer inspection after dropping the girls at school it would appear all is not quite lost! Yes there is definitely a lost bed of rudbeckia and snapdragons and half my cosmos bed is ripped out. The dahlias have had a good bashing and I have lost quite a few. But the scabious and helichrysum are still hanging on in there with some asters, thistles and astrantia. There are roses still in bud. These Scottish flowers are resilient and I know I can be too!

 

 

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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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Triumphs and tears – the best bits of 2015

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

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

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

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

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

January 2015

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


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February 2015

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

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March 2015

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

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April 2015

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




May 2015

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

June 2015

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

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July 2015

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



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August 2015

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

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September 2015

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

  

October 2015

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


November 2015

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

December 2015

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

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

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

Happy New Year x

 

 

The cutting garden in June

What a busy few weeks it has been! We have had lots of visitors, school activities and the amazing Tweedlove biking festival, not to mention lots of gardening and flowers to arrange too! I have finally found a moment to stop, sit down with a cuppa and let you now what has been happening in the cutting garden recently.

Last weekend I had the amazing opportunity to go to Gardening Scotland and help promote British Flowers on the Flowers from the Farm stand. Flowers from the Farm is a network of flower growers across Britain who are working towards a common goal, putting locally grown flowers back into vases in peoples homes across the country. There are about 200 of us who are members and this is growing all the time. At Gardening Scotland we met with so much enthusiasm and interest from members of the public and organisations such as the Royal Horticultural Society. I also got to meet many other fellow growers from across Scotland, which was a great chance to make new friends and share our love of British Flowers.

Back at home in the cutting garden things have not been so easy with a few blustery days and nights to contend with. Luckily after watching the weather forecast I went out and did some extra staking and made sure the tunnels were really well pegged down. I think this staking really helped and although the sweet william are looking a bit battered the rest of the flowers have come through it unscathed! Now all we need is some more sunshine to help all the flowers catch up, which are several weeks behind last year now.

On a more positive note there are things flowering in the garden! The alliums are just bursting through, the lilac is flowering and I have some calendula in the fleece tunnels. The phacelia, nigella, corncockle and cornflowers look like they will be making an appearance any day now with their buds just ready to open. The hesperis must be the star of the show this week though and will be making its way into a few jam jars on Friday!

Alliums in the garden

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The first calendula and lilac

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This weeks star of the show the beautiful Hesperis

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My dahlias have come on well in the conservatory and now it is June and the last frosts are hopefully past, it is time to plant them out. I will stake these well and hope that they survive any attack from the slugs! It is my first year growing these lovely flowers and I am excited to see everyones reaction to them.

Dahlias ready to get planted out

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I have planted out the peonies in the garden but as it is their first year I am not expecting flowers whilst they put down roots and grow foliage.

The scented flower border is coming on with the delphiniums, lavender and phlox now planted out. The hydrangeas I put out too early and they have succumbed a bit to the frost. I had thought maybe they had died but there are signs of new growth coming back now. I must remember next year not to plant out any new perennials until June as the weather is just too unpredictable in Scotland!

Last week it was great to be able to use some new flowers in my jam jar posies for the garden gate stall. My favourite had to be the briza grass which reflects the light  as it moves in the breeze and adds something that little bit different to the arrangements. I will definitely be growing more of this.

Briza grass in last weeks jam jar posies

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The next few weeks will be busy while I continue to plant out the remaining annuals, stake the plants and start sewing the biennials for next year. British Flowers Week is in 2 weeks time and we are hoping that people will come along and support homegrown flowers. There may just be a few lonely bouquets to find too!

I will leave you this week with a picture of our rhododendrons which are looking spectacular at the garden gate. Have a great week and happy gardening!

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