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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Loose Stems and DIY Wedding Flowers

Are you feeling creative and would love beautiful homegrown flowers for your wedding day? Do you like to arrange flowers in your house and would like some loose stems? Do you arrange the church flowers? Or maybe you run a business where you would like some loose flowers to arrange in a vase for your reception? I can provide you with mixed buckets of beautiful flowers or loose stems, grown here in my garden in the Scottish Borders. They are seasonal, unique and super fresh.

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DIY Wedding Flowers

As well as growing popular cottage garden favourites I also grow less well known varieties, which make excellent cut flowers. Using my buckets of flowers for your wedding or event will mean your flowers will be completely unique. They are often scented too and are available from April to early October for weddings each year.

Buckets of flowers are £50 for a DIY event bucket with 50-60 stems. This is enough to fill 4-6 jam jar arrangements or make a couple of bouquets. Buckets of flowers are usually collected on a Thursday or Friday morning for a Saturday wedding.

I love to see what my couples and their families have been able to create with my buckets of flowers. Here are some pictures Leonie was happy to share from her big day, with the gorgeous arrangements she and her family made.

Photo Credit Sansom Photography

You might feel that it would be too much pressure to arrange all your wedding flowers right before your wedding, but you still want to be creative. I also provide a ‘buckets and bouquets’ service where you can order buckets to arrange the tables yourself and I can arrange the bridal party flowers. You can enjoy the fun with family and friends arranging your flowers a couple of days before the wedding and then I can take over for the flowers that need to be arranged closer to the time.

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One of the things I often forget to do is photograph my buckets of flowers before they are collected. Here is a couple of snapshots of my flowers off to a wedding delivery. They were already in the boot of the car before I remembered to take the photographs!

DIY flowers are a great option for you if you would like to do some of the arranging yourself for your wedding, you have creative friends and family who would love to help and you want beautiful natural unique flowers for your big day.

DIY buckets of flowers are not just for weddings though. They are great for smaller events and businesses too.

Loose flowers for other occasions

You can order as many or as few stems as you like from me to suit your particular needs. I also sell flower arranger buckets £30 for 25-30 stems which are ideal if you don’t need as many as 50-60 stems:

Church Flowers

If you are arranging church flowers and would like stems of beautiful flowers cut straight from the garden please do get in touch. You do not need to be restricted to buying a whole bucket. If you just need a few stems that is absolutely fine too.

Flowers for Business

Do you own a business where you would like loose flowers weekly or fortnightly to fill a vase on your reception desk? Or maybe you own a holiday cottage, B&B or hotel where you would like flowers to greet your guests. Flowers can be available by the bucket or in smaller numbers depending on what you need.

Flowers to fill your vases at home

Do you enjoy flower arranging and instead of buying a pre made bouquet you would prefer to arrange flowers yourself in your own vases? Please do get in touch for more information. I can provide you with as many flowers as you like freshly cut for you from the garden. Given the right after care these flowers can last an incredibly long time.

I am having a party

Filling your venue or home for a party with flowers is a great way to make an impact. You can collect all sorts of vessels to contain your flowers from jam jars to gin bottles! Please do get in touch if you are having a party this year and would like some flowers.

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When should I order my loose flowers or buckets?

If you would like more than one bucket of flowers please do book at least a month in advance. This allows me to check that I can provide enough flowers for you at the time you need them and that I have no other bookings for your event date.

Ideally the more advance notice I have the more I can grow flowers to suit you and your event. For example if you are having a spring wedding having your buckets booked by the previous July will allow me to buy in bulbs in colours you would prefer. If you were getting married in the summer booking your buckets by the previous January means I can grow flowers from seeds to suit you. It is fine to book up to a month before your event but you will receive a mix of what is flowering best in the garden at the time without a choice of colours and varieties.

If you would like 1-2 buckets please order at least 2 weeks prior to your event during April-October.

If you would like a small flower arrangers bucket a few days notice will be all that is needed for me to cut and condition these for you.

If it is just a few stems you would like, for example for church flowers please just pop by anytime or give me a ring. I am usually around to cut these for you on the day.

In March, early April, late October or November please just double check with me that there are flowers available. Every year is different as the weather varies. Some years it is warm and there are lots of flowers in March and April. In other years they are buried under snow! Similarly in late October and November it can be warm and sunny and there are many beautiful flowers blooming. Yet other years there are a run of frosts in October ending the season earlier.

Why should you buy loose flowers or buckets of flowers from me?

Its very easy to pick up flowers in the supermarket for an affordable price so why should you buy loose flowers or buckets of flowers from me? There are so many good reasons, many of which gave me a reason to start growing flowers a few years ago.

Homegrown flowers are all unique by the stem. They wont be perfectly straight and uniform but differ in height, shape and thickness. This adds character and a natural style to your arrangements.

My loose flowers are often scented, which is so rare in supermarket flowers.

My flowers are as fresh as they possibly could be. I bring clean buckets of fresh water out to the flower patch so that I can cut my flowers straight into them. They are then conditioned in my old stone garage which is cool and the perfect temperature to keep the flowers fresh for you until you.

If you buy loose flowers from me you are buying something local that has been grown right on your doorstep and not travelled thousands of miles to get to you.

You can order as many stems as you need rather than having to buy a whole bunch.

My flowers are seasonal so you will not get a rose in March but you will get beautiful scented narcissi or early tulips.

The flowers will vary from week to week as the season moves on so if you wanted some regular flowers for your home or business your arrangements will always look different.

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I love growing my flowers for you every year and would be delighted to provide you with any loose flowers that you need. To discuss flowers you might like regularly in the coming months or to order stems and buckets of flowers you can contact me by phone, email, facebook message or at the house. Please leave a message on the phone if you don’t get me as I am often in the flower patch gardening and might miss you.  I will call you back as soon as I get your message.

Catherine Duncan

07813700786

cloudberryflowers@gmail.com

http://www.facebook.com/cloudberryflowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can we just press pause….

May was the last time I sat down to write on my blog. Now already we are approaching the school October holidays. This year at Cloudberry Flowers has been the fastest season yet. I am becoming more and more conscious of time passing too quickly and I would love to press pause and keep my girls just as they are. Kirsten and Anna are growing so fast and next year will see more change with Kirsten starting high school. She has not got far to go before she will be taller than me and if she keeps eating us out of house and home I think that time will come sooner rather than later! The biggest change has been Erin starting primary school. My little girl has grown up so much in just a few months and loves her days full of school and activities.

I thought having the longer days without my wee chatterbox around would be long and quiet but amazingly the days go so quickly. I still don’t seem to have enough hours in them to truly do justice to our house, garden and Cloudberry Flowers. As wedding season is still in full swing it has kept me run off my feet and I have not had time for a quiet moment. Lunchtimes are when it hits me most that there is no small person there to share their stories with you. As a consequence I am not very good at stopping for lunch and eat on the run! I will need to work on that as I find physically working in the garden all day you do need a proper break in the day.

Cloudberry Flowers continues to grow. I love that every day is different. I am always learning, whether it’s looking up a gardening book on best methods for planting or teaching myself a new skill such as making a wrist corsage or hair comb of flowers.

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I love to learn and it is amazing how you never stop in the garden and I don’t think I ever will. The flowers vary so much from season to season affected by so many variables. This year one bed of sweet peas was brilliant but at the opposite end of the patch a bed of them was really poor. My white cosmos are brilliant but my pink nearly non existent. The rudbeckia, chrysanthemums and dahlias just don’t want to flower this year but the cornflowers and scabious are proliferous.

I am enjoying growing the confetti and cards side to my business as well as my flowers. Last year I always had a good stock of confetti. This year it has sold so much I am constantly making new batches.

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I have also loved my summer of weddings. They have challenged me, they have all been different and I have loved how natural seasonal flowers have looked so beautiful and been such a special part of many of my couples big days. I have 2 more weddings this season, which prove to be a big challenge at this time of year as you keep your fingers crossed jack frost stays away and the flowers survive what the weather throws at them, gale force winds tonight! All I can do is take as many precautions as I can staking flowers and covering them where I can to withstand the weather. Despite the stresses the weather brings weddings are such a special part of my job and arranging the flowers I have grown in my own style is one of the most fulfilling bits. Look out for a blog coming up soon where you can read all about this summers weddings. Here’s one of my bridal bouquets from this season and some table flowers.

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Weddings are also a challenge from a work life balance perspective. Peak wedding season falls right over the school summer holidays and each wedding takes along time to do. First foliage is cut and conditioned, then flowers need to be cut and conditioned. Table arrangements need to be made and then there is the brides bouquets, bridesmaids, flower girls, buttonholes, corsages, flower crowns and confetti. Sometimes there are accommodation and thank you flowers too. This summer I have learned a lot about organising myself and working weddings around the children. The girls are fantastic and are really good for me on the busy days that lead up to a wedding. They have loved coming with me to deliver wedding flowers when their dad is away working too.

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At the beginning of this year I had hoped I would be able to supply local florists with my homegrown flowers as well as have enough for my stall and weddings. Unfortunately as the season had gone on this has not been possible this year, partly due to the weather and also wedding bookings that have come in after the flowers have been planted so it is not possible to increase the numbers I am growing. I hope in future years to be able to build on my planning and flower growing so that I will always have flowers available if a local florist needs a particular variety they cannot source elsewhere.

The new beds at the front of the garden have been a great success and given me the extra flowers that I have needed. As they have a different type of soil and different aspect, flowers have grown differently here. As autumn approaches I am hoping to improve the soil quality with compost and plan how I can use the beds more effectively next year. In the top flower patch my beds are deliberately narrow so I can cut flowers from all sides which works brilliantly. The beds at the front are much larger and it has been a challenge with horizontal netting in place to reach those central flowers in the beds.

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This year I have found once again that the strongest performing flowers were those that I plant from seed in August and overwinter ready to produce big healthy plants in the spring. The seeds I sow in the spring are useful to fill gaps but are not neatly as robust as my autumn sown hardy annuals. My cornflowers planted last autumn started to flower in a June and are still flowering now. Not all seeds can be sown in the autumn as they would not survive the winter outside so half hardy annuals and tender annuals do have to be sown in spring. Here are some of the seeds in early September that I had sown in August.

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Daily life at Cloudberry Flowers is always busy with digging, sowing, planting, staking, deheading, weeding, cutting, conditioning, arranging, pruning, dividing and transplanting going on. I go out in all weathers but some time in the week is spent inside card and confetti making, creating new ideas, research, liaising with brides, learning and squeezing in the odd bit of admin too! A morning last week was spent washing buckets from weddings ready for the next one and weeding the flower patch. The wheelbarrow loads then have to be taken from the top flower patch to the bottom compost heaps at the bottom of the front garden, which helps keep me fit!

The weather this year really has been awful for flower farming. We have just had so little sun and lots of damp, rainy cloudy days. Flowers do need sun and warmth to perform at their best. I am so pleased to have come through such a challenging season and still been able to produce all the flowers I have for weddings and customers. I could not have done this in previous years as I would not have been growing enough. The extra beds and flowers I now grow has really helped. Also growing enough different varieties of flower has helped as some flowers have not done at all well with the lack of sun but others have come through. I planted a lot of cherry brandy rudbeckia this year with the sole purpose of using it in a September wedding I had. Not one has flowered due to the lack of sun but I had lots of red scabious, cosmos, dahlias and larkspur I used instead which looked beautiful. This is why it is important to me to never promise a bride a particular flower in her bouquet and you do need to be adaptable if having flowers at your wedding that are seasonal and locally grown. I can promise you some absolutely beautiful flowers but I can’t promise you exactly what they will be!

One flower that in the last three seasons since Cloudberry Flowers began that I have never been able to grow is freesias. This year I had some left over bulbs and I thought I would just pop them in a bed and a few pots, plant over them and never expected to see anything come, just like previous years. In the last week I have had freesia flowers in bloom and they just keep popping up! I do like surprises and this has been a good late season one!

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Helichrysums have been a new flower for me this year too and I love them. They look fabulous in bouquets where bright strong colours are needed. They dry really well. They are strong flowers on strong stems and they mix really well with other late season flowers like dahlias and scabious.

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It is also nice to gain inspiration and for the first time we went on a family holiday abroad this summer to the Italian lakes. I loved seeing the flowers they could grow there with a bit more heat and sunshine. Their agapanthus were the first thing that struck me, so many and such strong stems and flower heads! The photograph below shows a favourite place we found. Isn’t it beautiful with just my kind of flowers, a meadow full of wild flowers in the garden of an Italian villa.

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I love my new garden gate stall that Robert built me after the last one had seen better days. Ever since Erin went to school and I have more time for Cloudberry Flowers I have been cutting and arranging flowers for the stall everyday. Robert would often be cutting grass in the evening over the summer and see people coming to the stall but as it was not a weekend there were no flowers on it. So now you can pop to the stall 7 days a week for your flowers. I like to keep the stall open in the evenings until it gets dark as it gives you a chance to pop by if you are walking the dog or after work.

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For most of us it is far too early to be thinking of Christmas and for me it normally would be as well! However the garage is now full of baskets I have been planting bulbs in which will hopefully have been done early enough they will flower around or just after Christmas, making a lovely present. Last year was the first year I had planted bulbs for forcing. I love the idea, I think the look and smell beautiful but I wasn’t happy with the height of the narcissi and hyacinths as a gift for a loved one. They were too tall and floppy! Staking with pea sticks or branches just wasn’t enough. So this year I have been planting more dwarf varieties of bulbs including iris and narcissi and I hope they will look lovely. I am still growing my tall narcissi but I will use these for Christmas jam jar posies instead.

At this time of year the question is how long will the season last? In November last year I was still making up bouquets for customers. I will have to wait and see how long it takes Jack Frost to put in an appearance this year! In the meantime I am going to keep bringing you lovely autumn flowers, clear beds for next year, plant new seeds and get on to the mammoth task of the annual bulb planting. This year I was going to be so good and not buy too many new bulbs, but then the catalogues pop through the letterbox and those tulips just look divine. The temptation was just too much and you do have to plant enough for any spring brides that would like some flowers! The result of my large bulb order will be some gorgeous spring flowers for you to enjoy in your bouquets and jam jar posies in the spring!

OCTOBER/NOVEMBER AT CLOUDBERRY FLOWERS

Bouquets and Jam Jar Posies will be available to order daily until we have a run of frosts and the flowers stop blooming in the garden. The garden gate stall will also be open every day until this time too. Fingers crossed its November like last year!

 

 

March at Cloudberry Flowers

March means waiting…. It is a time of year for me when I go through a right mixture of emotions. I can be frustrated, disheartened and lacking in patience one day and feel happy, excited and hopeful the next.

Today was a great day. It was sunny and I got so much done. I dug another bed for my perennials I use for cutting. I did think I was done cutting beds but you can never have too many, so just one more for now! I got it planted up  and then divided a lot of perennials and transplanted them. I finished off the afternoon helping Kirsten sow some seeds for her garden.

Not every day is so productive and February and the beginning of March can feel like the hardest months as I just want to get going and I can’t. If I sow my seeds too early they will be too leggy trying to reach the little light there is or get bitten by a frost. Unexpected snow or really rainy days hamper what I can do outside when there is so much to be done. It all feels rather frustrating!

Its not all doom and gloom at this time of year though! There have been glimpses of sun now and again. I have been able to grab my spade put on my oldest clothes and take advantage of these nice spells. Digging, weeding and transplanting plants for all its worth. I tend to completely overdo it on these brief nice days and often end up eating a lot of chocolate and having hot baths at night to ease those aching muscles. Who needs the gym when you can garden! I love these times with the sun on your back digging and a robin just perched watching you nearby. Often I might see a frog or a mouse jumping out from nowhere and the birds are starting to sing in the trees. Its peaceful and my happy place.

Flower growing is a lot of hard graft and sometimes you just have one of those days. I raced out to the garden last weekend when the weather was dry and the girls had thought it would be fun to soak themselves as much as they could washing our cars. I managed to mend some arches, tie in roses, transplant plants and was feeling rather chuffed with the amount I had done! This was followed by a swinging branch in my eye and skidding on the slippy stones and ending up flat on my back. Feeling more than a little bit sore I suddenly realised I had gardened for far longer than I thought and I would have some very hungry children if I didn’t get on to tea fast. Learning to slow down just a touch might help sometimes as I raced to cook tea and rubbed chilli in my remaining good eye! That night sitting down at tea I was exhausted and sore but feeling otherwise great. I had got so much done. My kids had been happy all afternoon playing in water and I finally had some beds that had more plants than weeds. I had new homes for plants that had just been in the wrong place before and I had noticed so much new spring growth in the garden.

I might find March frustrating at times due to the weather but when we got some unexpected snow a few weeks ago it was undoubtedly beautiful and gave everyone the chance to have some fun.

Once the snow had melted a week later I was delighted to walk around our garden and see some of my favourite flowering perennials showing their first signs of new growth. The photo below shows some of these including my peonies, geum and astrantia.

The bulbs are definitely coming along nicely now too, although I think we are maybe a week or two behind last year. I am looking forward to all the tulips blooming for bouquets and the  muscari, fritillary and hyacinths for my jam jar posies.

I do like to grow perennials from seed and there is nothing more exciting and rewarding than seeing a plant a couple of years on coming back up through the ground after the winter. This is especially because some perennials are just so difficult to grow from seed, like astrantia. The photo below shows some polemonium, feverfew and aquilegia I had previously grown from seed just putting on their new seasons growth now.

Seed sowing is a magical exciting time for me. After all that waiting and trying to be patient I can finally get going. This year I held off as long as I could, which I think was longer than last year! The dining room table is covered in every kind of seed you can imagine and so far I am managing to stick to my resolution of filling in my planting planner and labelling. Let’s see in April if I am still managing to keep that one up! Hardy annuals is all I am sowing just now. They are the plants that will survive a little frost. The more tender annuals I will start off later, closer to the time of planting out. From the last few years I have worked out that I don’t want to plant out anything tender before the 1st of June unless I have it in a tunnel.

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I have resisted putting up most of my low tunnels this year. Last year when I did storms in March ripped them apart, I was gutted and I don’t want the same devastation again. I may just lay fleece over my plants and put up the tunnels in late April when I think the worst of the winter weather is past. More than ever I have to watch the weather forecasts carefully at this time of year, watching for high winds and frosts. Being caught unaware from these I could lose all the flowers I have worked so hard to grow. The photo below shows my one concession to the tunnels so far but it is more of a rabbit deterrent than frost protection. The rabbits got in the fenced off area again and sheared off the tops of a bed of plants one night. You can just see some of the nibbled stalks in the bottom right hand corner! I think it was early enough in the year that they will recover and catch up by putting new growth on now as the weather warms. It is strange but our neighbours don’t have the same problem with rabbits that we do. They put it down to having a cat. That would be an easy solution if Robert wasn’t so allergic to them! Now when I remember I am trying to shut our front gates at night to help keep them out. It is at this time they all run down the hill from the high school playing fields to find their favourite garden! Even with the gates shut they still find a way in so all we can do is keep fencing them out my flowers. It’s not very aesthetically pleasing but it’s the best hope we have for my flowers.

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Also this month with the help of Robert we moved the stall. I have been meaning to do this for ages. Last year I had it on the gravel on the left as you come in the driveway. It was a good spot for it but it was in direct sunlight. I am really proud of my flowers being the freshest you can buy as I cut them straight from the garden where they are growing. But I need to keep them like this once they are arranged and that means keeping them out of the sun. Putting the stall facing the opposite way on the other side of the drive keeps the flowers away from the heat. Robert probably feels the stall is like our piano which has shifted rooms many times since we moved in! I am hoping that its new spot on the opposite side of the driveway will be its final home and no more heavy lifting will be required! It just needs a lick of paint when the weather warms up a bit and it will be good to go for the new season.

The photo below shows the stall in its new position on the right hand side as you go in the driveway . Today was the first day we had some real sun and I was really pleased to see my flowers on the stall nicely shaded whilst the old spot the stall was in had the sun coming right down on it. It was worth the heavy lifting to move it.

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Another important job to be done in March was to plant a bed of raspberries with the girls. We had enjoyed growing these in our old house and it was something the girls particularly missed. We have just planted 26 canes of Glen Ample and I had lots of help from my able assistants. We are looking forward to enjoying some family fruit in the coming years. The next stage here will be to build a fruit cage to protect our crop.

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For the rest of this month I will keep my seed sowing going. As soon as one tray germinates on the heated bed, off it comes and new seeds go on. Some seeds are amazing and germinate in 48 hours, others could take up to a month. Its like Christmas going in each morning to see which seedlings have popped up overnight! The photo below shows the heated sand bed I germinate many of my seeds on. It is usually covered in clear plastic lids or bubble wrap to keep it humid and moist. Some seeds are also in the airing cupboard in the dark, the fridge and the freezer. They all like different things and you have to cater to their needs if you are going to be successful!

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For the first time since I started growing flowers Mothers Day is quite late this year and I am hoping to have some baskets of flowering bulbs on the stall to bring a little bit of seasonal spring colour to our local hardworking mums. I will also have pressed flower cards, jam jar posies and bunches of daffodils available . These jam jar posies below were for this weeks stall. It was so nice to see a bit of colour coming into the garden and enough freshly cut homegrown flowers to work with again. The stall is hidden away in a quiet street so please do let your friends and family know where to find it so they can enjoy really fresh flowers and homegrown handmade products too.

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I have been excited to be working on my newsletter this week which I am hoping I will have ready in the next few days. It will be for anyone to subscribe to with their email and I will give you monthly updates on whats happening at Cloudberry Flowers, flowers that have come into bloom that will be for sale, news of any special offers or events and my top tips of the month for flowers and gardening.

By my next blog in April we will be back in the full swing of it, longer days, pretty flowers blooming and hopefully a little sunshine! These last few months of winter can feel long but life has a habit of moving along and before you know it the new season is off and its full speed ahead.

The perils of being a flower farmer

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

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

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

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

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

       

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

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

       

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

   

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

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

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

June at Cloudberry Flowers

I can’t believe that it’s the first of July tomorrow and that the school holidays have started already. This past month has been a whirlwind of activities for the girls from sporting events to our local Beltane festival fun. The month has been busy in the flower patch too with lots of new plants flowering for the first time.

June started with Gardening Scotland in Edinburgh. I had a lovely day taking my flowers along to this and helping to put together our Flowers from the Farm Stand. Flowers from the Farm is a network of British flower growers who work together and have been an invaluable support to me since I started Cloudberry Flowers. I hope you enjoyed Gardening Scotland if you went along at the beginning of June.

Flowers from the Cloudberry flower garden off to Gardening Scotland

Our Flowers from the Farm stand under construction with lots of lovely flowers grown all over Scotland.

This month I have loved watching all the new flowers blooming. Here are some of my favourites that I have grown for the first time this year.

Aster snowball                                             Astrantia

    

Allium graceful                                              Feverfew

      

Sweet william                         Eryngium

     

Allium schubertii                                                       Campanula

      

Peony ‘Monsieur Jules Elie’         Allium

    

Purple cornflowers                                           Orlaya

       

Omphalodes linifolia                                       Jacobs ladder

         

Centaurea                                                            Peony ‘Mothers Choice’

          

Milk thistle                                                                           Antirrhinum

        

June meant a welcome return to the first gorgeous sweet peas of the year. They are still just coming in a couple at a time, but give them a few weeks and they will be flowering in abundance just in time for the summer weddings.

Outside on the flower patch June is a time for weeding a lot! It is also time to make sure all the stakes and netting are in as the flowers get taller and need support from the wind and rain battering them. I can see how much the patch has grown over the last year as I just had to put in a new order for more stakes and netting.

I have also planted my dahlias out now the frost risk has passed. Much to my surprise I have actually had a few blooming already. Like last year they are being nibbled so I am trying nematodes for the slugs and upturned pots with dried grass to catch the earwigs.

         

I have had a lot of black flies on my achillea this year which I have tried spraying with dilute washing up liquid and even just the hose to get them off. I think it might have worked as I haven’t seen nearly as many this week.

Inside I am concentrating on next years flowers by sewing biennials. These grow into seedlings that put down roots and leaves this year, hopefully overwinter well and flower next May. I can never have enough of these as they help fill the May gap between the end of the spring bulbs and the summer annuals starting.

Biennial seedlings just germinated.

       

This month I have started to receive more orders for bouquets, buttonholes and large jam jar posies which I have really enjoyed doing. Here are some of my favourites.

                                      

It was also British Flowers Week in June which is a celebration of flowers grown across Britain. I celebrated by leaving some lonely bouquets to find around different places in Peebles. Lonely bouquets are flowers that are left for people to find and if you do you can take them home and enjoy them. I had a wee helper to find some hiding places with me!

   

Also this month I have been making more real petal confetti. I make this using rose petals, lavender, cornflowers and any other petals that I think will work well. The conservatory is a good place to dry the petals as it is the one room in the house that gets nice and warm. I then transfer them to the airing cupboard to finish drying them. The towels have to come out of it at this time of year! Last year I started by making boxes of confetti which are great if you want to take one to a wedding to throw over the bride and groom. Sometimes you need confetti in larger volumes too, for example to fill a flower girl basket or decorate tables so I have started to make up 1 litre bags to sell too.

 

Next month is an exciting one with wedding flowers each week of July. Each wedding is different and I am really looking forward to doing the flowers for them . One of them I am especially looking forward to, as I get to be a guest! My cousin is getting married and my three daughters are very excited to be flower girls. It should be a great day with lots of Ceilidh dancing to finish with!

Squelchy mud, strange weather, surveys and signs of spring

The last couple of weeks have been somewhat muddy in the garden. The arrival of the gas men to dig up the back garden and drive, alongside storm Gertrude has been a muddy combination. I did not envy them the task of digging in the wild weather we have had but I do wonder wether our garden will ever look the same again?! I have found it somewhat frustrating being cut off from the flower patch in the day whilst the work goes on. I did sneak over the gas fencing late afternoon on a couple occasions to do a bit of planting and weeding. It made me realise it is no longer dark at 4pm anymore. You can work in the garden until 5, Spring must be just around the corner!

The gas works in the garden


  

There are other signs of Spring in the garden. The hellebores and snowdrops have really come on over the last couple of weeks.

  

Here are the first tulips emerging too, much earlier than last year.

As it has been so mild it may be that the stall opens in March rather than April this year. It is looking in a bad way with the sides breaking down and some panels fallen off. Robert has brought it round to the garage for repair and thinks he can keep it going for me to do another season.

Robert works hard behind the scenes of Cloudberry Flowers. He loves practical jobs and getting outside when he gets the chance. At the moment he has been working out a way of getting water up to the flower patch for me and then we will start to put in some kind of irrigation with leaky hose. This will be a godsend in the summer and help reduce the hours I have to spend watering the flowers. No more carrying heavy watering cans and buckets up the steps or dragging hose up to the patch as there will be a tap up there. He has also been building new flower beds and has found decking makes a good affordable edge to a new bed.

The hose is now in the flower patch connected back down to the garage. Next step installing a tap.

The new flower bed with its decking edging. Just need to top it up with homemade compost.

As last week I could not get out to the garden it gave me a good chance to do some badly needed admin for Cloudberry Flowers. It’s always easy for me to put off paperwork and spend time in the garden instead. Now I feel much more organised to start the new season. I have also had the chance to look at the results from the survey I put on my Facebook page a couple of weeks ago. A good number of customers completed it, which gave me a picture of what people liked at Cloudberry Flowers or wanted to see more of.

What did the survey tell me?

I was reassured to find the stall was more easily found than I had thought it would be. Our location up a quiet street away from the centre of town and up a steep hill I had thought might be off putting and make it difficult to find.

The majority of my customers use Facebook as a means of finding out about my flowers. I have found Facebook a very useful tool for advertising a business but somewhat unreliable! From experience the only way to guarantee someone will continue to receive notifications about my flowers is for them to like, comment or share any posts from Cloudberry Flowers they see. Facebook then allows them to see future posts. So for me it is a very useful way to let customers know when the stall is open and what flowers are available, but I cannot rely on it completely.

The survey showed that the jam jar posies on the stall are really popular. I love them as they are such a beautiful natural way to display flowers in your home and can be used in so many ways from one simple arrangement on a bedside table to a more impressive statement with a row of them decorating your dinner table. Jam jars of flowers use stems that are short and it is also nice to be able to buy long stemmed flowers you can fill your own vase at home with. The results of the survey did show that customers would like to see mixed or single flower bunches on the stall. This year as soon as the longer stemmed flowers start to bloom I will include some bunches alongside the jam jar posies and this will give my customers more choice.

The days I open the stall in the week is something I have thought a lot about since October. I had thought about changing the opening times from Thursday to Saturday as I felt sales were poor on a Sunday and I was wasting a lot of flowers. It was not a surprise that the great majority of people surveyed would visit the stall on a Friday or Saturday. However Thursday and surprisingly Sunday were popular too. From this feedback I have decided to open the stall on Thursday – Sunday this season. Flowers will be available every day of the week made to order too.

It was really encouraging to see that my customers thought the flowers were good value for money as deciding on the price of my flowers was something I found difficult last year. Running a business for the first time did mean I made mistakes with my costs. I underestimated my time and labour growing and arranging them grossly, concentrating more on the cost of the flowers and sundries. This winter I have been looking at my pricing a lot to make sure I get it right so Cloudberry Flowers can continue. It does mean there will be changes to some prices, which I hope my customers understand and I hope to keep further changes in the future to a minimum.

One of the ideas suggested which I found really interesting was providing plants to sell on the stall. This is something I would like to give some thought to in the future when Erin has started school and I have more time to devote to Cloudberry Flowers.

All in all the survey was really worthwhile and it was so valuable to have feedback from my customers. A big thank you to everyone who completed it for me.

It felt like Christmas again this week as I received another package through the post full of hedging plants. I do love a box arriving full of things for the garden! When I started the idea of cutting up the field for a cut flower patch we collected all the sods and placed them upside down along our back fence in piles and left them to break down. Now they have turned into a lovely bed of soil between the wooden fence and the rabbit fence but I hadn’t done anything with it. Today the snow had thawed, the girls were playing nicely in the front garden and I grabbed the chance to plant the bare root hedging plants and shrubs which had arrived. I chose each one to provide some interest from flowers and scent to hips. They will also be a haven for birds and other wildlife. The planting has included hawthorn, crab apple, willow, daisy bush, osmanthus burkwoodii, euonymus japonicus, viburnum tinus, prunus avium, rosa rugosa, June berry and dog rose. I hope I will be able to use them in time in my bouquets and jam jars too to continue the natural feel I like to have in my arrangements. I will so enjoy watching this area grow over the coming years.

  

And finally this week I don’t know about you but when I spend hours digging in the mud it just seems to get ingrained in my hands even though I have been wearing gloves! This year for Christmas I got some Crabtree and Evelyn gardeners hand scrub with pumice. What great stuff. I think it’s the only thing I have found so far that really gets the mud off my fingers. I think I will be using a lot of that this year along with an awful lot of handcream!! Has anyone come across any great hand creams for gardeners?

The week ahead will be another few days of the gas men in the garden working on the pipes, so it will be indoor time for me to spend sorting out my new seedlings and potting on. There is nothing like seeing seeds emerging as wee plants to nurture and know given the right care they will eventually turn into beautiful flowers.

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

 

 

Behind the flowers

When you pass the garden gate at this time of year and see the stall empty of flowers it would be easy to think things have ground to a halt. There is not much sign of life and the garden looks like it has gone to sleep. However behind the scenes things are as busy as ever.

November is the time to put the garden to bed for winter. It has been towards the end of the month that I started this as it has been unusually mild. During the end of October and the beginning of November I was still surprised that a few flowers were continuing to pop up. I did wander whether I had shut the stall too early but I think it was the right decision as I have had flowers but not in any quantity to sell.

Gardening at this time of year has required a bit of chivying myself along. It’s warm inside. I could have the kettle on and could be staying dry tackling the never ending pile of washing with a nice cup of tea. Or I could tog myself up in waterproofs and wellies and get out in the flower patch. For me a morning in the wet and wild outside digging is much preferable to the dreaded ironing, so it’s not too difficult to choose! Once I am out its really not bad, there is the fresh air, the physical exercise, the satisfaction of planting and often a friendly robin sitting beside me for company. Spending all this time outside at this time of year has meant I have ended up looking some state by the time I run last minute to pick up my daughter from nursery. Looking down in the cloakroom the other day I realised I was covered in mud from the tops of my legs down! Another day I was heading out the nursery door when I felt the teacher touching my hair. I wondered what she was doing but she was just pulling twigs out of it! I find I lurch from intensive sessions in the garden during nursery hours to running to the pick up and spending time doing activities with my daughters in the afternoon. The evenings are dark now so I am no longer in the garden once the girls are in bed but I am busy pouring over books and catalogues learning and planning for next season. I find this bit exciting, what to grow, the favourites from last year of course but choosing lots of new and interesting varieties too.

So what am I doing in the mud and rain in the garden at this time of year? The first job is removing all the spent annuals. I have been doing this gradually as I kept holding on to the last few scabious and cosmos. It’s hard to let go when they are still beautiful!

The very last flowers from the garden this year

Now however we have had the first snow and ice and it is time for them to come out. This has been a harder job than I thought as some of the stems have become very thick and are well rooted in the ground. Lots of digging, a little muscle required and a lot of mud!

The weather has finally been cold enough to be the right time to dig up and store the dahlias. In milder climates you could mulch them and leave them in over winter but in Scotland I am doubtful they would survive. When I dug them up I washed the soil from the tubers, chopped the leaves off and left them upside down to dry for a few days before storing. Erin thinks they look like odd potatoes. I have to agree they do look very strange and it’s hard to believe they can produce such beautiful flowers.

Dahlia tubers or ‘strange potatoes’ as Erin calls them!

The weather has also been cold enough to plant the tulips now, bringing to an end all my bulb planting for this year. Last year I planted 300 bulbs in the garden. This year I have just finished planting 2200. I am hoping it means I can properly extend my season providing a good supply of flowers in April and May. It has also enabled me to try lots of new varieties of bulb and I am looking forward to seeing which become favourites.

Earlier in the year I planted anenomes and ranunculus for the first time. I loved these flowers and know that I could have them flowering earlier in the spring if I plant the corms now. How they will fare over the winter I am not sure so I have planted some indoors in the unheated conservatory and some outside in the raised bed which I have covered just now.

These ranunculus bulbs have been soaking overnight to rehydrate before planting.

Tulips getting planted. My husband says maybe I should aim for straighter rows. I didn’t think they were too bad until I saw the picture! 

Roses have always been a favourite of mine for years but not the kind you might buy in the supermarket which all look the same with no scent. Traditional garden roses are what I love full of rich scent and gorgeous blooms. November is my birthday month and also the perfect time to plant bare root roses so I was lucky enough to get a few more favourites! I have planted ‘The Generous Gardener’ and ‘A Shropshire Lad’ to be grown over two arches over the two entrances to my flower patch. Hopefully these will grow up over the next few years to make a nice welcome if you are visiting Cloudberry Flowers. I have also been increasing my stock of roses and peonies for my beds I started last year with the view to use them for cutting as they become established.

One success I have been proud of is the leaf mould we made. We collected lots of leaves last autumn and have been letting them rot down over the last year. It has produced a really good mulch which I have been spreading around my perennials to help protect them against the winter weather. It is an amazing free product you can make yourself in the garden with just a little effort and a small area to store the leaves. If you do not have much space just collect leaves up in black bin bags with a few holes in them. Dampen down the leaves a little if dry and leave in a shady spot for a year and you will end up with a great mulch. Leave it for a further year and you will end up with a much finer texture. Due to the success of this we have been back out this year collecting as many leaves as we could for next years batch.

Winter is also a good time for networking. Flower farming is a job you do on your own so I do not have the daily contact with worth colleagues I would get in an office. Previously working as a dietitian I had contact with colleagues and patients all day which I loved. My new career is very different in this aspect and meeting fellow flower growers has been especially important to me. November saw the annual meet up of Scottish Flower Growers and we are all members from Flowers from the Farm. It was a chance to discuss what had worked well and what hadn’t over the season, our plans as individuals for the following year and also plans for working together on projects in Scotland. It was a great day full of discussing what we all love ‘home grown flowers’.

So what will the next few winter months bring? I think I will realistically still be putting the garden to bed for the winter in January as there is just not enough child free time in the day to get it done, but slow and steady wins the race!

Winter also means Christmas. I have loved this time of year all my life and I am definitely not one to skimp on the decorations, size of tree or family traditions. I love the chance to do creative projects from baking with the children to last year making my first wreaths. This year I am looking forward to making some wreaths for customers at Cloudberry Flowers. My first task is to collect moss from the garden. I am sure my neighbours must think I am very odd scarifying small patches of my lawn before Christmas! I collect cones, berries and whatever material in the garden I think will look best and last well. The smells in the kitchen as I dry the orange slices for the wreaths put me right in the Christmas mood! Then it is time to put the wreaths together. This is very tough on the hands as you are using wire to bind the materials so I know I will be asking for handcream for Christmas!

I will finish making the wreaths the last weekend before Christmas. This is early I know but while my girls are still young and caught up in such a magical time I just want to hold on and cherish it. I will enjoy spending some precious days with them doing lots of Christmas activities and baking before the big day when we will enjoy time with my husband and both our families. It will then be time to look forward to a new year, growing in the garden and growing Cloudberry Flowers too!

Enjoy your festive season and Merry Christmas

Catherine x

Why buy homegrown flowers?

Tomorrow marks the start of British Flowers Week (Monday 15th – Friday 19th June). This is a week focussing on celebrating and promoting seasonal locally grown flowers and foliage. It was started by New Convent Garden Flower Market and is now in its third year. The aim is simple to get British flowers back into vases in our homes.

This year to celebrate British Flowers Week I will be leaving some bunches of flowers in scenic spots in our local town.  These will hopefully provide someone with a nice surprise and then once they have found them they can take them home. As it is British Flowers Week I also wanted the focus for my blog to be why buy homegrown flowers?

Did you know that 90% of flowers we buy in the UK are imported and only 10% are grown in this country. This is compared to 50% of flowers being homegrown 20 years ago. The chances are that the flowers you buy from the supermarket or florist will have travelled thousands of miles in refrigerated lorries and aeroplanes to reach your vase. Flowers will have travelled not just from Holland but from as far away as Africa and South America where they are grown on an immense scale, therefore with associated problems.

Over the last 10 years there has been a trend towards buying our food locally when we can. We are more aware of where our food has come from and look for freshness and quality in the produce we buy. However when we buy flowers many of us don’t consider where they have come from.

I along with many other growers of British flowers hope to get you to look at flowers in a new way. Instead of going to the supermarket and buying a bunch of roses that are all uniform in size and shape, with no scent, which have been flown thousands of miles, consider the alternative. Dropping in to your local flower grower and buying a bunch of flowers that are natural and smell devine and whats more you can see exactly where they have been grown.

So what good reasons are there to buy homegrown flowers?

Scent

The scent of homegrown flowers is abundant and delicious. When I first started selling flowers it amazed me how I could walk towards the stall and the scent would just hit me. I love the time I spend in the cutting garden taking in all the amazing scents of the different flowers and it is one of the main reasons I wanted to grow flowers to sell. I wanted other people to enjoy this too.

Freshness

You can’t buy flowers any fresher than when they have been cut and conditioned for you straight from the cutting garden. You can be reassured that no chemicals have been used to preserve the flowers life too. Flowers can last longer in the vase as they have not spent the additional days travelling before they reach the customer.

Unique

You know that the bunch or jam jar of flowers you have bought will be unique as it was made using the best of what the cutting garden had to offer. When you come back for another bunch of flowers you know that it will be different to the one you had before as the seasons move forward and different flowers come into bloom. Buying locally grown flowers you may also find your bunch includes varieties that you would never find in the supermarket. Many flowers are just too delicate to be imported. Next time you buy a homegrown bouquet see if you can identify all the flowers in it. You may just end up with a new favourite!

Seasonality

When you can buy a particular type of flower all year round from the supermarket or florist you lose the ability to know what is in season when. if you buy locally grown flowers you increase your knowledge and awareness of the seasons. You start to learn that you can get bluebells, tulips and anenomes in May, cosmos and cornflowers in July and Dahlias is September. The following year you can get excited at the thought of these flowers appearing in the different months and popping down to get a bunch of them for your table at home.

Biodiversity

By supporting local flower growers you are helping increase biodiversity. Flowers provide food and a habitat for wildlife such as bees, butterflies and insects.

This British Flowers Week if you are buying flowers for yourself or as a gift consider buying locally grown ones. You will not only take home a beautiful, scented, unique product that has been grown with love but you will be helping the environment and doing your bit to revive flower growing in Britain today.

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