Autumn at Cloudberry Flowers

I was asked recently did I enjoy the time to sit back and watch daytime tv now the flowers were over for the season? This made me laugh as it couldn’t be further from the truth! Here’s a little insight into what I get up to when the flowers stop growing.

November this year was a month of very few flowers. Some years I am lucky and the season keeps going for longer. Early frosts in October this year brought the flowers to an abrupt end. Wouldn’t it be great to think the end of the flower season meant I could sit with my slippers on, feet up in front of the wood burning stove with a cup of tea browsing through seed catalogues and grand designs on in the background!

Back to reality  and it is jumpers, wellies, hat and waterproofs on and out into the garden for the muddy task of the day. Some days I find it really easy to go out and work if dressed in the right gear and other days its damp and cold and a bit of a boost is needed in the form of chocolate! It’s a physically demanding time of year and I am often working outside in cold muddy wet conditions. This week I was in the playground at pick up time to have streaks of mud on my face pointed out. I must start looking in a mirror more often! My birthday comes at just the right time and the girls get me stocked up with dairy milk for the digging and clearing to come. It might not sound much fun but I still get that buzz from clearing the perennials in the bed and finding the new growth for next year just peaking through the soil or the happy sense of peace that comes from digging in the garden with my friendly robin beside me.

 

I continue collecting seeds from the finished flower heads and press the last flowers that are still growing. The beds start to be cleared. All annuals need pulled up and perennials cut back. The annuals are then chopped into small pieces and wheelbarrowed down to the compost heap. Making good compost really helps mulch the beds next year. I never finish the job of clearing the beds before Christmas as I keep the plants in until the last flower has gone and I always start this job too late. It has also been hampered due to lack of access to the top flower patch while the building work in our back garden goes on. There will be plenty time in January as long as we are not under snow to finish the clearing and next year I will be more organised!

img_4325

The 215 dahlias I planted out in June need lifted, dried and wrapped for storage over the winter. This process takes me a few weeks as I only have enough space to lay them out to dry off in batches. I enjoyed the company of a curious robin who perched on my spade or the ground beside me singing whilst I dug. I have experimented with keeping a few dahlias in the ground over the winter but in our Scottish climate they rot. I have never lost any dahlias by lifting them and storing them.

img_4646

I have marked out my new beds in the front garden and they are ready for top soil. This involved me moving a lot of barrows of soil up and down the front garden hill. The chocolate is definitely needed here. I have got about 3/4 of the beds done now and hope to fence this new area and cover the paths with ground cover matting in January and February.

img_4784

This month I have spent some time giving talks to local groups. I spent a lovely afternoon with the Innerleithen Church Guild and then a morning with children at Priorsford primary school. I have done a few talks to adults about flower farming but it was my first time speaking with children. I was so keen to engage them with my love of flowers, nature, the outdoors and gardening. Without flowers growing I had to think of some new ideas to make my talk interesting. I took in some dahlia tubers, corms and seeds and showed the children that these very strange looking objects can grow into the most beautiful of flowers. I took with me lots of seed heads for the children to split open and find the seeds inside. They then collected these up to grow in the school poly tunnel in the spring. I love that the school has such an amazing facility to encourage a lifelong love of gardening and growing from an early age. I hope I can work more with children in the future.

Below is a picture of the dahlia tubers I brought in to show the children and a picture of what I showed them they turn into. I still find this an amazing process as they do look like a bunch of funny potatoes incapable of growing into anything.

 

Inside I have been successionally soaking and chitting my ranunculus and anemone corms. I then plant these up individually to grow on over the winter and provide early spring flowers. It is colder now so I don’t need to water as much but every week I must check and water my annual seedlings in the conservatory and also the bulbs I am forcing in the garage.

img_4204

Last week I finished the tulip planting. I have planted many of these in trenches outside in the flower patch and also some in crates. I have not tried this before but with spring weddings this year I need to make sure I have flowers in bloom. If I plant in crates and the weather is like it was this year with lots of snow and freezing temperatures I can take the tulips inside and bring them on there. Tulips are always one of the biggest financial investments of the year. The bulbs are very expensive and take a lot of work to plant. You then never have any guarantee they will bloom when you need them too. For example I did not have tulips blooming in April at all this year, they all came in May whether or not they were early or late varieties. So its head vs heart. My head says you don’t need many tulips, enough for your weddings and a few to sell as bunches as I don’t sell enough to warrant buying thousands. However the lure of the glossy catalogues dropping through my door more often than not makes my heart win. I just love tulips! I love the varieties that are different to what you might find in the supermarket, for example the beautiful fringed tulips. I can justify buying them by offering my customers tulips that are beautiful and different to what you would find anywhere else.

 

Its now Christmas at Cloudberry Flowers! I just love this time of year and I am looking forward to getting stuck into Christmas wreath making this week. There is still time to order your wreath this year, just get in touch anytime. I have been working on all my Christmas homegrown and handmade decorations to give you some ideas for something a little bit different this year. What do you get your granny, mum or auntie who have everything? I came up with making up bulb baskets as I know that plants flowering inside in January, February and March is something nice to cheer relatives up on dark winter days. My gift boxes of cards were for designed with the idea they would be great for someone who always likes to have a nice card to hand in the house to send throughout the year. What do you get for that work secret Santa present or to fill a hamper? My seed jars and mini hanging frames with pressed flowers are something small and a little bit different to give as a gift.

e3711465-c28b-471c-aea7-9c0fb5f70322

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas at Cloudberry Flowers without my sparkly alliums. I started growing this years ones this time last year when I planted the bulbs. They flowered in June and I cut them to dry in July and August. In October and November I spray them silver ready for Christmas. Great as a mixture in a vase or as a star at the top of your Christmas tree, they look fabulous.

img_4482

December will be a month of wreath making. I get the moss and all the foliage from the garden to make them.  This week I rake the moss out the ground and start mossing up the wreaths and next week I will start cutting the foliage and building the wreaths up into something beautiful.

732e7d35-0fcf-4f23-85df-3ee1dbf0780f

Last year I decorated my Christmas Day table with my wreaths with candles and it looked fantastic so I will be offering these for sale this year too. Wreath arrangements for your table dry out awfully easily in a heated house so make sure you keep them cool and give the foliage and moss a drink to prevent them drying out.

img_4487

In November I also bought a card machine so I can take card payments as well as cash. I know myself that I just do not use cash in the same way as I did years ago and if I was shopping I would prefer to use a card to pay. I hope this helps make visiting Cloudberry Flowers easier for my customers.

Looking ahead to next year I am excited by the weddings I have booked in and the growing has already started for these. It will be the start of Cloudberry Flowers 5th year and I am looking forward to having some lovely flowers back on the stall for my customers, where it all started in 2014. I have learnt so much and know the one thing missing from my job is sharing my love of growing with you. I would love to develop workshops for you here at Cloudberry Flowers. I had great intentions to start these this coming spring but building work at our house has revealed some major drainage issues that need to be fixed involving a lot of excavation of the back garden in the spring. Once I get my garden back I can focus on getting these off the ground and sharing my love of flowers and growing with you.

Have a fabulous festive season and I am looking forward to seeing you in the coming weeks if you pop into visit Cloudberry Flowers at its Christmas openings.

img_4536

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

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.

32205878_10155152050186152_6113315960746147840_n

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.

img_3106

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.

img_3241

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.

img_2244

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.

img_3412

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!

img_1087-1

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.

img_2967.jpg

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.

img_3408

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.

a582bf3e-c136-4d08-b65e-d09c89db6ca6

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.

img_3380

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.

img_3965

 

 

 

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.

img_9400

img_9047-1

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.

img_9038-1

img_2435

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.

img_9416-1

img_9072-1

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.

img_1367-1

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.

img_8466-1

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.

img_9077

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!

img_2966-1

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.

img_9403-1

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.

img_2230-1

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.

img_8382-1

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!

 

 

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.

image

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!

image

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!

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.

img_4463

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.

img_8174_srgb

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!

IMG_2021

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.

image

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.

image

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

fullsizerender-5

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.

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.


IMG_3072

IMG_3560_1024

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!

IMG_3574

IMG_3625

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.

thumb_IMG_4720_1024

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.

img_2364

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!



img_3148

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.

IMG_2218

IMG_2122

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