Life has taken me down a totally new path over the last few months and never more so than in September where I have achieved things I never could have dreamed of a few years ago. Walking around the dialysis unit seeing my renal patients as a dietitian and then becoming a mum to my 3 beautiful girls I never would have thought I would be doing what I am doing now. September has challenged me, pushed me completely out of my comfort zone, taught me new skills and led me to achieve a dream, growing and arranging wedding flowers.
The start of the month there was a big change in the weather. Previously I had been able to cut flowers early in the morning before the girls woke up for school. Now the mornings were chilly leaving dew on the flowers and no good for cutting. By the time I got back from the school run the weather was warming up and it was too late to cut! So flowers needed to be cut in the evening and this was also proving challenging as by the time I got bedtime stories and baths done it was dark outside! Time for a few nights out with a torch in the cutting garden. This had the added bonus that I finally found the attackers on my dahlias, 20 slugs in one night enjoying a good munch!
September saw the end to some of the flowers in the cutting patch and the start to others blooming such as scabious, rudbeckia, sunflowers and dahlias. I could see the buds coming out on the scabious and the July planting of phacelia and cornflowers but would they be ready in time for the wedding at the end of the month?
The weather was starting to make me nervous as we went through the month. It was dull, cold and at times wet and windy. Not conducive to bringing flowers into bloom. Some sleepless nights were going to be had wondering if I could do this and produce the flowers I needed for the wedding. Flower growing is certainly a nerve wracking job as you have no control over the weather. You can do everything you can to help things along. Covering the flowers to keep off the wind and rain, staking them well, continually deheading to ensure new blooms, but at the end of the day the weather is in charge and you just have to keep all your fingers and toes crossed!
September also brought with it a delivery of bulbs for planting in the autumn which will produce lots of lovely colour in the spring bouquets. Choosing is very hard when you love flowers as you want to buy everything! I finally narrowed it down to a good mixture of well known tulips, narcissus, hyacinths and alliums and some less well known bulbs such as ixia, camassi and triteleia . Yesterday was a beautiful day and as a family we all pitched in to help and got a good 600 in the ground. Just a 1000 to go now!
Lots of bulbs arrived!
The girls helping me plant bulbs while daddy lifts the turf.
Another first in September was running a Cloudberry Flowers stall at a charity fun day. I have ran the stall in my garden as a self service one since April but never done one in public before. I was unsure how well received the flowers would be, whether I would have the confidence to do it and enjoy it. However enjoy it I did and people seemed to love the flowers. It was a great day and gave me a good bit of encouragement to try new things with the business in the future. I won’t be so nervous next time!
The Cloudberry Flowers stall at Hartree charity fun day
When I started Cloudberry Flowers the garden gate stall in the garden seemed the perfect place to sell from. To me it meant customers could actually come directly to the place the flowers were grown and buy flowers that were newly cut, conditioned and arranged. The flowers would never have had to travel and people could come and choose the ones they liked at anytime of the day or evening. I even thought it might be a good way for men to be able to buy a woman flowers anonymously! However the stall is proving to have its pitfalls. We do live in a location with very little passing trade and unless you know it is there you will never see it. The high street can be really busy on a Saturday yet our street only 5 minutes away is very quiet. I have also found this month that there is a definite pattern emerging. Flowers seem to sell on Fridays and Saturdays but not Sundays so I will have to review this for next season and see if I need to change the days it is open. Some weekends the sales have been good and it is such a lovely feeling that people want to buy the flowers you have grown. Other weekends sales have been very poor and at times I have a high wastage of flowers on a Sunday night. This leaves you feeling a bit disheartened and questioning what you are doing wrong. Overall it is a bit of an emotional roller coaster and the stall has given me lots to think about and review over the winter as I start to look at next years season. Any suggestions and feedback about the stall will be gratefully received!
The Cloudberry Flowers Garden Gate Stall
I love to learn new things and since I stopped work as a dietitian before my eldest daughter was born I haven’t really stretched myself. I have dabbled in cake decorating and taught myself to do that through books and trial and error! I have had a lot of fun with making cakes for friends and family and still do. At one point I decided to teach myself how to make curtains and blinds for our old house. There was a major sense of achievement at the end of it but I can’t say I enjoyed it! As my mum knows all too well sewing was never a strong point of mine. As my family is growing up now I have found I really need to find me again, learn new things and find a career I love that fits in with being there for my children. September has given me a few opportunities, giving me a really good start in building up some floristry skills and finding my own style.
Growing my own flowers is great but you also need to know what to do with them. At the start of September I went to visit a new friend in the borders who had been a florist for many years and now grows her own flowers too. She was kind enough to share techniques for bouquets and buttonholes with me and it gave me a great start to go off and practice myself. In the middle of september I had a fantastic day at the British flowers Workshop Scotland in Edinburgh. It was a course dedicated to floristry skills using British grown flowers. I met up with fellow flower growers I had met before and made some new friends too. It was such an inspiring day working with beautiful flowers and gaining confidence in arranging them. Learning from different people I have found really beneficial. It has allowed me to practice varying ideas and skills to develop my own style that works for me and I now have the confidence to go with that.
The bouquet I made at British Flowers Workshop Scotland
My first flower crown made at British Flowers Workshop Scotland
It then got to a week before the wedding. I had the new found confidence in my own floristry skills but the weather was really playing havoc outside in the cutting patch. I have never watched the weather forecast so closely in my life! What it was saying was a lot of wet weather was coming our way and the wind was picking up too! Not good for the nerves this close to the wedding. A friend had an inspired idea of putting up a gazebo over a section of the cutting patch to protect some of it from the rain. So on the Sunday afternoon after being a bit dubious at the idea and having visions of gazebos taking of in the wind over the road my husband and dad helped out and put it up with a lot of reinforced roping! It worked a treat. The rain hammered down and it stood its ground. At least a section of the wedding flowers were protected! My phacelia that I had planted especially for the wedding were starting to bloom. Unfortunately my white and lilac cornflowers were not. I decided to cut them in bud and bring them into the warm to force them into blooming but it was a lost cause. If a cornflower is not ready to flower it will not!
Phacelia in bloom the week before the wedding.
The white cornflowers in bud but not ready to bloom for the wedding
Wednesday came and it was the start of the major cutting, conditioning and arranging for house flowers right up to Saturday and the brides bouquet, buttonholes and table centres. It was a week of hard work especially with the girls still to be looked after too. The appearance of grandparents on Friday was a godsend so that I could then just concentrate on the flowers. Once the flowers were cut, I knew I had grown enough and they were sitting conditioning in their buckets, the sense of relief was huge. I could now concentrate on using the skills I had been practising for the last few months to arrange all the beautiful flowers. I loved working with them, putting theory into practice and being creative. Now I had some lovely flowers and I just needed to get them there in one piece the next day! Going to bed that night I suddenly had a panic, what if someone decides tonights the night they are going to burgle the sheds and garages? My husband thought I was being completely daft and said of course they are not going to steal flowers, if they are going to steal anything it would be the tools or bikes! Needless to say they were all still there in the morning!
Travelling with flowers you have arranged in a variety of jars and vases is a bit tricky. Especially on small country roads where you really do feel every pothole as you go over them! Bubble wrap and strapping the boxes of flowers in with seatbelts worked really well and driving very slowly! I think the back window maybe needs a sign saying sorry driving slowly important wedding flowers on board! The flowers got to the bride and the wedding in one piece and driving home I felt so proud and happy of what I had achieved and judging by the number of yawns I managed that day more than a little tired! Hopefully my wedding couple will always look at phacelia, cornflowers and scabious blooming in September and be reminded of their wedding. That is the joy of using seasonal flowers.
My first bridal bouquet wrapped in twine and full of beautiful scabious, mint, cosmos, cornflowers, borage, phacelia, ammi majus, ammi visnaga, nepta cat mint, marjoram, eucalyptus, salvia, sweet peas, perovskia or russian sage, physostegia and didiscus.
Buttonholes wrapped in twine and made with rosemary, white heather, echinops, cornflowers, nigella seed pods, achillea, rose and weigela leaves.
Table centres in jam jars wrapped in twine and full of cosmos, mint, echinops, cornflowers, salvia, phacelia, ammi, borage, nigella seed pods, briza grass and sweet peas.
So now sitting on monday morning after the wedding writing this blog would I grow the flowers for a wedding again? Definitely! To grow and arrange the flowers for a couples wedding is an amazing privilege and for a while you are part of their dream which is a special place to be.