A Stormy Night

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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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

Autumn flowers and the end of the season

October has been a beautiful month full of mostly dry days and some stunning autumn colours on the trees. It just makes me want to get my hiking boots on and get out for a good walk in amongst all our stunning countryside. In the flower patch things gave gradually started to slow down. The weather has been good but there has not been enough warmth or sun to bring out many new blooms. Having said that the cosmos, scabious and dahlias are hanging on and producing enough for me to cut and enjoy in the house.

Dahlias have taken me by surprise. I thought I would grow a few just to see but did not expect to like them. They seemed showy to me and I thought I liked more delicate flowers. I am now converted! I have loved my dahlias especially the waterlily varieties.


They provide some gorgeous flowers late in the season when other things are tailing off. They have a bit of a reputation for not lasting very long in the vase. Whilst I have found this true of the bishop dahlias, if properly conditioned the waterlily dahlias have lasted a lot longer. Some of my dahlias just were not right for bouquets. This variety yellow passions was enormous and a really vivid yellow, so was just too much to use and would have overwhelmed arrangements.

After learning which types of dahlia last well in a vase and which colours and sizes work in bouquets I have been spending October trawling through specialist dahlia catalogues.  I have drawn up as usual a rather large shortlist of new varieties I would like to grow next year which can be used in garden bouquets and also bridal work. It’s so hard narrowing it down. You think you have your list and then you spot another that you love which is not that different to the others. The trouble is you can’t choose between them so you end up ordering both. Not very business like but it just seems to happen when you love flowers!

This year scabious has been one of my favourite flowers and lasts absolutely ages in a vase. I did plant a lot, many buds emerged, but a disappointing number of actual flowers bloomed. I don’t know whether this was a general lack of warmth or sunshine but I am determined to get more to flower next year. I have the winter to figure it out!

October gives you a chance to look back over the season and see what has worked really well in the cut flower patch. Without out a doubt the calendula and cornflowers were the work horses this year, flowering all the way from May until October. Closely followed by the sweet peas and phacelia.

Of the new flowers I tried this year Nigella was my favourite. It is so unusual, delicate and has the most amazing seed pods. It did not flower for long, just July and August but I think with better successional sewing I will get more from this amazing flower next year.

By the middle of October sales had tailed off on the stall and flower production had slowed down. At this time of year with the stall closed and still a few flowers in the garden it gave me a chance to practice bouquets and enjoy some flowers in the house. We had fun dressing up one weekend to take some mock pictures of the flowers for a wedding.

Last stall of the season  

The girls thought it was a great idea for mummy to put her wedding dress on. It still fitted!  

Finishing selling the flowers also gave me a chance to start the big clear up in the garden. But first I started in the conservatory. I emptied it, scrubbed windows, floors, seed trays, benches and put it all back together. It was a day of hard work but worth it as it is now a much healthier environment for overwintering my seedlings in. Hopefully they will survive the cold, get planted out in Spring and grow into very strong plants. Now I just have to tackle the rest of the garden!

I have finished planting the bulbs, except for the tulips which I will do when the weather is much colder in November. If you plant tulip bulbs too early they are at risk of rotting in wet soil or getting tulip fire disease which is caused by a fungus. The fungus is less likely to spread in cold weather.

October is a funny month with the season growing to a close. It feels somewhat sad to pull the cut flower patch apart and get rid of all the annuals. But at the same time I’ve planted lots of seeds and bulbs which bring with it the hope of new flowers in the spring and kept me busy as I was missing seeing my customers. It has been a month to reflect on the season and what has worked well and not so well. To spend more time with my family instead of dashing to the garden to ‘just do something for a minute’ that turns into half an hour! We had a lovely October holidays where I could spend time with the girls doing all the things life seems too hectic for these days, baking, painting, making the Christmas cake, bike rides and leafy walks. I got a chance to be busy in the kitchen for an important birthday too!

November will bring the end of the planting and clearing up the garden, a much anticipated holiday where I won’t have to worry at all about the garden when I am away! Then it will be back to make some lovely Christmas wreaths. Doesn’t time fly!

Weddings, weather and widening my horizons.

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.  

August in the cutting garden

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August this year has just disappeared in a flash, just like the school holidays. The children are now back at nursery and school giving me some precious time to get cracking in the garden. I can start to tackle the list of jobs for this time of year and all the ones that got a bit neglected over the holidays!

Going back to the start of the month I was pleased to come back from a holiday in Arran to find there was not too much damage in the cutting garden. We had been away when it was a particularly wet week. This had the advantage that friends and family did not need to water as much while I was away, but did mean a lot of the flowers had turned distinctly mushy! Annual flowers never cease to amaze me as a good deheading round the garden and they all sprang back to life with new blooms. They really live up to their name as cut and come again flowers.

Along with maintaining the cutting garden, weeding, deheading flowers and watering it is this time of year I start to look forward to next season and planting for that. My bulb order has finally gone in ready for the autumn. I had to try and curb my enthusiasm for trying far too many different varieties. It is very easy to get carried away! I do have some lovely new varieties of tulip and daffodil I will be trying as well as some more unusual bulbs.

I have also sown the first of my hardy annual seeds. Some of these I have direct sown. If it is not too hard a winter hopefully some will survive to produce stronger earlier plants in the spring. As a contingency I have also started sewing some undercover in the unheated conservatory. This may seem very early to plant hardy annual seeds but I find that in Scotland with the colder weather if you do not start them off early enough they will not have enough time to put down roots and grow before winter sets in. I have been sewing some of my old favourites like cornflowers and ammi majus but I also love to try new things so I have planted some antirrhinum majus or snapdragon, lagurus or hares-tail, godetia and sweet Annie for foliage.

Earlier this month I planted out the biennial seedlings I had been growing in the conservatory. Planting them out then gave them a good chance to get growing before the cooler weather sets in.

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My sunflowers have started to bloom despite the cold summer and the attack on its leaves by a mystery offender!

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It has been my first year growing dahlias and this has been a bit of a learning curve. Both the flowers and the leaves have been nibbled and it took me a while to catch what was doing it. I couldn’t see any slugs on my nightly torch patrols and couldn’t catch any earwigs in my traps. Eventually it was the beer traps that revealed the culprit and it was definitely slugs, which had been hiding from me! The dahlias are beautiful flowers but have a limited vase life. However I have found that the karma varieties last really well compared to the bishop ones.

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This month I was excited to launch my real petal confetti for events and weddings. The box of confetti is the perfect size to fit in your bag if you go to a wedding and the confetti looks equally lovely as a table decoration. To make it I have been drying the lavender, rose and cornflower petals from the garden. This hive of industry has now relegated towels to the spare room bed and the petals get the airing cupboard! It is the perfect place to dry them.

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I have found that as my business grows I am needing to get out and about more in the car to deliver flowers to customers. My husband kindly put together a frame for the boot to hold my buckets without them moving all over the place. This means I can deliver flowers really fresh as they can stay in water right up to your door.

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The roses in the garden have been sensational for their first year. I am looking forward to using them in the future for cutting as the bushes become more established. Here are a couple of favourites from the garden and they all smell gorgeous!

Margaret Merril                                               Isn’t she lovely

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August is a great month for colour in the garden and here are a few pictures to show you what is flowering in the cutting patch this month:

Ammi Visnaga is just starting to come into bloom and the ammi majus is still putting on a good show.

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The bronze fennel is looking good.

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The salvia has been a brilliant cut flower this year and is definitely on the list for next season.

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The rudbeckia is just starting to flower. This is where you start to see the autumn colours start to come in, full of reds, yellows and oranges.

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The cosmos is just starting to pick up and bloom more consistently now. It should provide a lot of flowers until the first frosts.

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The cornflowers are still blooming. Along with the phacelia these flowers have been blooming from the same plants all summer!

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The sweet peas are really producing a mass of flowers just now. They may only last a few days in the vase but are well worth a continual supply in your home just for the scent as you walk in to the room. Cutting sweet peas has led to a few disasters this month! One of my more memorable ones was having just finished bunching up 2 jugs of sweet peas to go on the stall I made to walk out the garage. Somehow I managed to trip over a bunch of garden tools and the sweet peas and I went flying. I landed in a big muddy puddle and the sweet peas went sailing through the air to land in the dirt too. After a few frustrated tears and a few bruises we managed to start again and cut some more. The tools now have a new home in a shed where they were supposed to be in the first place! Looking back it now seems funny but it didn’t feel like that at the time!

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With the end of the summer holidays and people returning home the flower stall has been busier and I have enjoyed meeting new customers and making bouquets for different occasions. One of the things I love about growing flowers for people is there is always a different story behind someone buying them. Some people buy flowers to brighten up their day and their homes. Others buy them to cheer someone up when they are feeling sad or unwell. Or to make someone feel happy and help them celebrate an important occasion, say thank you, I love you or even sorry. Homegrown flowers I think are just that bit extra special as they have been grown with love and care and really do help put a smile on someone’s face.

Here are some of my favourite flowers from August to leave you with..

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Growing up and planting out

This week has just flown by. It has been full of the usual chaos going back to school and everyones activities after Easter. It has also been a little bit emotional, with my youngest daughter starting school nursery and all of a sudden seeming all grown up. For the first time in many years it has left me with a couple of hours in the day with no children at home! I wasn’t sure what this was going to feel like. In the end I had no time to think about it too much as my list of jobs in the garden was so long, and the sun was out to get them done!

What you can manage in a couple of hours with no children at home is amazing! I have planted out my first batch of sweet peas and planted my tuberose and ornithogalum thyrsoides bulbs. I also planted out my nigella, sunflower, phacelia, calendula and stocks seedlings under fleece in the cutting patch.

Newly planted out sweet peas

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The cutting patch is looking like a sea of fleece tunnels at the moment but hopefully this will help protect the seedlings. Although it is hot in the day the temperatures are dipping at night and next week is supposed to be much colder again.

Lots of fleece tunnels in the cutting patch

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In the conservatory I have also sown a few more zinnia and scabious seeds. It has been so hot the doors and windows have been open, so the seedlings don’t overheat. I had to get the watering can out every night and give everything a good drink, which a few weeks ago I would never imagined I would be doing!

I have spotted the first bluebells in the garden and also the first rhubarb. I will be looking forward to a good crumble on a Sunday now!

First bluebell                         First fruit in the garden this year

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Flowers for selling are still coming in slowly but the honesty and wallflowers have been putting on a good show this week and I have managed to make a few jam jar posies which smell gorgeous! The first tulip ballerina also came into bloom and I just love its shape and colour.

Honesty                                        Wallflower                              Tulip Ballerina

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This weeks jam jar posies

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My dahlias are starting to emerge now in their pots and the peonies are really coming on. This time of year is exciting when you see so much new growth. The rhododendrons in the garden are just coming out to put on their spectacular show and another of my favourite shrubs spiraea bridal wreath is starting to look very pretty too. Every year I look forward to seeing exochorda ‘the bride’ flower. Its flowers are beautiful and it is right next to the washing line. I get to enjoy it every time I go with another basket to hang out, which is a lot with 3 girls in the house! I can see it just ready to bloom so I am hoping that might be next week. What favourite spring flowers are you enjoying in the garden at the moment?

Rhododendron                                             Spiraea bridal wreath

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A few favourite flowers

With another week of snow, ice and all the snowdrops covered up I thought I would write about some of my favourite flowers I grew in the garden last year and what makes them special!

Hellebores

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Last year was the first year I really took notice of Hellebores in the garden. It was our second year living at our new house and I had never grown them before. Unless you looked closely you might just miss them altogether as the flowers tend to face downwards and get buried behind their leaves. Hellebores in our garden are the first flowers to bloom alongside the snowdrops, a first sign of spring after a long winter. They are beautiful and make a good cut flower as long as they are conditioned well and cut at the right time. If you cut hellebores too early before their seed pods are developed they will wilt in the vase.

Philadelphus Mock Orange

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Philadelphus is a flowering shrub I just love due to its fantastic citrusy scent. It grows at the top of our steps leading to the cutting garden and as you climb them the scent just hits you. Philadelphus Mock Orange was one of the main reasons I wanted to grow flowers for other people. Shop bought bouquets were often so disappointing with virtually no smell. I wanted to grow flowers that smelled wonderful for my stall so other people could enjoy bringing a cottage garden feel into their homes.

Alliums

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I like alliums, so much so I have planted a lot more to come up this spring! They look very striking in a bouquet of flowers and provided you change the water in your vase every couple of days there should be no problem with the oniony smell associated with them. A couple of drops of thin bleach in your vase water will help too.

Roses

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I think roses have always been a firm favourite of mine. For the last two years I have had a couple of climbing roses in the garden including Dublin Bay which you can see in the picture above. As I had so few roses last year I was not able to use many for cutting and the ones I did have were not strongly scented. One of the main things I wanted to expand this year was the number of roses I had. I have created a new rose bed and also potted some in containers for the patio. All the roses I have chosen are good for cutting but also most importantly strongly scented! Some of the roses I have planted include Queen of Sweden, Gentle Hermione, Diamond Days, Chandos Beauty, Ice Cream, Caroline Victoria and Warm Wishes. At the moment they are all bare root roses just peeping out the soil and I can’t wait to see them grow and flower later in the year!

Sunflower Vanilla Ice

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Last year I enjoyed growing sunflowers as a cut flower for the first time. I had only ever tried to grow the tall varieties before with the kids to see whose could be the tallest! The vanilla ice variety produced smaller heads on branching stems which were lovely in jam jar posies and bunches of flowers. The one problem I had last year was the wind and I lost one or too plants after particularly stormy nights. I had staked them but obviously not enough! 2015 has been declared by  Fleuroselects Home Garden Association to be the year of the sunflower so I will be trying to grow a few more varieties as cut flowers for you and I will be using much stronger stakes!

Cosmos

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I loved growing cosmos last year as it just flowered and flowered! It is also a beautiful delicate flower and lasted well in a vase. I will be growing lots more of these this year and trying some yellow and orange ones for a bit of variety.

Scabious

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I grew this flower as it was a cut and come again flower and it did just that all the way to the first frosts. It starts to look good in bud but then develops into the most beautiful flower and the stems were nice and strong for using in bouquets.

Phacelia

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I really loved the look of phacelia in bouquets and jam jar posies last year and it was something a little bit different. It also has the added bonus of being able to dig it into the soil at the end of a season where it acts as a green manure!

Ammaranthus

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I grew ammaranthus last year because it was something completely different with its bright red tassels! It lasted brilliantly in a vase and produced flowers right up to the first frosts. You could mix it in with other flowers in a jam jar posies or it looked great with a few stems together in a vase on the kitchen table.

Zinnia

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Zinnias were a favourite of mine last year firstly because I really did not think I could grow them! I knew they liked the sun and warmth in the soil and being Scotland I just did not think it would be warm enough! To begin with there was very little growth and then I put them under fleece tunnels, we had some good weather and they took off.  They were so bright and colourful and lasted a couple of weeks in a vase. I am going to grow them again this year and fingers crossed for a warm season of growing so we can enjoy them throughout the summer.

These flowers are just a few of my favourites from last year. There are far too many new gorgeous annuals that I discovered to mention! It makes you want to fast forward winter so you can get growing and enjoy them again! I would love to know if you had any flowers from the garden last year what your favourites were! Maybe you can remember flowers from your childhood or gardens you have visited that you would like to see again. I am always looking for new varieties to try!