Catching up with Cloudberry Flowers

Time has ran away with me again and it is a long time since I last wrote on my blog. This has been my 4th growing season and it has been the strangest yet for weather conditions. It has taught me that each year will never be predictable and I will never stop changing what I do and adapting to the weather as it comes.

This spring was very slow in coming with the tulips all blooming in May rather than successionally from late March onwards. I had planted a lot of hyacinths to flower over a few weeks but they all came out in a day. It did mean a lot of wastage as I couldn’t use them all at once in arrangements but they did look beautiful in the flower patch.

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Then we had the arrival of some very good weather which brought all the annuals on quickly. The lack of rain meant many an hour watering outside morning and late evenings. Due to the lack of water some annuals that usually would last months flowering were going over very quickly, with just a single flush of blooms. The sweet peas were the best they had been since I started growing them. They were glorious for a few weeks but then due to the weather the stems got very short and were fine in mini jam jars but couldn’t be used in wedding work.

Summer was beautiful and the flowers were amazing. I spent time on Prince Edward Island in Nova Scotia and came away inspired by the beautiful wild flowers there. The friendly people and magic of the island put it firmly at the top of places I would like to return to. The beauty of its coastlines, fertile farmland and wild flower meadows left me feeling happy, revived and ready to crack on in the garden when I came home.

As soon as the schools went back there was a definite change in the air. Autumn feels it has come very early with much colder mornings and damp dark days. Many of the annuals are slowing down now and it has been a good time to start collecting seeds. I like to make up mixed jars of seeds which make great presents and are available to order now as well as being in my christmas shop.

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The annuals might be slowing down but the autumn flowers are just hitting their stride with chrysanthemums, dahlias, scabious, amaranthus, cosmos and soon to be asters stealing the show.

So what has worked well this season in the unexpected weather? My proudest achievement this year has been my dahlias. The last 4 years I have fallen in love with a frustrating flower I have not been able to grow. I have had minimal flowers for the amount of effort and plants I had been growing.  Any I did have tended to be nibbled by earwigs, slugs and thrips. If I had 1 or 2 perfect flowers I was lucky. This year they have been glorious. That is not to say all of them are perfect, there are still a fair few nibbled ones out there, but I have had many stems of strong beautiful blooms. I couldn’t pinpoint the exact reason for this as I have changed a few things at the same time. Many but not all of my dahlias are growing in the new front garden flower patch so perhaps the light levels here suit them. Having said that the ones in the initial flower patch have also been good. I have been working on soil improvement a lot with the addition of compost to the beds in the winter. This was the first year I divided my dahlias before potting them up in the spring. I have also been using bloom bags to protect the buds of my wedding flowers from thrips. All of these things may have helped and next year I am full of enthusiasm for expanding these beautiful flowers.

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The sweet peas were the best they have been in the last 4 years and the only reasons I can think of for this are the good weather and the fact that they were planted in the new front garden ‘no dig’ flower beds. I planted some at the back flower patch this year too which were very disappointing in comparison to the ones at the front.

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The ‘no dig’ flower beds have been an amazing success. To think that that part of the garden was just lawn this time last year and now look at what it  has become! I am so happy with the success of these that I want to make some on the right hand side of the garden at the front so we have flowers down both sides. We can’t work out what to do here though as this is where I grow my bulbs and marking out new beds around these is difficult. Maybe a project for the winter.

My garden gate stall has always been just surviving for the last few years. It has had days to weeks of being very quiet with nothing selling and other days where I would sell a few flowers. The bonus for us on the quiet days was getting to enjoy the flowers that did not sell in our home. I have always dreamed of a busy stall with people dropping in to treat themselves, pick up a jar of flowers for a friend or nip in on the way home from work to get some flowers for your partner as a surprise. This year the stall has become busier and I have enjoyed meeting new people popping in. Growing a business takes time and patience and I am so grateful to everyone who has come to support my flowers. So a very big thank you to you if you are a regular customer or have told a friend or relative about it. It means an awful lot!

Another success of the stall as well as being gradually busier is having it open every day. I started this when Erin went to school and it has worked really well. I now know that you like to be able to pick up flowers on weekdays as well as weekends.

This year on the stall as well as liking your jars of mixed flowers you have enjoyed buying dahlias and sweet peas by the stem or as a wee bunch. I would love to know if there are any other varieties of flower you would like me to grow that I could offer by the stem for you to arrange at home or as a wee bunch?

I am hoping there will be a good few weeks of flowers left throughout October and if I am lucky into November. From the 29th September the stall will be moving across the driveway back under the tree to allow builders access where the stall is now. There will still be flowers everyday so please just pop in and you will find it in its new spot.

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As well as the successes there are always some failures in the garden and this year it has been the narcissi and the zinnias. The winter weather went for the daffodils and narcissi and they came through in much smaller numbers and later than usual this year. The zinnias were a flower I grew in my first season. I had a few flowers but they were not very productive and I decided not to grow them in seasons 2 and 3. However I am a bit stubborn and don’t like to be defeated. This year I decided to try again. I thought as Zinnias like sunny weather they would work. Again they have produced very small numbers of flowers on weak stems. I think it is time to let growers in Southern England grow the zinnias and concentrate on the flowers I know grow well here.

The other failure of the year is the grass. You may have noticed it looks more like a field than a lawn! We have had 4 lawnmower break downs this summer including the end of the life of the sit on mower. Some lawnmower incidents definitely come back to the girls and their imaginary games. A metal bar buried from some game in the middle of the grass put paid to the mower at one point. Other problems with the mowers were just unfixable and now we need to find a new sit on mower for the start of the spring next year. In the meantime it has been suggested to us we should get some sheep!

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If you have visited the stall in the last few months you may be be wondering why we have pulled apart the round bed on the opposite side with the oval hedge surrounding it. The bed here contained a number of shrubs which had outgrown their space and the soil was poor for anything to grow in. We have replanted the large shrubs at the bottom of the garden and will flatten this area using the soil elsewhere. Eventually my dream would be to have a greenhouse there with lots of pots of flowers outside that I could take into the greenhouse to overwinter there.

I have enjoyed making gift bouquets this year. The flowers are always special as they are handpicked from the garden to mark an important occasion. You have ordered flowers for birthdays, anniversary’s, moving into a new house, the arrival of a new baby and starting a new job. Sometimes I have arranged flowers as somebody just wants to say thank you or get well soon. I like my bouquets to be as fresh as can be so offer them in water. In the past I have aqua packed them in cellophane but I wanted to reduce my use of this. Now I offer bouquets in jars of water within a kraft living vase.

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I have enjoyed my wedding work this year. Every wedding is different with couples having their own ideas to incorporate flowers into their big day. I have supplied many buckets of flowers this season as more and more couples like to arrange their own flowers with friends and family. Dates are getting booked up for 2019/2020 now so if you are interested in locally grown flowers for your wedding please get in touch.

At this time of year Christmas seems very far away but already I have started to think about it. It has been the perfect time to spray the alliums that I have been drying whilst the weather is good outside. I hope you will enjoy them as part of your Christmas decorations this year.

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On rainy days I am making as many pressed flower cards as I can so I have a good stock over the winter. I am also making up gift boxes of cards which make great birthday or Christmas presents.

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Over the summer I make as much biodegradable confetti as I can. This year I have grown much more larkspur, one of my favourite flowers and it makes an excellent addition to the confetti mix. I store my confetti in airtight kilner jars in the airing cupboard. This provides the perfect dry dark atmosphere for storing it. If you would like any confetti for a wedding or event please just get in touch to order.

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As autumn approaches the flower patch gradually winds down. It is a busy time outside with bulb planting to do, pulling apart beds, composting, mulching and arranging the autumn flowers. There is always the tax return and accounts to do and this winter I will be working on my new website. As the days grow shorter I start to plan for the coming year and one of my hopes is to start running workshops. I would love to share my garden, flowers and what I have learned with you. I also have a love of baking and really like the idea of running workshops along a particular theme with the flowers and including refreshments with homemade cake. At the moment I would love your ideas. Would you be interested in workshops? Would you like 1 to 1 workshops or groups ones with 6-8 people? Would weekends, weekdays or evenings work best? Would you like to spend a whole day in the garden with a light lunch or a couple of hours with cake and tea/coffee? I would love to know your thoughts. My initial plan was to start my first ones in March but I think it is likely building work on our house may still be going on then. It will all depend on that winter weather but I am excited to start sharing what I love with you.

2019 will be Cloudberry flowers 5th birthday. I have so enjoyed the last few years, learning about gardening, flowers and finding myself and my creative side again after having the girls. There are so many things that I am still hoping to do and I am looking forward to sharing my flowers and new projects with you over the coming years.

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Loose Stems and DIY Wedding Flowers

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

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DIY Wedding Flowers

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

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

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

Photo Credit Sansom Photography

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

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

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

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

Loose flowers for other occasions

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

Church Flowers

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

Flowers for Business

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

Flowers to fill your vases at home

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

I am having a party

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

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When should I order my loose flowers or buckets?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catherine Duncan

07813700786

cloudberryflowers@gmail.com

http://www.facebook.com/cloudberryflowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

Can we just press pause….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OCTOBER/NOVEMBER AT CLOUDBERRY FLOWERS

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

 

 

The perils of being a flower farmer

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

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

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

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

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

       

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

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

       

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

   

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

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

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

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.