Autumn at Cloudberry Flowers

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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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!

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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!

 

 

Summer at Cloudberry Flowers

Summer isn’t a word I would use to describe the last few months! Dull wet and far too cold to get the paddling pool and shorts and t-shirts out, is more like it. It was a summer holidays full of waterproofs and hot chocolates, but great fun was had by all and as usual it went by in a flash. Now we are back to school runs and activities for the girls. I have my few hours back while Erin is at nursery to get some much needed gardening done and look back over this past season and make plans for next year.

The summer for me was all about the amazing opportunity to grow and arrange the flowers for some lovely weddings. Each one was so different, with varying colour schemes. Some brides wanted the chance to do it themselves and bought buckets of flowers to take away and other brides wanted the whole wedding arranged from table arrangements to bridal bouquets and buttonholes. What I loved most is the amazing locations some of my couples this year have got married in, from country houses, to the beach or on top of a local hill with amazing views. My homegrown flowers have been able to fit in with stunning natural locations. As weddings were such a big part of my summer I am going to leave any more chat about it for another blog where I hopefully may have some lovely photos to show you.

One of my favourite things to develop this year has been my natural petal confetti and this summer I have been delighted it has been off to so many weddings, to be thrown, used to decorate the aisle for the bride to walk down or as a table decoration. I have taken over the whole conservatory as well as the airing cupboard now as my drying space. The garden has produced beautiful petals in abundance such as roses, larkspur, cornflowers and lavender.

The garden in many ways has surprised me this summer. The weather really was not conducive towards flowers blooming. They like sunshine and warmth not consistent rainy, dull, cold days. However they have flowered and well enough to provide me with all I have needed this summer. Increasing my flower patch size and therefore my flower production has given me plenty blooms to work with and allowed for the one or two disasters I have had!

Sweet peas this year have been my one big disappointment. Last year I had masses of beautiful blooms. This year I started off hopeful with over 60 healthy plants grown from seed. They transplanted successfully earlier in the year but since then they have been terrible. Half of one bed just simply died. The sweet peas that have flowered have been on very weak short stems and have dropped their petals extremely quickly. I am not sure what it is that they have not liked. They have been watered and fed when needed, tied in and supported from the wind and short of talking to them, well pampered! Other gardeners in Peebles have also reported problems with their sweet peas this summer so maybe it has just been our poor weather. A failure like this just makes me more determined next years will work as they smell too gorgeous not to grow!

Without a doubt the hardy annuals such as cornflowers are a winner for me. They just keep on giving month after month. My over wintered plants that started flowering back in June are still flowering now. These I think will always be the backbone of my flower patch.

I always like to try new seeds to grow and my new favourites this year have been consolida blue cloud and achillea the pearl.

At long last I have had success in my perennial cutting border. Fencing has worked and kept the rabbits out, allowing my plants the chance to grow for the first time.


I never thought I would ever cut up the whole of our field at the back for flowers, but I did. I was sure then that I would definitely not need any more space for flowers. But my husband started to do a couple of beds for family fruit and vegetables down the front of our garden and 2 turned into 5! Here I am shovelling topsoil for the beds, a much faster job done as family team work. I filled the barrows and Robert took them down to the new beds. Erin just liked standing on the top of them to supervise!

I now have have 3 new beds for next year, fenced off from the rabbits and ready to go. I am so excited about these and have already been busy sewing biennials and thistle seeds in here for next year.

Dahlias are gorgeous flowers that come in so many shapes, textures and colours. They are a beautiful addition to the cutting garden at this time of year. However they are not quite so beautiful when ravaged by earwigs and slugs which is what is happening at the moment to my dahlias!

This beautiful dahlias is what I would love all of mine to look like! So it has been a call to action. Nightly patrols with the torch to eliminate the slugs and earwigs I can spot and then emptying out all the upturned pots daily where the earwigs like to sleep in the day. You can see the pots filled with dried grass on the stakes in the photo below.


After the frustration of nightly slug and earwig attacks on my dahlias, it has been very satisfying making a start on growing next years hardy annuals. I have grown some directly outside which are yet to appear. The ones inside are already germinating and I will prick these out and pot them on in a few weeks time.

The other job I have been doing since the girls went back to school is ordering my bulbs for next spring. Not easy for a floweraholic like myself. Narrowing down my list gets harder every season!

Below I wanted to leave you with some of my favourite pictures from the flower patch this summer. It might not have been the hot sunny few months I was hoping for but my flowers have been as resilient as ever.


Ending

Surely not more snow! A chilly April in the cutting patch

It might not have been the warmest April with unexpected snow at times but the spring flowers have been beautiful. One jam jar posy containing a hyacinth is enough to fill a room with exquisite scent. I have loved the daffodils/narcissus I planted in the autumn and for me it has been the double varieties that are fast becoming my favourites.

Double narcissus.

The tulips are just starting to bloom now. They have been battered by the wind and the snow but have come back fighting. It’s amazing how resilient plants can be. I am hoping there will be some beautiful varieties in bloom for a May wedding. Many growers treat tulips as an annual crop and get rid of the bulbs after one season. I have always wondered why? It seems such an expense to buy new bulbs each year. However having both this year I can see the new tulips are stronger and have taller stems than those planted in 2014. This winter was wet rather than bitterly cold so the stem length on some tulips is very short. Others have been fine. I love the shorter stemmed ones for arranging in jam jar posies.

Tulips just starting to come into bud on the flower patch.

Ollioule tulips flowering in the garden.

The annuals are coming on well, outside for the ones I have grown last autumn and still inside for the ones sewn in the last few months. In the next couple of weeks I will start to harden these off (get them used to being outside a little at a time) ready for planting out when it’s warmer and it stops snowing!

Cornflowers I planted in the autumn.

During April I have been keeping the seed sewing up so I have a constant supply of flowers through to October. As soon as one set of seeds germinate in the heated propagated bed I take them out and put new seeds in. The germinated seeds grow on in cooler conditions inside until I start to harden them off.

Seeds are started on the heated propagated bench and then transferred to the unheated bench.

Seedlings are transferred into larger pots and grow on the conservatory shelves before being planted outside.

We laid the soaker hose (leaky hose) in April and were excited to see that when the different sections were all connected up it worked. This will hopefully make a big difference to watering over the summer.

Laying the soaker hose in the flower patch.

I have taken a bit of a risk and planted the sweet peas out. They were starting to get too big to stay indoors and I know they will be happier with the room to grow in the beds. The temperatures are still low, especially at night, so to provide a bit of extra protection for a few days I have popped some fleece over them. You might be able to spot the clothes pegs if you look closely. I seem to have a rapidly diminishing supply to hang up washing as they are coming in very handy to clip fleece onto tunnels and canes!

Fleece tents for the sweet peas.

The weather in Scotland is as challenging as ever. For me it is the wind I lose sleep over. It can be so destructive. There may have been one or two tears shed over broken tunnels and flattened tulips and ranunculus. Everytime there is some bad weather I do learn from it and the resilience of the garden always puts a smile on my face a few days later! What has been difficult with the snow and wind recently in Peebles is that is has not always shown up on the weather forecast. This had made it difficult to take precautionary measures outside.

Unforecast April snow on the flower patch!

I love being out in the garden in spring with all the wildlife. The friendly robins that come and perch beside me when I am weeding, the two ducks that have been visiting our garden again and sleeping on the front lawn, not to mention the girls tadpoles! We had visiting ducks 2 years ago whom the girls named Lily and George. They came every day for a few months, coming up to the doorstep to visit the girls and were really tame. Last year there was no sign of them but you can imagine the excitement of the girls when 2 ducks arrived again this April, who of course must be Lily and George!

Our visiting ducks Lily and George!

When we moved to our house we built 5 raised beds to grow the family vegetables. The idea was the girls would help us do this and get stuck in in the garden. Over the last 2 years I have steadily taken over these raised beds for my flowers but the girls are still very keen to grow their own things. This weekend we all helped build a new raised bed outside their playhouse with a section for each of them. We had lots of fun building it, got very dirty and now they are going to have the fun of deciding what to grow in a space that mum promises not to take over!

The girls busy at their raised beds.

The garden gate stall has been open through out April. If you have visited it this month you may have thought there was a little less on display than last year. My aim has always been to bring you the freshest flowers I possibly can. Flowers cut straight out the garden for you to enjoy at home, which gives them an amazing vase life. Last year in my enthusiasm I tended to cut everything that was in bloom and make them all into jars and bunches. This meant there was a high wastage of flowers and when they are cut unfortunately they are cut! This year I am putting a few flowers out, enough of everything that I offer and as soon as I sell anything I am replenishing the stall with a brand new freshly cut jar or bunch. This way you get the freshest of flowers and there is hopefully less waste from unsold jars.

So what will May bring? Well hopefully no snow!! Much as I love it in winter the time has definitely past for enjoying it now! A few sunny warm days would be nice and warmer temperatures at night so I can plant out all these seedlings that are taking over our house! May too will bring the first wedding of the year, which I am so excited to be providing and arranging flowers for. There are some beautiful flowers you can grow for a spring wedding such as tulips, hellebores, narcissus, ranunculus and muscari.

To finish this months blog here are some of my favourite flowers from this spring on the stall. I have really enjoyed being able to get creative putting arrangements together after a few months of no flowers over the winter. I hope you have enjoyed the first flowers of the year again too!

Jam jar posy with hyacinth, hellebores, muscari, narcissus, wallflowers.
Jam jar posy with tulips, hyacinth, hellebores, hesperis, honesty, muscari, narcissus

Jam jar posy with tulip purissima and narcissus.
Jam jar posy with hyacinth, narcissus, wallflower, muscari.

Jam jar posies with viburnum, anenome, hyacinth, muscari, narcissus, wallflower.

Jam jar posy with fritillaria, narcissus, hesperis, hyacinth, muscari.

Jam jar posy with fritillaria, narcissus, tulips, hyacinth, muscari.

Spring bouquet of hellebores, narcissus and purissima tulips.img_4561

 

Oops didn’t quite make the once a week blog resolution!

It has been a crazy few weeks here. So much so that my good intention to write something on the blog each week has already gone out the window! I would like to say it has been so busy because of all the things I have been doing for Cloudberry Flowers but family life has taken over! We had Erin’s 4th birthday and party last week, a poorly Kirsten off school for a few days at the same time and this week we have been looking after our friends little girls and dog while they had a gorgeous new baby. We did manage to finish painting our bedroom too. A very longstanding project that has always been put off. Next week the new carpet will come. I am so excited as we have a mixture of 3 different ones in the room at the moment!

The old carpet is going!!

Not much gardening was getting done last week when we had an important frozen cake to bake! Baking is my other love next to gardening.

Aside from all this busy family time I have managed to plant a few seeds. Mainly sweet peas as everyone loved them last year and they do smell gorgeous! I am excited to be planting all sorts of new varieties, Oban Bay, Molly Rilestone, Winter Sunshine Varities, Charlie’s Angel and Eclipse to name a few. I have been soaking the seeds overnight before sewing and if some have not noticeably swollen up I have been nicking their seed coat to allow them to absorb water. I am keeping my fingers crossed for some good germination rates. Oban Bay I am particularly interested in trying as it is meant to be good to grow in cooler climates such as Scotland.

Although it is very early in the year I have sown some other seeds. I just get too carried away with wanting to get the season going. I have limited it to Knautia Macedonica ‘Melton Pastels’ as they need some cold to germinate and some antirrhinum more commonly known as snapdragons. These are new seeds I am trying this year and I am hoping they will make good cut flowers.

In the greenhouse the ranunculus I started off in December are doing well. I really loved these flowers last year but did not plant many. I am hoping we will get some more beautiful blooms now I have so many more corms planted. They are delicate flowers a little like roses but can flower earlier in the year.

Ranunculus in the conservatory now

Ranunculus flowering in the cutting patch last July


Outside in the garden:

The first snowdrop is just emerging.

The buds on the hellebores are showing too. These make really lovely cut flowers in spring so I hope you will enjoy a few from the stall when the flowers have matured enough to last well in a vase.

We have also had some snow and clear sky’s over the last couple of weeks which has been such a welcome relief to all that rain! The garden looked beautiful in the snow. If has all melted again now with exception of a slightly lopsided snowman on the front lawn. The rain didn’t stay away long either with it pelting down outside now! The snow was lovely while it lasted though.

The cut flower patch in the snow

A snowy garden

We still have a touch of spring in the house with the girls narcissus ‘bridal crown’ they planted back in September. They truly are gorgeous and amazing that 1 single stem can produce so many flowers. They each have 4 flowers per stem now. Definitely one for the stall in future years. I planted a few of these in with the bulbs I planted outside so they may find their way into some mixed daffodil bunches in the spring.

Painting our bedroom has been a good distraction for me away from the seed and nursery plant catalogues over the last 2 weeks. I am very much turning into a seed and plantaholic! I start with a basic list before Christmas of the ones I have ran out of and new varieties I want to try. With more time after the holidays to have a good look through the catalogues my list starts to grow with the temptation of trying new flowers! I have so far ordered half my seeds from Seedaholic. I really like the information sheets they give with each seed you buy, they are good value and have a reasonable number of seeds per packet. The other half of my list is still growing and I will order them from Chiltern Seeds for the first time this year. My aim is to have ordered all my seeds by the end of January and then keep myself away from the catalogues!

Over the last couple of weeks I have also been talking to a bride about flowers for a spring wedding. This is an exciting time of year with so many lovely spring bulbs to choose from. It is also an unpredictable time as the weather can be so variable. Therefore you cannot promise particular flowers as they may not be in bloom yet or they may be past if the weather was particularly warm for that time of year. What you can promise is a mixture of beautiful homegrown spring flowers in a variety of colours that will be unique to your wedding. In years to come you may choose to grow those same bulbs in your garden and always have a reminder of your special day when you see them.

Also this week I posted a survey on my Facebook page to get some feedback about Cloudberry Flowers last season. I was unsure whether it was a good idea to do a survey as I know people are short of time and I hoped it wasn’t going to feel like getting junk mail through your letterbox and then put people off the Cloudberry Flowers Facebook page. In the end I decided to go for it as even if I only got a few responses it would help me greatly knowing which direction to take my small business next year.

As the stall is a self service one with an honesty box I unfortunately don’t get the chance to meet all my customers. I had always worried whether they could find it ok when it was tucked away in a quiet side street? I also felt I could not get across information about the stall and available flowers to my customers on Facebook easily. Facebook seems to only  show you notifications sporadically once you have liked a page. It seems that you have to like and share individual posts on the page continuously to keep getting updates. I wanted to ask people were they being kept up to date regularly? I also wanted to know what flowers customers wanted on the stall so I can provide what they would like next year. The survey is still ongoing until Sunday but so far there has been a good response, so a big thank you to everyone who took the time to complete it. I now have some valuable feedback to work with. I am hoping I will be able to look through the responses and make it the topic for next weeks blog, or the week after if we run out of time again!

Guess whats growing in the garden?

This week is a challenge to see if you can help me! As I go round the garden two years on from moving here there are still many shrubs I can’t identify. While some of the plants have labels on them many do not, or they are worn away and unreadable. Gardening to me is a journey all about improving my knowledge  and I would love to know what these shrubs are so that I can care for them properly.

Below are some numbered photographs of shrubs in the garden. If you see one you know I would love to hear back from you!

1.

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2.

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3.

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4.

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5.

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6.

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7. Maybe forsythia?

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8. Is this euonymus?

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9.

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10. I think that this might be a pittosporum?

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11.

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Also this week I have been planting more seeds, pricking out young seedlings and giving many of the plants in the garden a spring haircut. I have been pruning the hypercium and dogwood and giving the sambucus Nigra ‘gerda’ a drastic prune as it had grown far too large and was a good 10ft tall.

My conservatory is filling up so I have been putting out my overwintered annuals in the day to acclimatise to the outside conditions and next week I am going to plant them out. This will hopefully free up some much needed space in the conservatory for all the ongoing seeds I am sowing! This week I also planted my first convallaria majalis lily of the valley pips and more tulips and daffodils are starting to emerge. I feel like we are just on the brink of spring and with a little more sunshine it won’t be long until we have the first flowers!

The conservatory this week: full of seeds on the heated propagator bed, larger seedlings, overwintered annuals and a nice new pane of glass in the door!

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Cath’s cutting patch

This week I wanted to introduce you to my cutting patch. I wanted to show you what it looks like now in the middle of winter when it is just the bare bones of a garden. It is amazing how this bare ground will change over the next few months into a field of beautiful flowers, grown from tiny seeds.

Last year I started to dig up the field and put in some flower beds. I chose it as my cut flower patch as it is south facing, so the plants will be able to make the most of any sunshine we get. It is also good fertile soil and in the past it used to be the site of the kitchen garden for the house. It was then laid to grass by previous owners and it is nice now to return it to a productive space. We have built five raised beds for our own vegetables which sit alongside the flower garden. I am trying hard not to take these over completely for flowers but this year might just borrow one for some sweet peas!

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Also new this year are my rose beds all fenced off from those hungry rabbits! It doesn’t look  much at the moment with just the tops of the bare root roses showing above the ground, but in a few months these beds should be full of beautifully scented roses.

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The cutting garden does look very bare at this time of year but some plants have survived the winter that I planted as seeds in the Autumn. By doing this the plants have a head start when the warmer weather arrives, they will be stronger and produce earlier blooms. Here are some pictures of corncockle, cornflower and nigella that  have endured the snow, frosts, wind and wet and will take off in a few weeks time.

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As well as sewing some hardy annuals outside in the autumn I have also grown some from seed in the unheated conservatory and left them to overwinter. They are looking strong healthy and a good size now and will be ready to get planted out for earlier flowers when the weather warms up. The pictures show honesty, sweet rocket, wallflowers, larkspur, sweet peas and sweet william.

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Also in the cutting garden this week I have been excited to watch a lot of my seeds in the heated propagator germinating! Once the seeds have germinated I move them out of the propagator to grow on in cooler conditions. When large enough to handle I will take the seedlings in trays and transplant them into larger three inch pots with more room to grow.

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As well as sewing seeds and potting on the plants the next few weeks are going to be all about getting the beds outside ready for plants to go in. This is where the hard work starts, finish cutting any extra beds, extra mulching, removing weeds and stones and raking the soil to get it fine enough to sew seeds. Better roll my sleeves up, get on those wellies and hope for some good weather!

Sweet Peas

This week I got itchy feet to start sewing my seeds so I have started with sweet peas.

I have read a lot of conflicting advice about sowing sweet peas, which makes it difficult to know where to start. Gardening though is all about trial and error! I decided to soak the seeds overnight before sowing as I had read this may help germination. I have also read you can make a small hole in the seed to allow moisture in, but I was a bit nervous of doing that in case I destroyed it.  Next I put the seeds in deep root trainer trays filled with compost, which suit the sweet peas long roots and watered them in well.

I was faced with more conflicting advice about whether sweet peas should be covered in newspaper to exclude light to germinate or cover with glass to allow light in. I opted for the newspaper, in the airing cupboard full of towels and I am hoping the seeds will germinate in there soon. It was the warmest place I could think of in our old cold house at this time of year. As soon as they have germinated I will get them into the light and the cool conservatory so they do not get too leggy. You can also sew sweet pea seeds direct into the soil in your garden but the risk from mice (and for me slugs) is too high, so I sew indoors and transplant out later when I have some decent sized plants.

Last year I grew sweet peas for the first time and used them in mixed bunches and jam jar posies. What I loved about them was the more you cut them the more they just kept on flowering and the scent is just divine! They do have a shorter vase life than some other flowers of about 4-5 days.  However the great thing about buying locally grown flowers is that they will be cut freshly for you and you know they will last the longest possible time in your vase at home. Buy a bunch of sweet peas and they will fill your room with scent and look lovely in a vase on your kitchen table.

This year I am going to experiment with growing many more varieties of sweet pea to find out which are my favourites. I am growing spencer, heritage, grandiflora and multiflora varieties, in a range of colours.

When I started to write about sweet peas this week I searched for a picture I had taken of them last year and realised I was struggling to find any! I had a few pictures of them mixed in with other flowers, but not on their own to show you how beautiful they are. Note to self must take many more pictures of my flowers this year! I will leave you with a couple I did find of my sweet peas in jam jar posies

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These flowers are beautiful, delicate and deliciously fragrant . Look out for bunches of sweet peas on the stall later this year!

A new year a new beginning

With the school holidays over and back to normality this week my thoughts are turning to the year ahead and seeds! I was excited to receive mine from Seedaholic this week and was really impressed with the information sheets they gave out with each packet.

This week also meant the dreaded clothes shopping expedition with my husband and our 3 girls. With holes in a lot of clothes we had to bite the bullet and go. Not our favourite way to spend the weekend! On the up side it also included a trip to the garden centre to buy compost! Whilst there my husband disappeared and came back having found a bargain pile of planters. So what should have been a trip for my husbands new work shirts ended up being a juggling job to fit a whole boot full of wood in the car!

I have read about heated propagating benches using soil warming cables and now having our new planting benches we have the opportunity to try this out. My husband is looking forward to a new DIY job and I am excited to see over the next couple of months if it brings on my seeds a lot faster. Without a heated greenhouse and with the Scottish weather being cool and lacking sunshine at this time of year it should give the seeds the boost they need to germinate and grow….