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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At Long Last The Garden Awakens

It has been a very long winter and the growing season is off to a very late start. But at long last there are signs of life in the garden and I can start to catch up on the many jobs that need done outside. It is so nice being back out there working, even in the rain!

Growing flowers indoors has been a saviour this year for having early spring flowers and being able to fulfil my orders. I have also been able to buy in flowers that have been grown by colleagues in the South of England to use alongside my own for larger orders. Being able to provide flowers that have been grown in Britain is important to me and it is lovely to be able to buy from fellow growers if I need to. Next year I have some early weddings and we have no idea what kind of a winter we are going to get. Luckily my brides have booked over a year in advance and this means that I can plan the planting for them specifically. I will grow flowers both indoors and outdoors for their weddings to cover all weather conditions we might have thrown at us then. Booking so far in advance also means I can grow the colours of flowers they would like too.

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The flowers outside are a month behind so far which is the latest they have ever been since I started growing for you. Just a tiny bit of sunshine this week has been enough though, to get some hyacinths, narcissi and iris flowering. The daffodils are finally getting buds. I wonder if they will end up just flowering all at once rather than staggering themselves like they normally do? At long last the tulips are getting larger and the perennials are putting on new growth too. I always find this time so exciting to see my plants remerge after a cold winter and my seedlings come on indoors. Nothing can beat planting seeds and coming down in the morning to see a whole tray germinated overnight. Or going round the garden and seeing some aquilegia and astrantia leaves peeping out from the ground.

Inside we are bursting at the seams with plants everywhere. In the last couple of weeks I have started hardening off a lot of my autumn sown hardy annual and perennials. This involves taken them all out in the daytime and then putting them all back at night as the temperature dips. With so many trays going in and out it can take a good half hour at the beginning and end of the day to do this. After a couple of weeks of doing this they are ready to plant out. We are not out of the woods yet with threats of ‘beast from the east 3’ looming! so any I am planting out are getting covered in heavy duty fleece to protect them.

Today was the first day of planting out which felt such a satisfying thing to do after being stuck in limbo for so long, waiting for the snow to go. Below is a picture of some feverfew  that I grew from seeds in August and now are ready to grow on outside.

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I have been trying out my new bulb auger I got as a present for Mother’s Day and boy does that make planting bulbs easier on areas of tough ground! I am looking forward to putting it to better use in the autumn. Here I am just transplanting some snowdrops from one area of the garden to another.

I have been planting lots of new hellebores. Every year like my roses I like to add a few new ones. These ones are all a white variety to be used in spring bridal work next year. Many people think that hellebores do not make a good cut flower as they wilt, but if cut at the correct time and conditioned properly they are magnificent.

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I have been making new pressed flower cards with the flowers I have in bloom and these will be ready to go on the stall over the Easter weekend along with some jars of my first outdoor flowers, sempervivums, the last bulb baskets for this year and my seed jars. If you fancy having a go at growing some mixed cut flowers using seeds from the Cloudberry Flowers garden these little jars contain a good mixture of some of my favourite annual flowers. The stall is already open 7 days a week and as new flowers start coming into bloom more arrangements will be added daily so please pop along anytime for a treat for yourself or a gift for someone.

Its time to get the dahlias out of storage. In late autumn after the first frosts I lifted these up and prepared them for storage. I tried a new technique of wrapping them in clingfilm I had been reading about and I was impressed to see they have all come through the winter with no shrivelling or rot. In the last few years I have just repotted my dahlias in the spring, brought them on inside and then planted them out after the last frosts. This year I have been dividing the tubers for the first time to give me more plants. To do this you must cut a tuber away from the old plant making sure that you have a few eyes on them. A tuber without eyes will not grow into a new plant. They look like little raised bumps close to the top of the tuber. Below you can see the original plant on the left and the 4 new tubers I have cut from it.

Crows, pheasants and pigeons are a bit of a problem in our garden as well as the rabbits! They like to nibble on the narcissi so I have invested in some bird netting to put over the top of the growing flowers to keep them off.

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I have been laying more ground cover over the grass paths. This week I have been doing the ones surrounding the beds built in the front garden last year as I had some left over from doing the top flower patch. This will help cut down mowing time for Robert and keep the weeds and grass from getting into the beds. I have also been putting black polythene over particularly weedy areas over the winter, mulching the beds and laying fleece over the perennial bed to give them a head start getting established again.

Inside I am still sowing seeds constantly. Up until now I have been sowing hardy annuals and perennials. This week I have started off the more tender annuals such as cosmos and statice. These will be brought on indoors until the risk of frost has past in late May, early June. Seed sowing starts in January each year with my first sweet peas, but did you know I will be sowing different types of seeds every week up until September. This is what allows me to bring you flowers right through from spring until late autumn.

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This blog has been all about the garden and me in waiting, on the brink of getting those first outdoor flowers. Next time I write my blog I am hoping to have lots of beautiful pictures to show you of them all blooming away and ready to find good homes. I am so looking forward to providing you with beautiful locally grown seasonal flowers again this year and if you would like to find out more about how you can buy them to enjoy please just get in touch anytime.

Catherine x

Email: cloudberryflowers@gmail.com

Tel: 07813700786

 

March at Cloudberry Flowers

March means waiting…. It is a time of year for me when I go through a right mixture of emotions. I can be frustrated, disheartened and lacking in patience one day and feel happy, excited and hopeful the next.

Today was a great day. It was sunny and I got so much done. I dug another bed for my perennials I use for cutting. I did think I was done cutting beds but you can never have too many, so just one more for now! I got it planted up  and then divided a lot of perennials and transplanted them. I finished off the afternoon helping Kirsten sow some seeds for her garden.

Not every day is so productive and February and the beginning of March can feel like the hardest months as I just want to get going and I can’t. If I sow my seeds too early they will be too leggy trying to reach the little light there is or get bitten by a frost. Unexpected snow or really rainy days hamper what I can do outside when there is so much to be done. It all feels rather frustrating!

Its not all doom and gloom at this time of year though! There have been glimpses of sun now and again. I have been able to grab my spade put on my oldest clothes and take advantage of these nice spells. Digging, weeding and transplanting plants for all its worth. I tend to completely overdo it on these brief nice days and often end up eating a lot of chocolate and having hot baths at night to ease those aching muscles. Who needs the gym when you can garden! I love these times with the sun on your back digging and a robin just perched watching you nearby. Often I might see a frog or a mouse jumping out from nowhere and the birds are starting to sing in the trees. Its peaceful and my happy place.

Flower growing is a lot of hard graft and sometimes you just have one of those days. I raced out to the garden last weekend when the weather was dry and the girls had thought it would be fun to soak themselves as much as they could washing our cars. I managed to mend some arches, tie in roses, transplant plants and was feeling rather chuffed with the amount I had done! This was followed by a swinging branch in my eye and skidding on the slippy stones and ending up flat on my back. Feeling more than a little bit sore I suddenly realised I had gardened for far longer than I thought and I would have some very hungry children if I didn’t get on to tea fast. Learning to slow down just a touch might help sometimes as I raced to cook tea and rubbed chilli in my remaining good eye! That night sitting down at tea I was exhausted and sore but feeling otherwise great. I had got so much done. My kids had been happy all afternoon playing in water and I finally had some beds that had more plants than weeds. I had new homes for plants that had just been in the wrong place before and I had noticed so much new spring growth in the garden.

I might find March frustrating at times due to the weather but when we got some unexpected snow a few weeks ago it was undoubtedly beautiful and gave everyone the chance to have some fun.

Once the snow had melted a week later I was delighted to walk around our garden and see some of my favourite flowering perennials showing their first signs of new growth. The photo below shows some of these including my peonies, geum and astrantia.

The bulbs are definitely coming along nicely now too, although I think we are maybe a week or two behind last year. I am looking forward to all the tulips blooming for bouquets and the  muscari, fritillary and hyacinths for my jam jar posies.

I do like to grow perennials from seed and there is nothing more exciting and rewarding than seeing a plant a couple of years on coming back up through the ground after the winter. This is especially because some perennials are just so difficult to grow from seed, like astrantia. The photo below shows some polemonium, feverfew and aquilegia I had previously grown from seed just putting on their new seasons growth now.

Seed sowing is a magical exciting time for me. After all that waiting and trying to be patient I can finally get going. This year I held off as long as I could, which I think was longer than last year! The dining room table is covered in every kind of seed you can imagine and so far I am managing to stick to my resolution of filling in my planting planner and labelling. Let’s see in April if I am still managing to keep that one up! Hardy annuals is all I am sowing just now. They are the plants that will survive a little frost. The more tender annuals I will start off later, closer to the time of planting out. From the last few years I have worked out that I don’t want to plant out anything tender before the 1st of June unless I have it in a tunnel.

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I have resisted putting up most of my low tunnels this year. Last year when I did storms in March ripped them apart, I was gutted and I don’t want the same devastation again. I may just lay fleece over my plants and put up the tunnels in late April when I think the worst of the winter weather is past. More than ever I have to watch the weather forecasts carefully at this time of year, watching for high winds and frosts. Being caught unaware from these I could lose all the flowers I have worked so hard to grow. The photo below shows my one concession to the tunnels so far but it is more of a rabbit deterrent than frost protection. The rabbits got in the fenced off area again and sheared off the tops of a bed of plants one night. You can just see some of the nibbled stalks in the bottom right hand corner! I think it was early enough in the year that they will recover and catch up by putting new growth on now as the weather warms. It is strange but our neighbours don’t have the same problem with rabbits that we do. They put it down to having a cat. That would be an easy solution if Robert wasn’t so allergic to them! Now when I remember I am trying to shut our front gates at night to help keep them out. It is at this time they all run down the hill from the high school playing fields to find their favourite garden! Even with the gates shut they still find a way in so all we can do is keep fencing them out my flowers. It’s not very aesthetically pleasing but it’s the best hope we have for my flowers.

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Also this month with the help of Robert we moved the stall. I have been meaning to do this for ages. Last year I had it on the gravel on the left as you come in the driveway. It was a good spot for it but it was in direct sunlight. I am really proud of my flowers being the freshest you can buy as I cut them straight from the garden where they are growing. But I need to keep them like this once they are arranged and that means keeping them out of the sun. Putting the stall facing the opposite way on the other side of the drive keeps the flowers away from the heat. Robert probably feels the stall is like our piano which has shifted rooms many times since we moved in! I am hoping that its new spot on the opposite side of the driveway will be its final home and no more heavy lifting will be required! It just needs a lick of paint when the weather warms up a bit and it will be good to go for the new season.

The photo below shows the stall in its new position on the right hand side as you go in the driveway . Today was the first day we had some real sun and I was really pleased to see my flowers on the stall nicely shaded whilst the old spot the stall was in had the sun coming right down on it. It was worth the heavy lifting to move it.

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Another important job to be done in March was to plant a bed of raspberries with the girls. We had enjoyed growing these in our old house and it was something the girls particularly missed. We have just planted 26 canes of Glen Ample and I had lots of help from my able assistants. We are looking forward to enjoying some family fruit in the coming years. The next stage here will be to build a fruit cage to protect our crop.

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For the rest of this month I will keep my seed sowing going. As soon as one tray germinates on the heated bed, off it comes and new seeds go on. Some seeds are amazing and germinate in 48 hours, others could take up to a month. Its like Christmas going in each morning to see which seedlings have popped up overnight! The photo below shows the heated sand bed I germinate many of my seeds on. It is usually covered in clear plastic lids or bubble wrap to keep it humid and moist. Some seeds are also in the airing cupboard in the dark, the fridge and the freezer. They all like different things and you have to cater to their needs if you are going to be successful!

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For the first time since I started growing flowers Mothers Day is quite late this year and I am hoping to have some baskets of flowering bulbs on the stall to bring a little bit of seasonal spring colour to our local hardworking mums. I will also have pressed flower cards, jam jar posies and bunches of daffodils available . These jam jar posies below were for this weeks stall. It was so nice to see a bit of colour coming into the garden and enough freshly cut homegrown flowers to work with again. The stall is hidden away in a quiet street so please do let your friends and family know where to find it so they can enjoy really fresh flowers and homegrown handmade products too.

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I have been excited to be working on my newsletter this week which I am hoping I will have ready in the next few days. It will be for anyone to subscribe to with their email and I will give you monthly updates on whats happening at Cloudberry Flowers, flowers that have come into bloom that will be for sale, news of any special offers or events and my top tips of the month for flowers and gardening.

By my next blog in April we will be back in the full swing of it, longer days, pretty flowers blooming and hopefully a little sunshine! These last few months of winter can feel long but life has a habit of moving along and before you know it the new season is off and its full speed ahead.

Magical May

Its been a very busy month and I realised the other day it had been a long time since my last blog post. I think I was a bit ambitious in January thinking I would manage every week when I spend every available moment in the garden now!  Looking back to the beginning of the month so much has changed in the garden since then and most importantly the weather has too!

By the end of April I had had quite enough of the weather. There were more high winds and it had snowed again, causing several sleepless nights. It was one week until my first wedding of the year and what was the weather doing?! I knew the snow was forecast this time and lay in bed just waiting for it to start. 1 am, 2am, 3am I kept peeping out the window and no snow. Eventually I drifted off and woke up early in the morning to a garden covered in it. It was another of those crazy mornings of me rushing out to the garden in my pyjamas and wellies to clear snow off the tunnels before the weight of it collapsed them, crushing the flowers underneath. I got there in time and all was good, my flowers were intact. I spent the morning clearing what felt like never ending snow and was absolutely determined no weather was going to affect my flowers.

Then May came along and I breathed a very big sigh of relief. Despite the wind, rain, hail, snow and cold temperatures of April I had grown some beautiful flowers and could now cut and arrange them for the wedding. Its a privilege to be part of a couples wedding and I do my best to make the flowers as special as I can. Being creative and putting together flowers in a beautiful but natural way is a lovely part of being a flower grower. This was my first year of growing many new varieties of tulip and I just loved them. The Angelique, Rosalie and Gabriella tulips were gorgeous to work with for the bride and bridesmaids bouquets, not to mention the hellebores, honesty and narcissus.

Real petal confetti from the garden filled a basket for the flower girl and buckets of flowers from the garden were used to decorate the tables. I used rosemary, hellebores, small tulips, bluebells, muscari, hebe, heather, ivy  and forget me nots for the buttonholes.

With my time taken up at the beginning of the month preparing for the wedding I had some major catching up to do in the garden. The weather had been too cold to plant out any of the seedlings in the conservatory before. The cold frames and conservatory were bulging at the seams. I couldn’t get in the door for plants and it was starting to get impossible to walk across it without standing on them.  The last couple of weeks I have non stop weeded, planted out, sewed more annuals directly in the soil outside, watered due to our unexpected and welcome week of sunshine! and sewed more seeds indoors.

I managed to get these seedlings all planted out and I can now get in the conservatory without squeezing in the door and jumping over plants!

At this time of year the work in the garden is so busy that it is hard to think of next year, it seems a bit crazy to be planting seeds for then when I need flowers for this summer. However now is the time to be planting biennial seeds which will grow, put on leaves this year and flower next spring. Hopefully the wallflowers will then be a lot better than they have been this year! Last year I wasn’t the quickest at doing this so I have started now in the hope I will get sturdier plants. I have also realised that I need to plant a lot more hesperis and honesty in the garden as I use it so much as early flowering fillers.

Greenfly have started to be a real problem to me in the conservatory. I don’t remember haven’t the same trouble last year so I wonder what has changed? They seem to particularly like my indoor anenomes and ranunculus. Any tips for eradicating them will be gratefully received!!

Robert has been hard at work in the front garden creating new beds. Some are to be for family fruit and vegetables as we have all been missing out raspberries since moving house. Some of them though are for me. When I started Cloudberry Flowers I had 2 small beds cut in the top field. I never in a million years thought I would need to venture into the front garden! Once the beds are suitably rabbit proofed they will be invaluable next year. All the beds in the flower patch were made from many hours of Robert and I digging by hand. This time we hired a turf cutter and they were cut by lunchtime! I think we may need to hire a rotovator next.

I have fenced off the shrub border near the house from the rabbits and now felt safe to plant out my perennial penestemons, lupins, delphiniums, camassia, campanula and verbena knowing that they were protected for now from being nibbled. The slugs however are another matter…..

This month I was also asked to provide the bouquets for the winners of the Love Cross, a cycling race with a twist that is part of the local Tweedlove festival. It was nice to be able to use some of the last tulips for the season in these and I felt proud to see all the winners holding them and think how far Cloudberry Flowers has come in a year.

Photograph by Ian Linton courtesy of Tweedlove

The garden at the end of May is really coming to life. The tulips and daffodils are past now and the seasons move on. This week I have come across the first alliums and cornflowers flowering. Here are some pictures of what is flowering in the cutting patch just now. I wonder what is looking beautiful in your gardens just now?

The very last of these beautiful tulips are still flowering in the garden

Beautiful aquilegia just starting to bloom now.

These beautiful miniature white flowers are gorgeous but can anyone identify them?!

Gorgeous astrantia. My first year growing it and I love it!

Another first for growing in the garden are these geums.

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Alliums just coming into bloom

The first cornflowers of the year

May for me has been a month of very hard work in the garden, possibly the busiest in the year with all the planting, weeding, watering, arranging and seed sewing that has needed to be done. May also has been the most magical month of the year so far too. To make flowers for my second wedding that I loved and was proud of, to make the bouquets for a local event and simply to see the garden transform itself from its winter sleep into the beginnings of a field full of flowers. That is magic to me.

I’ll leave you with some pictures of flowers that have been my favourites on the stall this month.

Catherine x

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

 

Squelchy mud, strange weather, surveys and signs of spring

The last couple of weeks have been somewhat muddy in the garden. The arrival of the gas men to dig up the back garden and drive, alongside storm Gertrude has been a muddy combination. I did not envy them the task of digging in the wild weather we have had but I do wonder wether our garden will ever look the same again?! I have found it somewhat frustrating being cut off from the flower patch in the day whilst the work goes on. I did sneak over the gas fencing late afternoon on a couple occasions to do a bit of planting and weeding. It made me realise it is no longer dark at 4pm anymore. You can work in the garden until 5, Spring must be just around the corner!

The gas works in the garden


  

There are other signs of Spring in the garden. The hellebores and snowdrops have really come on over the last couple of weeks.

  

Here are the first tulips emerging too, much earlier than last year.

As it has been so mild it may be that the stall opens in March rather than April this year. It is looking in a bad way with the sides breaking down and some panels fallen off. Robert has brought it round to the garage for repair and thinks he can keep it going for me to do another season.

Robert works hard behind the scenes of Cloudberry Flowers. He loves practical jobs and getting outside when he gets the chance. At the moment he has been working out a way of getting water up to the flower patch for me and then we will start to put in some kind of irrigation with leaky hose. This will be a godsend in the summer and help reduce the hours I have to spend watering the flowers. No more carrying heavy watering cans and buckets up the steps or dragging hose up to the patch as there will be a tap up there. He has also been building new flower beds and has found decking makes a good affordable edge to a new bed.

The hose is now in the flower patch connected back down to the garage. Next step installing a tap.

The new flower bed with its decking edging. Just need to top it up with homemade compost.

As last week I could not get out to the garden it gave me a good chance to do some badly needed admin for Cloudberry Flowers. It’s always easy for me to put off paperwork and spend time in the garden instead. Now I feel much more organised to start the new season. I have also had the chance to look at the results from the survey I put on my Facebook page a couple of weeks ago. A good number of customers completed it, which gave me a picture of what people liked at Cloudberry Flowers or wanted to see more of.

What did the survey tell me?

I was reassured to find the stall was more easily found than I had thought it would be. Our location up a quiet street away from the centre of town and up a steep hill I had thought might be off putting and make it difficult to find.

The majority of my customers use Facebook as a means of finding out about my flowers. I have found Facebook a very useful tool for advertising a business but somewhat unreliable! From experience the only way to guarantee someone will continue to receive notifications about my flowers is for them to like, comment or share any posts from Cloudberry Flowers they see. Facebook then allows them to see future posts. So for me it is a very useful way to let customers know when the stall is open and what flowers are available, but I cannot rely on it completely.

The survey showed that the jam jar posies on the stall are really popular. I love them as they are such a beautiful natural way to display flowers in your home and can be used in so many ways from one simple arrangement on a bedside table to a more impressive statement with a row of them decorating your dinner table. Jam jars of flowers use stems that are short and it is also nice to be able to buy long stemmed flowers you can fill your own vase at home with. The results of the survey did show that customers would like to see mixed or single flower bunches on the stall. This year as soon as the longer stemmed flowers start to bloom I will include some bunches alongside the jam jar posies and this will give my customers more choice.

The days I open the stall in the week is something I have thought a lot about since October. I had thought about changing the opening times from Thursday to Saturday as I felt sales were poor on a Sunday and I was wasting a lot of flowers. It was not a surprise that the great majority of people surveyed would visit the stall on a Friday or Saturday. However Thursday and surprisingly Sunday were popular too. From this feedback I have decided to open the stall on Thursday – Sunday this season. Flowers will be available every day of the week made to order too.

It was really encouraging to see that my customers thought the flowers were good value for money as deciding on the price of my flowers was something I found difficult last year. Running a business for the first time did mean I made mistakes with my costs. I underestimated my time and labour growing and arranging them grossly, concentrating more on the cost of the flowers and sundries. This winter I have been looking at my pricing a lot to make sure I get it right so Cloudberry Flowers can continue. It does mean there will be changes to some prices, which I hope my customers understand and I hope to keep further changes in the future to a minimum.

One of the ideas suggested which I found really interesting was providing plants to sell on the stall. This is something I would like to give some thought to in the future when Erin has started school and I have more time to devote to Cloudberry Flowers.

All in all the survey was really worthwhile and it was so valuable to have feedback from my customers. A big thank you to everyone who completed it for me.

It felt like Christmas again this week as I received another package through the post full of hedging plants. I do love a box arriving full of things for the garden! When I started the idea of cutting up the field for a cut flower patch we collected all the sods and placed them upside down along our back fence in piles and left them to break down. Now they have turned into a lovely bed of soil between the wooden fence and the rabbit fence but I hadn’t done anything with it. Today the snow had thawed, the girls were playing nicely in the front garden and I grabbed the chance to plant the bare root hedging plants and shrubs which had arrived. I chose each one to provide some interest from flowers and scent to hips. They will also be a haven for birds and other wildlife. The planting has included hawthorn, crab apple, willow, daisy bush, osmanthus burkwoodii, euonymus japonicus, viburnum tinus, prunus avium, rosa rugosa, June berry and dog rose. I hope I will be able to use them in time in my bouquets and jam jars too to continue the natural feel I like to have in my arrangements. I will so enjoy watching this area grow over the coming years.

  

And finally this week I don’t know about you but when I spend hours digging in the mud it just seems to get ingrained in my hands even though I have been wearing gloves! This year for Christmas I got some Crabtree and Evelyn gardeners hand scrub with pumice. What great stuff. I think it’s the only thing I have found so far that really gets the mud off my fingers. I think I will be using a lot of that this year along with an awful lot of handcream!! Has anyone come across any great hand creams for gardeners?

The week ahead will be another few days of the gas men in the garden working on the pipes, so it will be indoor time for me to spend sorting out my new seedlings and potting on. There is nothing like seeing seeds emerging as wee plants to nurture and know given the right care they will eventually turn into beautiful flowers.

Time to get back to gardening

Christmas and New Year were a lovely couple of weeks holiday full of family, friends, Christmas magic with the kids, a bit of over indulgence and a lot of rain!! Now the kids are back at school, the house is very bare with the decorations down and it is time to get back into the garden.

This time of year excites me. Running a flower business where you are growing largely annuals from seed and bulbs means that each year you start over again from scratch. I am full of optimism for the season ahead and excited about growing new flowers I haven’t tried before. I know there will be many challenges to come particularly with the weather! But just now is a time to dream of beautiful flowers and pour over the seed catalogues, getting very carried away as I put in my orders!

Back in the garden it is difficult to know where to start. Everywhere is just so saturated with water and it just keeps raining! For the time being until things dry up a little the flower patch will have to fend for itself.

  

The conservatory housing the seedlings and plants I am overwintering was a dryer place to start this week. Unfortunately quite a few seedlings were suffering from botrytis a fungus that attacks the plants. I don’t remember this being a problem last year and wonder if the milder conditions have been a cause. I removed all the affected seedlings. To help prevent further attacks I will make sure I ventilate the conservatory where possible, space plants out and water the seedlings from underneath rather than on top of the foliage. I will watch and see what happens over the next few weeks to see if there are any further attacks.

It was also time to pot on a few seedlings this week. When roots are starting to show at the base of the pot it’s time to get them into a larger one. Some stocks and nepta seedlings I had grown from seed particularly benefited from this as their roots were really showing.

I am as usual at this time of year getting itchy feet to sew some seeds and get the years planting underway. I know I will have to hold off a another month before I get really stuck into this but I thought I would start off with just a few sweet peas. Here they are soaking in water for 24 hours before sewing to aid germination.

Outside this week I have spotted the first signs of snowdrops and buds on the hellebores which I might expect to see at this time. However the garden is also somewhat confused by this unseasonably mild winter we have had so far. I am sure I can count the number of frosts we have had on one hand. As a result my bulbs I planted in the autumn are popping up everywhere. I am worried that bulbs that are already showing buds will not flower in the spring this year. I am hoping that the ones just showing leaves will be ok. Do you have any experience of bulbs coming up early in a mild winter and did yours flower in the spring?

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With the constant heavy rain that we have had and the very saturated ground outside I am also concerned about my tulips. Last year I did not plant many as it was my first year and I was unsure whether customers would like them. They were a success and people liked being able to buy more unusual varieties you would not see elsewhere. So in the autumn I planted a lot more in terms of both numbers and variety. Could all this rain I wonder affect their flowering in the spring? Especially in one particular area where the flower beds are getting waterlogged due to poorer drainage.

The thing with being a flower farmer is you cannot do anything about the weather and you have to work with it. Last year I spent a lot of time getting quite stressed about the cold not bringing on the plants, the strong winds knocking over my flowers despite staking, the rain damaging the more delicate blooms, late frosts and snow damaging seedlings I had planted out. This year I am going to try not to worry too much about these things. I will prepare as best as I can and if there are tulips and daffodils to sell in the spring brilliant and if not I will try again next year!

This week has felt good to get back to all my gardening jobs and get back on top of things. Gardening is a continual process and not one you can leave too long, as I have found out with the loss of some seedlings. What I have found invaluable just now is being able to look back at my blog from last year. It has been able to tell me what the weather conditions were like, and when I started sewing sweet peas and other hardy annuals. When I started the blog last year it was to share with other interested people what I was doing in my garden and now I am seeing there is a benefit to myself as well! Starting the blog last year I would write a little each week. As time went on and I got busier with the flowers, house and children I found I had less and less time. My blog by then had decreased to just once a month. Now seeing how valuable it can be to myself and others I am going to make a New Years resolution and try and get back in the habit of writing something every week!

After all this rain we have had I woke up today to a garden covered in frost and it looked beautiful! what a difference to see a clear sky, feel the cold on your face as you walk the girls to school and not need a full clothes change by the time you get back as you are soaked through-the new waterproof trousers are on order! I hope this lovely frosty weather lasts to let the rivers go back down to their normal levels and reduce the risk of flooding and to let the garden experience a proper winter at last! I hope you are not having so much rain where you are and are getting a chance to get back in the garden after the holidays.

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Behind the flowers

When you pass the garden gate at this time of year and see the stall empty of flowers it would be easy to think things have ground to a halt. There is not much sign of life and the garden looks like it has gone to sleep. However behind the scenes things are as busy as ever.

November is the time to put the garden to bed for winter. It has been towards the end of the month that I started this as it has been unusually mild. During the end of October and the beginning of November I was still surprised that a few flowers were continuing to pop up. I did wander whether I had shut the stall too early but I think it was the right decision as I have had flowers but not in any quantity to sell.

Gardening at this time of year has required a bit of chivying myself along. It’s warm inside. I could have the kettle on and could be staying dry tackling the never ending pile of washing with a nice cup of tea. Or I could tog myself up in waterproofs and wellies and get out in the flower patch. For me a morning in the wet and wild outside digging is much preferable to the dreaded ironing, so it’s not too difficult to choose! Once I am out its really not bad, there is the fresh air, the physical exercise, the satisfaction of planting and often a friendly robin sitting beside me for company. Spending all this time outside at this time of year has meant I have ended up looking some state by the time I run last minute to pick up my daughter from nursery. Looking down in the cloakroom the other day I realised I was covered in mud from the tops of my legs down! Another day I was heading out the nursery door when I felt the teacher touching my hair. I wondered what she was doing but she was just pulling twigs out of it! I find I lurch from intensive sessions in the garden during nursery hours to running to the pick up and spending time doing activities with my daughters in the afternoon. The evenings are dark now so I am no longer in the garden once the girls are in bed but I am busy pouring over books and catalogues learning and planning for next season. I find this bit exciting, what to grow, the favourites from last year of course but choosing lots of new and interesting varieties too.

So what am I doing in the mud and rain in the garden at this time of year? The first job is removing all the spent annuals. I have been doing this gradually as I kept holding on to the last few scabious and cosmos. It’s hard to let go when they are still beautiful!

The very last flowers from the garden this year

Now however we have had the first snow and ice and it is time for them to come out. This has been a harder job than I thought as some of the stems have become very thick and are well rooted in the ground. Lots of digging, a little muscle required and a lot of mud!

The weather has finally been cold enough to be the right time to dig up and store the dahlias. In milder climates you could mulch them and leave them in over winter but in Scotland I am doubtful they would survive. When I dug them up I washed the soil from the tubers, chopped the leaves off and left them upside down to dry for a few days before storing. Erin thinks they look like odd potatoes. I have to agree they do look very strange and it’s hard to believe they can produce such beautiful flowers.

Dahlia tubers or ‘strange potatoes’ as Erin calls them!

The weather has also been cold enough to plant the tulips now, bringing to an end all my bulb planting for this year. Last year I planted 300 bulbs in the garden. This year I have just finished planting 2200. I am hoping it means I can properly extend my season providing a good supply of flowers in April and May. It has also enabled me to try lots of new varieties of bulb and I am looking forward to seeing which become favourites.

Earlier in the year I planted anenomes and ranunculus for the first time. I loved these flowers and know that I could have them flowering earlier in the spring if I plant the corms now. How they will fare over the winter I am not sure so I have planted some indoors in the unheated conservatory and some outside in the raised bed which I have covered just now.

These ranunculus bulbs have been soaking overnight to rehydrate before planting.

Tulips getting planted. My husband says maybe I should aim for straighter rows. I didn’t think they were too bad until I saw the picture! 

Roses have always been a favourite of mine for years but not the kind you might buy in the supermarket which all look the same with no scent. Traditional garden roses are what I love full of rich scent and gorgeous blooms. November is my birthday month and also the perfect time to plant bare root roses so I was lucky enough to get a few more favourites! I have planted ‘The Generous Gardener’ and ‘A Shropshire Lad’ to be grown over two arches over the two entrances to my flower patch. Hopefully these will grow up over the next few years to make a nice welcome if you are visiting Cloudberry Flowers. I have also been increasing my stock of roses and peonies for my beds I started last year with the view to use them for cutting as they become established.

One success I have been proud of is the leaf mould we made. We collected lots of leaves last autumn and have been letting them rot down over the last year. It has produced a really good mulch which I have been spreading around my perennials to help protect them against the winter weather. It is an amazing free product you can make yourself in the garden with just a little effort and a small area to store the leaves. If you do not have much space just collect leaves up in black bin bags with a few holes in them. Dampen down the leaves a little if dry and leave in a shady spot for a year and you will end up with a great mulch. Leave it for a further year and you will end up with a much finer texture. Due to the success of this we have been back out this year collecting as many leaves as we could for next years batch.

Winter is also a good time for networking. Flower farming is a job you do on your own so I do not have the daily contact with worth colleagues I would get in an office. Previously working as a dietitian I had contact with colleagues and patients all day which I loved. My new career is very different in this aspect and meeting fellow flower growers has been especially important to me. November saw the annual meet up of Scottish Flower Growers and we are all members from Flowers from the Farm. It was a chance to discuss what had worked well and what hadn’t over the season, our plans as individuals for the following year and also plans for working together on projects in Scotland. It was a great day full of discussing what we all love ‘home grown flowers’.

So what will the next few winter months bring? I think I will realistically still be putting the garden to bed for the winter in January as there is just not enough child free time in the day to get it done, but slow and steady wins the race!

Winter also means Christmas. I have loved this time of year all my life and I am definitely not one to skimp on the decorations, size of tree or family traditions. I love the chance to do creative projects from baking with the children to last year making my first wreaths. This year I am looking forward to making some wreaths for customers at Cloudberry Flowers. My first task is to collect moss from the garden. I am sure my neighbours must think I am very odd scarifying small patches of my lawn before Christmas! I collect cones, berries and whatever material in the garden I think will look best and last well. The smells in the kitchen as I dry the orange slices for the wreaths put me right in the Christmas mood! Then it is time to put the wreaths together. This is very tough on the hands as you are using wire to bind the materials so I know I will be asking for handcream for Christmas!

I will finish making the wreaths the last weekend before Christmas. This is early I know but while my girls are still young and caught up in such a magical time I just want to hold on and cherish it. I will enjoy spending some precious days with them doing lots of Christmas activities and baking before the big day when we will enjoy time with my husband and both our families. It will then be time to look forward to a new year, growing in the garden and growing Cloudberry Flowers too!

Enjoy your festive season and Merry Christmas

Catherine x

Tips for tulips

The question asked by my blog is ‘can beautiful cut flowers and foliage be grown in a Scottish garden?’ At points this week I have wondered if I am a bit crazy in trying to do this! The weather from glorious sunshine last week turned back into freezing temperatures, wind, snow and sleet showers. I am not sure what my children must think of me as I shout at dinner ‘there’s snow again!’ and dash out the door to run round the garden at top speed covering everything thats uncovered back over again with fleece! Only time will tell if the fleece has been enough to protect my new little plants. What I did  learn from last year the hard way is not to plant everything out at once, so I do have some back up plants in the conservatory for emergency use.

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The weather may have been very cold again at the beginning of the week but by the end it had started to settle and I was keen to fill my stall with what was looking best in the garden. Without a doubt it is the tulips which have been blooming away happily over the last few days. This year was a first for me growing these lovely flowers and I have just dipped my toe in the water by planting only 150 of them. I really did not know if people would be interested in buying them. I know previously in spring I would buy daffodils for a vase and walk by the tulips on a display.

My opinion has completely changed and I have a new found appreciation for these flowers. They have so many good characteristics. The stems are strong and sturdy for arranging and they last a long time in a vase. They are also very quirky, after you have cut them they just keep on growing. I love to watch them change and see them close at night and open in the sunlight – when we have some sun! There are so many varieties too. This year I planted a few more unusual ones such as ballerina, purissima and queen of the night, but after some research I now have a rather large wish list of scented varieties to plant next year. Between the tulips and the daffodils I think I might be very busy with my bulb planting in the autumn!

Over the last few months I have been learning all sorts of tricks to keep your tulips lasting and standing up straight, which I thought I would share with you. Maybe you use some of these ideas already or maybe you know of a different method for straight tulips. If so I would love to know your ideas.

My granny swears by putting some copper pennies in the bottom of the vase to keep your tulips standing up straight. This is an old well known trick many people use but if you would like to try it you must look for old coins. It is the copper in the coins which is said to act on the tulips and today solid copper coins are no longer minted. In 1992 1p and 2p coins started to be made of steel with just a thin copper plate. Maybe you have some old coins at home you could keep just for putting in the bottom of your vase.

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Another trick to prevent your flower heads drooping is to put a pin in the tulip stem just below the flower head. This allows trapped air to escape and water to travel up the stem.

Some people use 7-up or sprite mixed in with the water in their vase and it is said to feed the tulips and help them last. I am unsure of this method as the sugar from the drink may feed the flowers but also encourage bacterial growth.

Many people use flower food to help their arrangements last as long as possible. However I have found that flowers will last a long time without this, as long as they are properly conditioned before you buy them and you follow the tips below when you get them home. When you buy your flowers from my garden gate stall I will have freshly cut them the night before. This way they will be least stressed when cut and less likely to be losing water through their leaves in the heat of the day. I wrap the bunches of tulips in newspaper and tie them with twine to help keep them straight. They are then placed in a bucket of water for a long drink overnight in a cool dark environment. By the time you see them on the stall in the morning they are as fresh as can be and in top condition.

Once you buy them and get them home there are a couple of essential things to keep your tulips looking their best. Clean cool water is very important and a clean vase. I add a couple of drops of thin household bleach to the water to prevent bacteria building up. Remove all the leaves on the tulip that would be below the water line and recut the stems at an angle so that they have as big a surface area as possible to take up water. Remember your tulips will keep growing in your vase and you might want to recut the stems every few days. Keep your tulips away from direct sunlight and sources of heat such as radiators to help make them last as long as possible.

I hope you have found the tips on tulips helpful and that you find a spot in your home this spring to enjoy these beautiful flowers.

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Growing up and planting out

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

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

Newly planted out sweet peas

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

Lots of fleece tunnels in the cutting patch

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

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

First bluebell                         First fruit in the garden this year

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

Honesty                                        Wallflower                              Tulip Ballerina

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This weeks jam jar posies

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

Rhododendron                                             Spiraea bridal wreath

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