At last we have got round to writing our next blog post, slightly late I know but there does not seem to have been much time to sit!
We have been really busy with deliveries, weddings, parties and welcoming people to the flower field. Never in our wildest dreams could we have met such lovely people and had so much interest in our flowers.
When you work in the fields all day long you never seem to see much change as the seasons roll into each other you are unaware of things growing so fast. It’s not until other people come to the field or we look at photos that we realise how quick things grow and the seasons move on. Each year we seem to learn new things. Twice a month we take video diaries of the fields so that in the depths of winter when we are planning for the next year, we can look back and see what worked well and what we need to change. These videos are invaluable along with our written diaries and really help us plan for the years ahead.
With the nights starting to draw in all too quickly now it seems and a definite nip in the air, Autumn is creeping up on us all. Hopefully the weather will hold and September will be a glorious month where late sown flowers come into their own and flowers, berries and seed heads are collected for our Christmas wreaths.
Well at last the weather is warming, the nights are not too cold and we have uncovered the dahlias and planted all our sweet peas outside.
The sweet peas in the poly tunnel smell heavenly and each morning when you enter the tunnel you are met by the most amazing scent.
Everywhere you look there are new flowers and as June arrives the flower field takes on a new vigour. With scabious, roses, campanula, linaria, snapdragons, iris, chives, nigella, lupins, nepeta, sweet williams, rudbeckia, peony, clematis, calendula, ammi, an abundance of herbs, frothy foliage the list goes on.
We have been overwhelmed with the interest from local customers wanting party flowers, birthday flowers, funeral flowers, brides wanting something different/natural for their very special day and florists interested in working with British Flowers.
We are always learning and love new design challenges. At times when there seems not enough hours in the day, watering, picking and sowing seems to morph into one another, once we line up our flowers to create, its as if the clock stops and we are in a relaxed state of zen!!
Flowers are considered to be a luxury; to survive all we need is food, water and shelter. Whether you are a gardener, grower or just like to decorate your home with fresh blooms, flowers are not a primary concern. After the 3 essentials we then all have a choice, dependant on our lifestyle what we spend our hard earned money on. Some like to save first and spend occasionally, some like to live each day as if it were their last.
When choosing what to buy, price is one of the most important considerations; this is not always the best option and at last consumers are starting to ask questions and wanting to support their local businesses and community.
So why choose local over foreign imports?
Imported flowers are intensively farmed, sprayed with pesticides, refrigerated to keep them fresh once picked; which is not natural or environmentally friendly. They are then flown thousands of miles, handled numerous of times, utilising resource and energy. Being brought up on a traditional farm has taught me that supermarkets only look after themselves, they want uniform everything, they set the price to the producer and equally can cancel contracts with producers at the drop of a hat. As a consumer, we become a slave to convenience, enticed by loyalty points, vouchers off products and buy one get one free offers (that we don’t always want). How many times have you bought a certain product and then all of a sudden the supermarket no longer stocks it? Do we say anything, do we shop elsewhere to get that product, or do we just reside ourselves to buying another brand; perhaps even their own brand?
Our flowers are grown as naturally as possible, greenfly and slugs do like to nibble at the new shoots of certain young plants but with a wonderful network of British Growers through Flowers from the Farm, The British Flower Collective, #britishflowers, growers can liaise with each other and advice and support is always freely available. It’s clearly evident that if we harness nature and provide a bio diverse environment, pests and weeds, (things we would have sprayed and killed some 20 years ago) just encourage an abundance of different birds, toads, frogs, insects etc into the field. Ultimately, everything has a purpose and if we interfere with nature too much, we effect the natural balance, causing unnatural intervention that can have a long term effect.
Buying British Local Flowers means you get flowers with beautiful scent, the colours are vivid and widely varied, they are not covered in chemicals, they will last in a vase if cared for correctly. Your choice of flowers moves with the seasons and consumers are connected directly with the grower. Buying British, locally grown flowers and produce means you know it’s farmed ethically, not damaging to the environment and most importantly it supports local communities with employment and also strengthens our economy.
Whatever it may be, sometimes cheap is not the answer. I think we all need to learn to perhaps have less and what we do have is quality, difference, supports a wide network of fields, supports our local community and the fantastic producers here on our little island. Sometimes less can be more!!
This week has been the first week of the Easter School holidays and what a relief it’s been. It’s meant we have had a lot of extra help from eager workers wanting to earn a little bit of extra pocket money. Lambing is over; at last all the lambs are outside playing and enjoying the sunshine and space. Our first house marten and swallow have arrived after their long journey south. There is an abundance of both frog and toad spawn in the pond and birds are busily nest building, grabbing loose bits of wool caught up in fences and straw/hay left in the racks. The horses winter coats are shed bit by bit whenever they roll and very determined blackbirds wait for that opertune moment to grab what they can, to take back to weave the most intricate nest.
The week started with the second small poly tunnel going up as we need more and more room for seeds, dahlias and to get early crops of desired flowers for orders. You may be wondering why this weeks title is called Blue Jobs. Blue Jobs are what Sue describes as boy jobs. This week has seen us doing lots of Blue Jobs with not a man in sight! GIRL POWER (I must stress that husbands have helped us in previous weeks and will continue to help but both husbands have been busy so we have had to take it upon ourselves to get these jobs done) so with saw, hammer, nails, drill, screw driver and tape measure in hand – jobs have got done, and lessons have been learnt!
Mucking the beds to keep those darn weeds down!
The dahlias we lifted from our outside pile have started to sprout and have been put in their bed outside with their own little hoop house, to keep them nice and warm and protected from any frost. Within a week or so when they have got about 2 inch’s of growth on we will mulch with sheep’s wool which acts as a weed suppressant, mulch, slug deterrent and also gives them a feed (there is some old sheep muck still attached to the wool in places, just the right amount of nutrients).
Seeds are sown regularly now to give us plenty of stock when annuals in the beds tire and need replacing with fresh stock, this year we endeavour to get this right as we always seem to get so busy we forget to sow (diaries at hand and better organisational skills – we’ll see what happens).
We are very lucky to have the most amazing Pelargonium grower near us (http://www.firtreespelargoniums.co.uk). We visited them last week to pick up some nursery stock. Once inside the greenhouses you are amongst some of the most amazing scents. We generally grow pelargoniums just for their foliage but some of the flowers last well in a vase; unique flowers not seen often in an arrangement. We have, for some years now grown Attar of Roses which has the most aromatic rose scent. Ardwick Cinnamon as the name suggests smells of cinnamon and has the most tactile leaves, Chocolate Peppermint smells of peppermint and has a flat velvety leaf with a chocolate centre, Mabel Grey has a serrated rough edge with a very strong sherbet lemon scent and Lady Plymouth has a golden variegated leaf with a citrus scent. Sadly, Fir Trees has decided to close at the end of this season and if you get chance I strongly suggest you have a look on their website as all their stock has to be sold by the end of the year.
Our second order for this week was clematis. Following Erin Benzakeins (http://www.floretflowers.com) recommendation we purchased ‘A Celebration of Clematis’ by Kaye Heafey and Ron Morgan. Wow what a book, hard to get hold of in the UK but well worth the extra effort. The only trouble we then had was narrowing our choice down, decisions to be made, not our best asset but after many hours, coffee/tea drunk, we decided on our choices and have ordered them through Taylors Clematis (http://www.taylorsclematis.co.uk). More information on these and photos will follow in future blogs.
Finally, our order of more perennial plants from the wonderful Mires Beck Nursery (http://www.miresbeck.co.uk) will arrive next week and we have promised no more spending on the plant front until Autumn!!! Unless of course its for our own gardens, for trial purpose only!!!
This week also saw our deliveries start again. It gave us chance to catch up with customers we had not seen since delivering wreaths at Christmas. Our deliveries are very popular and this year orders can be made by text, e mail or telephone whenever the mood takes you (deliveries are on Fridays/Saturdays and orders must be made by Wednesday to allow flowers time to be cut and conditioned). Some of our customers get weekly orders, some get fortnightly orders and some like a large bouquet once a month. We are very flexible and taylor each order accordingly. All flowers are left somewhere cool (a garage, porch or shed) and are waiting for when you return home.
Next week, we are very lucky to welcome Gill Hodgson (Flowers from the Farm founder) and Judy Laushman (co author of Speciality Cut Flowers and Director of The Association of Speciality Cut Flower Growers http://www.ascfg.org – photos etc will be on next weeks blog.
Enjoy the sunshine, it looks like its going to be a really nice week. Enjoy the bank holidays, sit back and admire what’s around you. Sue says I have Wendy moments when I reflect on the simple things in life, but seriously I think sometimes we all need to get off the conveyor belt of life and just sit, listen, laugh and just enjoy being here. (Wendy moment over!!!)
Lambing is at last nearly over, much too our other sister Jayne’s relief. Jayne; who’s the shepherdess on the farm, has worked tirelessly over the past few weeks bringing new life into the world. Sue and I go out first thing in the morning to tend to all the jobs Jayne gives us in the maternity ward! After each ewe lambs, she is moved into her own cubicle for peace, quiet and to recover. If all is well they are moved in with other mums; into a large shed we have named ‘The Savoy’!! After a day, if the weather is kind, they are moved outside. The relief and pleasure on a ewes face is clearly evident, once she realises she is at last back outside with her friends and loads of green grass.
This weekend was also a very special day. Mothers Day is one of the busiest times of year for flowers. I read recently in our local paper that it’s even bigger than Valentines Day! We definitely did not anticipate that we would sell out so quickly for our Mothers Day Posies and we would like to thank all those that bought posies from us and all their kind words.
We now have 2 poly tunnels as well as our greenhouses to cram even more seeds/flowers into. Planning now turns to our weddings and regular deliveries. Some of the flowers are grown under cover, providing us with an early crop and also to get those all important long stems. The nettle brew is starting to stink and muck is being dug into all the beds where greedy plants demand it! The dahlias we over wintered in a traditional pile have come through without too many mice nibbles and most are happily sprouting ready to be planted out in our undercover bed, where they will stay until fear of the last frost has passed.
The other flower field has been ploughed and power harrowed and is ready for direct sowing. More seeds have been ordered (you can never have enough!!!! or so I keep telling Sue and trying to convince myself). As a grower supplying brides, florists and local customers it can, at times, be very difficult to estimate how many flowers you are going to need in each season. Everything has to be looked at from weather, if it’s too hot or too cold, too much rain or not enough and also new demand/new customers (which is really good but can be scary at the same time). Lessons are learnt all the time but there is something quite special about working with the land and flowers. Being surrounded by nature really does have a calming effect and although at times you have not got time to reflect or appreciate your surroundings, when customers come to the flower field, we are reminded why we do this job.
Our final idea for the week was to do a video diary. Although the filming quality needs to improve have a look at our first draft.
Enjoy your week ahead. I believe the weather is going to be good overall. Sit down, grab a coffee, tea or a nice cold glass of wine, sit outside and try and spot your first swallow!
We have been really lucky with the weather lately. It has meant we can tidy and plan the flower field in the sunshine with our coats off. The days seem to fly by at the moment. With appointments to see this years brides, finalising all our seed and bulb orders, weeding and covering 2 poly tunnels, sowing seeds on a daily basis it’s a good job the clocks turn back at the end of the month, we will appreciate that extra hour of day light.
First trench dug for dahlias and tulips breaking through the soil & first tunnel going up
One of the things we start to make now is our flower food. We use a lot of muck from the farm for our perennials as a mulch and in the trench’s, dug out for our dahlias and sweet peas (both dahlias and sweet peas are greedy feeders) but once our plants start to establish we like to use a nettle brew to encourage good leaf and root growth. Armed with rubber gloves we go picking young nettles, some of which won’t make the brewing barrel in the shed but end up in a pan in the kitchen. Nettles make the most amazing soup and are rich in vitamins. Sue has the most amazing recipe loaded with onions and garlic, a huge chunk of homemade bread, sat outside with her menagerie of chickens; what more can you ask for. One word of warning when picking nettles for the kitchen. Make sure the nettles you pick are a good distance from road sides and areas where dogs could been!!
At the end of this week it’s Mothers Day and we have been overwhelmed by interest in our flowers for this special day, (we are now sold out of flowers for this weekend). The race is on to cut, condition and get all our Mothers Days posies out.
Enjoy your week, we hope all Mothers out there have a wonderful weekend and don’t forget to put your clocks forward an hour on Saturday night.
The word Spring makes us think of new beginnings, energy, vibrancy and excitement of things to come.
In just over a weeks time, we will have our first lambs of 2014 and if the weather keeps dry and sunny, these new arrivals will be racing in the fields with all their friends, whilst their mums spring in her step can be reignited after carrying her heavy load or loads (hopefully no more than 3 to carry!).
In the flower field life has begun to unfurl. As the snowdrops tire and recede, an abundance of new arrivals are shouting out for our attention. Hellebores, Muscari, Daffodils, Anemones, Ranunculus, Sweet Williams, Erysium, early Tulips to name a few, as well as all our foliage which provides the perfect green canvas to showcase our flowers. We grow all sorts of different foliage/herbs and are always looking for new species to include with our flowers; you can never have enough foliage!
Last year we were asked to do so many different flowery projects and were able to meet so many lovely people. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing someone’s face when they sink their nose into a bouquet of flowers. The sense of smell brings back memories, uplifts the spirit and just makes you smile.
We have had such a lovely response about our flower deliveries and cannot wait to start delivering again this year. There is something very special about leaving flowers at someone’s home (whether it be in their porch, garage or shed) for them to collect on their return home from work or a day out. If you are interested in getting flowers delivered, have a look at our page ‘Delivered to your door’. There is no commitment you can just ring or text if you fancy a bunch of flowers, its that simple, (deliveries are twice a week, at present). Or perhaps you are thinking about Mothers Day and wondering what to get mum this year. Our ‘Mothers Day Gift Voucher’ may be what you are looking for, check out our ‘Mothers Day/Gift Voucher’ page.
We also provide natural arranged designs/bouquets for birthdays, themed parties, anniversaries and special venues. Flowers can be arranged in jugs, jam jars wrapped in lace, hessian or ribbon, milk churns, wellies, urns, teacups to name a few. We have also been commissioned to weave (using our willow, hornbeam, birch and beech) arch’s for weddings, the brides and grooms initials for pew ends, circlets and weaved cones to place arranged flowers in for parties. Each request has been unique and we take great pride in producing something bespoke and specific for each event. See our ‘Special Occasions’ page
The other request we had numerous times, was if we would do a workshop for weaving or flower growing/arranging. This is something that we hoped we would have had time to do last year, but never got the time to plan and organise. This year we hope to arrange a workshop and will keep you posted about this. In the meantime if any of you have a specific request please let us know. Numbers would be limited on each workshop day in order that everyone get the most from the day. Lunch would be provided and there would be lots of tea/fresh coffee and homemade cakes throughout the day. If you were lucky enough to come to our Macmillian Coffee morning last year there was an array of sweet treats. The sun shone all day, the birds sang and people were able to walk in the field and ask questions about the flowers we grow and take home some of their favourites. We had the most amazing day and raised over £280, definitely something we want to do again this year.
The race has started. As the light hours gets longer, these little gems start to pierce through the soil and between each seedling there seems to be competition. We sow sweet peas in Autumn and Spring for successional sowing throughout the year. Personally, I like to sow in Spring as there is great excitement when the birds start to sing their song, attracting mates and letting us all know that, at last the season is changing, the evening light is getting longer, mornings are lighter and there is a real zing in the air. This has to be my favourite time of the year, new life is at last starting to unfurl. We start lambing in the middle of March, the children get so excited about the possibility of nurturing a lamb needing that little bit of extra help, when born. Everything, including our peas start to stretch, look to the light, and want to grow. The only thing not growing is ourselves, this is a time to shed those excess pounds laid down in Winter. This is so easily done, just get out with a spade and dig, take the dog for a long walk, go for a bike ride or discover a new walk with the family. As animals come out of hibernation we too take off our coats and feel the freedom of movement and motivation.
This year we are growing show varieties from Owls Acre Seeds and our usual favourites from Moles Seeds and Chiltern Seeds. The field is drying out at last, with the winds we have had lately, we can at last get in and start weeding, and preparing the beds.
Sweet peas seem to evoke childhood memories in all our customers. The colours, the delicate frill of each petal and of course the hypnotic scent. We sell our sweet peas at our local farm shop (Baldersby Shop) and to our ‘Delivery On Your Door’ customers. Sweet Peas are not available easily from florist shops or through supermarkets as they do not travel well. This is where the British grower can benefit. We cut our peas and condition in a cooling shed over night (this also gets rid of the little beetles who like to lodge in the peas!) and deliver the next day. If kept cool and the water changed regularly, peas can last for 5- 7 days.
Anyone can grow Sweet Peas, they are easy to grow. Why not try some in your garden or courtyard. We also invite you to come to the flower field and we can pick colours/varieties that you like. They are intoxicating.
Today we have at last started our blog. The sun is shining and all is good.
This month is a month of planning in the field, sowing seeds and ordering more seeds (where there is bare earth, seeds can be sown). February is a compulsive month, seed catalogues drop through the letter box and the temptation starts. Sue and I have it off to a perfect patter. If we purchase something the other does not know about, we use the excuse that it’s for our own private gardens for research purposes only. However, when the seed trays start to burst into life and need to be transplanted out, they seem to make their way to the field!
February is also a time to sift through many photos taken over the previous year that need to be sorted into some sort of order. It’s impossible in the busy months, weeding, sowing, picking, conditioning, arranging and delivering our flowers to sort out all the photos we take, so whilst everything is sleeping in the field we have time to organise our paperwork, photos etc. As the buds and bulbs start to show themselves we realise that our time is running out.