The Sweet Peas are in - January on the farm

This January has been frozen so far. In fact there have been more frosts and car scraping so far this winter than in the last 2 winters put together, and we've got a week of frosts forecast for the next week as well.

But there's hope of Spring to come because the Sweet peas are in.

Sweet pea jug

Since Christmas there hasn't been much planting progress, because our time has been spent taking down and putting up greenhouses. 

not one, not 2, but 3 of them.

Like buses, Greenhouses don't come in ones. After waiting all last season to see if one would be offered on our local Streetlife community group, (and missing out on the only one that did because i was too slow to answer) in December i asked if anyone was getting rid of  their Greenhouse and would like it taken away and given a good home.

We had offers from 4 Horsley residents, one of which was for a lean to, which we don't have an appropriate wall for. but we said yes to the other 3 - whoopee.

My long suffering husband got a Christmas holiday project, and Mum and Dad and William all got collared to help again, but the upshot of it is that we now have 3 additional covered growing areas, for the grand total of a couple of hundred quids worth of Greenhouse glass.

Greenhouse montage

The smallest one, is already being used for seedlings, and is in one of the sunniest and most sheltered places on the farm.

The largest one, a grand 12ft by 8ft Eden double doored beauty is where the Sweet peas have now been installed.

Greenhouse sweetpeas

I was worried they were getting a bit leggy, but they had great root systems and the already tall stems meant they all got tied into our support system.

by late April, through May, and into June, these plants will be producing Winter Sunshine Opal and cream blooms, like these ones from last year.

Winter sunshine sweet peas

I've also been creating some winter farewell flowers. There are bunches of daffs and bouquets back in the local village store, and the anemones and ranunculus are looking promising to get my florists season going as soon as April arrives.

Jan blog montage

Even though the ground is too frozen to plant anything, we've had a delivery of wood chip so we can start making more (weed free) paths. I've been keeping myself busy by doing some Garden consultations, which means i've got planting plans to design over the next week.

I've also spoken to Florists at Hadlow College about British Flowers, and i'll be talking to the career course students at the

Jay Archer Floral Design Flowers School next Monday. Good job the planting plans for the field are almost there now, and the Tax return is filed!

 


A book about British Flowers for florists

One of the most frequent questions that i'm asked is.

"what will be flowering in pink in June?"

closely followed by

"when will Dahlias be flowering?"

Pink in June

(Pink in June suggestions - Campanula, Sweet Pea Opal, Digitalis Excelsior, Rosa Eglantine, Paony (unknown variety propagated from my garden) or Sweet Williams, Nigella, Cornflowers, and Iceland poppies.

If you replace the pink and June with other colours/ shades and months, Or replace the word Dahlia with any other flower name, you get the majority of the questions that I'm asked by florists. It's not that they haven't bothered finding out, there isn't currently any one document or book that tells florists when the natural flowering time for each variety of British Grown Cut flower is.

So i've written one.

Well if i'm being accurate, i've been helped by Vanessa Birley and Emma Davies to get to the point where we have a huge amount of written material and photos ready to be published. The next part to get to the point where we have a physical book in our hands is going to take a bit longer, but those Questions still exist, so as well as the book we've set up a blog.

thebritishflowersbook.co.uk

As well as information about the flowers that are available all through the year grown by commercial and artisan growers all over the UK, we'll have interviews with Growers, and Florists who regularly use British Flowers. 

We've been lucky enough to work with some amazing florists during the last year to create Photo shoots to show off the best of British throughout  the season, and the blog will enable us to show you the behind the scenes shots from the shoots as well as the beautiful displays that they created in different styles.

Every single flower photo and display in the book has been created with Only British Grown Flowers, the majority of them grown at Hill top farm in Surrey. 

I could go on an on about the book, as it is my baby that i've spent plenty of late nights and early mornings on, but not all of you that read this blog are florists or floral arrangers, which is who the book is mainly aimed at. So i'm going to make sure that this blog continues giving you information about what i'm doing at the farm, and the flowers that are my favourites, and how i grow them.

If you are interested in a comprehensive guide of the flowers, fillers and foliage that are available each month grown in the UK, and want to know more about when the book will be published, please do bookmark the blog, and sign up so we can let you know our progress. (email will ONLY be used for information about The British Flowers book)

PS my first Dahlia sales date to Florists was really early in 2016 on the 21st July.

 


Looking back over this year's DIY wedding flowers

During the Planning that i've been doing for 2017, I've had cause to look back at what I achieved during 2016.

There is a list of 26 Weddings that we provided flowers for directly this year. Either buckets of themed flowers and foliage, or made up bouquets, buttonholes, and table arrangements. We've picked and collated and the brides and their families have collected from the barn and whisked away to wedding venues all over Surrey. Including just down the road to Horsley Towers, To the fabulous Fetcham Park, Up the A3 to Pembroke Lodge in Richmond Park and to many other barns and marquees.

Bride and 4 bridesmaids-1

The photos, both snaps i've taken as they go out the door, and the pictures that Emma has captured on the lucky coincidence days when she's been shooting as i've been creating have been sitting in my dropbox yelling at me to show them off, so here's my opportunity.

I'd also like to mention at this point Vanessa and Seana, who have been my sanity check helping hands when the brief has been bigger than i've been capable of doing on my own. My work experience student Amy and her Mum Carol, who organise and tidy up after me when i've made a floristry mess. Plus of course Jennifer, my able assistant who helps me grow and pick the flowers, and then only gets to see the pics if i wave my phone in front of her, or post them on here.

So here are a selection of what's gone out of the barn door this year.

We started off in April 

Scented narsissus

It was a freezing start to the season, and If i hadn't kept referring to my records from previous years, i'd have been panicking that nothing would be ready, but for the 7th April, we provided.

Narcissus, Tulips, Anemone, Hellebores, Scilla, Cerinthe, Blossom, and a wide range of herbs and foliage.

In May the beginning of the month held colour schemes of Blue and Purple, but by the end of the month, the colours had softened, and for our first flowers to Grace Fetcham Park, we had a theme of soft creams and pinks.

End of May wedding bouquet

The Bride and 4 bridesmaid photo at the top of this post, was for this wedding and was shown on the BBC when i was featured on the Countryfile diaries program in the summer.

In June we had the first wedding i've ever managed to put my own Peonies AND Roses into, and we made a whole load of buttonholes (please note 17th June as the date if you wanted Roses and Peonies this year)

June wedding paeonies and roses

and another first for me as i attended a wedding reception i'd made flowers for, including the cake topper, buttonholes and table decorations 

June cake topper

In July, I provided flowers that went off the Grand Hotel in Brighton, and at the end of the month, DIY buckets that were to go with home grown sweet peas and Lavender

End of July DIY bucket

August was our busiest wedding month ever. But the field was producing bucket after bucket after bucket, so we managed themes of Yellow and Cream, Pale Blue, pinks and Pastels and White blue and Lilac. Plus my favourite ( as it doesn't happen very often) of bright colours.

August wedding montage

In September I loved the fact that my brides wanted white and peach, but by the time they'd visited the field, liked all the colours. Here we moved from peach to a bit of orange.

Touch of orange in September

although we found plenty of peach for the bridal bouquet

Peach September bridal bouquet

October was the last Wedding month of the year for me, but were 3 of the biggest weddings we'd produced. I almost worried that the Dahlias wouldn't produce enough, but there wasn't an issue.

here's the Pink theme

October pink wedding

and here's the ever popular peach

October peach wedding

and the year was rounded up with a DIY Dahliatastic bucket of Autumn colours.

October dark and orange

Thank you to all the couples and their families who put faith in me to provide them with Quality, Seasonal flowers. Every single one of the flowers was British Grown, and about 99% of them were grown at Hill Top Farm. I've been so pleased to get feedback from my couples after their big day, here's some of their lovely comments

 

" they looked and smelled great and were admired by everyone.  "
 
"Thank you so much for the truly gorgeous flowers, they were amazing and we loved them, and we had so many compliments about them during the day from guests."

"The flowers were beautiful and lasted such along time ! "
 
"I just wanted to say a massive thank you for the stunning flowers for our wedding. They looked absolutely gorgeous!"

"Just to say thank you for the flowers which were/are absolutely lovely."

I've already got 12 wedding dates booked for 2017, so there will be plenty more flowers disappearing from the barn over the coming season, please do come and see us on an open day if you like the idea of Seasonal, scented and sustainable flowers for your wedding or event.

 


Planning for the New Year

I always try and kid myself that i don't work in this "bit" between Christmas and the New Year. The fridge is still full, there are friends and family to see, walks in the Surrey countryside to do..... But actually who am i kidding, I may not have to go into an office each day (and for that i am eternally grateful) I may not have to be frantically finding childcare for those Extra days that school's still out, but I am still being a Flower farmer. 

Greenhouse erection

The hours at the farm are shorter. They consist of putting up a greenhouse, laying cardboard and plastic to stop weeds, and baiting Mouse traps, and i've got family help.  But the hours of planning for the coming season are plenty, although they often take place while something sporting is happening on TV that i'm ignoring.

So I thought i'd give you a quick idea of the planning that a Flower Farmer does. It's easy to apply to gardening or allotmenting, and if you'd prefer not to do the extra work, you can just buy the flowers from me that this planning provides all through the year.

First off I need to know what's been a success or a failure in the past season. I look through sales records, feedback from florists and event customers, Photos of the season, my diary - which often tells me the "should have had more" scenarios that the sales don't highlight. This year, the biggest successes were amaranthus, so there will be more of those grown, and the biggest failures were Sunflowers so these will be protected vigorously from the slugs this year.

Amaranthus montage

Then i work out who i want to work with in the coming year. Which means i'll know what kind of flowers to grow. I started by trying to grow for every customer - bouquets, weddings, florists, contracts, farmers markets. But i've found which ones i enjoy working with, and so i'm growing in particular the colours and varieties that those customers like. My main markets this year will be My florists, my DIY wedding flowers, and my bouquets for my local shop, so the planning is veering towards the successful varieties for those.

DIY wedding buckets

My next set of work is on productivity. I need to get more flowers out of my field for my customers. I need to work no harder than the year before, and produce flowers at even better quality. My field plans are a big part of this, making sure that crops that flower together are planted together, so that there are smaller walking distances when picking. This year we're also working on some irrigation, so that we don't have to drag hoses around, but the plants get water when they need it.

Last I work on the budget. I know that people don't like to talk about Money in relation to their self employed businesses, but although i love my job, it's hard work. I need to know that i'll make good money this year, and i have to plan where that money is coming from, and at what times of the year, so that i can spend next Christmas enjoying the slight break and pause, rather than worrying about how to pay the January bills.

So i'm all practically planned for next season. The seed catalogues that are falling through the door are actually being ignored (for now) as i know i already have what i need for the coming sowing sessions. There's a Dahlia planning session coming up in the New Year, and i've got my Chrysanthemum stocktake figures to take into account for plotting what i'll grow for next November, but for now i can enjoy a walk today, and a few more leftovers from the fridge.

If you planning ahead to next season, and would like some more information and knowledge of how to grow cut flowers, arrange them or pick them, then please do look at the workshop details here

if you're a florist or flower farmer that would like a day of planning to ensure you're confident for the coming season and have taken everything into account so you have the best year ever in 2017, there are still places on my January 30th Workshop


Growing locally, Selling locally at the West Horsley Village Store

It's November, and there are still flowers. Not huge numbers, so i'm not currently selling to florists, and i've done my last wedding of season, but that means i'm even happier that we've got a New Village Store, and that they are selling my bunches and bouquets.

Anemone flower display

The Village Store (10 The Street, KT24 6AX) Just along from the Bell and Colville Garage at the Roundabout, has been opened by the team from the London Cheese Board. Along with their large range of cheese, deli items, wines, and other local goodies. It's great that they can offer locally grown flowers

I used to be able to tell local Horsley people to go to Jayne at Eden Belles. But she closed in the Spring, so it's brilliant that there's now somewhere that people can go and pick up a bunch or a small bouquet for themselves, not just to be delivered as a gift.

We're doing £3 pocket money posies (currently Anemones, will be scented Narcissus soon) £6 bunches (lilies and Alstroemeria at the moment) and £10 bouquets (Chrysanths, Sweet Williams, Scabious, Hesperanthera, lots of foliage and seed heads plus lilies and Alstroemeria) plus if you need something a bit bigger, you can pre order for delivery to the shop, - either by talking to the Village Store team (Jenni, Rupert and co), or by phoning or emailing me.

For December, i always make natural Christmas wreaths, which make great use of wonderful winter foliages, berries, seed heads and fruits. next week we'll have some wreath examples for you to order from.

Last year i was asked if i'd do a wreath making workshop, but My barn in December is cold (absolutely freezing) and has no lights, so that's out.  Jenni at the Village Store has offered to host a workshop and provide refreshments - which sounds like a fabulous idea to me. So for those who would like to spend an evening crafting with friends, making a door wreath from scratch, while sampling the cheese and wine at the Store. Here's the details. Either drop in and book with Jenni or email me to reserve your place.

Wreath workshop flyer design

If you want to see what goodies the Village Store has in stock, they are now on Twitter, and Facebook


Know your seedlings - The key to growing healthy, happy, hardy annuals

We had Dave come and join us to do some work experience last week. He's been a builder, not a gardener, but would like to try his hand at this Flower farming lark....

His biggest issue i think (well actually i can think of a few, but we'll keep it simple for this blog) is learning what's a plant and what's a weed.

Identifying your seedlings, - particularly those that are likely to sow themselves on your field is really important for a flower farmer, and actually any gardener who likes freebies.

Seedlings blog flower montage

(Flowers l-r, top-bottom - Cornflowers, Gypsophila, Larkspur, Iceland poppies, Ammi Major)

So I thought i'd show you a few that it would be good to know how to identify.

Larkspur

For me, the annual larkspur is a god-send because Delphiniums hate my field. To this point in time, despite sowing seed every year, and potting on and cosetting many delphinium plants over the last few 4 seasons, the stems i've sold is still only in double digits. Whereas Larkspur, although still somewhat difficult to get round the joint enemies of slugs and rabbits, do make it with reasonable regularity on my field. With many stems produced per plant, and amazing height of flowers, it's worth trying. Here at Hill top farm, Autumn sown seeds and self sown seeds are potted up, and sheltered in the polytunnel until early spring. Here's what you are looking for if you want to do the same.

Larkspur seedlings montage

Ammi Major

Now Ammi is an amazing filler flower. Strong stems, early season flowers, and lots and lots of stems per plants. It doesn't like root disturbance, so you need to know what it looks like when it's just a couple of leaves if you want to transplant it. Try and get it when it has just 2 real leaves, and transplant it into deep plug trays. These 54's are an excellent size to get a decent rootball to go straight out into field beds in late October. By February, the plants will look like the bottom picture.

Ammi seedlings montage

Cornflowers

Obviously a British Cut Flower field or patch can't be without Cornflowers, and as they were the locally grown crop that was transported to London for gentleman's buttonholes, i wouldn't be without them. - It helps then to know what the seedlings look like. I try and transplant my cornflowers when they are just 2 true leaves (like the seedling sample on the right in the first photo, when it only has a small amount of root, and is easy to transplant) If you don't pick every single cornflower then you are likely to get self sown seedlings (like in the 2nd photo in amongst the Sweet Williams - and other weeds!) But if you get them transplanted quickly, then autumn sown seedlings will look like the bottom photo by February. Strong rosette seedlings that will produce 20 or 30 flower stems from each plant.

Cornflower seedlings

Bulplurum

This one self sows itself better than if it is sown. - i've found it's easier to let it do the seedling stage itself, then pot it up to avoid it being slug bait, and plant it back out when it's bigger and stronger. - If you want to sow this one from packet seed, cover it with black plastic for 3 weeks to exclude light, taking the cover off as soon as it germinated. It looks very similar to Ammi seedlings when it's just 2 leaves, that's why there's the first 3 plants of bulplurum in this tray. (Note to self, don't plant in adjacent beds!)

Bulplurum seedlings

Poppies

Although i love poppy seed heads, the poppies that drive my florists bonkers, are the Iceland poppies. Their early season colours and bendy stems mean that they are snapped out of my hands as quickly as i can pick them. This season, as well as the amazing colours i've grown in the past, i've also got the Colibri varieties. - here's what they look like as seedlings.

Poppy seedlings

My germination rates of the expensive Italian seeds were amazing, so i'm hoping i find room for and manage to grow every single one of them to full flowering (Dave's building skills may be used for some extra gro-tunnels at this rate)

And last but not least

Gypsophila

i'm growing 3 varieties of Gypsophila this year. Covent Garden, which i've grown for the last 3 years, Kermesina, a pink variety that i saw at Green and Gorgeous this year, and Monarch White - an unknown quantity that i got a packet of seeds for and well......... what's a seed addict to do.

Here's what the seedlings look like.

Gypsophila seedling montage

So if you know what your seedlings look like, you know what to weed out, and what to cosset. - Happy seedling hunting.

 


Still Flowering on the field Mid October 2016

We haven't had a frost yet here in Surrey. 

The temperature has dropped, but so far the Dahlias are still safe, and there's actually quite a lot else still flowering as well.

Dahlias with verbena behind

Behind the Dahlias is a whole row of Verbena Bonariensis, which is still going strong. - Shorter stems now, but great purple tones.

Cosmos

I thought i'd made a big mistake not sowing a late batch of cosmos this year. But because we only had one batch, we've kept picking and picking it, - and it's responded with growing back with fresh buds each week. This variety is Picotee pink, but the Collarette white is still going too. (the double click varieties petered out long ago though)

Cynoglossum

This is the 3rd year running i've had a lovely late bed of Cynoglossum, The blue seems more reluctant to seed than the pink, but it's a great filler, and i'm hoping i've got at least another week of it.

Scabious blue

The Scabious has come back again with lovely long stems. The Blue and white got a major hair cut in August, so they are really long and strong, but even the neglected dark colours are providing some new stems.

And i've been cutting Sedum since it was green in July, but the dusky pink stems are still going, and haven't browned off

Sedum

and we're now at the point where we can start cutting the autumn/ winter foliage. Beech, Privet, Senicio, Eucalyptus, Rosemary Pittosporum have all been picked today, along with Ageratum, Helichrysum, Statice, Seed heads, Daucus, Feverfew, Hesperanthera, Nerines, Zinnias and Antirrhinums (there's a video on my Instagram feed of all the lovelies we picked todayhttps://www.instagram.com/plantpassion/)  

But the Chrysanthemums are late this year, - they're budding up now, i'm just hoping the polytunnel can protect them long enough for the flowers to fully come out.

And tomorrow's wedding is the last of the season (or is it, as an email has just landed in my inbox.......)

 


British Flowers and Clever Marketing to fool the public

The British Flowers industry is growing again - Whoopee.

the publicity that even i've got this year as a tiny grower - (The Telegraph in June, BBC Countryfile diaries in August and Surrey Life magazine in September plus 3 mentions in the local Surrey Advertiser don't you know....) has been fantastic and amazing, and and along with my loyal local customers who use me again and again, has meant my business is currently a whole 100% up on Turnover over last year. (and last year was a 120% up on the year before!)

When i looked at my marketing plan for this season ahead of our Advanced Growing Workshop this weekend, I realised that i'd only done 2 of the 10 items on the list. Just 2... and i still sold that many more flowers than last year.

Almost every week this summer i've received an email from a London florist or a company who wants to retail British Flowers, and needs a regular supplier of them. They already have customers absolutely keen as mustard to buy locally grown and British Provenance flowers. But i can't help them...... I'm not big enough, i've already sold all my flowers.

Imagine then if you have a large marketing budget...... You know that local, and seasonal will sell....... But you can't find enough suppliers growing in the UK who don't already have customers for all their flowers. What to do? Give up on the idea or, well fudge it, and cover it with clever marketing?

In my Facebook feed this morning was a photo, of some lovely flowers that the poster had given as a present.  Here's what she said about them.

"So these beautiful flowers all British grown delivered to your door all for £20, very impressed with quantity & quality. cant wait to order some next week for myself "
Love them Thank You  Freddie's Flowers"

They were a lovely selection, and for £20 delivered to your door - great value, but let's examine the rest. (I'd love to stick in the photo, but obviously it wasn't mine, so here's one of my most in demand Autumn Flowers at the moment)

Autumn dahlia karma choc

the Website for Freddies flowers actually lets everyone know what they're going to be getting 

Freddies flowers graphic

Reddy Purple are great autumn colours. Oak, Rose, Astrantia, Hypericum and Eucalyptus, well i grow all of them. So Far, i was just feeling a bit peeved that i hadn't spent more on my Facebook advertising to let people in Horsley and Clandon know about my Subscription flowers!.

My attention was then drawn to the Roses. Now there aren't many British Rose Growers of commercial cut Roses. I know as i've tried to source them. A google search of Red Freedom Roses Wholesale brings up a product profile from New Covent Garden Market about how these great Colombian / Eucadorean grown Roses are the best for Valentine's Bouquets. I couldn't find any source that was UK grown.  Then I noticed the variety of Hypericum, - mine are Magical series and i've got a similar colour to that which i used in displays and buttonholes this weekend

Autumn buttonholes

But the "Coco series" mentioned in the Bouquet Blurb are not available in this country. In fact they're only distributed as cuttings to Netherlands, Germany and Belgium, or grown on 6 farms in Africa (according to this website by the PBR holders) So they couldn't have been bought from a "local grower"  So that's 2 out of 6 ingredients at least that aren't going to be British, - Why did my Facebook poster think they were All British?

Well it's the clever marketing - 

Freddie is a florist's son after all who used to work for Abel and Cole and we all know they use Organic British Farms 

Freddie

(Incidentally I thought they did, but i've gone all through the Abel and Cole website, and can't see British mentioned anywhere, please let me know if i've missed it) 

So now we know Freddies background, did we assume he bought British Flowers?

Freddies fresh from the growers

Well actually this lovely little graphic doesn't say British Specifically, but it does say they'll pick them fresh from the growers. I guess if you get on the phone to some of the largest flower farms in the world, and say "please can we have Roses, Hypericum, Astrantia and some seasonal foliage to go with them" you are picking from the growers, BUT, that isn't what the Great British Public thinks you mean.

It's not the first time i've heard of someone letting people think via Clever Marketing that the flowers they are getting are grown in this Country. There are other companies out there using "Local" and "Fresh" and stretching the majority of people's imagination on those points. Most reputable Florists and Flower mongers will use the words "Mostly British" or "British Flowers whenever possible" because the sad truth is, that we've got out of the habit of Buying flowers locally. So our Flower growers aren't big enough to cope with the biggest event companies, or mass mail order.

Our Flower industry has been in the Doldrums, and only certain types of flowers have continued to be grown in large numbers. Commercial growers in this country can't afford to grow new, untried varieties and can Only afford to grow those things that the supermarkets have "preordered".  They may sell millions of stems, but at such small margins that there hasn't been much money to reinvest. Plant trials in this country, which are not supported by any government money only concentrate on those supermarket varieties, and British Flower sales only account for between 10 and 15% of sales in this country.

It's ONLY the smaller growers, like me (and other members of Flowers from the Farm) that are able to sell Only British Flowers All year round. Because i'm small i can assess My 280 different varieties and add some new ones to trail every year to find different things for my local market of loyal buyers, whether they be florists, subscription customers, event organisers or brides. 

Obviously my marketing has to get cleverer to let everyone know that.


Sowing Hardy Annuals to get a jump start on next year.

I have to admit that at this time of year, i'm winding down. There's 3 more weddings, some party flowers and bouquets to do, but i'm heading towards half term which is my cut off point for major orders.

But if i only think that way, (and it's really easy to, when it's now dark when i get up) then there will be nothing flowering on the field in June next year. The winters on my well drained, chalky field are the only time plants really get a good soaking. That means that autumn sown and planted out hardy annuals can grow strongly to give me huge amounts of flowers earlier next season.

So i've been in the greenhouse this afternoon. Pricking on the seedlings i sowed a couple of weeks ago, and sowing more to make sure i've got enough for my plan for next year.  Seed trays newly sown

This afternoons sowings included Cornflowers, Gypsophila, Poppies, Calendula and Orlaya.

At this time of the year, while it's still warm, things only take a week or so to germinate. You can prick them out into larger cells within a 2-3 weeks of   sowing. The poppies at the front of this shot (above) were sown on the 28th August, and the Ammi and Cornflowers on the 7th September.

Ammi seedlings

So what likes being Autumn sown?

Blue cornflowers

Cornflowers are top of the list. - The difference between autumn sown and spring sown is amazing, and about 1 metre in height!

Autumn sown cornflowers create a rosette that produces huge amounts of stems. Each plant can give you a minimum of ten flowers for cutting EACH week, when it gets going. As well as the amazing Blue Ball, I also grow Classic romantic, Snowman, Pinkie, and new to me this year Mauve Ball (spotted at Green and Gorgeous in the summer ) My first batch of plants last year were eaten by slugs, So the date of sowing for the majority of my plants which started flowering on 18th May was 30th September 2015.

Ammi Major is next on the list. While some people sow these direct, i like to give them plenty of space so they can get to full size, and i'm not fond of weeding out plants when it's wet in the winter. For that reason, i sow them in seed trays and prick them out when they are only just germinated. As long as you use a deeper module, this works really well for me. Ammi Visnaga on the other hand doesn't overwinter well, and spring sown catches it up, and produces healthier plants, so i'm not bothering with autumn sown this year.

Ammi major

The Ammi was late flowering this year, only starting on the 15th June from a 9th September sowing, last year it was 28th May.

Poppies are my next favourite. The iceland ones for flowers, and the self sown ones for seed heads (those i broadcast direct) I've even tried sowing these as biennials at the end of May, but although i got a flush of a couple of tiny flower heads in November that year, they didn't start flowering any earlier in the spring than the autumn sown ones. Usually it's by the end of April if you sow them now. This year because of a cold spring it was the 7th May. I am trailing some expensive new Colibri seeds this year..... watch this space.

Cream poppy

and last but not least to sow in the next couple of weeks - Sweet peas. Make sure you've got your root trainers prepped and your seeds bought. By far the best time of year to sow Sweet Peas is early to mid October.

Sweet peas

Have fun filling your greenhouses and window sills this weekend, and look out for next season's workshops if you want practical help and advice to get your cutting gardens started. 


Florists Dahlia Day. Picking, Styling and Photography at the flower field

As i sit here writing this, the rain is pouring down, but we had a great morning for a workshop this Monday morning.

Our Dahlia Day workshop started with a talk about the different shapes of Dahlias, and which ones we've found here at Plantpassion work well and last longest as Cut Flowers.

Claire on the field with florists

When i'd finished showing all the varieties we've got, so that we have flowers right through from the palest whites, to the darkest maroon, It was the florists turn to pick and fill a bucket to make their arrangements. Several exclamations of "kid in a sweetie shop" and "too much choice" later, they were all quite happily cutting dahlias and other goodies from the field.

Florists picking

After a happy picking season and more Coffee and Cake (recipes for Orange Polenta biscuits and Apple, Date and Walnut muffins going out with the feedback forms) The Dahlias, plus lots of Amaranthus, Cosmos, Sedum, Ageratum, Seedheads and Foliage were made into wonderful creations. There were all sizes of vases and vessels, and Vanessa Birley was on hand to help with those not so sure about using Chicken Wire to support the displays, and to add extra touches on the styling front.

Then it was Emma Davies turn to give hints and tips to ensure that not only were the displays excellent, but the photos for portfolios looked great as well.

Emma explained the basics of Light, Background and Viewpoint, and then as the light was on our side (high clouds, but good light levels) We were able to take pictures both in the barn, on the field and in our Polytunnel studio.

Emma showing viewpoint changes

Here's some of the amazing creations that were made today. Well done Emma, Frances, Suzie, Mary, Nicola and Seana it was lovely seeing my Dahlias made into such lovely displays.

Emma A display

Nicola vase display

Seana Jug display

Frances Grasses and Cafe au lait

Mary amaranthus vase

Vanessa silver vase

If you'd like portfolio worthy pictures made with British Flowers, please do let me know and i'll keep you informed of our next collaborations.