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.




July Roundup - Hampton Court Silver, BBC Filming and flowers galore

Whew what a month July has been. It's flown past but included so much, including a much needed holiday.

We Started the month with Plantpassion Flowers going to the Hampton Court Flowers Show

Hampton Court flowers to go

I've been involved for the last couple of years in helping to man the stand, and provide flowers. But this year, i was doing the organising and logistics for our Flowers from the Farm Floral Display.

I take my hat off to those who do events and displays on a regular basis, as it was one of the most difficult things that i've done, but our Floral Designer - Jay Archer, did an amazing job. Although with just a week to go, we were wondering whether there would be anything bright and colourful available for our Rio Carnival inspired stand, the weather improved just in time, and the photo above shows my contribution to the show.

Here's what Jay and the team came up with. A fabulous bright coloured flower wall, and a "Garden" of tin cans, oil drums and tyre planters to represent the music and theme of floats in the carnival. With Grasses and seedheads to represent the feathers and bling, we showed that British Flowers can be used for any style. Plus we got a SILVER

HC Rio Theme stand montage

As if organising and being at Hampton Court for several days that week didn't make me busy enough, the BBC came to film at my field for Countryfile Diaries that week too.

The programmes will be shown next week, at 9.15am on BBC1. I'm likely to be on the Wednesday or Friday programme. The filming took all day, and they also interviewed one of my lovely florist customers Vanessa Birley. The production team and Margherita Taylor the presenter were extremely professional and personable, and i'm hoping it will be a really good promotion for British Flowers. (don't worry i'll let you have a link for watching it if you miss it!)

BBC filming at my field

I then had 10 wonderful days of holiday. I left my capable team to manage the field. Thank you to Jennifer, Dana Leigh and David, Penny, Joe, Mum and Dad and Sophie for being there to pick and water and weed (although plenty left of those to do this week!.) They followed my maps, lists, instructions, texts and emails. Plus thank you to my florists and customers for giving slightly more directions and time for them to pick and get orders ready.

Since my return, it's been pick, pick, pick. The field is overflowing with blooms. There seem to be a huge amount of florists wanting "blush" for their displays. Luckily, my flowers are trying to oblige.

Blush montage

But it's always lovely when i'm asked to pick for a bright colour scheme as well. These went off to be made into Jam Jars at a childrens workshop.

Bright flowers for jam jars

And of course we're in the middle of wedding season now, so there'll be plenty of boxes of DIY flowers leaving the barn over the coming weeks, here was one lot on Friday

DIY box of flowers

So here's to just as busy an August, i've got the rest of the day off today as the Ride London Cycle race is taking the route to my farm, maybe they'll show my flowers as they film the professionals riding up Staple Lane later.

Meadow Style Wildflowers for DIY weddings and natural farewell flowers

All my flowers are cultivated. The field I grow on has only had cows or horses on it for many years, so the only thing that grows “wild” on it are natural grasses, ragweed and thistles.

However, I’m often asked for Wildflowers, or Meadow Style flowers for Weddings and party designs. Plus I work with my local Natural Burial ground, Clandon Wood, to make farewell tributes that work well with their natural, sustainable ethos. I’ve had to work out how I can cultivate flowers to have ready through the year to give that “wild” “just picked” look, while only picking flowers from my field, ensuring they are conditioned well so they last in displays rather than fade after a couple of hours, and not take from any local hedgerows.

Here’s what I include in my mixes.

May / June Weddings and parties include : cornflowers, phacelia, corncockle, foxgloves, grasses including briza media and maxima, orlaya, ammi, forget me not, nigella and aqueligias

here's a selection

Meadow style wildflowers montage may june

July/ August, contain achillea, ammi visnaga, ox eye daisies, oregano, fennel, poppy seedheads, scabious seedheads, feverfew, catananche, scabious, flowering mint, didiscus, daucus

Meadow style wildflowers montage july aug

September/ October, cynoglossum, dill, seedheads, verbena bonariensis, panicum grasses, scabious, sedum, cosmos, nicotiana.

Meadow style wildflowers montage September

Of course the great thing about using cultivated flowers is that you have got a wider range of colours and varieties than you'd naturally have in a wildflower meadow, It means that we can create natural looking floral displays without taking from the wild, or importing any flowers.

Here are a couple of examples

Meadow Style Autumn bouquet

Autumn meadow style bouquet

Early June, Meadow Style Farewell flowers

Meadow style farewell flowers

British Flowers Week, Workshops, and Flowers Galore

If you hadn't  already noticed, - It's British Flowers Week here in the UK (13th-19th June 2016) . When all of a sudden  the year round banging on by yours truly is matched by some excellent articles in the National Press. For anyone that missed them,  here's the online version of the Telegraph article (by Caroline Beck of Verde Flowers) with an Emma Davies picture of my flowers (Ironically ones that were far too open for me to pick, but the bees liked them)

Telegraph article

There have also been excellent articles in the Guardian, and Garden's Illustrated Magazine is running a series of interviews with Growers on their website. So far with Sara of My Flower Patch, Gill Hodgson of Fieldhouse Flowers, and Paula Baxter of Millpond flowers. - it's rumoured it may be me featured on Sunday!

My week started on Saturday when i had 6 ladies who attended my "pick your own posy" workshop. This is the only time of the year i let others pick from my field. My staff and volunteers will tell you i watch like a hawk if i need their help, so to let people loose on my field and tell them to pick anything, is something i can only do a couple of times a year. I needn't have worried. 6 beautiful bouquets were produced, all in different shades and styles.

Pyo posy results

and then on Monday it was time for the professionals. 20 Florists from all over the South East assembled in my barn to get a Floral Headdress masterclass by Jay Archer.

Jay Archer welcome sign

Now i'm a Big Fan of Jay's. Not only is she an excellent customer ordering plenty of flowers from me, but she gives me a lots of free reign to provide her with flowers that just fit a theme. She's talented enough that she can use Whatever she gets and make it look beautiful, and she loves the fact that my flowers have movement (i do have straight stemmed flowers as well!) I've done several classes with her, and learnt so much from her experience of giving a English Garden aesthetic to coming up to 550 weddings (now that is a lot!) Last year when she was demoing to florists, she wore a floral headdress, so that's where i got the idea.

Jay demoing headdresses

Now 20 Florists in a barn full of flowers can make a lot of noise, but while Jay was showing us her special hints and tips for making the best looking headdress in town, she had everyone's rapt attention.

And then it was everyone else's turn. Field tours and headdressing were alternated, and the florists got to Use Plantpassion's finest June beauties to make their crowns.

Floral crown montage

And that was only Monday! The Field is still full of flowers, so i'll let you know what else they've been used for in a few days. (Thanks as always go to Emma Davies for the photos taken while i'm busy talking!)

if you'd like to come and support your Local grower, i am open on Saturday afternoon 12noon-4pm. The English Garden Magazine say's i'm one of 4 beautiful gardens to visit, - so it must be true...... (Tea and cake for anyone that needs more persuading)

The english garden tweet


This week in numbers

It's been a busy week, here at Plantpassion, so i thought i'd give you an idea in numbers of what i've been up to.

9 Varieties of Allium Flowering on the field

Here's 5 of them, Allium Christophii, Allium Purple Sensation, Allium Cowanii, Allium Atropurpureum and Allium Mount Everest, There's also Allium Roseum, Allium Purple King, Allium Nigrum, and Nectaroscordum Bulgarium (Used to be Allium Sicilium)

Allium montage

1844 Holes burnt in Landscape matting , and 1550 Sunflower seeds directly planted into the holes (and 600 more Sunflower seeds ordered to fill the gaps!)

Landscape matting holes-1

(Have a look on my Facebook feed to see the video of the great device Ashley made me to burn the holes)

9 Florists orders that have gone out of the door, I only managed to snap a picture of Alison's booty in the back of her car, collecting for lovely posies in Peaslake and Caroline at Cherfold Cottage . Thank you to Jay Archer, for trying very hard to buy everything on the field (but purple Alliums aren't wedding flowers, I know!)

Florists order-1

6 posies or bouquets, collected or delivered to local clients. Here's a selection

Heres one i did earlier

4 Volunteers, who've come and helped me, and learned more about flower growing, - thanks Penny, Jenny, Emma and Heidi, 1 member of staff who's potted up 360 Dahlias in the last few weeks - thanks Jennifer. 2 Family members (this week) who are very good at mowing

1 wedding, with 4 bridesmaid bouquets, A brides bouquet and lots of buttonholes and corsages made

Obviously i can't show you this one until after the wedding, so here's the ingredients for one of the bouquets

Bouquet ingredients-1

20 Florists confirmed on our British Flowers Week Workshop (now sold out)

1 Charity (GUTS) supported with a fundraising private tour of the field, and feedback greatly appreciated


1 border planted with herbs for an East Horsley Client

250 miles, the distance my flowers traveled for a photo shoot on Tuesday. Many Thanks to Vanessa Birley Florals, Emma Davies Photo, and Fiona at Firenza Florals, for making them look so good on a Yorkshire back drop

Photoshoot in yorkshire 2-1

(Photo credit Vanessa Birley)


3 fresh deliveries of flowers needed for the local shop this week, - there are Ranunculus and Mixed bunches there now for the weekend

Local shop bunches-1

And one tired but Happy Flower Farmer, who's had a record ever week, and still has flowers to sell. So let me know if you'd like some for this weekend!


Fantastic Fillers - Cerinthe Major Purpurescens


(photo credit Emma Davies)

At my recent open days, and garden club show rounds, this has been the most talked about plant on the field

Cerinthe Major Purpurescens

My chalky field gives itself to growing this succulent early flowering filler, making healthy plants with strong straight stems that are great to work with.

I originally grow it about 10 years ago, and for a while the allotment had lots every year. I've been collecting seed and resowing ever since.

It's a cool weather loving plant.  That means it's great in March, April and May, and why i'll stop picking it after the end of the this month and collect the seeds as they ripen and turn from white, to matt black, and then shiny black.

I ignore the packet instructions that say they can be sown all through the spring. Cerinthe hates hot weather, and will flop in the garden, let alone the vase if given too much heat.

It doesn't like frost either, so i've found the best way to get incredible flowers early in the season is

1) direct sow in late September, - these make small plants by winter, but can be covered against frost. The first few years i let it sow itself, but then you have to thin out as they are very good at self seeding

Cerinthe selfseeded

2) have a back up of a tray of seeds sown in pots in October, - they just germinate, and are small plants over winter, but grow quickly in February and can be planted out by the end of the month or in March if we're still having harsh frosts

3) Sow freshly collected (i.e by you the autumn before) seeds in mid February, and prick out/ pot on, to plant out in late March, early April. - These plants are already starting to flower for me now on the 11th May

Cerinthe with cornflower in back

They're a great accompaniment to spring Tulips, Hellebores, Early Alliums, Ranunculus, and the first of the Cornflowers.

April seed sowing and pricking out

I'm admitting defeat.  After an hour of rearranging the greenhouse, I really can't fit any more in. There are still more seedlings to prick out, but i have no space for them to go. - From now on there will be things outside on the patio that have to come in onto  the kitchen floor if there's a risk of frost.

That's the issue, for the next couple of weeks there might be frost or their might not..... As we had snow on Wednesday and Thursday, i'm not betting against it, so although i'd love to plant out more of my seedlings, and they're ready, i've got to be patient. So i thought i'd show you at what stage i sow prick out and plant out.

My greenhouse is the heart of my operation.

I sow a lot of my seeds in window sill propagators, or seed trays like this

Seed trays

It's amazing how many seedlings you can fit in a small space to get them to germinate, - this tray proves the point.

Full of seedlings

For all varieties that don't mind a bit of root disturbance, this is a great way of seed sowing. These Ammi, Calendula, Daucus, Amaranthus, and Cosmos all have no issues, but i try and make sure that they get pricked out within 10 days of germination. This means that the roots havn't yet got tangled with the next seedling along's, and they grow away quickly in a module.

These Ammi have been left too long, - and are now to root bound to be transplanted on

Visaga seedlings overgrown

This is when they should have been moved on (Typical, i took a photo and didn't do the work!)

Visaga seedlings right stage for pricking out

If they get fresh compost and room at the right stage, they grow quickly and make strong plants very quickly.

From this to these, with a really good root system in 2 short weeks.

Antirrhinum seedlings

So i'll continue rearranging, and finding corners to put seedlings in, so that i have healthy plants with great root systems, and then as soon as we get a last frost date, They'll be a frenzy of planting out on the field.

Healthy seedlings

If you want to find me for the rest of the afternoon, - i'll be in the greenhouse.


March Anemones, and the season rolling on

Wow, where did the last couple of weeks go?

Bicolour anemone-1

It seems only yesterday that it was Valentine's and Mothering Sunday (they rolled into one, being only 3 weeks apart this year) Yellow Daffodils
 and now Easter is upon us, and the boy breaks up from school for Easter Hols on Thursday Lunchtime.

But so much has happened,  - where to start to tell you.

The field is starting to look beautiful, - there are splashes of colour, from the daffodils, - above is Golden Ducat on the field, then there have been Soleil D'or and Bridal crown in the polytunnel, scenting it beautifully (most now used up)

Bridal cheer narsissus

and the Hyacinths, while not quite the Apricot colour that i had envisiged them being, have been lovely in posies (and the bees have appreciated them)

Bee enjoying a hyacinth

The anemones, both in the polytunnel and on the field have liked the warm weather this week, so there's a lot more colour, and the stems are getting longer

Mini bunch of anemones

They'll be going in tomorrow's posies along with Hellebores, Rosemary and some great scented foliages.

On the field, we've been doing more weeding, planting new shrubs, and some shelter hedging, and pruning the roses.

Off the field, we've won a prize for this blog and being nominated as finalists in 2 business awards. Bit proud of the 3 out of 3 score for that.

Silver award

and if you really must see me out of my normal comfort zone, in a dress, not fleece, then here's the full report and pictures (i'm in part 2)

The Toast of Surrey awards, and the Eagle Biz Awards will both be judged and awarded at the end of April, - i'll let you know how i get on.


I'm off to do more planning of what seeds i'm sowing tomorrow.


Every colour flowers, and they're Green

Have you seen it? Plantpassion is mentioned in the Surrey Advertiser this morning (4th March) - it's page 11, the Toast of Surrey Business Awards, because we're a finalist in the "Green" Award.

We're a real minnow, up against some giants (one of the companies is also entered in the Turnover over £5million), so i'm hoping that doesn't go against us, because i really believe our little bit is helping out. So here's my reasons for entering.

I've based the whole ethos of the company around Sustainability. For my clients what they are interested in is Fabulous Quality, Fresh, Easily available flowers, So we are immediately helping by not having crops flown in from other parts of the world. 95% of the Cut flowers sold in the UK are imported.

Wrapped bouquet

All the flowers are sold between Guildford and Cobham, so that cuts down even further the "travel miles" but we have still made sure that our company ethos is to grow in the "greenest way possible" .

We don't have electricity at the field, so all work is done in daylight hours. We have a small polytunnel to shelter some crops, but have found methods to make sure that our field grown crops are high quality, using no dig methods.

We recycle large amounts, including Manure from local stables, Cardboard and plastic trays from local shopkeepers, Newspapers and glass jars and bottles from local householders, and compost made from recycled household green waste (progro). We use minimal plastics, including none in our Wrapping, which is done in compostable Tissue Paper, and Brown Wrapping paper. Our Flowers are delivered in vases or jars, which we encourage people to recycle with vouchers

Recycle voucher

We don't use chemicals on our flowers. Because we don't grow a monoculture of crops (with on average 10-20 crops ready at each point of the year) our field is fantastic for wildlife - some of which we have to fence out otherwise we feed them a little too well. On a summers morning when the flowers are being picked, it is to a background of skylark song, and with care not to pick a bee or squash a lace wing.

Bee on hyacinth

We are also taking care to grow the company sustainably as well, so we havn't invested large amounts in equipment yet, because we want to grow our reputation first.

We really are a "Green" Surrey company and hope to be providing flowers for many years to come.