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July 2015
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September 2015

August 2015

Easy Autumn propagation for fantastic flowers next season

The next couple of weeks will be a busy time for me.

On our Surrey Chalk, where the winters are comparatively mild, and the ground is very well drained, Autumn sowings of Hardy annuals are really important. But what about if propagation isn't something you are familiar with?

How can you get early fantastic flowers next season?

Overwintered cornflowers

I grow most of my plants from seeds, but seed sowing, and pricking on, and planting out needs some knowledge, and you need to get the timings right. One way of taking out one of those processes and so enabling you to have bigger and better plants without as much work , is to buy plug plants.

If you're anything like me, you'll have had several catalogues drop through your door this week trying to tempt you, but is it worth getting plugs of your Winter bedding, or perennials or hardy annuals for next year?

There are some amazing bargains to be had ordering plug plants online, in comparison to buying plants ready grown at the Garden Centre. But that's only if you can grow on all the plants to full size. If you get a 30% or 50 % attrition rate, then they become an expensive way of buying. Here are some hints and tips when ordering your mail order plugs.

1) Don't order them if you're going to be away on holiday, or give the mail order company your holiday dates so they don't arrive while you're away

2) As soon as you order them, make sure that you have appropriate trays or pots plus compost. If you ordered a pack of 144 plants, you will need 144 pots or trays with 144 spaces. (This may seem obvious, but you never have quite as many as you think)

3) The week they are likely to arrive, leave a note out for your postman so that they don't take them away if you aren't in. My lovely postlady knows to leave mine in the greenhouse if they don't fit through the post box. (some companies have developed clever trays that fit through the slot)

4) AS SOON as they arrive, open up the tray and check if they need water. The photo below shows how some of the plugs i've had arrived very dry and needed dunking in a bowl of water to re-wet them. Look at the difference in colour or the compost of the 2 plugs. Sometimes one end of the pack is fine, and the other dry. (These plugs are Sweet Williams. Order now for flowers next June)

Dry plug against wet one

5) pot them up ASAP. If you can get your plugs in bigger trays or pots the day they arrive then they'll have a fantastic chance of them all surviving. - If not the chances of them staying healthy diminish rapidly each day. (these are perennial Monarda plants, Hayloft plants gave me a fantastic deal on these, which I hope will be giving lots of flowers next July in soft pinks and whites)

Planting plugs into tray

6) I usually sieve my compost when i'm sowing seeds and potting on. This may seem like a lot of faff, but the compost has to make good contact with the root system of the plugs if it is to grow on quickly and give you the strongest and most floriferous plants. The 3 most important ways for it to do this are

  •  not to have any larger lumps in the compost so the contact surface is even
  • use finger tips to ensure the compost is pushed into contact with the plug root
  • water well

7) Keep your pots and trays well watered, and the plugs will grow on quickly and strongly. As soon as you can see roots at the bottom they can be planted out. This is often in as short a time as 2-4 weeks.

I've used

J parkers, Hayloft plants, Thompson and Morgan and Jersey plants for plugs in the past. - All have different systems, all have given me good results if I've managed to get them planted up straight away. The only difficulties come if the post system goes awry, or if I'm not organised enough to have compost ready.

If you want to do more propagation give some plug plants a try this Autumn, or if you're feeling even more adventurous, come and do a workshop with me to learn how to propagate cut flowers from seeds, cuttings and bulbs.

 


Seasonal Flower Alliance - August. Flowers for me

As a Flower farmer here in Surrey, I pick 100's or 1000's of stems of flowers every week, and sell them to local florists, DIY brides and locals. But I don't often have the energy left to bring flowers home and arrange them here.

Last weekend, I had a bucket of blooms left over, and i'd promised myself the weekend off, so I made time and displayed my blooms in a vase for my fireplace.

Seasonal flower alliance august 18th

My leftovers included 

Annuals - Sunflower Ruby Eclipse. Ammi Visnaga, Cosmos Click Cranberries,

Perennials - Liatris Spicata, Solidago, Veronicastrum, Scented Phlox and Euphatorium. Thanks to Alice (Lock Cottage Flowers) for the plant of this last one, in her damp waterside garden this is a thug, on my chalky field, it's taken 2 years to get 3 60cm stems to pick, but they are beauties.


Fabulous August Blooms for DIY Wedding Flowers

August has been Wedding Flowers Central. Last Weekend the barn was used for preparation for a huge mostly British Flowers wedding with flowers in wine boxes, and before that could be prepared there were 3 other sets of wedding flowers to be picked sorted and collected by Brides (or Grooms)

We've got another 6 parties or weddings to provide buckets for in the coming couple of weeks, but today was just a small 2 boxes affair, so it gave me a chance to take some photos.

Meadow flowers with wispy bits

The theme was "A meadow feel, with soft colours and wispy bits and lots of herbs"

The brides bouquet is going to have soft pink and peach with white roses, so we picked the best from the field to fit with that.

Fillers for august meadow flowers

The fillers were Lemon mint in flower, Sedum, Daucus carota, Ammi Visnaga, Dill, Feverfew, Verbena Bonariensis and Grasses.

The Flowers were Cosmos, Scabious, Antirrhinum, Lavender, Nicotiana and Cornflowers.

Flowers for meadow flowers august

If you'd like one (or more) of our DIY boxes of flowers - 6 bunches of flowers and 6 filler for £60 for your wedding or party, please contact us, or come along to our next open day to talk to us about what your theme might be

 


Still to come this Season from my Surrey Flower Farm

It's August, It's hot, again, and the hoses have been out this morning. So i'm sitting in my cool office now, going through the list of what's still to come this season, and i thought i'd share it with you.

Cosmos

Cosmos

(image Emma Davies)

This morning I picked the first big bunch of Cosmos, There are Versailles  & Picotee Mixed, Click Cranberries and Phsyche white in this first batch. The 2nd batch may be later than planned, as the Deer kindly pinched out all the new growth for me a couple of weeks ago, - but they are growing back strongly now.

Gladioli and Acidanthera

Gladioli and acidanthera

Again i've 2 batches of these, - they are growing strongly despite the lack of water, but no flower spikes yet, so I expect these at the beginning of September.

Nicotiana

Nicotiana

I've only grown these in Lime Green in the polytunnel before, but this year, i've got 2 batches on the field, and the first are doing really well and flowering already. - I've sensation mixed, which is a great mix of pink, white and red, and i've also got some Lime green, which is a great filler.

Nerines

These may be expensive, but they are the Belle of the ball for an Autumn star of pink colour. - Here showing out of one of Paula's creations

Nerine bouquet

(image Emma Davies)

Dahlias are of course the stars of the late summer and Autumn show. I've plenty, and i'm already picking Evelyn and Preference.  Cafe Au Lait is there, but still being eaten by earwigs.

The link to my last year's post about the varieties I do is here

Dahlia heads

Then there's a 2nd batch of Cornflowers, blooming well at the moment sSabious, Antirrhinums and Feverfew giving 2nd (and 3rd) waves of flowers , plus plenty of Sunflowers to brighten up the vase (although it's proving difficult moving the bees off to pick them)

Sunflower with bee on

 (Image Emma Davies)

As far as Fillers go, the sedum is really strong this year, and will be colouring up over the coming weeks, although it's already great in its green form

Florists montage 9th August

and there's Ammi Visnaga, Dill, Mint, Sage and The silver foliage of Dusty miller to come in the next few months.

Plenty to pick.


Fantastic Fillers - Mint

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Before I became a flower farmer, my jam jars and vases at home were filled with pick and plonk. Wonderful mixtures of colours, but just flowers. Now, i'm convinced that the thing that most flower arrangers, florists and garden enthusiasts need more of is fillers.

Mint is my all time favourite, and I grow 9 types at the farm. Almost everyone has a patch of mint in their garden somewhere (even if it's unwanted!) So how do you get it tall and straight and strong, to last in your bouquets?

Apple mint

I have a patch of mint in my polytunnel, and then the rest is grown in raised beds on my carpark in progrow (green waste compost)

Mint in raised beds

Yes, those are just gravel boards made into raised beds, sitting on an aggregate surface, with 15cm of green waste compost in them. Look at the length of the mint stems.

Mint doesn't need many nutrients. It needs some, but not excessive water, but what it does need is cutting regularly.

Luckily as a Flower farmer, there is plenty of need for my tall stemmed mint, so it does get cut with regularity.

The varieties that I grow which help me keep succession throughout the year (from April until November) are

Apple mint. - My all time favourite. - Not only does this grow wonderful strong long stems, large soft leaves, and have amazing scent, but in late July and into August (or September if it's been planted that year), it has fluffy pink flowers.

Flowering apple mint

Plenty of flowering mint in this display.

My next workhorse mint is Moroccan mint. This is a white flowering spire, and the leaves are smaller. But the stems are tough, so don't need conditioning for as long as the Apple mint, and is less susceptible to drooping.

Flowering moroccan mint

Morrocan mint also produces the most stems per square metre, so is very productive.

Basil mint, is a tall and highly scented variety. Slightly darker leaves, and purple flowers in September mean this is great to take over from the Apple mint when that's all been cut back hard and used.

Basil mint in bouquet

Then with even darker leaves, and dark coloured stems too, there's Chocolate mint.

Obviously a favourite with Children, this really does give an initial smell of chocolate. Again it comes into it's own later in the season.

Chocolate mint

I've also got a variegated Pineapple mint, - which although it doesn't grow as tall as the others, makes useful background colour and scent in a lighter colour bouquet.

Last year's prize find though was Lime mint. - This is a tall branching mint, that has a fresh smell, and strong upright stems.

Lime mint

I've also got smaller amounts of Ginger, Lemon and traditional Lamb mint. All good, but with less strong/straight stems, so not quite as good for flower arranging.

Whichever Mint you choose, It will need splitting regularly. I do this by trying to dig out most of it, and then putting fresh compost on top. - You never get it all out, so it starts again from small fresh pieces, - or if you're growing on a smaller scale, - cut your pot of mint in quarters with a knife or pruning saw and give away 3/4 keeping the other quarter and replanting it. (more info here)

Of course Mint doesn't have to be for bouquets in summer, - the Apple mint is particularly good in a Pimms enjoyed in the garden.