Flower farming

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 https://www.facebook.com/Plantpassion/ 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

Gutsthankstweet

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!

 


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)

http://www.surreymirror.co.uk/Surrey-Digital-Awards-2016-winners/story-28905157-detail/story.html

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.

 

 


5 Reasons to do something different this Valentine's day

So it's February, the evenings are starting to get a little bit lighter (i could still see when i did pick up at 5.15pm today) and by the end of the month i'll be able to start sowing seeds again. The Middle of the month brings Valentine's Day (and half term - already!) which heralds the start of my Floristry season again. Well normally it does, i've actually been producing flowers and foliage all through January, thanks to the mild conditions.

January Flowers

Anyway Valentines. I guess i've been lucky to be with my Hubby for ages. We don't do luvvy duvvy,  but we do (with a few forgetful exceptions) do Valentines day. A card, - usually a lovely meal in, sometimes a present, or a plant, but not in the past, flowers.

And here's the reasons why

1) The air miles

The Roses that are sold on Valentine's day aren't growing in England in February. They may come via the markets in Holland, but they didn't begin their journey in a glasshouse there. They'll have been flown from Columbia, or Ecuador, or India or Kenya. There's more about the flower trade in those countries in this article

2) The packaging

Your single Rose will most likely come in a plastic tube, your bouquet of flowers in an Aquapack. But all of that non biodegradable plastic wrapping gets thrown in the bin the minute your flowers get home and arranged in a vase. What a waste.

3) The cost

It's the one day of the year when other colour roses are defunct, not wanted, cast aside, - of course the markets will put up the prices on the thing that everyone must have, - that's a free trade economy. The markets put the price up, so the retailers have to or they don't make any money. - The downside is, suddenly flowers cost a lot more than the rest of the year

4) Getting the same as everyone else

If everyone else is having Red Roses, are you special if you get them too?

5) The compost bin

Of course in order for those buds to get on the plane, and last until the day that you want them, they need chemical assistance. Fungicides & pesticides sprayed on them before they board, so that no bugs/ diseases are brought here.  Plus Silver Nitrate that the stems are dipped in to ensure they last the Journey (unfortunately this also mummifies the flowers, and as it's no longer decomposing, it won't give off any scent) This all means that the flowers have to go in the bin, rather than the compost heap when they've finished.

But now, for those of you near me in Surrey or if you've got a local British Flowers grower, there is another way, and you can do something different for Valentine's day.

We've ensured that our flowers and gifts have

  • No Air miles, and few van miles
  • No Plastic packaging, all our displays are presented in vases with tissue and paper wrapping
  • The Cost is the same as flowers the rest of the year
  • You'll have something different from everyone else
  • And when they finally decompose naturally after giving off their intended scent, you can put them on the compost heap.

So now you can send flowers (and there will be some in my house ) More details here


Should you DIY your wedding flowers?

We work with some wonderfully talented florists, and i'll be highlighting some of them over the coming months, but this week i've been going through the wedding enquiries that have been coming in, AND, looking back at some of the email conversations that i had with some of last year's brides, and my Question this week is

"Should you DIY your wedding flowers?"

Claire cutting sweetpeas-1

It's a big trend at the moment and Georgie Newbery's new book "Grow your own Wedding Flowers" will i'm sure encourage even more to try.

But if you have your own wedding happening in the next year or two, or you've been asked to grow flowers for your son, daughter or friend, there are a few things to take into account.

Have you grown flowers for cutting before?

If you have, and you know what date you've sown seeds, and what date they've flowered, then great. It also means that you've probably already got a greenhouse/ polytunnel / growhouse to get seedlings going in, and you've already got fleece/environmesh / cloches to protect crops, and maybe some already self sown seedlings coming up from last year.

Ammi seedlings-1

Is the Wedding in the 2nd half of the year?

Weddings from late July onwards are a lot easier to grow for.  An April or May wedding will need Bulbs and Biennials that have been sown/planted the summer/autumn before. A June or early July wedding will need Hardy Annuals, and Biennials sown the previous May to September. However from late July onwards, it is possible to sow Hardy and Half hardy annuals in the spring and have them flowering later the same year 

Is the bride willing to have any choice of flowers in her bouquet?

To get perfect flowers you need to grow lots, (think of the greenhouse full of Chrysanthemums for the showman to get 3 perfect blooms.) To get perfect flowers for a date in a year requires previous knowledge of flowering dates, and successional sowing so that there is a row of blooms at the right time. If the bride is willing to have whatever flowers are looking wonderful on the day of the wedding, then that makes things a lot easier.

White dahlia bouquet

Have you arranged bridal flowers before?

3 years after starting the flower farm, after making many bouquets each week, going on lots of workshops, and having one to one sessions with trained florists, i'm just about ready to make displays for brides on the most important day of their life. You may have arranged wonderful flowers for the house, and the church, but have you done it under pressure before?

Is your idea of an ideal evening crafting with friends? 

If you want to spend the last evening of your single life without a care in the world and with a glass of wine in your hand, then it might be a good idea to delegate some of your preparations, because the day before the wedding is when the flowers need to be made up. The more decorations you have to prepare, the higher the likelihood that it will infringe on the relaxing and enjoying time.

 

But if you answered Yes to all of the Questions, then I think you should DIY your wedding flowers, - you have a lot of ideal skills, and i'm sure you'll have lots of fun and create lots of memories doing it.

I will however leave you with a Quote from one of my last year's brides.

She had done 2 grow your own cut flower workshops with me, she'd bought a small polytunnel to protect her seedlings, and she'd been planning and planting and weeding for 9 months.

5 days before the wedding I received

"You have helped me so much with your workshops for my wedding so far I'm just hoping you can help a bit more. 

My flowers are budding if not flowering I'm hopeful I'll have some but probably not enough. If at all possible I would like to have one of your buckets of flowers to add to mine. "

and 2 days before the wedding, when we were confirming the theme for the flower bucket

"my life has become ridiculously manic!!! If anyone suggests doing everything themselves for their wedding I would tell them not too!!!!"

 

If you're ignoring this advice then here is some additional information that you may need

Plantpassion Options for DIY flowers

Growing your own flowers workshop

Gypsophila alternatives

March Seedsowing

Grow your own flowers for September wedding

Dahlias for cut flowers


Seasonal Flowers for all year round.

There are always flowers for those that want to see them - Henri Matisse

A year of flowers

I just want to say, right here at the beginning, that i'm not against imports....

Our Island can't grow all the things that we want all year round.

I love avocados, the occasional mango, and a Christmas tub of pecan nuts, and none of them grow here, - but you won't find me buying Strawberries outside of the summer months, Asparagus is a May/ June treat, Beans are just for August and September, and Apples will be soft and squidgy after February.

In exactly the same way that British Food is available all year round, Just not everything, every month. There are British Flowers available all year round.

If you want seasonal flowers, you have to be aware that you need to want what's available at that time - whatever that is.

If you want a particular flower for your special occasion, you have to either

a) have your special occasion at the right time for that flower

or

b) use an imported flower

Want to know when the right time of year is for your special occasion flower?

email me - Claire@plantpassion.co.uk

or follow my instagram , facebook and pinterest feeds to see what's in season all year round