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October 2014

September 2014

The best Dahlias for cut flowers

It's September, - There are still lots of flowers left on the field, - but the Undisputed Queens of the Autumn Flower display are the Dahlias.

Dahlia heads montage sheet (1 of 1)

Once considered old fashioned, - they are back bang up to date, and some make wonderful cut flowers. Here are my favourites.

Jowey Linda (1 of 1)

Jowey Linda. - This Bright orange large pom pom, is just about the only Dahlia I know that will last a full week. I've even used it in my cafe displays. It has long stems, shrugs off Earwigs, and looks great with all the other jewel colours. - I've grown triple this year, what I had last year, - and need to triple that again for next year.

Rocco dahlia in bouquet (1 of 1)

Dahlia Rocco - This purple mini pom pom, is great for bouquets, buttonholes (lasting fine out of water), and just keeps producing. It goes well with Karma Lagoon.

Karma lagoon (1 of 1)

This bright Pink Waterlily flower has sturdy stems, - and lasts for 5-6 days in the vase. Paula paired this with Nerines, Lavender and Dianthus Green Trick on one of my favourite Bouquets for a photo shoot last Autumn.

Karma lagoon & Nerine bouquet (1 of 1)

(Image Emma Davies)

The other Karma Varieties that I grow are Karma Choc - Beautiful, but I find slow to get into full swing. and Karma Naomi, - (another deep red) doing very well in it's first year, and going to make the grade for major propagation next season.

Karma Choc (1 of 1)

Sticking with the deep reds, I'm also a fan of Nuit D'ete, Rip City and and unnamed variety (top left, Anyone?) that I got from a clients garden many years ago. All last 5-6 days in the vase.

Red dahlias montage (1 of 1)

Moving on to the paler colours, - Dahlia Preference has got to be top of the list for a flower that goes with everything.

Dahlia preference (1 of 1)

It's a colour that bridges the brights and the pales, and has tinges of peach, salmon and pink. - Here Paula used it in a luxury bouquet with dark roses (Munstead wood)

Dahlia preference bouquet (1 of 1)

The Shape works well with Dahlia Tu Tu, (the White cactus in the top photo of this post). Tu Tu, is a lovely shape, and lasts well, but it's neck is a little bendy, so it needs support for the larger flowers. - I'm currently trying to find an alternative, But white's that don't attract Earwig's are hard to find.

My best and longest lasting pale so far is Evelyn.

Dahlia evelyn button hole (1 of 1)

This was a star find brought to me by Paula's mum Chris. We used it for a photo shoot, and loved it teamed with the purple sage, until we found the sage didn't last out of water......

The Dahlia does though, - this is a good 6 days in the vase.

So now we come to my least favoured, and most requested Dahlia - Cafe Au Lait.

Dahlia cafe au lati (1 of 1)

It's my least favoured, because Earwigs love it. - Because if you disbud it, the heads are huge, but if you don't, you get short stems, because the colours differ from plant to plant, and week to week - I think depending on the weather! From a whole bed of plants, I never manage to have more than 5 perfect ones ready at the same time, and It only last 3 days in the vase, in my experience, BUT

it is a wonderful flower to show off. - It is the "in" Bridal colour (this year) and florists will pay more for it.

Will I grow more next year - of course I will!

So how do the Dahlias fare out of water - well here's the flower heads from the top picture a day later

Day old dahlia heads (1 of 1)

Top Left - Bottom right

Cafe Au Lait, Rocco, Mary Evelyn, Karma Choc, Evelyn, Preference, Karma Lagoon, Nuit D 'ete, Red Ambition, Tu Tu, Canary Fubuki, Jowey Linda, Salsa, Karma Naomi



DIY Wedding flowers - Table arrangements with scent and style

I've started a Blog Photo boot camp this week, anddecided that I really need to be showing you more of the lovely flowers that we grow, and what you can do with them.

This summer we had lots of enquiries for DIY flowers. Where the Bride or Groom's Mum, or Mum's friend, or sister is really good at arranging flowers, and they want to do some of the decorating themselves.

Earlier in the year, I showed you what Paula had made with one of our £60 DIY Boxes - 6 bunches of flowers and 6 bunches of foliage.- But she is very talented, - So I wanted to see what could be done by someone who likes flowers, but has no flower arranging training (Me)

DIY box flower July montage

I chose a purple and pink theme of colours - something we often get asked for, and my flowers were Larkspur, Sweet peas (2 bunches), Astrantia, Clary Sage and Antirrhinums.

For making them up into displays for tables I then needed some foliage and filler. I included - Lime mint, Bulplurum, Daucus, Poppy seed heads, Achillea ptarmica The Pearl, and Dianthus Green trick.

DIY box foliage July montage

Our boxes are usually 80-90 stems depending on the expense of the flowers, - If you pick Roses or Hydrangeas, then you'll get less, if you pick cornflowers and wildflowers, you'll get more. - This was 90 stems as I was greedy for the scent of the sweet peas.

I had fun making up

1 Large top table arrangement

3 milk bottle posies

1 Jam jar posy

3 single stem bottles

and then Emma had fun showing you how they could be used at your Garden Wedding, party or event

Table flowers diy july

(Photos Emma Davies)

I was quite pleased with the results, - and they smelt lovely. - My Sister's happily married, but I think I could get away with doing the table arrangements at a party!

Our DIY boxes are available May-September.



Last Open day of the season this Sunday 21st

This week started off with more florists and flower lovers using my field for Floral Photography at another Emma Davies Workshop.

Emma was teaching them close up techniques and blurring the background of their shots, which is just as well, as I do have a working flower field that is full of weeds, netting, canes and plant supports.

Dahlia preference (1 of 1)

(Image Vanessa Birley Florals)


- However at the end of the week, i've got a photographer coming from a local magazine to take shots for a feature next year. They want field shots, and plenty of colour.

I'm often asked, "have you got lots flowering at the moment" and the answer is of course, -

just enough for my orders this week.-

If there are borders and borders of plants in full bloom, then yes it would look lovely for this week,  but that would mean I had grown too much and weren't selling them.I really need to cut them as soon as they come into bloom.

And when I concentrate on cutting and selling the flowers, and planting and planning next year's ones, and keeping everything watered, I have to admit to letting the weeding and edging slip a little, - well all gardeners will be able to relate to that one........

So with a photographer planning to take wider shots of the field, i'd better do some clearing up of the netting, canes, weeds, water butts, and hoses, and get feeding, watering and deadheading so there are as many beautiful blooms as possible. - Please make it worth all the extra work by coming along to see my tidy floriferous field on Sunday afternoon - a souped up version of this.

Field view 16th sep (1 of 1)

I'll be there with Tea and Cake from 1.00pm - 5.00pm, this Sunday 21st September

Address details - Hill top farm, Staple Lane, East Clandon, Surrey, GU4 7FP

From the main A246 road between Guildford and Leatherhead, turn up the hill opposite the entrance to East Clandon Village (Signposted Shere 3) we are 250m up the road on the left hand side.

3 years at the allotment

I've been a bit quiet on this blog recently about my allotment. it's 3 years since we got our plot of land with a bit of a fanfare because it was the 1000th NT plot .

Allotment through grass (1 of 1)

That doesn't mean we havn't been doing anything, - although if I'm being honest, we've not spent as much time as i'd like, because i've been busy creating a flower farm.

This allotment is hopefully a long term thing for us, - We look on enviously at the newly retired people who can tend their plots each day, - and by the time we get down there, after work or on a weekend afternoon, we're often the only ones at the plot (except for the wildlife).

Beds and paths (1 of 1)

Over the last couple of weeks, we've worked at edging the allotment with wood to keep out the encroaching grass paths, and laid some black matting down between our no dig beds, so that the weeding of those will be minimal.

Even though we've only been visiting for 1/2 hour at a time, there have been some successes this year, - The kale is the best i've ever grown, and even William will eat it, We're on our 3rd set of potatoes, - and they've been tasty. The fruit has been amazing, - the first Plum & Strawberry jam has been made, and summer pudding with custard was devoured, - we even had 1 meal of asparagus at the beginning of the year.

Garlic chives (1 of 1)

If the blight can hold off for a couple more weeks, i'll have plenty of ripe tomatoes, and at the 3rd attempt I managed to get the Sweet peas to grow. - Here they are flowering their socks off after all my Hill top farm ones have finished long ago. I don't think my pumpkins will be winning any prizes at the Horsley Garden Society show on Saturday the 20th, but i'll have a few things to enter. - Here's to the next 3 years, and lots of allotment meals.

Garlic chives (1 of 1)



3 of the best cut flowers to grow from home collected seed

It's late summer, - The morning air is more chilly, - it's dark as I write this, and it's not even my son's bedtime (the trouble with them growing up!), i've got lots of paper bags sitting on my desk, because for the last few weeks, i've been busy snipping seedheads off lots of plants at the farm (and allotment and my garden, and, if you'll let me, your garden too..)

So as i'm often asked about seed collecting I thought i'd give you my guide to 3 of the best cut flowers to grow from seeds you've collected yourselves.

Blue Nigella in back garden (1 of 1)


I was lucky when I moved into my current house, there was Nigella in the back garden, - it self seeded itself every year, in among my Strawberries, and all I had to do was clear away the weeds so it could fall on bare earth. However the only problem with that is that it is really prolific, and the seeds are too good at germinating. This means that the plants are really tightly packed, and you grow very few flowers that have long enough stems to cut.

now I make sure I take a seed pods and sprinkle the seed very thinly on bare earth, - I just want 3 or 4 big plants to grow in the back garden, so I can cut them for the kitchen vase. - At the farm, I grow them in long rows, but because they go over very quickly, even cutting them every day, I plant lots of succession, and 5 different varieties - 4 different rows this year, - there would have been a 5th, but something is partial to germinating Nigella plants

Nigella montage

So planting the seeds further apart and in succession gets you good flowers, but how do you then collect seed for next year?

The key to all home seed collecting, is knowing when the seeds are ripe.

For Nigella, - this is when the seed heads have turned papery, and the black seeds can be easily peeled out of the 4 quarters of the pod. These pictures show the progression from flowers, to seed heads, through colour changes to dried pods and the seeds.

Nigella seedhead stages montage

this takes about 6 weeks from when the flowers have been at their peak, - so my first row of blue nigella are ready to be harvested, and the white ones, are just turning papery, whereas my late July flowering Nigella, are still at firm coloured pods stage. I'll sow some seeds direct in rows over the next couple of weeks, for early spring flower (late May). - if I left the pods to drop seed naturally, like I did with one of last year's rows, then they will have dropped too late to germinate this Autumn, but will come up in Spring for a mid to end of June flowering season. - Obviously if you keep your harvested seed dry and cool in envelopes at home, you can plant as many or few as you'd like all through next season.

Poppy seed heads (1 of 1)

Poppy seed heads are my next suggested Home collection target. - These poppies are purple in flower, but although I love the colour I don't use the blooms, I'm interested in selling the lovely fresh green seed heads in late June and July. - They've been very popular with florists, so much so, that last year I bought and sowed about 6 packets of poppy seeds, - all different varieties. - Hardly any came up, - whereas the seeds that I shook from the heads that missed my cutting scissors last year, came up in great numbers and gave me lovely pods. This seems back to front to me, as ploughed fields have poppies by the hundreds from seeds that have been sitting in the soil for years, yet fresh seed seems to work just as well. Again, you need to wait until the seed is ripe, which is when the seed pod has "popped" some ventilation holes beneath the cap. 

Poppy seed heads and seed (1 of 1)

My 3rd suggestion is Cerinthe Major Purpurescens

This has been part of my Allotment/ Garden / School Gardening club / Farm set up for the last 6 years, all from home collected seeds.

Cerinthe purpurescens

Seeds are very expensive for this, probably because when the plants get to the stage where you can harvest seeds (the foliage goes a glaucus blue and becomes floppy) then only a small percentage of the seeds are ready at a time. First, inside the blue flower heads, the seeds form and are white and shiny. - Then they turn black and shiny. When they are ready to drop, the shiny surface turns dull. - As you can see by the middle picture, if you don't bag them up at this stage, you get LOTS of seedlings, and as these plants need a 30cm spacing that's not so good. If you sow these now, then you can get a wonderful crop of flowers in April, and if you sow fresh seed from those plants, you can get flowers at the end of July (although I find those flowers never last so well as cut blooms) - I even had flowers at the allotment in December last year from a summer June sowing.

When I was putting together this post, I was spoiled for choice as i've picked so many seeds this year, - i'm also reusing Larkspur, Scabious Black Cat, Bulplurum, Ammi (Major and Visnaga), Fennel, Calendula, and Oralya Grandiflora seeds that i've collected. - I'll keep you updated as to how the seed sowing goes.

So I hope i've given you some inspiration to try some collecting seeds, and if you come along to my next open day on September 21st, i'll have some seeds to give away for you to try.