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February 2015

Propagation, Learning to grow Cut Flowers and more

Wednesday was a full day of propagation. - For someone like me who is a plant fan (yes, total fanatic) it wasn't a difficult day, and as I was in the company of some lovely people it passed very quickly.

In the morning I hosted the first of this year's "Cutting gardens from seeds and bulbs" workshop.

Claire starting a workshop in the barn

A bleak February morning isn't necessarily the most pleasant time of year to spend on my exposed field, but as these ladies were keen to know how to improve their flower yields from whatever their size of patch this year, they braved the M25, and came layered up to learn about how I plan and pick out the flowers and fillers to grow on my field.

We started with my explanation of the types of stems to put together to make a bouquet. - This was where my journey from "pick and plonk" to British flower floristry started 3 years ago. My Hellebore foetidus gave a fantastic example of a sieve as a base foliage.

Workshop in the barn


A tour of the field proved  how hardy and devoted these ladies were as they asked questions about all the hardy annual, biennials and perennials in the ground already, and learnt about our No dig theories

Workshop 2014 field tour

After coffee and marmelade muffins (well done Ashley your homemade marmelade was the star sticky ingredient) We warmed ourselves up in the Polytunnel, and I gave demonstrations of seed sowing, potting on, and taking cuttings.

Propagation demo and coffee

By Lunchtime everyone went home with a tray full of seeds, - and pots of cuttings, - Rosemary and Dianthus Green trick, plus lots of root cuttings of mint.

Thank you all for your enthusiasm, which was infectious. Despite the cold and damp, I stayed on when everyone left, and made 2 more trays of green trick cuttings, and planted out more Ammi and Larkspur. Then I went home and took more Dahlia cuttings. - Richard from Withypitts Dahlia's (from his workshop in January) had produced more, plus the tubers I put in the propagator were sprouting as well. so i've now got Cafe au Lait, and Pink Diamond being molly coddled in the greenhouse at home.

But my day wasn't finished, as in the evening I walked down to the Village Hall to our Garden Society meeting, and listened to Nick Morgans from RHS Wisley give a talk about propagation.

An extremely good turnout for a February evening showed how much esteem our group hold Nick in, and his talk was informative, educating, and entertaining. - I may even be tempted to try propagating some houseplants again.

There were lots of points that we both agreed on, and think are extremely important for anyone propagating new plants, - the most important are.

1) Use a good growing media (don't say compost, that's the stuff you make in heaps at the bottom of the garden) and sieve it for seeds so that the uneven lumps are taken out

2) cover most seedlings (apart from the tiny ones) with vermiculite

3) invest in a good watering can with a fine rose

Propagation is something that can seem scary to new gardeners, - but with just a bit of direction and practice, you could be producing hundreds of productive plants. - If by some chance you have too many of them, the Horsley Garden Society Annual Plant Sale is Saturday 9th May, - entry is 3 plants (or 50p) come and see what we've all been propagating.

(all photos by Emma Davies )


What do Flower farmers do in winter?

It's been cold the last couple of weeks. - Too cold to do anything at the farm other than a bit of shoveling of wood chip (thanks to my wonderful local Tree Surgeon Paul). So what else do Flower farmers do in winter?

Winter picture of me

(photo credit Emma Davies)

Well, I havn't been sitting around with my feet up, for the last few weeks, - here's some of the things i've been up to


Seed planning

My love of Gantt charts goes back to my engineering degree, but i've been sitting planning what seeds i need to fill which beds, and what I need to have done before I can plant them. - The large seed order from Moles seeds arrived within 4 days, - and it's now all catalogued by the week number that i'm going to sow everything. - Nothing starts until week 6 (that's next week), - but the propagator in the greenhouse is already full, because i've been


Nothing like using your quiet season to go and learn more from the experts.

in this case Withypitts Dahlias .

Now my Dahlias weren't too bad last year, but I grew them all from Tubers, and most of the top show Dahlia growers propagate theirs from cuttings, - so I went along to learn how to properly take Dahlia cuttings so that I can grow lots more of my successful varieties from last year

Richard taking Dahlia cuttings

Richard from Withypitts showing us the correct way to take Dahlia cuttings. As soon as I got back I filled my temperature controlled propagator with dahlia tubers, sitting in compost, to start them growing. -I'll let you know how they come on.

I've also been down to Cullompton in Devon this week, - as well as more learning - A great talk from Rona Wheeldon of Flowerona, and a Demonstration from the Academy of Floral Art

i've been Networking

Mostly meeting with lots of other flower growers, (and lots of members of Flowers from the farm) chatting about what they're up to, what's going well for them. Talking to florists about what flowers they want in the coming season, and generally putting the world to rights, and enjoying others company.

plus i've been Writing lots ready for some Talking i'm doing over the coming weeks. There's a "business of selling flowers" workshop on Monday, and i'm talking to the Farnborough Fuchsia and Pelargonium Society next week about Herbs, and there are Growing your Cutting garden from Seeds and Bulbs workshops at the end of the month.

and of course i'm answering all the email enquiries that i'm receiving about flowers for weddings and events later in the season. So although it's still snowing outside my office window, - there's lots to be done, - better get ticking things off that to-do list.