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February 2016

February on the flower field - what we've been up to

February has been colder and frostier than the rest of the winter put together so far. But that's ok, because we're now almost at the end, and it's light when i get out of bed in the morning, and when i collect my son from School, so all's well with the world.

I am feeling the spring wake up call this week.

White Anemone

There are Anemones starting to flower in the polytunnel.

The tulips are just starting to poke through the ground

Row of tulips

and we've been busy as ever making beds and weeding.

I know that my no-dig beds are something i get asked the most questions about , - so here it is again.

When we first started, we stripped turf off the field, and then put on a good layer of Progrow compost to plant into. We thought we needed lovely grass paths in between the beds, but actually they just created a whole load of work, mowing, and edging, and seeding themselves into the beds.

So last year we set about filling in almost all the grass paths with additional beds.

Bed making

We lay cardboard (with the plastic packing tape taken off, - that takes the longest!) onto the grass, and cover it in the middle with a thick layer of well rotted manure (provided by our lovely field neighbours in East Clandon) and then a decent layer of Progrow compost, and ensuring we make some bark chip paths on either side for us to walk on.

Within a couple of months, what looks like a funeral pyre, has settled down and become a lovely rich bed to plant annuals in, and by the following year, you wouldn't know where the added matter ends and the soil begins thanks to lots of earthworm work (unless you find packing tape that you didn't take off the cardboard)

Things are starting to grow, but our (far too) friendly wildlife have been in for their normal spring visit, (anyone want rabbit or venison?) so as we need a far lower attrition rate on our crops this year, we're resorting to covering everything at munching stage with Environmesh.

So far* It seems to be working


It does seem to mean that at the moment vast swathes of the field are covered in either plastic (keeping the weeds at bay) or Environmesh (protecting our newly planted crops) I'm hoping by the time of our first open days in April, the plants will be big enough to withstand the onslaught and i'll be able to take photos that don't make us look like a garage sale.

However blank the field seems though, there are corners of the farm and my garden that have lovely flowers already, so i'll leave you for now with a montage of some of the  British Grown Flower displays that we've done this month.

February flowers

Seeds to get started soon for season long flowers

It's that time of year when all keen gardeners are waiting for the off.....

Our seeds are sitting there yelling at us to sow them, but experience has told us that actually waiting is a good thing to do. That until the light levels are higher, and the days are longer, they won't germinate well, and if they do they'll sit there and rot, or be thin and etiolated.

All of this is true, and there are many many years that i've started seed sowing on a sunny day in January, and sown the same things in the 2nd week of March as nothing germinated at all.

But there are a few things that it's worth getting your propagators ready for early, and clearing your sunniest windowsills in their honour, - and these in my opinion are they.


Antirrhinum beds-1

Now i'll admit that before i started Flower farming, I wasn't a fan of Snapdragons,  but i was told i really needed to be able to offer them to my florists, so in my first year i bought plugs of White Admiral because i missed the seed sowing window. They were amazing, and i was still picking them in October. So from then i've grown more each year. I sow these in a seed tray, because they are easy to prick out, and don't mind root disturbance. Those in the picture were sown on 13th February last year and were flowering by the beginning of July, - and only finished flowering in early September.


Larkspur row

I have no luck with Larkspur if i sow them later in the season. My most successful ones are always those from an Autumn sowing, but i love them, and so do my florists, so i need a succession. Putting the seeds in the freezer for a few days, and then sowing them early seems to work for me. You do have to make sure there are no slugs in your greenhouse or propagator tho'. They can smell larkspur seedlings at 100m.

Iceland Poppies

Iceland poppies

A surprise success story for me has been Iceland poppies. These loved being in the polytunnel overwinter, but the rodents/slugs/ something loved them too so by spring i only had 8 plants left, so i sowed more seed in early February. They worked great, germinated quickly and grew despite the low light levels and the fact i had no room left in the propagator for them. I've just had single colour seed of pink and white arrive, so they'll be sown tomorrow to go with my mixed colours that are already in the polytunnel.

Gypsophila Covent Garden

Gypsophila covent garden

I can never grow enough of this, I sell out as soon as it's ready. I'm trying about 10 times as much this season, and i'm putting it outside, but under protection of environmesh. A sowing in the next 2 weeks will almost catch up with the Autumn sown ones, and should be flowering by Mid June (following tailwind and lack of rabbit nibbling permitting)

Cynoglossum Pink and Blue


I've only had really good flowering from this at either end of the season. My really early sowing is ready by June, - my late May sowing is blooming in September, but 2 years running anything i've sown between March and late May has been stunted even if the seedlings have germinated well. They are an amazing filler though, so i'm sure i'll try again, but my main sowing will be made tomorrow!

I'll also be trying Ageratum, more Cornflowers and Amaranthus,  but they'll be 2nd successions of them going in at the beginning of March.  This lot should be enough to whet my appetite (and fill my propagator)

Here's looking forward to the beginning of the seed sowing season.

If you'd like to learn how to Sow Seeds and take cuttings to make your own cut flower patch, there are still a couple of places left on each of my

Early Spring Workshops


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