I thought it was time to update you on some of my progress and my commitment to seasonal #justpicked flowers.
I have been using my floral abundance to create beautiful Posy Jars, perfect for a small gift, so next time you visit friends bring a Ditsy Floral Posy Jar rather than a bottle of wine or box of sweets. Something different! Love flowers, love Ditsy Floral Design.
This week, I have been deciding on the cut flower crops that I want to grow this Summer. I have already planted an Autumn sowing of seedlings in the tunnel, all these seeds were all purchased from Higgledy Garden . These seedlings are doing well and I hope they will bloom earlier than the winter/spring sowings. I also need to sow more of these seeds in March he as it is useful to stagger the sowing and planting out to get the longest possible growing season from each crop.
The first seeds I’m going to sow this year are Sweet Peas. I sourced my Sweet Pea seeds from Sarah Raven, picking a spectrum of pink colours. Perfect for weddings and in old-fashioned, highly scented varieties – ‘Painted Lady’, ‘Mrs Collier’, ‘Anniversary’, ‘Matucana’, ‘Lord Nelson’ and ‘Prince Edward of York’.
Sweet Peas don’t like root disruption, so I’m going to make seedling tubes from old newspaper that once the seedlings are big enough can be planted straight into the ground. You can also use toilet roll inners or even cut up egg boxes, although the egg boxes don’t allow the seedlings much growth. Basically the paper or cardboard will degrade in the soil allowing the root ball to break through and continue growing.
Zinnia Giant Mix – I trialled growing Zinnias in window boxes last year with great success and at the moment they are my favourite cut flower – they have a long cutting season and excellent vase life, you will easily get 3 weeks from a freshly cut Zinnia. The flowers of the giant variety are spectacular, huge and long-lasting. For a florist used to more traditional flowers, Zinnias can replace Gerbera very easily, but will need to be wired as a Gerbera for extra support. Some of the varieties also resemble Dahlias and others Chrysants, so they are very versatile. They can be a little tricky to grow as they are prone to botrytis, but I didn’t have a problem last year. I’ve also ordered Zinnia Elegans Envy an acid green variety that will add a pop of colour to a bouquet or work really well in an achromatic colour scheme.
Most florists will be familiar with Moluccella laevis or Bells of Ireland – these tall spikes of fresh apple-green bells are stunning in a simple vase arrangement. You need to put the seed in the freezer for a week before you sow it to guarantee good germination. So, this one could prove a little tricky and they will definitely need staking when they grow!
Cosmos are pretty and bright, and give you plenty of color for a small investment. I haven’t grown them before but apparently they are very easy to grow from seed and make beautiful cut flowers. Most cosmos are annuals, but there are perennial varieties. Popular tall choices include Bright Lights, Cosmic Orange and Cosmic Yellow; dwarf plants include Sunny Red, Sunny Gold and Lady Bird. Cosmos bloom all summer, and you can usually get a second bloom from them by cutting back the early blooms. When they go to seed, I hope to collect and save seeds for next year, who knows I might even have surplus to sell!
I have also ordered Eryngium, a funky decorative thistle that adds texture and last well into Autumn for seasonal designs.
I’ve also ordered some Dahlia tubers from Peter Nyssen who sell a wide range of bulbs online. Dahlias are a must in the cutting garden as they provide colour well into the Autumn and long after other summer flowers have died away. The more they cut the more they flower which is exactly what a grower florist desires. The Karma range have been bred specially as a cut flower variety as they have strong stems and a good vase life.
While I wait for my seeds and Dahlia tubers to be delivered, I need to turn my attention to preparing the ground. I have a lot of new beds to dig; I’m going to need lots of free labour (retired dad – tick), lots of strong tea (Punjana – tick) and some chocolate biccies (tick). Now for a baby sitter…
I wanted to update you on my journey into the growing side of things @ElaineGrows – a grower florist or small scale flower farmer. As a non-gardener to date, this is all very new to me, but I’m passionate about seasonal cut flowers and I wanted to experiment with growing my own.
So, last year after a lot of googling and twitter following, I bought my first seeds from Benjamin Ranyard @HiggledgyGarden (the best cut flower seeds ever!).
My @HiggledyGarden seedlings are presently running rampant in my poly tunnel, maybe we’ve had a mild winter to date or maybe they are just supposed to be this big – I’m unsure but its all part of the learning journey! I sowed in Autumn (in October as it was in the tunnel, but if you are sowing outside in Northern Ireland you probably want to sow earlier, perhaps at the end of August). Sowing in Autumn should give me super strong plants that are more productive and flower earlier that if sown in Spring and if all goes well they will be flowering by May.
The Higgledy Garden Mix included Ammi Majus, Calendula ‘Indian Prince’, Cornflowers ‘Blue Ball’, Corncockle, Bupleurum, Gypsophila ‘Covent Garden’, Nigella ‘Persian Jewels’, Godetia ‘Crown Mix’, Larkspur‘Giant Imperials’, Candytuft, Eschscholzia Californian Poppy ‘Orange King’ and Scabiosa‘Crown’ – See more at: http://higgledygarden.com/products-page/seed-collections/#sthash.bcSbFSWq.dpuf
I’m really looking forward to the Ammi flowering it’s a tall, white, willowy hardy annual that has been likened to Gypsophlia on red bull. Nigella ‘Persian Jewel’ is an old school favourite, better known as ‘Love In The Mist’ and is reminiscent of old cottage gardens. Cornflower ‘Blue Ball’ is also a favourite, a sky blue ball of loveliness and easy to grow! I’ve also planted some Spring bulbs from Sarah Raven, Ranunculus, Anemones and Tulips.
I’m very excited to watch the growth of these seedlings each week, they are like little babies that need to be nurtured and I’ll probably burst with pride when they start to flower!! #excitedgrowerflorist #niflowers #britishflowers
The British flower twitterati have been buzzing and it’s all due to the Great British Garden Revival on BBC 2, 7pm all this week 6-10 Jan. Monday’s episode featured the growing movement surrounding British cut flowers – a hot trend for 2014! Search #britishflowers. Just watching the enthusiasm of Rachel de Thame (presenter), the growers and more importantly the florists has fired me up that this mildly romantic, whimsical business idea of growing and arranging my own cut flowers is going to work!
Bursting with ideas and inspiration on Tuesday, I attended my first meeting of the Northern Ireland Flower and Foliage Association NIFFA, a group of passionate growers and flower farmers steadfastly committed to seasonal home grown flowers. The discussion was lively and enjoyable but more importantly this group is my network for sourcing locally grown blooms for my wedding work and I hope to learn and develop horticultural skills from them. Northern Ireland grown flowers (#niflowers) are fresher by days than those imported from Holland and beyond. They are also more cost effective – imported flowers cost the earth, in air miles, refrigeration, preservatives and that’s not even taking into account the whack the wholesalers take!
It was last August when I successfully pulled off my first wedding using only Northern Ireland grown cut flowers and foliage, supplied mainly by Valerie Orr Trainview Farm (@TrainviewFarm) and raids on my own garden for Dahlias and foliage. Whilst the summer is clearly the best time for seasonal home grown flowers this experience proved to me that you can deliver beautiful, seasonal blooms, without importing from abroad.
This week has inspired me and solidified the fact that I am a grower florist wholeheartedly committed to the Northern Ireland and British cut flower industry. I can’t wait for the first of my home grown blooms to burst open in my polytunnel and I hope you too will support ‘Local’ and what could be a floral revolution!