2015 has definitely been the Year of the Flower! It's also been a really steep learning curve; I thought I knew quite a bit about growing flowers but there's still so much to learn.
The weather was quite a challenge with flooding at the end of September that crept closer and closer to my cutting garden until it eventually swallowed up the newly planted sweet peas and everything else. Working with nature is a great leveller and makes it very clear that we are not in charge when it comes to growing the green and leafy. But one thing that always makes me smile is the inexhaustable optimism of gardeners. No matter what little disaster strikes your garden there's always next year to get it right!
I fell out Big Time with the Pukekoes that marched confidently from the orchard into my new Flower Territory. Starting with a few pecks here and there of the tulips, a few narcissi and a peony then onto the newly planted sunflowers. Pluck, pluck, pluck out they came one by one. These sunflowers were grown from seed, supported with bamboo kebab sticks until warm enough to plant outside. I was so unimpressed. I took to chasing them with the dog wearing a loose cardigan that could look like wings (to a pukekoe I thought). Got my fitness up a bit (every cloud and all that....) So the big lesson learned is to net everything in early spring.
I also had to exercise huge amounts of patience in early Spring. I was as keen as mustard to get flowers out on the cart but the flowers were few and far between. Finally getting some little posies and bouquets out for sale was a real triumph! The whole ethos behind My Flower Cart is that I only sell and use what I grow so when flowers were thin on the ground my creative abilities were really stretched! However, having flowers that are grown and not flown (or even packed in a van and driven miles) is what I'm all about. Enjoying flowers in season means the flowers are grown naturally without electricity for extra heating or chemicals to perk them up. It reconnects us to our seasons and the rhythms of nature. It's also where I'm learning lots about these flowers. They not only (to me) have personalities of their own but they also have their little foibles. Cosmos is a short day plant for example so comes into it's own in the later part of summer. I now know it's not necessary to sow it too early in the season. Understanding plants means you get the most out of them.
Other lessons learnt? Sow your biennials, perennials and hardy annuals earlier than I did! I thought I'd be fine to plant at the beginning of Autumn but the early frost in April put paid to any dreams I had of Icelandic poppies billowing out of vases or snapdragons and larkspur for that matter. However, I did have to congratulate the messy creature that I am. I had left the summer flowering larkspur and snapdragons to set seed and flop and flounce about which resulted in many self seed larkspur that I dug up and re planted in a straight line and that snap dragons overwintered and very kindly flowered in late October. Perfect for the mixed posies on the cart and at Maina. Really saved my bacon. The poppies in the photo have just flowered now in December. I'll be saving their seed for future generations.
Highlights have been the glorious Wildflower Meadow which still has some surprises up it's sleeve for next year. The phacelia and cornflowers were just beautiful to use in posies. The red poppies were an absolute delight to see. One huge bonus this year were the giant scabious. I don't remember them from last year so what a treat! The white scabious looked like little snowballs and I used them in festive flowers to great effect along with the hypericum berries and apple mint.
So what's next? The next Big Sow starts early next year alsong with my first Workshop with the talented Kerin Greville Floraliste Extraordinaire! I'm so excited to be supplying the majority of flowers for this Workshop and also to showing everyone around the mini flower farm. I love sharing knowledge about what I've learnt. Can't wait to play around with some beautiful textures, florals and scented loveliness that (I think) you can only really get from a home garden. Picking flowers fresh means the scent packs a real punch. You have more choice of flowers including little delicate blooms that are hard to transport from the wholesalers. You also have a wealth of texture because you can leave flowers to go to seed so enjoy the delights of the nigella seedhead and the scabiosa starball seed pod. I use lots of herbs in my mixed posies and have quite a collection of mints in particular - peppermint, apple, pineapple, basil and chocolate. Similarly geraniums have so much to offer in terms of foliage and scent and colour. Not easy to come by and yet they add a whole new dimension to flower arranging.
So here's to 2016 and the second part of the growing season. I'll be busy stocking up the Cart, sowing and adding more perennials to the mix. There are so many varieties flowering now. The Pick n Mix was really successful on the cart in the run up to Christmas so I'll continue with that going forward. I also have a few little plans in my head but more of that next year.
Wishing you all a very happy and fulfilled 2016 and remember to follow your dreams :-)