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The goal is the process not the result.
It's not just about the flowers.
My work is to tend to the soil.
I earn money by cutting, arranging and teaching of the fruits of the soil.
Leaving me free to do my work.
I take little notice of the flowers, I am usually more concerned for those going to seed, transplanting and nurturing. Flowers are the results of my work, and I cut them generously. The sales of flowers in buckets, arrangements and celebrations enable me to do the work.
My work is to tend the soil.
Yes, of course I love the flowers, but I have no desire to hold on to them. In fact to me, in terms of my work, they are often ‘worth’ more to me in the compost heap but of course the sales enable the work.
So I cut the stems before they go to seed, sell them, to welcome the next flowers to bloom. Adding stripped leaves to the compost heap for the beginnings of next years flowers.
With the cyclical nature of growing flowers, there is always a plant in every stage en route to flower, whatever time of year it is. This is, a seed sown, being pricked out, growing on in a module tray and then out in the open ground. Further, that same plant is still on it’s journey to flower when it is cut and then added to the compost heap where it will feed the worms, in turn the bacteria and fungi and the future flowers. And so on.
There are always flowers. There might not be the flowers I hoped to have (always start with a plan) but grow enough variety and you’ll be covered. My focus instead is on the soil, without which there are no flowers.
Flowers are the music of the ground From earth's lips spoken without sound.
~ Edwin Curran
When I began growing flowers, I was a self taught jobbing gardener who grew into a garden and planting designer. To me, feeding the soil was adding bonemeal to the hole when planting and adding mulch across the border when done. Then each and every autumn thereafter. That was it. And certainly that’s enough for a mixed border. But cut flowers, especially annuals, tubers & bulbs, grow faster needing nutrient accessibly more immediately.
In my previous occupation, I rarely considered the process. I ‘managed’. Managed a concept into a design, into detail drawings to scaled planning documents. Buildings, oak timber cutting lists, welded frame shoes, electric and piping plans. Planting plans were a last consideration and by that time, should have been done three months ago!
The details are essential. A plan without a why and a vision is preparing to fail.
But now, the details for me are entirely around the soil and plants themselves.
With those clear, I can immerse myself in the process and the moment between the flowers.
Rainy mornings with a cocooning soundscape in the polytunnel pricking out seedlings. Evenings planting out in the golden hour so plants can settle in the cool overnight. Picking and harvesting flowers could (whisper) be the least favourite task.
It must be done in the morning or evening, bending, repetitive cutting and stripping off flowers. Lugging buckets about. Searing, cutting, wrapping and pushing into the dark. It takes a long time to build up the experience and skill to cut fast and accurately.
It is the most important job after all the time and care taken to grown flowers to this stage; taking concentration and attention.
It is easy to snap a stem.
I must concentrate and each flower be cut at the perfect stage: open enough to continue to flourish in the vase, but not too open that the flower is already pollinated so that petals fall to the table on the first day.
No blemishes or holes (unless that’s the look I’m after!). ‘The art of the cut’ and it can be little considered by fellow growers. I see flowers cut way too open, daily on my feeds. The lack of confidence obvious. The flower performing in the field rather than the vase.
But then there are poppies and sweet peas, my favourite single dahlias that need cutting at a point of perfection to ensure vase excellence. Of course they are my favourites. Those tricky divas that are worth every second of attention.
I am lucky enough to even have clients that return their flowers to me and it’s even easier when we break down an event. Collecting the arrangements, shredding branches for the compost heap.
This is my work, a cycle where each element overlaps the other. To grow, nurture, cut, create, compost and repeat.
This work has aspiration beyond growing for the sake of growing, beyond arranging flowers for the sake of beauty (though both are reason enough!). Growing and gardening helps our environment in so many ways, sequestering carbon, providing food for pollinators, sheltering for local wildlife, maintaining a healthy biodiversity and much more. Our flowers help celebrate the every day in our home, in our hearts and amongst people we celebrate, whilst supporting a sustainable business model.
Considering how many flowers are grown locally, this is a radical act; to grow and arrange naturally grown flowers. But it shouldn’t be.
This simply is the why and way I grow flowers.
The flowers are a wonderful result of my work but paradoxically, rarely the goal.
This week I’ll be pricking out seedlings to grow on into modules. I’ll make another set of sowings of both hardy and half hardy annuals. I don’t have many seedlings ready to plant out yet but hope to in the next few weeks as the night temperatures settle a little and the last frost date passes. I made a huge compost heap last week and it’s been turned (almost) daily for 8 days. I will turn it a couple more times, leaving it for about 6 weeks when it should be ready to use.
It was a very cold and damp winter. I lost most of all late summer and autumn sown seeds and my ranunculus still aren’t flowering. This is over a month after I usually would expect them. However perennials and bulbs have been brilliant, seemingly thriving in the cold. It’s been a welcome lesson. I plan on planting much more spring perennials to mitigate the risk of winter wet.
This weeks top tasks on the plots -
Check over your seed sowing this year. If you have a schedule and plot plan, review how that is going. Have you had failures? What can you sow to plug those gaps? Have you found some self sown seedlings to move? Do you need to order any more seeds?
Despite some April showers, the soil seems dry. I am hand watering this week with a seaweed feed (whilst I wait for my new comfrey and balanced feeds to ‘cook’) to give a boost of nutrient through the leaves. Especially good for bulbs about to and post flowering, together with the sweet peas, anemones & ranunculus.
Stake and net plants as they grow, before they need it! We use jute netting for most plants, stretched and stapled onto wooden stakes.
I’m harvesting -
Last of hellebores & narcissus, wallflowers, bluebells, ranunculus, muscari, tulips, fritillary, anemones, forget-me-nots, epimedium, mint and heuchera. Artichoke leaves, cherry blossoms, Lonicera tatarica, viburnum opulus, physocarpus ‘dart’s gold’ & young hazel branches.
Edible Flowers -
Tulips, forget-me-nots & cherry blossom
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